John 6:1-4, NIV
1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the
Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd
of people followed him because they saw the miraculous
signs he had performed on the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up
on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The
Jewish Passover Feast was near. 5 When Jesus looked up
and saw a great crowd coming toward him . . . .



March 6, 2011
Jesus withdrew. Would the crowd follow him into the country and
up the side of the mountain? They loved Jesus for what he could
do for them, but how far would they go to see his miracles? Could
we also say that Jesus loved them because of the work his Father
had given him to do?

Everyone who has ever loved another, knows that love can be
a difficult task. Yet in our normal, everyday lives, we don't usually
like to admit or acknowledge that love is work. Depending on what
kind of job a person has, they may dread going to their jobsite, or
whistle their way there. Our reaction to the phrase, "the work of
love", is determined largely by our attitudes shaped by past
experiences with either work or love.

When either work or love is good, we are eager to go there (or
at least OK with it). But when things get rough, we fantasize
about running the other direction. Jesus, in this text, seems to
be trying momentarily to escape from his work. He is rowing
the other way, testing to see if his work will catch up to him.

And of course, it will. It always does. Because "what the world
needs now is love, sweet love. . . ." In our loving we break the
world down into smaller parts--neighbors, co-workers, public
servants, defenders of our freedoms, volunteers, friends,
children, parents, sweethearts, life-long partners. All of us
together need love, and also need to engage in the work of
loving each other.

Like Jesus, we may try to get away for awhile, but the work
keeps finding us, showing up on our doorstep, returning for more.
Love is good work. It's what our Father in heaven does, and
it's our privilege, often our joy, to do the same.

                                                                  More journal entries

January 1, 2002

Jesus is on the move, traveling by boat, across the sea of Galilee.
Multitudes followed, presumably on foot. That made for very slow
travel. It's hard to move with only 4 to 6 people, much less a large
crowd. All these people followed him because Jesus performed
miracles of healing. Today we have miracles in our hospitals. But
in Jesus day, medicine was much more primitive. Miracles in
hospitals or at the touch of Jesus, means getting a new lease on
life. To be rid of leprosy, or blindness, or heart problems is like
a resurrection.

Then Jesus went up into a mountain, where the sick could not
follow, and there he sat (and taught) his disciples. The Passover
was near. John is setting the stage for another great discourse.

March 2, 1983
Jesus, plus his disciples plus a large crowd of people. I imagine
the crowd filled with the poor and needy who had no jobs or
enticements to keep them at home. The sick seeking health;
the handicapped wanting to be whole. The humble who were
not too proud to follow; the lovers of excitement wanting to see
what would happen next; the sincere who thought Jesus just
might fulfill their hopes for salvation; the troublemakers who
tried to prevent anything good from happening; the curious who
came to watch everyone else; the busybodies and gossips.

All these labels, now I've done it again. How I love to put people
into a category and size them up. I should just leave the crowd
to God, who loves each one as an individual person instead of
pressing them into a preconceived mold.

Jesus crossed the lake--that made it extremely difficult for
others to follow. There just weren't boats available for mass
transportation. How far was it to walk around the Sea of Galilee?
Jesus, you were trying to lose them, weren't you! Either you
weren't successful or these are new people from the other
side of the Sea who got caught up in the excitement.

Imagine following Jesus like this, leaving your home territory,
not knowing where Jesus was headed or if you'll get home by
nightfall. Where would you eat, and sleep? It seems like these
things suddenly seemed unimportant compared with the frenzy
of following Jesus.

March 9, 2011
On the Christian calendar, Advent is a time of preparation for
Christmas, and Lent is preparation time for the death and
resurrection of Jesus. In this text, the Gospel writer thought it
significant to inform us that the celebration of Passover was
drawing near. Does that mean that Jesus and his disciples
needed some time apart, away from their daily routines, in order
to focus on the true meaning of the upcoming holy day? Most of
life goes better when we take some steps to get ourselves ready
for what's coming up.

Passover was an annual event in remembrance of the events
recorded in Exodus 3 to 13. Moses was the leader who
challenged the Egyptian Pharaoh and led the Israelites out of
bondage and across the Red Sea into freedom. It's a powerful
and dramatic story which has been retold to every generation
and is still celebrated in Jewish homes today. (History is written
by the victors, the events for the Egyptian people were dreadful
and full of sorrow.)

Passover is a festival, a happy time. In the days of Jesus, every
able-bodied person who lived within a few days journey of
Jerusalem, tried to make the trip to the Temple. Families traveled
the roadways together and caught up on the news and
happenings of the past year. These people lived under the Roman
occupation, so the ancient story of victory over their enemy
contributed to the holiday spirit.

The message of the Passover is God's deliverance. God
remembering his suffering people and miraculously coming to
their rescue. God breaking open the hardened heart of the Pharaoh.
God parting the waters of the Red Sea and making a way for
the Israelites' escape.

Passover is about remembering, and making sure that no one
ever forgets this story. Passover is about God remembering to
deliver his suffering people. Passover is also about hope,
because if God delivered his people in the past he could, and
just might, do it again, soon.

You might recall in an earlier chapter that John the Baptist
referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God. The lamb is also an image
from the Passover celebration. The blood of a lamb is what saved
the Israelites from the angel of death on the night of their
deliverance from slavery in Egypt.

John, the gospel writer, highlights the Passover Feast in each of
the three years of Jesus' ministry, beginning with the year Jesus
made a cord with which to drive out of the Temple courtyard all
the merchants and money-changers. When the events of this
chapter are completed, Jesus and his disciples will go again to
Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
In the meantime, it is wise to prepare.

March 8, 2011
The crowd followed Jesus because of his miracles. What was
the self-interest of the disciples? Why did they follow Jesus?
Did the disciples have better reasons than anyone else? Or was
it simply because Jesus looked them in the eye and said,
"Follow me."?

Jesus withdrew from the crowd and went up the side of a
mountain. There he sat down with his disciples. I wonder what
that looked and sounded like? What did people back then do to
relax? Maybe like us, Jesus and his disciples sat around and
told funny stories. Or maybe it wasn't just idle time; maybe
Jesus had some important things to tell his closest followers.

The disciples shared an intimacy with Jesus that the crowds did
not. Within that intimacy, they would have learned to care deeply
for Jesus as a person.

I followed Jesus as a child because my parents did. In my youth
I continued along that pathway--I can't explain why at the moment;
it would require a lot of introspective thought to answer that one.
Then throughout my adult years, several times I left Jesus for
awhile, but always I came back. I had doubts about the validity of
faith and the Scriptures, and questions that needed some honest
soul-searching. Also I was hounded by thoughts that by following
Jesus I was missing some other things in life that I might want
to experience.

Why do I keep returning? Like a magnet, Jesus pulls me back.
I am happiest when Jesus draws me close. And so today, it is
my choice to sit with the disciples, gathered around him in an
intimate setting. Open to the great blue sky, the trees and
wildflowers and the wonderful view of the Sea. Open to the
words of life spoken by my Lord and Master. Open to the love
of my heavenly Father.

Being in the crowd is lively, stimulating, and you meet all kinds
of people including some grumblers. The crowds that chase after
Jesus are brimming with noise and excitement and you hear
things you would not otherwise know. There's also the kind of
buzz which you don't know whether you should believe it or not.

But I prefer the quiet beauty of the mountainside, feeling safe
in his presence. Jesus will know how to handle any problem.
Jesus can help me be at peace with myself and the world. With
Jesus on the mountainside I can soak up the sunshine as
I soak up his love.

Being with Jesus on the mountainside is not the end of all things.
It's just a temporary reprieve. Because Jesus will shortly lift up his
eyes and see the noisy, persistent crowd approaching. And then
the work of love will resume, the hard work of facing life as it is.
The hard work of remembering in the valley, to live by the words
I heard on the mountainside. The hard work of sharing the love
of Jesus with anyone who will receive it.

I know as I write this, that if I really lived these words, I would
not do most of what I had planned for this day! On the contrary,
I would be on a mission today to really be a disciple of Jesus.

I also know that one hour spent with these few verses is not
nearly enough. I would need to stay with this text days, months,
years--only then could the Word take hold and put to death all
that is not of God and bring to life all that God intended for me.

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