Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Therefore the Lord earnestly waits, expecting, looking, and longing to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up. That He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of mercy. Blessed, happy and fortunate, to be envied are all those who earnestly wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him, for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship.”
Isaiah 30: 18
Today’s Study Text:
“And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place had knowledge of Him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto Him all that were diseased; and besought Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment; and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.”
Matthew 14: 34-36
“How To Become Perfectly Whole”
“Let it be a law for ourselves, then, that we should run after perfection. Once we have heard the word of truth and of mercy, let us be ‘the good soil’ for it, and let it put forth in us rootlets, striking root in our souls.”
Book of Steps
Written in the 14th Century
What do I think it means to be “perfectly whole”?
If someone asked me to define the word “perfection,” what would my answer be?
How do I feel when I am in a discussion and the talk of “spiritual perfection” is introduced into the conversation?
“The farther an individual knows themselves to be from perfection, the nearer they are to it!”
“God has not called His servants to an ordinary, mediocre sort of life, but to the perfection of a sublime holiness; as He said to His disciples, ‘Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’”
“You, therefore, must be perfect, growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5: 48
“In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Matthew 5: 48
The Message Bible
I’ll never forget the day, the time, or the place. I happened to be part of a Bible study group with eight other Christian women. We met once a week on our lunch hour from work. On this particular Tuesday, in the small conference room we had found to house our discussions, we were coming to the end of a study on Matthew 5, one of the most well-read portions of the New Testament for it is in this chapter where we find Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.”
Interestingly, it is after Jesus lays out a list of “blesseds” in what we call the Beatitudes, where we find the oft quoted passage which concludes Matthew 5 and it is the text above which states: “Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
On this particular day, one of the members of our group jumped on her hobby horse called “Perfection” and informed the rest of us, in no uncertain terms, that she was right near the pinnacle of perfect behavior. Then she went on to list all the “follies of sin” which she had overcome – clenched teeth and all. As she described the strength of her Christian walk and the immense dedication she had developed, I will freely admit I felt like a loser. A flop. A failure. Somewhere along the way, my wobbly legs seemed no match to keep up in a race with another who appeared so much stronger than I. And the fact is, the discussion which ensued after her comments, only left me more confused.
For many years, as I studied God’s Word, I asked myself this question. “Is our journey with Jesus only for the strong-hearted and muscle-bound, spiritually speaking? Is there a place on this journey for those of us who feel at times like we are “stragglers on the way?” And what do we weaklings do with a text that calls for us to be perfect like our Father in heaven?”
I'm so glad it was the same disciple, Matthew, who was not by any stretch of the imagination considered to be a man of "perfection," for remember he was a hated publican -- a tax-collector no less -- he was the person who wrote about being perfect like our Father and also left for us the stories found in Matthew 14. Maybe this is why Matthew was able to tie together the story of Jesus' miraculous day and His ability to perform another miracle in the lives of people just like you and me when His life makes each of us "perfectly whole."
It is in the last three verses of Matthew 14 where we read that Jesus and his disciples arrived on the other side of Galilee at the break of day. The Bible tells us they went ashore in the land of Gennesaret. A little geography lesson here helps me understand the importance of this story for Gennesaret was a piece of land that lay between Bethsaida and Capernaum. Now here’s what I find so interesting. The people in Gennesaret had neighbors called the Gergesenes, and their “community” also bordered the Sea of Galilee. So we might ask, “Why did Jesus come ashore in Gennesaret rather than Gergesene?” The answer is that the citizens of Gergesene had, in no uncertain terms, told Jesus to depart from them. They didn’t want His help. But the opposite was true of the people in Gennesaret. They “had a knowledge of Jesus” as Matthew tells us. Furthermore, they wanted Jesus in their midst. As Bible commentator Matthew Henry so touchingly pens: “Christ reckons it the greatest honor we can do Him, to make use of Him.” And this is why I believe Jesus came ashore where He did.
Please take a moment to imagine how the story of Jesus’ feeding of the 15,000 and his calming of the sea must have spread from home to home through Gennesaret once He and His disciples arrived. I can just hear the news, “He’s here. He’s come right to our village. Jesus is here with us.”
Matthew even reports that, “When the men of the place recognized Him (Jesus), they sent around unto all the surrounding country and brought to Him all who were sick. And begged Him to let them merely touch the fringe of His garment: and as many as touched it were perfectly restored” (Matthew 14: 35, 36, Amplified Bible). Or as the King James Version tells us, they were “perfectly whole.”
Just in case we need to clarify this statement even more, the Greek for the phrase “perfectly whole” means “to save thoroughly.” All that the residents of Gennesaret wanted of Jesus was just to touch the hem of His garment. And in putting the ribbon and a beautiful bow on the gift from Jesus helps us understand how we too may be perfectly whole or complete as our Father in heaven is perfect. Author Alphonsus Liguori, in the 17th Century revealed this wonderful thought when he noted that sometimes when we think we must have immediate perfection to be accepted by God, instead we become “disquieted” because we are so lacking. And so the tremendous thought he shared so many years ago is that for those of us who feel we are too weak, too imperfect, and too unworthy, Jesus invites us to, “cling to His feet, then to kiss His scarred hands.” All we need to do is reach out and touch the hem.
What a testimony the people of Gennesaret leave for you and me today for when Jesus comes ashore in our lives, He brings perfect wholeness to our entire being. Matthew Henry so beautifully expresses the truth of what Jesus can do for us when he describes the scene in Gennesaret: “With great assurance of the all-sufficiency of Jesus’ power, not doubting that they should be healed…they were sure that there was in (Jesus) such a fullness of healing virtue that they could not fail of a cure when…they touched Jesus’ hem.” Praise God!
“O God, who madest me for thyself,
to show forth thy goodness in me:
manifest, I humbly beseech thee,
the life-giving power of thy holy nature within me;
help me to such a true and living faith in thee,
such strength of hunger and thirst after
the birth, life and spirit of thy holy Jesus
in my soul,
that all that is within me
may be turned from every inward thought
or outward work
that is not thee, thy holy Jesus,
and heavenly workings in my soul.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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