So Jesus is a great trainer. He teaches and heals people and tells demons to get out of people and spends a bunch of time on a comparatively small group. Twelve of these are a core group, are the main team. One day He sends these twelve out in pairs to go to the towns of Israel and tell them that the kingdom of God is at hand. He also tells them that they will be able to do the things He’s been doing.
So they go. And they do. Miracles, I mean. They actually do miracles. So they come back to Jesus and they say, “It works! It was amazing!” and He takes them across the lake to a solitary place, to get away for awhile from the trip.
He understands at that moment that they need to get away at catch their breath before the adrenaline crashes because, well, because He just heard what happens to people who are at odds with how “religion is supposed to work.” He just got the news that His relative John was killed by Herod in a pretty random way.
So they go across the water and get to the solitary place where there are, well, 15,000 people. It was solitary until word got out that Jesus was holding a spiritual retreat for a few of His closest friends. And Jesus goes ahead and talks to the whole group because He has compassion on them because they, these 15,000 people who are scattered across the hills, look a lot like sheep without a shepherd.
So at the end of the day, when everyone realizes that no one packed much food, Jesus feeds them. Actually, the disciples feed everyone as they start passing out food and passing and passing. Actually, Jesus says, “feed them” and the disciples say, “with what?” and Jesus says, “what do you have? and they say, “5 biscuits and two smelt.” and Jesus says, “thank you Father for this food” and breaks it into about 12 portions and they start passing and passing and passing. They end up with 12 baskets…one for each disciple.
So Jesus puts them back on the boat and dismisses the crowd and finally gets to spend some time with His Dad. And the disciples go out on the lake and the wind is strong and they can’t get far and then Jesus comes walking on the water. And they’re afraid and He tells them to relax and Peter says, “Okay, if it’s you tell me to come” and Jesus does and Peter does…and then Peter realizes he’s walking on water and get scared and goes down and Jesus grabs him and they get into the boat and the wind stops…so they can get to shore.
And they get to shore and a bunch of people show up and Jesus starts the healing again. And a few days later, after feeding another 4,000 people and talking with a bunch of Pharisees and all, they are back on the boat. And Jesus says, “beware the yeast of the Pharisees.” and the disciples say, “He’s saying we should have brought more food on the trip.” and Jesus says, “I have fed, like, 25,000 people on 12 biscuits and some smelt. If we need food, I can make food. Beware the yeast of the Pharisees.”
So here’s my question. Did Jesus know that there would be 15,012 people on His so-called solitary retreat?
Because if He did, it means that sometimes to find Him, to have time with Him, to be in His presence, we don’t have to be alone. In fact, He set a model of teaching His disciples about ministry recovery in the middle of a huge crowd.
In fact, he said to them, in essence, for at least today you don’t get to be alone with me as a destination. Their alone time was in the boat on the way over. And what He needed to teach them was that He could provide rest, food, wind stopping, healing, in the middle of life being lived.
Jesus did spend time with the Father that night. It was core to His existence as God. And we need to seek time with God, of that I am sure. But as I am struggling this week to understand stillness, I’m wrestling with the truth that maybe it is more a gift than a goal. And I’m faced with the reality that I can’t do theology for everyone if I am rooting it in or basing it on my own personality.
Clearly a work in process, if not in progress. Me, I mean.
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