One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat (5:1-3 CSB).
Years ago when we were young and our children were younger, two very good friends paid for our way to a Christian camp located on Kelly’s Island on Lake Erie. The camp was next to a beautiful bay on a narrow peninsula, and it was a great place to see tremendous sunsets. It would be very easy to talk a lot about the wonderful times and the fellowship we enjoyed there. But to keep our blog post to a readable length, I’ll only mention one thing. The chapel of the camp was located a stone’s throw from the shoreline, and as you listened to the message with your ears, your eyes could survey the beauty of the lake.
When I read these verses, I can easily picture what it was like to listen to Jesus as he stood by Lake Galilee (Gennesaret is usually called Galilee.) Yet, this scene was different from our blissful days at camp. Jesus was near Capernaum, where he had been doing good works (Acts 10:38) of miracles. The people of the area were very excited about the miracles and his teaching. So, they looked for Jesus and when they found him, they crowded around him. Think of the excitement of that day! People crowded around Jesus and wanted to listen to him! They longed to hear Jesus tell them words of life!
During my sophomore year of college, I was a new follower of Jesus Christ. It was quite a remarkable time in the early 1970s. Many other people became believers in the Lord in those years. I attended a church on Sunday evenings in the next town from where the college was located. We had to get to the evening service forty-five minutes before it began to get a seat. Thirty minutes early merely to get into the building. And we sang for joy while we waited for the meeting to begin, and then we sang some more. We all were eager to hear more about the Lord Jesus, the gospel, and his saving grace. I doubt that few of you have seen that week after week after week.
About five years later, I taught a Bible study on a secular college campus near where I lived. We met in a room in a college building at eight o’clock on Friday nights for two hours. Yes, you read that correctly. Eight o’clock on Friday nights for two hours with college students, who preferred to gather to hear God’s word rather to go out partying. I worked for a general contractor during those days and would start work early on Friday, work hard on the job, get cleaned up, and go to the Bible study. I was tired out by ten at night, even as a young man. The students kept asking questions about the Scriptures well after ten. At times, I would be walking down the steps from the third floor to go to my car, and they would still be asking me questions on the way. Thank you, Lord, for such hunger for your Word.
Jesus experienced that constantly in his earthly ministry. It got so crowded as he taught, that it made it difficult to teach. For this reason, he got into a boat (Simon Peter’s) and asked him to move out a little bit from shore. There, he could more easily teach and the people listen. He loved to tell them the good news of God and his kingdom, and they loved to listen.
My friends, what has happened to people who claim to love the Lord and Savior? We have lost the excitement to hear about Jesus Christ. I do see this in some people, as I did in my Bible study this morning when we looked at Isaiah 53. However, many church buildings are nearly empty from fear. Please don’t excuse yourself because you’re afraid of Covid-19. Early Christians in Rome hid among the catacombs so that they could meet together and worship. They hungered for the Word at the risk of death! Plus, I seriously doubt that you can catch Covid-19 through an online, remote meeting! Yet far too many claim that they are “Zoomed out”. But they will still watch endless shows on their television or other digital devices, and that requires them to look at a screen.
My dear friends, I think we all need to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Our current decline is not because of Covid-19. Nor is it because we are “Zoomed out”. I think there is another reason. Let us listen to the words of Jesus to the church in Ephesus. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Revelation 2:4-5 NIV).
Do not fret about persecution closing churches. Christians are doing a more than adequate job of closing churches by their own laziness and indifference.
May God restore us!
Grace and peace,