Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
This is Jesus praying, but perhaps not as we know it.
At the time that I am writing about this story of Jesus there is civil war in Syria. Refugees are fleeing south, as what started out as part of the ‘Arab Spring’ becomes the latest killing fields. Syrians were also on the move in the first century, early in the mission of Jesus.
Then it was the ‘Galilean Spring’, a sort of spiritual revolution based entirely on one man and his earliest band of followers. They were drawn like desperate moths to a brand new light. Syrians came from the North, Jerusalemites (who were normally so disdainful of the Galileans) came from the South, Jordanians from the East, and the people of the Decapolis, the ‘ten towns’ from the beyond the Jordan Gentile world came as well.
It has something of the feel of that ‘Sound of Music’ moment when Maria wanders through the spring flowers and sings ‘The hills are alive with the sound of music’. Here the hills and valleys are alive with the sound of Jesus.
This is a big summarising story. There are lots of individual stories of teachings and personal encounters to come but here we have a big brushstroke trying to encapsulate all that was happening, a big picture type of story. At the heart of it we see the triple impact ‘Galilean Spring-time’ ministry of Jesus as he proclaims the good news, heals the sick and drives out demons.
In today’s church, clergy, pastors, ministers, lay and youth workers of all types are often keen to become better trained and equipped. This desire often sees them going for more degrees, MAs and doctorates etc. There is of course nothing wrong with this; education is a very good thing, although it can get a bit out of hand and de-rail the mission itself. I always advise young people launching out in ministry to do a PhD in Jesus studies. To learn how to:
- P – Proclaim the Good News
- H – Heal the sick
- D – Drive out demons
Note that I said ‘learn how to’, not ‘learn about’. I love book-learning. That is why I am writing a book to help people learn. Doing a PhD in Jesus studies might start off in the library but it quickly takes us out into the real world. Ultimately we have to learn by watching other people doing it, by doing it ourselves, by trying it, by failing and then by succeeding. By sometimes getting it wrong and occasionally getting it right. That is how the disciples learnt. Here we see them just beginning their learning process. They watch and listen as Jesus proclaims, heals and drives demons out. In a few weeks’ time they will be doing it themselves. Following is about watching, seeing, reading, thinking and then doing.
Of course doing a PhD in Jesus studies is not just for pastors and vicars, youth workers and evangelists. It is for all of us who want to be followers and learners, servers and do-ers. It is for all of us who want to see a Galilean springtime in our own little world, in our life, our family, our network of friendships, our church and community. So, what would it feel like if the good news was proclaimed, a bit of healing was prayed for and some of the darkness was driven out of your world?
Are you looking for him, trying to find him?
Are you finding him, trying to follow him?
Are you following him, trying to become like him?
Maybe you are sick, wanting to be healed by him?
Possessed, wanting to be set free by him?
We have all got so much to find, to learn, to do and to be in him.
Proclaimer, healer, driver out of demons.
As you brought a wave of springtime then,
May you bring it today through my words, my love, my actions.
May you bring your springtime to my world and to my people.