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by Jacob Ninan
When two blind men cried out to Jesus to have mercy on them, Jesus asked them what exactly they wanted Him to do for them (Matt.20:30-32). Obviously, it was not that Jesus could not guess what they wanted, but He wanted them to be clear about it themselves, and He also wanted them to ask specifically for what they wanted. If He asks us the same question, what will our answer be?
When people nowadays come to Jesus for the first time, what do they look for? The ‘sales pitch’ from many preachers misguides many of them. What they are being offered are healing, prosperity, a quick remedy for their problems, etc. “Come to Jesus, and all these things will be added to you,” sounds very much like what the Bible says Jesus Himself said. But that is not what Jesus said.
Things were not very different even in the days of Jesus. Even though He did not try to attract people through His miracles, those miracles drew many crowds to Him. Some wanted to just see miracles happening, but many more actually wanted miracles in their own lives. On one occasion, after Jesus had fed a huge crowd miraculously from just five loaves of bread and two fish, a large number of people started following Him. But Jesus looked at them and said, “You seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (Jn.6:26). Even though multitudes were following Him, He was not happy because their goal and His did not match. He had compassion for them and He did recognise their genuine needs (Matt.6:32). He would meet their needs even as He demonstrated all through His ministry on earth. But the things they were seeking, the Gentiles also sought after. He had more valuable things to offer to His people which they were missing.
Jesus told the multitudes who followed Him, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (Jn.6:27). He was not trying to imply that the things of this earthly life were not important at all and therefore we were not to work for them at all. He knew we needed them. But what He was saying was that things of eternity were more valuable in comparison. The implication of His saying was that we should not be side-tracked from His higher goals for us, as we sought to meet our earthly needs. The eternal perspective that He has for us must not be allowed to be obliterated by our concerns for our earthly life.
The root cause for all our problems on earth is sin. And, what salvation offers for us first of all is to set us free from sin (Matt.1:21;1Tim.1:15). Just as when the people of Israel cried out to God to save them from the slavery in Egypt, God raised up Moses as a deliverer for them, to those who cry out for freedom from the bondage of sin there is a Saviour whom God has raised up (Lk.2:11;1Jn.2:2). This Saviour is God’s greatest offer to us who, in reality, do not deserve any mercy from God. When we recognise our sins, repent, and humbly receive the Saviour as an unmerited gift from God, He also adds to us graciously all things that we need on this earth (Matt.6:33).
Why is it that this great offer from God is not what draws most people to Jesus?
When the people of Israel cried out to God in Egypt they were not really thinking of forsaking the gods of Egypt and returning to the true and living God. What was bothering them was the physical suffering as slaves. This physical suffering was genuine, and surely they wanted to be free from that. God also wanted to deliver them from that slavery. But more than that, He wanted to reveal Himself to them as the eternal God and make them a special people for Him who would be different from the rest of the world. They did not understand that, and they thought that if only they could eat and drink well they would rather be in Egypt than in God’s Promised Land.
Our suffering on this earth from various sides is real. There is nothing wrong at all in wanting to be free from it. But because it is tangible and eternal things are intangible, our focus tends to be on the earthly problems we face. We feel compelled to seek remedies wherever they are reported to be available. If someone presents to people God as the One who can take care of these problems is it not but natural that people jump for it? But they have not yet heard of Jesus the Saviour.
Secondly, many preachers have realised that what draws crowds is what would makes them (the crowd) happy. So, when they preach, even if they bring in rudiments of the Gospel into it, their emphasis is on miracles and answers to prayer. The truths of the Gospel get buried under testimonies of how God miraculously did many things for people.
Many in the crowd get disappointed when they do not receive the miracle they were looking for. Some of them leave Jesus, but some others keep hoping that the miracle is just around the corner as the preacher wants them to think.
Thirdly, there is this general unwillingness among people to acknowledge they are sinners who need a Saviour. They use many different arguments to convince themselves that they are not really bad. They become experts at deflecting towards others the conviction they feel inside them to prove that it is all the fault of the others. If they are not sinners, then they do not need Jesus as their Saviour but only as One who will solve their problems. Again, preachers have learned that speaking about sin to people might offend them and they stick to topics that would tickle the ears of the hearers.
Due to such reasons, the true Gospel does reach many people. But many people assume they have heard and responded to the Gospel. For example, someone who came to Jesus looking for healing may have received healing, and as a result started attending church. He may assume he has become a Christian or ‘believer’ and everything is right with God. But he may not have repented from his sins at all and may not even realise that there is anything more to being a Christian than being a member of a church!
Jesus did His miracles as ‘signs’ so that those who saw them might believe in Him (Jn.20:30,31). After healing the man born blind, when He met him later He asked him if he believed in Him (Jn.9:35). When the man understood who Jesus was, he believed and worshipped him (v.38). So, signs are incomplete until people start believing in Him. But the sad thing is that many do not preach the full Gospel and so people only get introduced to Jesus without believing in Him and falling down and worshipping Him. In many cases, their sins have not been forgiven yet.
Going further, the Gospel is not just about forgiveness of our sins, which itself is an invaluable gift from God. God’s eternal plan for us is, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom.8:29). Do all who have been born again press on to receive this transformation in their lives? Here again, many preachers stop with proclaiming the forgiveness of sins, and their hearers stay content with that, missing, in the process, the best gift God has for them.
So, what is it we are seeking from God? “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer.29:13).
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, March 2018
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