Jesus and the disciples had just crossed the stormy sea of Galilee, arriving at the land of Gennesaret (or Gergesenes, or Gadarenes). The moment He embarked He encountered a man possessed by many demons (a “Legion” of them). After He cast them out, the people in that area made Him leave, and so He did. (Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39).
In another incident, Jesus trekked all the way to the region of Tyre and Sidon, and He did not want anyone to know about it. Inevitably, word got around and He was found by a Syro-Phoenician woman, who begged Jesus to cast out the demon from her daughter. She was not discouraged by Jesus’ insult and her humility was rewarded. The Bible does not say whether Jesus did anything else in that region and He seemingly departed and returned to the the region of Decapolis (around where He encountered Legion), where He healed many. (Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30).
In both of these cases, Jesus went to predominantly Gentile regions for a short period of time, healed a single person, and left. There may be multiple reasons for this with various interpretations, but I think one of them is He went specifically for these single individuals. Although neither the demon-possessed man nor the Canaanite woman were Jewish, He sought them out, knowing not only how much they needed Him, but how much they hoped to find Him. Sure, the journeys may have been troublesome, far, and incredibly roundabout, but Jesus loves every man. A single precious soul is worth it.
At times we are overtaken by numbers. We evaluate the worth of an effort or initiative by numbers (for good, valid, and practical reasons!). But if we’re not careful it may lead to thinking that isn’t Christ-like. We may become discouraged if there’s only one truthseeker at an evangelical event. We may start to feel disappointed if only a few members show up to listen to our sermon, or weary if only 2-3 students can participate in our awesome lesson plan. Perhaps we grumble if we need to pick up a truthseeker who lives far from church. Overall, we may feel that the effort, time, and labor that we put into planning, coordinating, and preparing is not worth the result. And before we know it, pride has displaced the love of God in our servitude. It has pushed aside the love of the souls which our work is supposed to bring closer to God.
God values every single soul. The work of God does not cater only to large crowds but also to individuals. God may guide us in a way that is contrary to what we expect or think is more sensible, until He reveals the single or few people that He wants us to draw closer to Him.
The example of Philip comes to mind. He was preaching in Samaria and brought many people to believe in God, but then God told him to leave and go into the desert (Acts 8:26). Philip may have wondered, “Why? What can I do in the desert? There’s no one there!” Philip remained submissive, however, and when he saw the Ethiopian eunuch in the distance, he understood. The Lord had brought him there so he could preach to this one person who was diligently searching the Scriptures for God.
May we shed any self-interest in our service to God, and rededicate our efforts towards edification of others. It doesn’t matter if our work affects many, or simply one. All are dear to our Lord Jesus Christ.