“When he went ashore, he saw a large crowd and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
If you have kids, you can probably relate to this situation. You get home from work and it’s been a long day. You have used every last brain cell just to survive. You’ve been emotionally and vocationally bruised. Nothing went right, but you managed to put out all the fires. You still have a mountain of work waiting for you in the morning and that’s weighing pretty heavily on your mind, but for now you’re gratefully done. You manage to get through dinner and baths without losing it. Once the dishes are done you finally sit – collapse really – on the couch and prepare for nothing. Then it starts. “Daddy, will you?…” “Mommy, will you?…” If you’re being honest, the last thing in the world you want to do is whatever happens to follow the “you.” But you love your kids. So you dig down into those emergency reserves, get up off the couch, and say, “Yeah, let’s go, Buddy.” What we see here is Jesus saying, “Yeah, let’s go, Buddy.” Let’s talk about it.
As we talked about yesterday, what the disciples needed more than anything else when they got back from their missionary assignment was rest. Even though they were running on adrenaline, Jesus knew that would run out eventually. The sugar high would wear off and the crash would be epic if they didn’t slow down a bit before it came. They needed to get away and debrief together. They needed to spend some time restoring their souls so they were ready for what came next. The trouble was, there were so many people coming to see them that they couldn’t make that time happen.
So, Jesus did with all of them what He so often did for Himself. He gathered up the whole group and headed off somewhere remote in order to get the rest they needed. The trouble was, some folks who were trying to be near them saw the direction they were going. It was like a mega-famous celebrity accidentally being overheard talking about where he was going after a concert by a fan who promptly posted it on social media for the entire fan-verse to know. Word spread about where Jesus and the guys were going and everybody began moving in that direction.
The group made a leisurely trip across the Sea of Galilee toward a distant shore. I’m sure it was a relaxing boat ride. The sailors in the group took turns manning the udder and sails while the rest of the group lounged in the sun. Some chatted. Some napped. Jesus probably napped. He tended to fall asleep in boats. They expected that in a few hours they would arrive at their destination to a deserted shore where they could have some dinner and call it a night.
Then they got close enough to see the shore and something was wrong. It wasn’t the right color. The normal tans of the sand and the rocks were replaced with a jarring assortment of colors. Reds, blues, browns, blacks, whites. And the shore was…squirming. It looked like someone had kicked a fire ant pile and the creatures were swarming to find the intruder. As they drew nearer their curiosity turned to horror. The colors and the squirming was people. Thousands of people. There was hardly room for the boat to land. This was not simply the thronging hoard they thought they had left behind on the other side of the Sea. This was bigger.
The guys all looked to Jesus to get their cue. How should they react to this? They knew how they wanted to react. They wanted to turn the boat around and sail off into the sunset to a place where the people wouldn’t know they had gone. But as they looked at Jesus, a curious expression began to take shape on his face. At first He was passive. They couldn’t read Him at all. But then a sparkle began to grow in His eyes. They’d seen that before. They saw it when He had the exchange with the bleeding woman in the crowd on the way to Jairus’ house. They saw it when He healed people and relished their joy upon realizing they really were better. Then a tired smile began to form on His lips. He shook His head gently and said, “Well guys, let’s get to work.” When the boat landed, He stepped out and began interacting with the people as if this had been His plan the whole time.
Later, when he finally had time to reflect on it more, Peter realized that Jesus’ expression was one of compassion. He would later describe Himself as the good shepherd. That’s what He was being here. These people were sheep without a shepherd and in Jesus they heard a voice their hearts had always known. Sheep know the voice of their shepherd and so they came to Him. They came to Him by the thousands. And Jesus received them. All of them. He began to teach them and tell them about the kingdom of God and the life found there. And the people listened. For hours. They were being fed a food for their souls that would carry them not just until their next meal, but all the way into the next life.
Friends, this Jesus we see here is still the same Jesus who loves us today. When He encounters the world’s brokenness and human need, He does not turn away because He doesn’t have the energy to deal with it anymore. He turns toward it. He is a God of compassion. He is motivated by need. His heart inclines in the direction of the hurting. Innocent ignorance is as good as a golden ticket for Him. He’s never too tired.
What this means is here: When you are in a place of need, you can go to Jesus. He will have compassion on you and receive you with love. He will wrap around you His arms of grace and show you all the tenderness of a mother or father playing one last game with their child before bed because she needs that little bit of focused attention. That’s simply the kind of God He is. It is the kind of God He will always be. It matters not how broken or messed up or covered in sin you are. When you are ready to recognize your need and call for Him, He will come and love you. You are a sheep and He is the Good Shepherd. You will never find rejection with Him. Only acceptance, grace, and love (that is, an intentional effort to move you gently in the direction of God). If that’s you, go to Him. I can guarantee you this one thing: You’ll be glad you did.