Typically when I’m reading stories of Jesus I’m drawn to the exciting stories with rich narratives and multiple subplots. I enjoy the stores that have various allusions to Old Testament events with layers that can be combed through to dig deeper and deeper. Finding a theme that runs from one story to another to another is fascinating to me. Because of that, I’m not usually impressed with the short narratives that seem more like filler to get from one great story to the next. Yet as I was reading through Matthew 15 recently I was struck by one of these short connecting narratives.
After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. (Matthew 15:29-31)
Obviously miracle stories are exciting to read and would be even more exciting to witness. And Jesus’s healing ministry was a witness that the Kingdom was breaking in; that the reign and rule of God was becoming reality. In God’s kingdom there will be no blind or crippled or maimed and so as each one is healed it is a reminder that the new creation is breaking into the old; that the chaos is being overcome with good. Still, you have to admit, it is a lot more exciting to read a full story where a character is developed then just a list of Jesus healing the lame, maimed, blind, and mute. But as I read the other day two points struck me.
First of all the crowd was amazed. Maybe that seems a little anti-climatic or obvious. Of course the crowd would be amazed. Why wouldn’t the crowd be amazed? They are seeing the unbelievable, the unimaginable. Individuals dream of finding the miracle to cure their disease and here is one who can do it. Wildest dreams are coming true. If the crowd wasn’t amazed that would be something to write about. So maybe it’s not just that the crowd was amazed but how the crowd responded; which is the second point.
The crowd was amazed at what they saw so they praised the God of Israel. That’s not exactly what I expected to read. For some reason I thought the crowds would be amazed and they would praise Jesus or want something from Jesus. But instead, the crowds were amazed and they praised the God of Israel.
Here is Jesus doing amazing, unheard of things, like healing the sick and making the lame walk, and the entire purpose is to point others to God. For God to receive the glory. Jesus did not claim any glory for himself. Jesus was not trying to make a name for himself. The temptation would have been to claim some personal recognition; to have others praise his name. But Jesus wasn’t about self-promotion. It was all about bringing glory to God.
And then it made me consider my own actions, my own thoughts. I am clearly not a miracle worker, and to be honest I haven’t really done anything special enough for people to think highly of me. But still I wonder if my actions are aimed at bringing glory to God or something else. Am I wanting the congregation that I am privileged to serve to be praised in the community and to be recognized as important or am I wanting God to be praised and honored? Am I looking for the extra pat on the back for a job well done or am I truly content to be ignored and forgotten as long as God is given the glory?
We, as individuals, have multiple opportunities everyday to do something big or small for the Kingdom of God. And while the temptation is to hope for personal recognition, are we humble enough to always be pointing to God? To hope and pray that God is praised through the simple opportunities we have to bless others. Not for our own recognition, but for the glory of God.