Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down.  Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.  The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Sometimes I’m at home with my children whilst my wife is at work. They often ask, “when will mummy be home?” When she does arrive back, as soon as she puts the key in the door the children drop everything and run to the door, shouting, “mummy! Mummy!”
In today’s passage Jesus returns to Galilee after his visit to Tyre and Sidon, where he encountered the Canaanite woman with the demon-possessed daughter. I can imagine the Galilean crowds asking themselves, “when will Jesus be back?” and peering over the horizon to see if they could see Jesus and his disciples returning. As it is, no sooner has he returned (and climbed up a mountain – presumably another attempt to get some peace and quiet after he was recognised in Tyre and Sidon!), than word spreads that Jesus has returned. Immediately, big crowds flocked to Jesus, “bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others” to him.
What is Jesus’ response? He heals them – the mute spoke, the crippled were healed, the lame walked and the blind saw.
Just pause for a minute and reflect on that. How incredible must it have been to witness this? A man dismissed by some as no more than a carpenter from Nazareth healing scores of people! Imagine the joy of all those who had been healed, and of their friends who had supported them to get up the mountain!
The most important aspect of this story for me is the response of the crowd. What do they do after being healed, or seeing their friends receive healing? They “praised the God of Israel.” They turned their joy into praise for God. They recognised that they had received healing from God, and praised him in response.
This was the key to Jesus’ ministry; to get people to the point of praising God. Whether it was through his teaching, his healing, or, ultimately his death and resurrection, he points the crowds – and us – to God. He brings us to God and God to us. He bridges the chasm that has emerged between sinful humans and perfect God. He seeks to restore the perfect relationship that humanity and God had known before the fall. And through his death and resurrection he does exactly that.
Jesus loves his father and wants us to love him too.
Jesus loved the crowds. He his compassion for all.
How do we measure up to this example that Jesus lays out before us?
Do we love our fellow people, have compassion on them, and seek to serve them as Jesus serves the crowds here?
And do we love God? Do we turn every blessing we receive back into praise, “praising the God of Israel?”
This are great questions to ponder this weekend!