07.22.2012 ~ r street community church
So… some of you may remember that we were looking at the gospel of Mark a couple of weeks ago. You might remember that we had just seen Jesus sort of “strike out” in Nazareth, his home town. Maybe you also remember that he followed this by pairing his disciples and sending them out on their own for awhile; with instructions on how to respond if and when any of them had their own Nazareth experience.
Interestingly, it is not clear in Mark’s gospel where Jesus was or what he was doing during this time but the news of the disciples travels reaches Herod and causes him to remember John the Baptist – and gives Mark a moment to tell the story of John’s execution as a bit of an aside.
When we return to the narrative, the disciples have returned to Jesus and immediately began to tell him the things they had seen and done. Imagine this scene. Any of you who have sent a kid to camp can probably see it clearly...
“you won’t believe what happened… seriously… there was this guy… and he was, like, crippled. and then… like, john prayed for him and he TOTALLY got up and walked."
“yeah… well… we had a blind woman… BLIND… and nobody even knew how she GOT blind, and Matthew put some mud on her eye – he totally stole that from you, Jesus - and then she washed them and she could see!”
Imagine these guys… blown away by what they had seen and by what they had done… barely able to contain their excitement enough to tell their stories.
And even in the midst of this; the crowds gathered. The stories about the works of the twelve and about their Rabbi, Jesus, drew crowds and needy people. So many, in fact, that the disciples could not catch their breath long enough to process what had happened to them in the previous days. So many that they could not even find time to eat.
So Jesus assesses the situation and says, “you guys come with me. Let’s find someplace where there aren’t any other people. You can rest and tell me more stories about your trips.” And they get a boat and head out for someplace secluded, someplace to unwind and de-brief, but the crowds figure out their plan and run ahead on foot. Then, as the boat approaches the shore the disciples realize that what they see on the shore are not shrubs or large rocks but, instead, the very crowds they had just attempted to escape.
Great… awesome... geez...
Jesus saw them as well and he:
“had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
Two things happen next and I imagine the lectionary leaves them out of today’s reading so that these stories can each have their own Sundays. It makes sense because they are both biggies.
First: Jesus feeds the 5000 plus people gathered – or more specifically, he tells his disciples to feed them.
Second: Jesus walks on water.
These are both pretty great stories and probably at least somewhat familiar to most of us. The only thing I want to say about them is this: After everybody ate; Jesus instructed the disciples to take the boat over to Bethsaida and that he would catch up with them later. Again, perhaps Jesus needed a moment to clear his head - and they all needed to escape the crowd as was their original plan. So Jesus sends them on and he sits and watches them cross the lake before walking to the boat on the water. I imagine this was not what they understood when he told them he’d “catch up” later.
Now the boat nears another shore and the 13 men aboard are getting ready for some rest and some time to recharge their batteries. Good plan?
54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
In the context of this story, I am not really interested in big ideas like the Sovereignty of God or the idea of Open Theism. But, I do have a question:
Does Jesus always get what he wants?
“Mom… I am sorry there is no wine but it is not yet my time…”
“Please don’t tell anyone that you were healed…”
“Do not tell anyone about the miracles you have seen…”
“Let’s go somewhere quiet and get some rest…”
“father… is their another way?”
Maybe the better question is; does Jesus ever get what he wants?
Does that question make you nervous? Does it make you feel uneasy? Does it cause any reaction at all?
For me, it absolutely causes a reaction. This question gives me comfort. It gives me hope. Hope that I may really be, at least a little, like Jesus. See if you can follow this… it made sense when I typed it…
The church swings on a pendulum when it comes to grace and law, freedom and obligation. One extreme tells us that anything we do (or don’t do) is cool because it’s really all grace. Another extreme tells us that God is really ticked at us and that he can’t wait to knock the sin out of us. This extreme tells us that our wants and desires are suspect from the get-go and that because of our fallen nature, anything we want is, by definition, bad.
Religion tells us to put aside all of our wants, all of our desires, and follow a new law; to trade our wants for his. Sounds holy… sounds righteous… but is does not completely sound like Jesus.
In “Beautiful Boy”, John Lennon famously said:
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Jesus had other plans when he attended a wedding in Cana. He had other plans when he went to preach in his home town. He had other plans when the crowds showed up needing healing and food and hope. And his broken heart ached for another plan as he prayed in the garden on the night he was arrested. But life happened to Jesus; just like it happens to each of us. Very few of us are living the life we planned. Very few of us have arrived at this moment and found it just as we expected. And yet, even though our plans are so often unrealized, many of us still find joy. We find meaning. We find purpose.
I planned on being a professional musician… a rock star. Instead, I am a husband and a father and a pastor. Life happened to me and life is good. Life is better than a plan. Life is more than a map. Jesus’ obedience to his father came, not because their plans were always in agreement but because Jesus’ eyes were always open… his heart was always open to whatever came his way. Jesus planned to hang back at the wedding but his mother needed his help. He planned to get some rest with his friends and found, instead, a crowd who needed what strength he had left. Jesus made plans… there were things that Jesus wanted. There were moments he wanted to hold onto. Jesus had other plans but he walked the path before him with eyes open and ready for the life his father intended for him.
Faith, for me, is not so much trying to figure out God’s plan and then making sure that my plan is the same. Instead, I get up and move forward in what wisdom and light I have and then I wait to see what happens.
“Nothing now remains for us seven but to go back to Stable Hill, proclaim the truth, and take the adventure that Aslan sends us.” C.S. Lewis (The Last Battle)
It is not wrong to plan… it is not ungodly nor does it exhibit a lack of faith. We make our plans and do our best in the knowledge that our creator may send us on an adventure we could never have anticipated... The adventure of learning to love a group of women who are fighting to reconstruct a life after being released from jail and getting a second chance; The adventure of fighting the great dragons of addiction and poverty; The adventure of raising a family, of being a friend, of entering into the messiness of community.
May we be a people of vision but may our vision always leave room for the mystery of the life that happens when we are making other plans. And may we come to know that while we “Can’t always get what we want…” that sometimes we “just might find that we get what we need.”
His Kingdom Come…