Genuine Human Need

If Jesus’ primary pattern of ministry was to gather a crowd and reveal his glory through spectacular means, such as transfiguration or mighty miracles, very likely the crowds would have responded positively. Many would have thought that  Jesus must certainly be worthy of allegiance. But, in such circumstances such a response would have raised questions about what it is the people were specifically seeking in following Jesus.

Certainly they would have been attracted to his power and glory, and from one perspective this would not have been bad, as I imagine the soul was designed by God to positively respond to such things. However, I don’t think this approach to ministry would have met the deepest, most genuine need of the people. And so, what I wonder is what does Jesus’ approach to ministry reveal about genuine human need. In short, what does Jesus’ ministry actually address in all of us?

7 Responses to “Genuine Human Need”

  1. Roger Green  

    i don’t know the answer to your question.

    i DO know that I am EXTREMELY wary of the cult of personality around some politicians and ESPECIALLY members of the clergy. The latter tend to be heads of non-denominational churches.

  2. CEbury  

    I haven’t put much thought into this response, which I will surely regret by tomorrow, but I wonder if the “draw of the crowd” was an unavoidable byproduct from miracles intended for an individual (which many were). Was not the spoken-word messages more the ministry rather than miracles themselves? A much cruder form is rampant today: do what you must to get their seats in the seats (or whatever the saying is, butts in the pews), so we can get the message across. From free coffee/latte pastry bars to famous guests and such.

    I guess I’m wondering if the question is moot, unless you believe the intent of the miracle was to draw the crowd (due to some innate human need). I would venture He knew those drawn most by the spectacular are first to walk away in disinterest once the “show” is over and the preaching begins.

    Love to hear the debate… And I do love the thought provoking messages.

  3. Anthony Velez  

    Chris – It was a nice surprise to see your comment on my blog.

    I agree that the effect of miracles was to draw a crowd, but the main thing was that they were to function as a sign that the Kingdom of Heaven had come upon Israel. According to the Jewish imagination the Kingdom of Heaven was the end time reality in which God would decisively act to restore creation. When Jesus healed people he was expressing the renewal associated with God’s kingdom, he was demonstrating that the reality Israel expected to happen at the end of the age had proleptically become available in the ministry of Jesus.

    Regarding what need Jesus was meeting through the manner in which he did ministry, the first thing that comes to mind is connection and intimacy, but this begs for further exploration. Back to the matter of renewal and redemption, in many ways we humans are cut off from the intimacy we so desperately need because our existential brokenness impairs our ability to enter into and reciprocate such intimacy. And so, the Word of creation must become the Word of recreation so that our souls can be healed and enabled to connect with God and one another according to God’s original design and plan.

    Again, having said all this, I still think there is something to explore regarding what the shape of Jesus’ ministry says about human nature and human need.

  4. Rachel  

    I think you raise a lot of good questions and point to some good answers. I wonder also if the miracles were not also indicative of the larger gift that would be given through faith. What I mean is, Jesus’ miracles tended to deal with a specific physical human need. Hunger, thurst, sickness, death, etc. A lot of times our immediate physical circumstances become barriers to seeing the face of God. Jesus removed those barriers and offered a glimpse of the larger, spiritual healing that was possible through grace. Jesus’ miracles not only indicate to people that here is a God who cares about your physical realities, your physical pain, but who also knows about your spiritual realities. There is something you need which only I can give. However, I may be overstating it a bit… :)

  5. Anthony Velez  

    Rachel – I like the idea of placing physical needs within the larger context of spiritual needs, and how the former can thereby function as a sign to the greater or perhaps more central reality. Having said this, as I tried to explicate in a conversation with you (but I don’t think I did very well), I am wondering if the relationship between the physical and spiritual needs to be reconsidered, if our understanding of spiritual needs to be reconsidered. In light of current developments in our understanding of brain physiology and consciousness, and in light of biblical anthropology (which is not to be confused with Greek philosophical anthropology), I wonder if human spirituality has to do with the emergence of consciousness from the sophisticated and complex material relationships of our physical existence. In saying this, what I am trying to avoid is the notion of a ghost in the machine, so prevalent in modern religious sensibilities, particularly as influenced by Cartesian dualism.

    Perhaps a great, but often overlooked, miracle is the fact that life and consciousness has emerged from matter, which is a testimony to the sovereignty and creativity of God. In saying this, I am not necessarily trying to deconstruct the binary of spiritual and physical, but rather demonstrate the intimacy between the two when it comes to human existence. The spiritual is the depth dimension of the complex relationships that have developed through matter. Of course, I restrict this to human spirituality, as I do not believe this holds true of God. Also, I want to be careful not to capitulate to reductionism as I reconsider this matter. Along with this, since God is spirit, and is the greater (even greatest) and root reality of all, then spirit is what it is without any dependence upon material structures. So, I am not sure where this leaves me. But for some, not clearly identified reason, the tripartite (body, soul, spirit) and dualist (body and soul) model of humanity leaves a bad taste in my intellectual mouth.

  6. Anthony Velez  

    Roger – I agree with you sentiments regarding the cult of personality. What strikes me though is that Christianity, in its earliest of years, around the time of Jesus and the apostles, would correctly be defined as a cult. Jesus would have been a charismatic rabbi, who by gathering a crowd around himself created a sect within the larger confines of Judaism. It seems to me that if Jesus wasn’t unique regarding his identity, than Christianity is the biggest cult foisted upon humanity. If, however, he was the Son of God, then all the hoopla is justified.

  7. Rachel  

    Anthony-

    I think I understand what you are saying. You are arguing that the relationship is more intimate and more integral than we generally think it correct? If this is the case, then I think I feel even more strongly that physical and spiritual needs are directly related to one another. By this I mean to say that I absolutely believe that what you do with your body effects the state of your soul. I would have to think more about the soul affecting the body…