Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Engaging the Crowd

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says there is so much need around us.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: People are desperate for family. They're desperate for connection. They're desperate to belong. Jesus came to redeem alienated, isolated people, and to put them in families.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Friday, August 17, 2018.

Do you ever feel like everybody needs something from you, that others crowd around you, needing your time or attention? If so, you're in good company. Jesus knew what that was like.

Nancy talked with a group of women's ministry leaders about the way Jesus engaged with the crowds. As we listen, I think you'll get a new heart of compassion for those you're called to serve.

Nancy: Verse 21 of Mark 5, and we're just going to skim the surface of this. You can get back into it later to get more on your own:

When Jesus had Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him.

Sometimes people, by the way, want to know, "What's your Bible study method?" Let me just say, I've never been to seminary. I don't know Greek. I don't know Hebrew. I have learned a little bit about how to use some tools, which are helpful for people like me who don't know those languages. But my method is really, really simple.

It's basically: park in the passage. You read it again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again. You get it. Sometimes I'll memorize the passage, but I'll meditate on it. I'm looking at it from every angle. But one of the first things I do is just look for words or phrases that are repeated because that says to me, "There's something to be noticed here."

Well, something to be noticed in this passage is the multiple references to the crowd. In fact, I've highlighted those references in the gospel of Mark because there's so many of them. And I told you last night, if you were here, that I am basically an introvert. Crowds kind of do me in. I'm like, "Lord, send me to the uninhabited regions of the earth, and I could be really effective at ministry."

I don't want you to think I don't like you, but you wear me out. It's amazing how often God puts introverts into crowds. Right? So I look at Jesus, and I go, "How does He do this?" And I learn, you draw your life from your heavenly Father, and then you give out what He's given you.

But notice this crowd, because all this takes place in the context of a great crowd.

A great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name (vv. 21–22).

Now, we're looking at two people in this passage, and they couldn't be any more different than each other. The first is named Jairus. The second is a woman who is not named. So you have a man and a woman. You got this named man and this unnamed woman. You've got this man with a great position of responsibility and authority. He's like a Mr. Who's Who. He's one of the rulers of the synagogue. And we're going to see this woman is an outcast.

So the just of the position here of these two very different people, and Jesus' heart to serve both of them. Keep that in mind when you find that you're serving women in your church who have very different backgrounds and very different needs, very different personalities, very different makeups. We tend to gravitate to people who are more like us, but I see Jesus loving people no matter where they're coming from.

One of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, [came] and seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet (v. 22). 

Both of these people end up at the feet of Jesus. And if you want people to get help, that's where you've got to get them. That's where God has, the Spirit of God has to draw them until they're at the feet of Jesus. That's where they're going to get what they need.

And implored Jesus earnestly, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live" (v. 23).

Now, Luke's account tells us that this little girl was, how old? Twelve years of age. That's significant because of what we see about the woman who is coming. So this man has an urgent, critical need.

And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him (v. 24).

You've got to put yourself there and picture this intense situation. Everybody's got a need, but Jesus is sensitive to and engaged with the particular ones that His heavenly Father connects Him to. I suppose there were many other people in that crowd that day who were asking and wanting and needing things from Jesus. And I don't know if He just ignored them or said, "Come back later." I don't know how He handled all of that, but I do know that His undivided attention went to this man and then to this woman we're about to read about.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood  (vv. 24–25).

She's just so the opposite of Jairus. Jairus is a ruler of the synagogue. He's got a high position. This woman has a discharge of blood for twelve years.

I've just been reading in the book of Leviticus over the past couple of weeks, and rule after rule after rule after rule, about all the ways you can become ceremonial unclean. A lot of it has to do with touching someone or something that is ceremonial defiled. And if a woman has an issue of blood (this matter is in Leviticus chapter 15, verses 19 and following), a woman like this is ceremonial unclean, and you cannot touch her or you become unclean yourself. So this raises the whole question of how was it all right for Jesus to touch her?

The reason Jesus could let her touch Him and not become unclean was because there was nothing unclean in Him to attach to the uncleanness in her. He was holy, undefiled. And so this woman who was unclean could touch Him, and it would not at all taint the pure Lord Jesus. So He lets her touch Him.

But you think about this woman who, for twelve years, nobody could touch. For twelve years she had been this social outcast, this unclean woman. How she even gets up the courage to come near the crowd amazes me, but she does. I don't know if people knew who she was, and maybe they're scurrying back, or maybe they didn't know. But she makes her way into that throng and gets to Jesus, and she says . . . well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

She had a discharge of blood for twelve years. [She] had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had (vv. 25–26).

Now, she had nothing left. If there was another doctor, she found him, but she had no resources left to try anything or anyone else. And to add insult to injury, she'd been to all these doctors, spent all that she had, "and she was no better but rather grew worse" (v. 26). I mean, you talk about depressing, despair, chronic pain, chronic medical issues, and all these emotional and relational issues and financial issues that would have gone with this. Here's this woman who has no hope left. Her money is gone. Her hope is gone.

Do you know some women like that in your church? Now, here's the hard things about those kinds of women: They can be what I call HMW's. Some of you have heard me talk about this before—High Maintenance Women. Sometimes they're not easy to be with. There's just such a pattern in some of these women. They're so used to being the hurting one that sometimes they just can't seem to ever get out of that cycle.

And sometimes, for good reason, I found it was easier for me to be harsh (in my heart) toward those kinds of women, until I found areas in my own life where I became an HMW—a High Maintenance Woman. And now as I get older, I'm seeing more of my own weakness and frailty issues, I find myself being a little more compassionate. I've never been accused of having the gift of mercy, but I'm hoping as I love Jesus and get to know Him more, to develop more of His mercy in my life.

So here's this woman who has no hope, but verse 27, "She had heard the reports about Jesus." What had she heard? He was healing people. He loved people. He cared. He could do things no other doctor could do. He was a carpenter. He wasn't even a doctor. She had heard the reports about Jesus.

Can you just wonder if a little seed of faith and hope was planted in her heart when she started to hear those reports? Or maybe, "No, I've been there, done that. I've been to all those doctors. No, I'm not going through this again." But then she keeps hearing those reports. At what point does she get up the courage and say, "Look, I'm leaving my apartment, and I'm going to go where Jesus is today, and I'm going to see if I can get to Him."

It took faith to do that, and this is what we need to pray that God will do in the hearts of the women we serve, some of whom have been wrestling with issues for years. They've gone to the therapist, the psychiatrist, the counselors, the doctors, the whatevers. They've taken the meds. They've paid the money. And some of them are no better but have gotten worse, in fact. We've got to ask God to put in their hearts, maybe in your heart, maybe you're this woman, a seed of faith and hope, to be one who says, "If I could get to Jesus, something could change."

[She] came up behind him in the crowd [just picture this] and touched his garment. For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I will be made well" (vv. 27–28).

That took courage. That took boldness for this woman who was ceremonial unclean to do that.

And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease (v. 29).

It's a miracle! And we kind of read these stories with glazed-over eyes, and think, That was then; this is now. Do you believe Jesus can still do miracles? I mean, we know it in our heads, but . . . I want to say this: Miracles aren't typically the way Jesus works today. He's given us His Holy Spirit and His Word and sanctification and growth and dealing with sinful patterns and issues and damaged pasts and all of that stuff. It's usually not something that is overcome in a moment. There's a process involved and growth and sanctification and dealing with these issues.

I think one of the dangers of some kind of schools of theology today is this thinking that you can just "name it and claim it," and it'll be over and done and there's no battle involved, no warfare involved. So there's a balance here. There's point, and then there's process.

But I think those of us who are theologically trained, we're a little skeptical of the fact that maybe Jesus could, in a moment, delivers somebody from an addiction or a sinful pattern. He doesn't usually do it that way today, but I'd like to point out that He can. And why not ask Him? And then, also, be prepared to be there when it doesn't happen immediately, and to say, "Look, we'll walk through this. I believe there is power, there's healing power in touching Jesus and getting to Him and having Him speak into your life."

Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd [there it is again] and said, "Who touched my garments?" (v. 26).

Now, Jesus obviously knows who touched His garment since He is God. So why ask the question? And why does He care? He's on His way to this critical E.R. situation—Jairus' daughter is dying. And I know me. If I'm going from point A to point B, don't interrupt me. I have run over more people, not meaning to. I'll just be honest. Sometimes I mean to. I don't mean to mean to. But unwittingly, at times, just with my focus on, "What's the next thing?" I have sometimes just walked right past the woman with the issue of blood. Especially now that she's got her need met. Jesus knows that. And, "Whosh, that one's gone. Now, let's go help Jairus." Right? So why does He stop? He's on an important mission.

Keep in mind Jairus' story is being written here, too, and the little girl has to die so that Jesus' power can be seen as the resurrection and the life. So that's part of the equation, but the other part has to do with this woman and with those of us who would be reading her story years later.

Jesus is not content to let this woman stay an anonymous member of the crowd. He's not content to let her hide in the crowd, which is probably something she had been doing for twelve years—just wanting to be invisible and becoming invisible to a lot of people.

Here's a woman who had been starved of relationship. You can't touch this ceremonially unclean person. And I think Jesus realizes that the healing she needs is not just the physical, the stopping of the issue of the blood. She's got bigger issues that need to be addressed, and He doesn't want her leaving without a complete healing. He knows that she's emotionally bankrupt at this point, and He made her for relationship with Himself, and He doesn't want her to leave without getting that.

But He also knows she needs to come out into the open. She needs to be seen by the covenant community of Israel as someone who is welcome in the kingdom of God. For her sake, for their sake, for everybody's sake, He's got to pull her out of the crowd.

"Who touched my garments?' And his disciples [who were clueless, like we are] said to him, 'You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, 'Who touched me?' And he looked around to see who had done it" (vv. 30–32).

Just that word "who"—the fact that Jesus cares about who, people. Ministry is not tasks. Now, there are a lot of tasks in ministry. And I say this if you're a mom. Your ministry can become all about tasks and you forget who. Who's that child touching you? Who's that teen wanting to talk? They won't open up at all until it's 11:30 at night, and you're exhausted, wanting a little sleep, and they want to just pour out their heart, and you go, "Go to bed!"

Who is it who's there? Now, that doesn't mean that every waking moment you're available to every single person. There's balancing truths in the Scripture. But I just love that Jesus loves who? People. I'm preaching to myself again!

He looked around to see who had done it. "But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth."

She told her story. There's transparency here. I imagine here's a woman who for years had wanted to protect herself from people knowing the whole truth about her because everybody who knew her story, that was one less friend she was going to have. You know? One less person she could relate to. And here she has to come out and tell her story. Transparency. Honesty.

Listen, there's not enough of telling the whole story, telling the whole truth in our women's ministries. We leave so many women thinking they've got to look good, be put together. And they're looking at us thinking we're all just a bunch of got-it-together people. "No one in this church would relate to me." But when we tell the truth about our story, and we encourage others to tell the truth about their story, there are doors of ministry and opportunity and relationship and community building that get opened up that would never have happened any other way.

Jesus didn't intend for us to live as anonymous crowd dwellers. He wants to bring people out of the crowd and to within the crowd have people really see people with eyes of caring. We're in a city here, and how many people can you see in this city from here to your car and never see a person? Some of you go to mega churches, and some of you go to little churches, but how many times are you just walking past people on Sunday and we're not seeing them?

My ministry in my local church is what I call "Aisle ministry." That's A-I-S-L-E. It's in the aisles before and after church, interacting with others. This past Sunday it was a 109-year-old man I got to talk with. It was an eleven-year-old boy who was pushing his wheelchair. It was a woman whose husband had just been brought into hospice because he was dying. This was all within the few minutes after church, people I'm getting to love on and speak grace into, and, of course, God's giving me grace as I do that, too. It's people.

And I'm just so prone to, as soon as the service is over, I'm out the door. That's my natural bent, because, as I told you, I don't like people. No, not totally. I'm just saying it's much easier for me. It's much harder for me to walk up to people I don't know and introduce myself. It takes Jesus in me to do that. And it takes Jesus in you to do that.

Jesus does that for this woman. She comes and tells Him the whole truth, and he said to her (v. 34) "Daughter." Daughter—I don't know what kind of family relationships this woman had, but they could not have been really healthy, most likely, given her background. She's an outcast.

People are desperate for family. They're desperate for connection. They're desperate to belong. So many people, even those who look really put together, feel like misfits and outcasts. And you know, we all feel that to one degree or another. It may be because of the color of our skin or the physical appearance or the history we have. There's all kinds of struggles. Lots of reasons why we feel like we don't belong and like nobody really cares.

And even if you have a great family, there are parts of our hearts that just feel disconnected. It's the alienation that sin has brought into the world. And Jesus came to redeem alienated, isolated people and to put them in families, to put them in community—first with Himself, and then with each other.

"Daughter." I love that. When was the last time anybody had ever called her daughter? It's a term of endearment, a term of compassion. "Daughter, your faith has made you well" (v. 34).

Now, her faith wouldn't have made her well if her faith hadn't been in the object—Jesus. She'd had faith before in other doctors, and that hadn't made her well. It was the fact that her faith was in Jesus that made her well.

And you know, if you've studied this, that the word "well" is the word sozo in the Greek. That is the word that is used for salvation, over and over again. In fact, some of your translations may say, "Your faith has saved you." And where the mystery is here, of course, this is pre the cross, and so the story is just becoming clear as it unfolds. But this woman experienced a spiritual deliverance and healing, but, I think, she also experienced a spiritual, eternal healing and salvation because of the faith that God had put in her heart that she acted on.

"Your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease" (v. 34).

Now, remember, she was already healed. He has this very personal encounter with her because, listen, the point of what we do isn't just in getting people so they're not depressed anymore or so their marriage is better or so their prodigal kid comes to his senses. All those things can happen, but if you haven't made it to Jesus in the process, so what?

And I think there's a picture here that it doesn't just matter that we get people well. It matters that we get them into relationship with Jesus. It's where we need to get, too, as we're talking about the women we're ministering to, because we are this woman in so many senses. It's faith in Him, getting to Him, touching Him that will bring wholeness and health in body, soul, and spirit.

Now, some of that health we won't fully realize this side of heaven. So as we serve other women, as you minister wherever God has planted you, I hope this passage and just the little bit that I've touched on, and then whatever else God shows you as you dive into it, will give you a sense of perspective and hope and courage, and a sense of what it is ministry is about. It's about all kinds of people. It's about people in the crowd.

And, by the way, you can't love Jesus and not love people. I want to make that clear. In my little bit of joking around, half-joking around, about not liking people, I just want to make sure that you understand I do not think that is a Christ-like characteristic. I aspire to love people. And, you know what? God puts me in situations where I'm surrounded by people because He wants to make me more like Jesus.

There may be times when you want to just retreat to your office, your bedroom, your home, your computer—some safe place—and pull away from people. There are times when it's right to pull away, but God knows whether we're hiding and resisting getting around people. And God will thrust you into situations where, if you'll let Him, where you need to be with the crowd, but He'll also bring great blessing to you as you ask Him to open your eyes and see that woman who has a great need and speak grace and hope and salvation from Jesus into her life.

Leslie: That's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She's been helping you catch a vision for serving others with a loving heart even when the crowd of needy people may seem overwhelming.

Oftentimes this kind of service begins right in the home. For instance, have you considered how gathering friends or neighbors around your dinner table can be a means of spreading gospel hope?

We’d like to help you learn how how to practice this kind of biblical hospitality by sending you a book by Rosaria Butterfield. It’s called, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. We’ll send you the book when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. It’s our way of showing you our appreciation for financially supporting the ministry.

To donate, give us a call at 1–800–569–5959 and ask for the book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, or visit our website at ReviveOurHearts.com.

No one wants to talk about this, but it's important. If you or your spouse were to pass away suddenly, do you have a financial plan set in place? Please be back next week to hear Nancy talk about how to steward your finances well and to prepare for the unexpected. That’s Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to help your relationship with Jesus to grow. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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