LIVING ON THE EDGE
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 14, 2014
And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
— Matthew 14:34-36, ESV
Most people today are living on the edge. For those who live from paycheck to paycheck, if the layoff comes, over the edge they go. For those who live on government pensions or assistance, if the government shuts down or defaults, over the edge they go. For those whose relationships are hanging by a thread, if one argument gets over-heated, over the edge they go. For those whose mental stability is strained by pain or illness, if one more thing goes wrong, over the edge they go. When you live on the edge and an ill wind blows, over the edge you go.
But there is a different way to live on the edge. It is a way that won’t let you fall, but brings you in. It is a way that doesn't lead to danger, but makes you safe. It is a way that will never lead to loss of life, but a way that secures abundant and eternal life. Of course, it is the Jesus way. The text at hand shows people reaching out a hand to touch just the edge of Jesus’ clothes. They were living on the edge, and God invites you to live on this edge, too.
Living on the edge with the Lord Jesus Christ requires the presence of the Lord. In this episode, Jesus went to Gennesaret. Only those living in this Galilean village at that time had the opportunity to reach out and touch the Lord, and those who did received the blessing of living on the edge.
The second person of our triune God emptied Himself of some of the prerogatives of deity during His sojourn on earth. For a brief lifetime, Jesus limited Himself to being in one place at one time. If you wanted to touch Him, listen to Him, follow Him, you had to be where Jesus was. But what about now? Is there any way to reach out and touch the edge of His garment today?
Right now, Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father. This metaphor means that God the Son, along with God the Father and God the Spirit, are one in power and presence. Our triune God is everywhere all the time, exercising complete knowledge and sovereign control over all persons, places, and things. In a general, mystical way, you can reach out and touch God any time from any place. But there are certain, spiritual places where you can especially touch the Lord and be touched by His great and amazing grace.
Christ is especially present in a Christ-centered church engaged in Christ-centered worship. In the midst of humble prayers, sincere praise, genuine communion, and biblical preaching, Jesus walks. As He passes by, you can reach out and live on the edge. If you are lost, God can give you faith. If you are discouraged, God can give you hope. If you feel unwanted and unworthy, God can give you unconditional love. If your body or soul is troubled in any way, God can give you peace. All of this and more can be grasped in the presence of God in a Christ-centered church.
And when you go home, you can take the Spirit of the Lord and the word of the Lord with you. In His presence, in the reading of Scripture and the meditations of the heart, Jesus walks. The faith, hope, love, and peace you experience on an Advent Sunday or any Lord’s Day is available to you seven days a week. But you must go to where Jesus is, and Christ is profoundly found in His church, in His holy word, and in prayer.
However, many go through the motions of church services and Bible readings and do not touch the Lord at all. They do not find Him because they are not truly seeking Him, but rather going through religious motions. The people in Gennesaret were blessed that day to grab the edge of Jesus’ cloak because “the men of that place recognized Him.”
Do you recognize Jesus in the sacred hour of worship? Do you hear Him speak during the reading of the Scriptures? It really depends on the Jesus you are looking for.
If you are looking for a Jesus who will love you and overlook your sins, you will not find Him. Many today are trying to force God to bless their adulterous marriages and homosexual unions. Many in days gone by have tried to bribe God with baptism and brief church membership, then escape the faith to live the bulk of their lives on their own terms. Many around the world wear crosses around their necks or pierced through their ears yet have no conception whatsoever of what it means to take up the cross and follow Him. They are looking for a Jesus that cannot be recognized in Scripture, history, or eternity.
If you are looking for a Jesus, like perhaps even some in Gennesaret that day, who will bless your body upon demand without making demands of your soul, you will not find Him. So many today flock to so-called faith healers and think by touching the faith healer they are touching God. All of these people are a bit touched, mentally, and they are blind leading the blind down to wrong edge of God. Christ did miracles like these in a brief glimpse of history, and occasionally chooses to break through today in the same manner, simply to prove His deity and stake claim to His lordship over all of life. To fail to make Him Lord, even while receiving the temporal blessing of healing, is to lose your grip on who Jesus really is.
Recognize Jesus as very God of very God, who made the heavens and the earth, who made humans in His image for His glory, who cursed man at the fall with depravity and death, who can cast both body and soul into Hell, who became flesh and walked among us, and who grants pardon and peace in Heaven by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Recognize this Jesus and grab hold of the edge of His garment, then find others and lead them to the edge, too.
When the presence of the Lord was in Gennesaret, and when the people recognized it was Jesus, they gathered together as many people as possible to live on the edge. It is impossible to experience Jesus in merely a personal way. Real Christianity longs for community. It is supremely interested in Christ, yet always interested in others, and seldom keeps Jesus just for the self.
I am totally unimpressed with those who claim a personal relationship with Jesus Christ but show no interest in the community of the saints, the local and biblical church. As the Old Covenant required association with a nation, the New Covenant expects an affiliation with the church. It is impossible to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ without being faithful to the body of Jesus Christ, and the body of Christ is the church.
The community of the church lives on the edge, together. When two or more of us are gathered together, and especially when we gather for Lord’s Day worship, Christ is present in our midst. In the nursery, the classrooms, and the sanctuary of the church, we teach our children and one another to recognize the real Christ, through the exposition of the Bible and the propagation of the gospel. As we gather as a community, we are equipped and inspired to go out and invite others to Christ and Christ’s church, so that they, too, may be able to reach out and grab the edge of Jesus’ garment.
“And as many as touched it were made well.”
Jesus made Himself present and available to people on that day in Gennesaret. His word and power proved that He was the promised Messiah. A community of people gathered around Him. But in order to be made well, a touch was required.
The physical healing power of Jesus was not unimportant, but when measured against eternity becomes slightly insignificant. People made well, even people raised from the dead, went on to become sick again and die. The real significance of Christ’s miracles is that they served as parables, parables of the gospel and the gift of eternal life. For those who touch Jesus, or rather are touched by Jesus, in a spiritual, saving way, shall never die. We can live on the edge of the kingdom of God now, and at the second advent of Christ will find ourselves right in the middle.
I did not know Christopher Reeve personally. I know he was Superman, but I do not know if he was a spiritual man. He was man of great courage, however, especially in the face of a near fatal accident that left him a quadriplegic in 1995. So severe was his paralysis, that he could not feel anything from the neck down. He did not receive a miracle and never walked again, but he did benefit from a remarkable form of neurosurgery that enabled his nerve endings an allowed him to feel the touches and hugs from his wife and children. “To be able to feel just the lightest touch is really a gift,” Reeve said.
Touch is a gift. That a great and mighty God would allow us to touch Him is grace. To reach out and grab in on the edge is faith. To follow Jesus throughout this life into eternity is the only work that really matters.
The Lord Jesus Christ is present, here and now. He makes Himself recognizable through His word and Spirit. You are in the community of sinners made saints. Reach out and touch His robe, let your sins and sorrows fly away, and live on the edge.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org