Ever been overwhelmed and needed some time to yourself? In this two week adventure we walk with Jesus in his quest for alone time. Preached @ St. Peter’s Comox August 6, 2017.
“Hearing of this he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”
I love this. Jesus wants some solitude. God, the maker of heaven and earth, by the mystery of the incarnation takes even our need for alone time up into himself.
Some context might be helpful here. We skipped seventeen versus between Jesus’s teaching parables to the apostles in the house by the beach and Jesus’s desire to just be alone. What’s happened?
Well after teaching the parables Jesus takes the apostles to his home town of Nazareth. There his very presence offended people. He was rejected and mocked by the people he had grown up around. And then John the Baptist’s followers show up in town with dismay written on their faces. Jesus’s cousin John was dead. John who had baptized him in the river Jordan had been beheaded. It was at this point, with all this on his heart, that Jesus decided to set off to spend some time alone, away from his home town, away from John’s disciples, away from it all. I wonder what thoughts crossed his mind as he sailed across the Sea of Galilee. John was sent to prepare the way for him and now John was dead.
When he reached the other side though, that place where he might have some peace and quiet what there did he find? He found large crowds had followed his boat to meet him there. He doesn’t say “sorry guys, I’m overwhelmed” he doesn’t send them away, he has compassion on them and heals their sick.
For this is who our God is. He is gracious and rich in love, he has compassion on all that he has made. And here the overwhelmed heart of man enters wholly into the love of God in this mystery. What a painfully perfect moment. When Jesus has lost his cousin, been rejected by those who have known him the longest, and is denied the solitude he sought that man who is wholly God takes all of that need up into the reality of God’s compassion and provision.
Its at this moment that the apostles say “hey-ah Jesus its getting late and we don’t have enough food to feed these people, maybe its time to send them back to town so they can buy some food?”
Makes sense to me. Since Genesis 3 that’s the ordinary way of things that the food God provides us with is met by the sweat of our brow, pulled out of the dust through war with thistle and thorn. Why should this day on the shore of Galilee be any different?
But Jesus says “They have come to me, they don’t have to go away, you give them something to eat”
They have come to him. And the words of Isaiah echo in my heart as I meet Jesus here. “Come to the waters, and you who have no money-come and buy and eat. Come buy wine and milk. Why toil at that which does not fulfill.”
For they had come to him who was the Word of God, him who does satisfy. To him who feeds every living creature they had come. Why should they flee to the towns for food when they had come to the Bread of Life? And so Jesus asks this, “Why should they leave? You are my apostles! Feed them.”
And the apostles are perplexed. How are we supposed to feed all these people we only have five loaves of bread and two fish?
“Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me that your soul may live. Bring me the bread and the fish” Jesus says.
He lifts them up, looking heavenward he gives thanks and he breaks the bread and he gives it to the apostles. And lo descending, as he fed Elijah in time of famine from a small jar, as he fed his people in the wilderness with manna from heaven, he feeds them again now that they might be with him, and that he might be with them together feasting on that which satisfies.
For this was God’s purpose with Abraham, echoed in Isaiah that all the whole Earth might come to know him as sovereign, to know him as God, and that they would know Him through the blessing they received at the hands of His people: a royal priesthood. In commanding the apostles to feed the people he is commanding them to fulfill the covenant he made with Abraham to feed them. Do they have the food? Not on their own surely, they have only what God himself gives them. And yet is for them to bring this to the whole world that the knowledge and love of God might abound.
This is the kingdom that Jesus is establishing in the parables, the kingdom promised to David where his descendant with a heart after God’s own heart, a heart which is wholly of David’s flesh, wholly of God’s majesty reigns and is received. This kingdom is where we are met by God’s presence and God’s presence meets us.
So come. Come and receive the Word of God. Come and listen and eat that which is good that all that you are might delight in the sweetest of wines and the richest milk. Hear with your ears, receive in your hearts that your souls might live and find life. For Jesus himself invites us to feed on him that we filled to overflowing endowed with splendor might bring what received to hungry hearts and thirsty lives.
Come and receive. Go and pass it out abroad. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.
As for that alone time? Compassion drove him into this mystery with 5000+ people. Jesus isn’t done looking for solitude just yet.