We can only define them by their malady (or friend’s malady) and location: The Deaf Man in Decapolis, 4 Friends on the Roof. Or sometimes by their profession or nationality: Centurion in Capernaum, Syro-Phonecian Woman in Tyre. The one thing we never know is their names.
I mislabeled this blog series when I started. These people aren’t nameless. They had given names and family relationship names like mother, husband, or cousin. They were people, just like me and you. In fact, Jesus may have called many of them by their names. But we don’t know those names. So they’re not “nameless.” They are “unnamed” or “anonymous.” Maybe I’ll go back and correct all the posts at some point.
When I began this series in February, I was thinking about ambition. It seemed counter-intuitive to study ambition by considering the many anonymous people who encountered Jesus, but that’s what He led me to do.
Then COVID-19 hit.
I could have been frustrated by all the cancellations and the stay at home order and the way almost everything has changed. My ambition could have swallowed me whole. But instead, I dug into the story of one person after another who brought their problems to Jesus and found not only physical healing but also spiritual understanding and a renewal of relationships. (Jesus’ interest in restoring relationships was the thing that surprised me.) One person after another remains unnamed in the text but contributed to Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecy.
John the Baptist began to doubt while he was in prison, so he sent a few of his disciples to ask Jesus point-blank, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). John’s expectations of heralding the Messiah hadn’t involved his own imprisonment or beheading.
Jesus answered by quoting Isaiah.
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. –Matthew 11:5/Luke 7:22 (Compare Isaiah 29:18-21, 35:4-6, 61:1)
It was in those anonymous healings that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy! I’m giving one example of each, but just look:
- Blind – Matthew 9:27-31. I haven’t written about this one, but I include it because it occurred before Jesus talked to John’s disciples.
- Lame – 4 Friends on the Roof (Luke 5:17-26)
- Lepers – A Muddy Man with Leprosy (Luke 5:12-15)
- Deaf – The Deaf Man in Decapolis (Mark 7:31-37)
- Dead – Nothing Much Happens in Nain (Luke 7:11-17)*
- Poor (spiritually) – Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). More literally, many impoverished people surely heard the good news as Jesus spoke in the countryside of (Matthew 5-7) or in the city (John 7) and Jesus’ own theme: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17).
Matthew summarized it later,
Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. –Matthew 15:30-31
Every unnamed person pointed to Jesus as the Savior.
Every unnamed person was part of His plan.
In none of the above situations is the name of the healed person important. Only His name mattered.
This is where I’ve settled on ambition: Spiritually healthy ambition is that which pursues His greatness or glory rather than my own.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. –Galatians 6:14
ALL THAT MATTERS is His glory in my neighborhood and among the nations. Not that I have arrived (In fact, I may have a prideful, selfish spell before I finish writing this post.), but He is planting in me—in that deep place hidden somewhere between my heart and my gut—this fierce, indefinable urge to make His Name great, even at the expense of my own.
My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty. –Malachi 1:11
It’ll be fine if you don’t remember my name as long as I’m making God’s name known. After 7 months of pondering it, I’ve concluded my #anonymity is #NotAboutMe. (click to tweet)Tweet
Where are you on your #OneWord2020? Did it go out the window when COVID hit? I won’t judge. Talk about ambition instead, if you’d like. Regardless, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
*Doesn’t it look like Luke is setting up the exchange between John’s disciples and Jesus? In chapters 5 and 7, he gives story after story of unnamed people who are healed or somehow affected by Jesus.