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The People By the Lake

by Tim O'Hearn

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret. (Luke 5:1)

People came to Jesus for many reasons. Some, like the leprous man later in Luke 5, came to him for healing from various diseases. Others, like the crowds in the latter part of John 6, came because Jesus fed them. Some, like the tax collectors in Matthew 17, came to him for money. Others, the ones he loved most, came to him to hear the word of God.

People choose churches for many reasons. Some, like the leprous man, choose a church that offers miraculous healing from various diseases. Others, like the crowds in John 6, choose a church that feeds them, whether it be programs to feed the homeless or simply a church that enjoys a good potluck. There are even a few, like the tax collectors, who choose a church that will give them money or agrees with their political views. Occasionally you may even find the few, the ones Jesus loves most, who choose a church because that is where they can hear the word of God.

Each person, of course, may be more comfortable with one congregation or another for many reasons. The congregation may be the right size for them, be closest to their home, have members they have known for a long time, be the congregation in which they grew up, or any of a number of other reasons. But the principal reason to choose a church, a congregation, or a preacher should be the reason that the people by the lake came to hear Jesus. As soon as an otherwise desirable congregation stops teaching the word of God, it becomes an undesirable congregation.

For whatever reason many choose a church, a portion of those might as well stay at home. They assemble out of obligation. They don't participate in the worship, except perhaps the Lord's Supper. Ask them as soon as the assembly is over what the sermon was about and they give you a look like a deer caught in the headlights. They are there because they heard that church was a way to get to heaven. They never heard that the church was not the assembly, but a family relationship with Jesus. (On the other hand, some may even treat family the same way.) Compare with them the people at the lake. They didn't seek the back of the crowd. They didn't just sit around letting the action pass them by. They "pressed upon him to hear the word of God." They had purpose; they acted upon it. They were not about to let Jesus get away without teaching them God's word.

There are still people like that. Some may be found in churches. They arrive on time for study. They stay awake, and may even take notes on the sermon. They give willingly of time and money to make the church live. Some may not be currently in churches. They are looking for God's word, eager to press upon anyone who would teach it to them. May those that are in the churches find those that are not. May people continue to press upon Jesus to hear the word of God. Let each of us ask ourselves, "Would I have been one of those at the lake, or would I have been just sitting in Synagogue?"