Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Journey, Part 19: the Welcome

Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:10-11 NASB)

The twelve had recently returned from the Journey of Obedience and given a full report of their work to Jesus, who listened to every detail. They likely savored the work of God as they talked, but Jesus soon called them back to the present need. His time was limited and He needed to be about the business of redeeming mankind. "Let's go to Bethsaida," He said, and they headed out. 

Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Philip had all lived in Bethsaida in their younger years, so it was home for them. They may have looked forward to seeing friends and family again, but there wasn't much time for reunions. The crowds of people who followed Jesus soon realized where Jesus was headed and followed Him there. When they arrived, Jesus did the most beautiful thing imaginable. He greeted the crowd and welcomed them. 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

The Son of God was pursued by the crowd. The disciples may well have been tired from their trip, and Jesus was likely tired from having to minister without the assistance of the twelve, but fatigue did not stop Jesus. He looked at the crowd and was glad to see them, even though the crowd meant more teaching, more sick people, more need, more healing. 

The word translated as "welcoming" is apodechomai and is a little surprising at first glance. It literally means "to accept" or "to receive" or "to receive heartily". Jesus was not just being polite. He accepted the crowd, receiving them just as they were. Jesus did not require them to change their ways, clean up their acts, or offer sacrifices first. They came to Jesus with all their need and all their sin, and Jesus was glad to see them. He was not just glad to see them, though. He received them heartily. 

How could the One who never sinned heartily accept and welcome a crowd of people who were full of sin and need?  He could accept them because He loved them. He is full of grace and mercy and willingly gave of Himself to those who did not deserve it.  They were people who were as flawed as we ourselves and yet He loved them, and He loves us, as well. 

Although we are flawed, full of need, full of sin, our Lord still loves us, still accepts us, and still welcomes us just as we are. Do you have a longing for a deeper relationship with our Lord? Are you holding back because you feel unworthy or fear He will reject you? There is no need for delay. Just as He welcomed the crowds, our Lord will welcome you. He will greet you with apodechomai, heartily receiving you with whatever you bring to Him.