Today I want to talk to you about something that is very close to my heart. Whenever I preach in a church the first Sabbath, there is a story in the Bible that just grips me. And I even say that it haunts me because there are some things about this story that troubles me. And that is, the reality that there may be people reaching for Jesus and we don't even know it. Today's sermon is Lost in the Multitudes.
The Pastor introduced me somewhat to you, but we haven't had the opportunity to meet before. I am the Conference evangelist, mainly assigned to the Atlanta area. But I'm here today because we had expanded some of the ministries up in this area and there's been some request for meetings for the greater Chattanooga area. Earlier this year, our conference voted some funds for a large meeting in 2006 with Pastor Mark Finley. After about ten years after the Net Meetings, he's coming back and we're going to have another large meeting in this area. So, we need to start working together right now. This fall, September 12 to 23 we're going to have the opportunity to fellowship together at the Chattanooga Convention Center for an area revival September 12 through the 23. And you will be getting some flyers and posters and some information about that. So, be praying for it, be looking for it, and be praying for god to open up your eyes to those who might be in your life might be reaching for Jesus and don't even know it.
Now, the Pastor did a fantastic job pronouncing my name, Joe Cirigliano. There are many people who will not address me because they cannot say that last name. So, I have created a nick-name down in Atlanta, it's Joe Speghetio. If you have trouble with Cirigliano, and you're afraid to come talk to me because you don't want to butcher my last name, Joe Speghettio works just fine. And you'd be surprised how many people choose that version of my name. So, if you want to call me by that name, that's just fine. I first started working for the Seventh- day Adventists Church in the Greater New York Conference, and the first church that I was assigned to was called, The Babylon Seventh-day Adventist Church. Can you imagine being told that you would fit perfectly in Babylon? Well, that's what I was told, and thankfully, God called me out of Babylon. I've been blessed to be here a part of the Georgia Cumberland Conference, and it's a great family to be a part of.
Last year we celebrated for the first time in our conference history, one thousand baptisms plus. And the Lord is continuing to bless. Southern Union is growing with great power and the Lord has been blessing this conference. It's a great family to be a part of and there's no greater joy than seeing the faces of many of those thousand people who have come to Jesus last year. And we're going to have the opportunity to do the same thing this fall. I'm looking forward to that.
I'm here today with my wife, Amy, and my daughter, Sophia. My daughter, Sophia, turned eighteen months last week and we've been so excited about that. We've been learning some things. We've had three nine-month periods with her: nine months of pregnancy, then another nine months and then another nine months. The last eighteen months have been easier than the nine months of pregnancy. If you know about pregnancy, you know there was a lot of waiting and late-night cravings, a lot of crying and emotional outbursts, and that was just me. So, we were so excited when we got to see some of the fruits of our labor and to celebrate new birth. There is nothing more I like to do than to celebrate new birth into Jesus Christ and the great church family.
So, today we have the opportunity before we open the Word of God, let's pray with one another.
"Father God in heaven, we come before You today to praise You, to worship You. Father, I ask this morning that Your Holy Spirit will fill this place and fill me, that humanity would disappear and Divinity will appear in our hearts as your Divine finger can touch us. Father, today I pray that you open up our eyes to those around us that might be reaching for Jesus and we don't even know it. We pray that this story will not take place in our lifetime. We ask these things in Jesus' holy name, Amen.
If you have your Bibles today, please turn to our Scripture reading, Mark 5:24-28. The gospel of Mark is my favorite gospel because the gospel of Mark is the gospel about action. You won't find a tremendous amount about parables. You won't find a multitude of teachings. But you will find great account of the miracles of Christ, of the power of Christ. You see, because Mark wasn't writing primarily to the Jews but to the Romans, to the pagans. They wanted to know "Who is this Jesus that we've heard about? What power does He have? Who is He?"
And in Mark 5, the popularity of Jesus is about to explode. In verse 24, by this point an important ruler had asked Jesus' services for his family. The disciples were so excited. They had big plans for Jesus. They wanted Him on "Larry King Live," on "Oprah." They had big plans: they were going to take Him everywhere on a world-wide tour. Jesus was so busy. His fame was about to grow. And verse 24 tells us, So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him.
Now, a thronging crowd means, a choking crowd. Have you ever been in a crowd so thick you couldn't even breathe? Have you ever been in a crowd so thick you can't even breathe? I grew up in New York and I can tell you I've been in crowds so thick you can not even breathe. Friends, whenever Jesus went anywhere after this point there was a crowd so thick you couldn't breathe. A choking, thronging crowd.
Verse 25 tells us about certain individual, lost in that multitude. Mark 5:25. Now a certain woman (a woman without a name, a nobody,) had a flow of blood for twelve years, Now, Bible scholars fight about this phrase all the time. And you will find in many Bible commentaries, and many commentators will tell you that that flow of blood sometimes is associated with problems resulting as a result of your own sin. "Who in the world is this woman? Who does she think she is? She has no name." She was a certain woman: a no one. Jesus has been requested by an important ruler to receive His attention. The disciples must have thought, "We certainly don't have time for this woman."
I don't know about you, friends, but I'm Jesus wasted His time on me, and took the time our for all of us. A flow of blood for twenty years! Verse 26 tells us more about this woman. She had suffered many thing from many physicians. She'd spent all that she had and was no better, but rather she grew worse. Have you ever met anyone who was wounded in their search for Jesus, in the search for hope, in their search for truth? They're reaching for something. She'd been looking for healing but found none. In her desperate need for Jesus she'd been given every cure in the book. But they only made her worse. Friends, I believe that we have to reach to make the lives of people around us better. But there is nothing that will heal you but Jesus. Doctrine can't do it. Books can't do it. Veggie dogs can't do it. Only coming in contact with Jesus Christ can change your life. She'd been given every other cure, every other church exercise, all the ceremonies, all the traditions, all the memorials, but she'd never touched Jesus.
And we're told more in verse 27. To me this is bad news because it says, When she heard about Jesus. Friends, for twelve years she'd been suffering all by herself, and finally, homeless, helpless, friendless, penniless, in desperation she makes the last journey toward Jesus because she had nothing else to cling to. And instead of someone bringing her to Jesus, she simply just heard about Him. She had just heard about Him. Friends, I believe that too few people hear about Jesus. And too few are actually introduced to Him by someone that already knows Him.
When she heard about Jesus. I didn't go to college originally to become a preacher or an evangelist, but that was God's idea. I went to school to have a career in physical therapy and I worked in that field for about seven years. I'll never forget my first job, that God opened up the doors just perfectly. I had no Sabbath work problems and my boss was an atheist. But we seemed to have an ability to work together just fine. I had no Sabbath problems. My job was just perfect. I just loved where I was working and I didn't want to do anything to mess it up. So, I made a decision one day. I would go to work. I would keep my mouth shut. I would do my job. And I would go home. It sounds like a good plan, doesn't it. I worked there for a while and there was a co-worker of mine named Kay. Kay worked in the office of the medical building and I was out in the clinic treating patients. I'll never forget that we had a great friendship over the time that I worked there. But one thing that we also shared was a mutual friend. And after I had finished working for that company I moved to another location. I was talking to that mutual friend one day and she asked me a question that just broke my heart. She said, "Joe, Kay was talking with me and she asked me why it was you never invited her to your church." My heart just broke. And I thought, "Well, I was just trying to do the right thing. I was trying to be professional, trying not to push my religion, trying not to offend anyone. But deep in this woman's heart she was begging me to invite her to my church.
Friends, I made a commitment that day that that would never happen to me again, that everyone I came in contact with would at least get an invitation. She had to hear about Jesus from somebody else rather than me.
Verse 27 says, When she heard about Jesus. (from someone else) she came from behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment; for she said, "If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made whole." Twelve years of loneliness. Twelve years of being pushed away by society. Twelve years of being told that "You're unclean, you're no good. Jesus has no time for you." Twelve years, now she is penniless, friendless, helpless, homeless and hopeless. But she makes her journey to Jesus.
And verse 29 tells us the good news. Although on one tried to help her, although she had to make this journey all by herself, when she finally touched Jesus, Immdeiately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Friends, I believe in the immediate healing power of Jesus Christ. What about you? I believe that in a moment He can touch a life and it can change. I believe in a moment He can touch a broken marriage and it will mend together. I believe that in a moment He can heal years of abuse through the power of His Holy Spirit. I believe in the immediate healing power of Jesus Christ. And I've seen it many times. People struck down with seizures, children in all kinds of problems when their parents decide to make a step for Jesus Christ and the devil gets angry. I've seen them before. But, friends, Jesus has victory every time through His blood.
Many times we are so afraid of healing we don't believe it exists anymore. We're so afraid of counterfeit healing that we believe that true healing doesn't exist. But I'm not like that, friends. In my neighborhood there are a lot of places that claim to have New York pizza. And I drive by and some places I've tasted. But most of them I just laugh at. Do you know why? How would I know what a counterfeit New York pizza tasted like? Because I've tasted the real thing. Friends, if we have not come in contact with the real healing power of Jesus Christ, how could you ever know what a counterfeit is? I know what real Ne York pizza tastes like so I don't have to deal with the counterfeit.
I believe in the immediate healing power of Jesus Christ. Look at the next phrase (Mark 5:30) And Jesus immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My clothes?" But His disciples said to Him, "You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, 'Who touched Me?'" "What? Are You serious? You can't be serious! You se the multitudes thronging you, choking us and yet You're going to ask, 'Who touched My clothes?
You see folks, there's a problem. Someone was reaching for Jesus and they didn't even know it. What was the problem? They were distracted. They were too concerned with "Which one was going to sit on You right hand, Lord. Which one on Your left hand?" They were too worried about the influx of the dirty gentiles into the church. They looked different. They smelled different. They ate differently. "Lord Jesus, we don't want them. They're too much work." I'm so glad that Jesus did not live like that. They had everything. They were the frozen chosen. They had a remnant mentality. "We're here on a hill. We're all by ourselves." There's no one out there reaching for Jesus. They had a health message. They had a dress reform. They had profits. They had prophecy. They had Sabbath. They had tithe. They had everything, but Jesus. No Jesus. In the midst of all their ceremonies, all their traditions, all their memorials, they were living in the glory of the past. When someone was reaching for Jesus today and they didn't know it. Friends, I don't ever want to be distracted, what about you? That there are people reaching for Jesus. We may not even know it.
I'll never forget that while I was a seminary student up at Andrews, we moved into a street that I used to call, Veggie Burger Circle. Everyone on our street was a Veggie Burger. Everywhere we went we saw Veggie Burgers. I'd go get gas and there were Veggie Burgers. I'd go to get food and everywhere we went it was just an amazing thing. There were three pastors just on our street. And academy principals and teachers. It was an amazing place. But then we moved down to Atlanta, and it was different. And I'll never forget our first apartment. No one talked to anyone. They all looked different. No one seemed to have any connection, any community. My wife and I thought one day, "Well, what are we going to do to create some feeling of community here? And reach out to our neighbors?" And we came up with an ingenious plan. We were going to leave them a little bag of cookies with a little note on their door, just saying, "HI. This is Joe and Amy. We're new in the neighborhood and we just want to let you know we're here. If you ever need anything, just give us a call." We did that to twelve apartments in our building. It sounds complex, doesn't it. Twelve apartments, and we got we got four phone calls the next day. One of them said, a single man living by himself, said, "You don't know how long it's been since I had home-made cookies." I didn't have the heart to tell him we bought them from Public (a super market). And they weren't the best cookies. But he was just so impressed that someone took the time to give one day to have a concern about him.
Four phone calls. Friends, there are people in our life that are reaching out for Jesus. We may not even know it.
Look at the next phrase (Mark 5:32), And He looked around to see who had done this thing. How many of you today have the New International Version? It says, But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done that. I love that. You see, friends, when Jesus was touched, He didn't know who it was. The disciples were too distracted, they were too busy, they had big plans for Jesus. The difference is that Jesus kept looking. The difference is that Jesus did not give up. Friends, the difference between us and our fears and our worries is that Jesus does not give up on your family and your loved ones. Jesus does not give up on your spouse or your children running from His grace. Jesus does not give up on the drunk, on the prostitute, on the drug addict, whatever it may be. Jesus keeps looking. That's the difference. Jesus kept looking. "Who did this? Who was she? I have to see her. I have to touch her." Jesus kept looking.
But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. Her whole story, all the pain, all the rejection, all her sins. Everything she'd ever done.
And now there's another difference between Jesus and us. Jesus listened to the whole story. Friends, I worry sometimes that we talk too much and don't listen enough. Jesus stood there and listened.
We saw how busy He was. Important people wanted His attention. He does not have time to sit down and listen to the whole story, but I'm so glad He did. I'm so glad He knows your story. "What's your story? Where have you been? Have you been running from Christ? Have you not touched Him? Or maybe you've been in His presence your whole life, but you've forgotten there are people out there who are reaching to Him. The difference, friends, is that Jesus keeps looking. That's the difference. Even when it's one.
I'll never forget another story of the Seminary. There was a very simple assignment for me. One of the churches we were preparing for evangelism. My job was to be in charge of the Discover Bible School. It was an easy job because there was only one student. All we had was a name; no address but a post office box. No phone numbers. Nothing. And I wrote him time after time, "Please let us know." He never wrote back. He just said, "Send some Bible studies." And he never said anything then. So, finally I just stopped sending them. I said, "We must be bothering him. I don't want to ambush this poor person." And just before we left Seminary, we got a phone cal at the dinner table. Someone said, "Is Joe there?" "This is Joe." I'm Roy and I'm wondering why you're not sending me Bible studies anymore." My heart just broke again. I said, "Lord, forgive me." I told him, "I don't know. I thought you weren't interested any more. So we just stopped sending it." He said, "Well, can you still send them?" And I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, hurry up." "We will." He said, "Well, hurry up. I need them now. I use those guides to teach the Sunday School class in my church." And here I was thinking it was only one person when there were multitudes that were studying about Jesus.
Friends, the difference is, Jesus keeps looking. He never gives up on your neighbors, your friends, your coworkers.
Look at the end of our story. (Mark 5:34) And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction."
Friends, there are people in your life that are reaching for Jesus. We may not even know it. In your neighborhood, in your business, in your family, even in your leisure time. I've been shocked at the amount of people that God had opened my eyes to, even in the gym where I go work out. One man and I in the aerobics room praying for his family. And his eyes welled up with tears. Another man who came out to a Prophecy Seminar we were doing that I met there in the gym said that before he had met us that all he knew about Seventh-day Adventists was that they had signs on the road. That was it. Neighbors in soft ball. In my neighborhood we started a soft ball team. I started to find out that people wanted me to pray for their families. Some going through divorce, right by the mailbox to have prayer. Praying for their families, for their jobs, for their desires, being laid off. This week I sent Bible studies to two of my family members. A cousin who thought he had leukemia. Another one who is struggling with a lot of problems.
God is beginning to show me that there are people in my life that are reaching for Jesus I don't even know. But there was one a few months ago that really got me. In my business there's a place I like to go to get some banners and some different things through UPS and I'll never forget going in there one day on a Friday afternoon. I was so busy. I was running late. I wanted to get everything done before Sabbath and I'll never forget the owner of the business leaned over the counter and out of the blue he said, "I don't know if things can continue the way they've been. My business is failing. I don't know if I can keep my marriage together." He was heart-broken. But I kept working. I was listening and working. But then he said something that caught my attention. He talked about his little girl. I have a little girl, too. He said, "You know what? I go to bed sometimes and I just pray that I don't wake up." I knew I couldn't work anymore. I walked over to him and I put my hand on his shoulder and said, "I just want to pray with you."
Friends, that's all the people in your life really want. Someone to pray. Someone to care. I prayed with him and he said, "No one has ever done that before." Tears were in his eyes, too, and his heart was touched because no one had ever taken the time. I started giving him Bible studies.
There are many other stories like that. Friends, there are people in your life, even when you get gas. I've gotten information for Bible studies in tele-marketers. Friends, keep your eyes open. There are people who are reaching for Jesus and you don't even know it. Let's commit today to keep our eyes open.
Hymn of Praise: #19, O Sing a New Song to the Lord Scripture: Mark 5:24-28 Hymn of Response: #340, Jesus Saves
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last updated 5/24/2003 by Bob Beckett.