If He Needs His Space, It’s Okay for Us to Need Some Too…John 6:16-21
So we’re home or wherever summer finds us. We’ve just done with the finals thing. We came into the exam with our neurons as stuffed with information as a squirrel with two bran muffins in each cheek. The building may have trembled a little at the huge disgorge of info onto tests leaving our brains empty (in theory). Did Albert Einstein really invent the prune like we said? Did Bach really premiere his ” Elegy for Nitrous Oxide” for the court of Queen Latifah in 1689? Was the first manned flight to the moon piloted by Whoopi Goldberg and the Muppets? Was the university EMR jammed with students self-concussed from frequent forehead slapping during finals? Does it matter now? Probably not. It’s time to kick back. Jesus and the boys needed it too and here’s a time when it did. Jesus and the gang had just put in an intense time and would be hitting another one soon (John 6:1-15, 22-40). Jesus had just fed five thousand people who weren’t going to leave just because it was “Dancing With the Stars” night. They hung around; Jesus was the show. They started making those “king” noises again so it was time to vacate, to impersonate air and become invisible. How do you slip away from five thousand plus people when everybody knows who and where you are? Rubber face masks? Distraction (Look, it’s Moses calling square dances for the twelve sons of Abraham! Zip.)?
But He did it and this wasn’t the first time which brings a couple of points to the foreground. Our four gospels don’t try to lay out a minute by minute account of what Jesus did. Not only is there huge silence about much of His life before His baptism but there are considerable chunks of Jesus’ life during the last three years left blank. For example, in Luke 9, Jesus sends the Twelve out in pairs to preach, heal and cast out demons – without Him. So, while they’re out doing the stuff, where was Jesus and what was He up to? Did He take a break from the incarnation to go back to heaven to check His emails, texts and tweets? It says here He went to the mountain alone. To pray? In part, probably. But it’s a good thing for our summer to remember that Jesus Christ does some of His most penetrating work when He seems (like Elvis) to have left the building, doesn’t seem to be around. Jesus’ awareness of and responsiveness to the Twelve, or us, doesn’t depend on our sensing His presence. Him being out of sight does not equate to our being out of His mind.
A second point about Jesus’ getting away underscores how human He really was. The people He came to save flat out wore Him out at times and this was one of them. The crush of need, the demands of people (What do you mean you’re leaving? We carried Mom twenty miles to be here! You healed my sister’s foot; now she has a mole on her lip. I know you laid hands on seven of my kids – only two more to go.) just never stopped. Maybe this summer Jesus has planned some sabbath for you; it just looks like nothing on the surface. We’re not saving multitudes and may even wonder what, if anything, is going on. We tend to get antsy if we can’t put our hands on things, frustrated if we can’t check something off the list. You know, productivity and usefulness (echoes of Thomas the Tank Engine). Jesus was on the mountain and the boys were in the boat – and that was okay. World redemption would still be there – for them, for you and me. Meanwhile, everybody needs to pull back and reload occasionally. That can and should be an enjoyable, guilt free, part of our summers.
Ah, the boys in the boat! They sailed off without Him without a thought. We picture Jesus joined to these guys at the hip but it wasn’t that way. They didn’t seem to miss Him and were okay on their own. Has it ever occured to us how much of our Christian life we spend on our own and okay with that? By that I mean, just living on autopilot without a scrap of Christian thought or Kingdom sense shaping our day to day stuff. Like the boys in the boat, we can handle that on our own, can’t we? This certainly wasn’t a constant thing for them. We do need sabbath. But it can creep up on and overtake us.
The boat ride continues without Jesus showing up and the wind puts white on the water. But these guys (at least four of them) were pros; they rowed four more miles. They were in shape too. (Please note that this is not where Jesus calms the storm. That completely separate and unrelated incident can be found in Luke 8). Then Jesus comes walking on water and scares the fudge out of them as He passes near the boat. Jesus never, then or now, performs miracles just to show He can; no ego needs or esteem dificiencies drive Him to push the “show off” button. So what’s up? The disciples are scared until they know Who it is. John sets this apart as one of the “sign” miracles, things Jesus did uniquely recorded in John that underscore Jesus’ being divine. They welcome Him back into the boat; Jesus is back with the boys. The Son of Man is locked and loaded; the sabbath is done for now. It’s time to get back to that redemption thing. If there is a stillness of sabbath as part of our summer, the Lord who gave it will let us know when that season is over. Both He and we will be ready.
And just in case we’ve been too long at being okay without Jesus, we will always find Him conveniently just walking past and waiting for an invitation back into the boat. Even if He has to walk on water to do it.
Prayer Point – While believing in Jesus, have we begun to be comfortable with more and more of our life slipping outside His gaze? Is something respectable or low key slowly siphoning time or energy away from Him or skewing our priorities without our feeling it? What might be decently nibbling at our passion?
Action Point – What will we do to have some guilt free sabbath this summer? What two or three books will we read just to feed ourselves and not for a talk later or to work on a problem? What person will we have a real conversation with just because they refresh us? Why stop at one? When will we get out away from all media and electronic stuff to be in woods or alongside water? Just to listen to God? Sabbath does NOT include eating a pint of Coldstone ice cream every day (maybe once a week, however).
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