I ask readers to forgive the absence of posts this week. This series will be difficult to write—as it has been difficult to know where to begin.
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Before moving on in a study of John's Gospel, let's slow down and take another look at the miracle of feeding 5,000.
As already mentioned, each of four Gospel accounts begins by highlighting a different aspect of the miracle's context. As is often the case in life, this trial came amid many other stresses.
And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.
~ John 6:3 (NKJV)
The apostle John shows us the miracle in the context of conflict. It is a crucial point in Jesus' ministry, when His steadily growing popularity is bringing more distinct opposition. The immediately preceding scene is conflict with the Jews (November 4th post, "How Can You Believe"), and the next scene will show conflict between Jesus and His own disciples (November 10, "Failing a Miracle").
Matthew precedes the telling of this miracle with the story of Herod beheading John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus. We know that Jesus had four brothers who "did not believe in Him." If just one other person most closely empathized with Jesus and His ministry, it would have been his cousin John, who prepared the way for Jesus. Matthew underscores that Jesus sought out solitude when He received the news of John's death, which surely affected Jesus very deeply.
Luke shows that at the same time Jesus grieves His cousin's death, His disciples were returning from their first missions trip. They had been sent without supplies, instructed to trust in the hospitality of strangers, and "to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick ... [with] power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases." (Luke 9:1-5) Jesus surely took time to respond to their exciting reports with affirmation, answers to their questions, and clarification.
Mark's accounts consistently include the little details that paint a full picture. He not only depicts more elements of John's death, but also shows that as Jesus' disciples gave their reports, so many people were coming and going that there was no time to simply eat. Despite His own grief, Jesus evidences compassion in the touching words, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while."
It is at this point—when the grieving and very human Jesus most needs time to rest and regroup—that He is sought out by needy crowds.
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My Lord Jesus, please help me accept the tests and demands Your Spirit allows, even as I think I most need time to rest and regroup from conflict, grieving, and ministry success.
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Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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