At Your Service! (Mk 6:53-56)
When I moved to West Virginia to preach in 2000, one of our elders was a sweet, sweet man by the name of Gerald Watts. Gerald quickly became a “grandfather” figure in my life, and I was beyond devastated when Gerald died suddenly of an aortic aneurism.
If I had to describe Gerald in one word, it would be “servant.” Not long after I moved to Alum Creek, a member of the congregation had open heart surgery. Gerald picked me up at my house, and we sat with the family during the surgery; the surgery was a disaster, Jim’s heart didn’t want to restart after he was taken off the heart-lung bypass machine. The surgeon was—after many attempts—able to get Jim’s heart restarted and get him to an ICU room. Gerald wasn’t leaving that family, and he and I sat with the family all night long. I was more than happy to go home, but I had ridden with Gerald and I had no ride home. Gerald’s selfless service to the Blankenship family that night taught me more about ministry and service than I’ve learned at any other time in my life. Gerald showed me that ministry is about sacrifice, service, and putting others in front of you—a lesson this young preacher needed to learn.
Gerald visited folks relentlessly—if there was any illness or a death or a spiritual need, Gerald there.
Because he had such a servant heart, Gerald was well-loved in and around Charleston, West Virginia. Therefore, Gerald did a multitude of funerals; as the local preacher, I might be asked to read the obituary and lead a prayer, but Gerald was going to do the funeral service. More often than not, preachers are paid for doing funeral services; it’s by no means a requirement and we don’t expect it, but many families do pay the preacher. Gerald hated that part of ministry with a passion. He would refuse any payment whatsoever, but most families insisted that Gerald take what they had paid him. If he absolutely had to take the payment, he would give it to the church treasurer to send to a missionary the congregation supported. Gerald Watts was a servant.
You have surely known servants in your own life. Maybe an elder came and sat with you while a loved one was having major surgery. Maybe a preacher patiently explained to you truths of God you were having trouble grasping. Maybe a brother or sister came by and helped around the house after you suffered an injury.
As you look at the servants you’ve known, you’ll see: “Real ministry requires real effort.” You learn that not only from watching true servants, but you learn that from this morning’s passage.
We see Jesus’s ministering in Gennesaret. He healed many folks—they simply touched the fringe of his garment to be healed. While Jesus did ministry in Gennesaret, our emphasis this morning is going to be on the people in this region who served. There were many who served in Gennesaret; I want you to look at their example, learn from their example that “Real ministry requires real effort,” and I want you to learn how you can emulate their example.
Scripture (Mark 6:53-56)
Jesus and the disciples crossed over the Sea of Galilee and landed at Gennesaret and moored the boat to the shore. The intended target for the boat was Bethsaida (Mk 6:45), but a terrible storm arose and blew it off course. Jesus walked on the water and calmed the storm—could he not have made sure the boat got to its intended target? Well, honestly, it seems that divine providence is at play here; although Jesus sent the boat to Bethsaida, God the Father made sure the boat got where it needed to be.
In these two verses, we see the MOTIVATION for the service in Gennesaret—the crowds knew who Jesus was. Notice the text: “The people immediately recognized him.” The crowds knew the power of Jesus; therefore, they knew what he could do for their loved ones.
Because the people knew what Jesus could do, they “ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was.” “Began to bring” is in the imperfect tense in Greek, meaning the idea is a repeated action in the past tense. In other words, the people were bringing and bringing and bringing their loved ones to where they heard Jesus was. It wasn’t just a one-time bringing, but it was a constant stream of people bringing folks to Jesus.
In this verse, we see the real EFFORT of the service in Gennesaret. Wherever Jesus went, people laid the sick before him and implored that they might touch just the fringe of his garment. Again, “implored” in Greek means that the people implored over and over—the folks are begging Jesus to heal them.
Those who touched even the fringe of his garment were healed. Fringe of the garment likely refers to the tassels God required the Jews to wear to remember his commandments. This shows God’s power at work through Jesus—the people simply needed to touch Jesus’s garment to be healed.
As you examine the service of the well folks in Gennesaret, you see that “Real ministry requires real effort.” Think about the effort they put in:
- They ran throughout the whole region to get sick folks for Jesus to heal.
- They brought their sick wherever they heard Jesus was—they may have had to travel to more than one place to get that loved one to Jesus.
- They begged Jesus to heal their loved ones.
The people in Gennesaret served the sick and they put in great effort to serve.
Are you willing to put in effort to serve others? Jesus expects you to be a servant:
- “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:26-28).
- Matthew 25:31-40.
- “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone” (Gal 6:10).
Are you willing to serve in real ministry? Let me explain how you can serve in real ministry.
One: Understand what ministry can do.
The people in Gennesaret began to carry the sick to Jesus when they recognized him. The people knew Jesus could heal; therefore, they brought the sick to him.
If you are to be involved in real ministry that requires real effort, you need to understand what ministry can do. Why bother serving others if ministry does no good? Why would the people in Gennesaret have bothered to bring the sick to Jesus if they knew he couldn’t heal them?
If you wish to understand what ministry can do, think about what ministry has done in your own life:
- How has God helped you?
- How has the church strengthened you in your struggle against sin?
- How did a brother help you when you were hanging on by a thread?
- How did a sister help you when you had just come home following surgery?
- How did someone speak the right word of encouragement you desperately needed to hear?
As you think about how ministry has blessed your life, you will see how ministry can bless the lives of others. After Jesus had healed a man possessed by demons, the man asked to go with Jesus, but the Lord told him to go home and tell what God had done for him—The man “went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him” (Lk 8:39). That man knew what Jesus had done for him and what he could do for others. As Paul realized how God had blessed his life, he wrote, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of” the other apostles (1 Cor 15:10). How has God blessed your life? How can he use your life to bless the lives of others?
Two: Put forth effort for ministry.
The people in Gennesaret brought the sick wherever they heard Jesus was. They were willing to work and serve others. How much are you willing to work to serve?
- Are you willing to put forth the effort to help someone move?
- Are you willing to put forth the effort to go to the grocery store for someone?
- Are you willing to put forth the effort to help someone mow his yard?
- Are you willing to put forth the effort to prepare a meal for someone?
- Are you willing to go out of your way in the service of your fellow man?
Scripture contains many examples of those willing to go the extra mile in service.
- Barnabas “sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” to be distributed to the poor (Acts 4:37).
- Mary “worked hard for” the Roman Christians (Rom 16:6).
- Stephanus and his household “devoted themselves to the service of the saints” (1 Cor 16:15).
Could it be said that you and your household devoted yourselves to the service of the saints? Find someone this week whom you can serve. Get up. Do something. And serve.
The sick in Gennesaret were greatly served—the healthy took them to Jesus and Jesus healed them. But even the sick had a job to do: “As many as touched [the fringe of Jesus’s garment] were made well” (Mk 6:56). They had to reach out their hands and touch the fringe of Jesus’s garment; even the sick had to act.
Do you, as one sick in sin, need to reach out to Jesus in obedience this morning?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.