John 6:14-18, NIV

14 After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they
began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the
world." 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make
him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake,
17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for
Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.
18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.

March 19, 2011
Jesus withdrew and went into the mountains by himself. That's how
he reacted to fame and glory. Was he trying to avoid the hopeful and
prophetic exclamations of the crowd? Was it tempting for him to enjoy
their praise and adulation? He also could have been fleeing the
excitement among his disciples brought on by thoughts that their little
itinerant band could soon be part of a royal entourage.

Jesus fled the scene. He went away by himself from all the noise and
clamoring voices, so he could hear the one voice he most wanted to
hear. He needed to talk to his heavenly Father about what was happening.

Meanwhile, the crowd had apparently dispersed. Was their enthusiasm
short-lived? Probably just a reality check. Jesus had disappeared from
the scene. Evening was approaching. They were in an isolated
environment and everyone needed to go home. There would be no
further miracles tonight.

At dusk the disciples found themselves alone on the lonely shoreline.
It had been an awesome twelve hours. Certainly a roller-coaster day.
Jesus had outdone himself with a miracle that benefited 5000 men plus
women and children--providing them all with a satisfying meal. That's
when the crowd wanted to crown him king!

After Jesus escaped into the mountain there's an information gap
between verses 15 and 16. The disciples, without their leader, were
left to fend for themselves. For all they knew, Jesus was lost on the
mountain heights. They didn't know where he was or when or even if,
he would ever return. It was getting dark and a wind was kicking up.
Not knowing what to do under these circumstances, the disciples
made a decision--they would get into the boat and row back across
the Sea of Galilee to their home base in Capernaum.

                                                                               More journal entries

March 24, 1982
Jesus had the people's attention now. So much so that he had to
withdraw from them so they wouldn't forcibly exult him. An out of control
crowd might press their desires and intentions upon him.

Jesus knew how fickle people can be. They love you one day and hate
you the next. When you give them what they want, they flock around
you and sing your praises. When you say something they do not want
to hear, they react with nasty accusations. If he stopped doing miracles,
who would pay him any heed? If he didn't meet their expectations, they
would boo him right off their stage.

Jesus also knew they did not understand his role. They correctly made
the connection between him and God's promise of deliverance from their
enemies But they did not comprehend the nature of God's deliverance
nor who the enemy was or is. Their ideas were not God's ideas.

Before the end of this chapter, we will see the fickleness played out.
Jesus will go from being a somebody to being a nobody again. Crowds
don't let you down gradually or carefully. They let you crash and no one
cares. Jesus knew all this, so he went off alone with his Father, who
always cares.

March 25, 1982
The disciples decided to return to civilization without him. Jesus had
brought them to this place to spend time with them privately. Then a
crowd of people showed up and he miraculously fed them all plus
provided 12 extra baskets of left overs (probably for their supper). But
when the crowd started thinking, "King Jesus," he escaped into the
hills alone.

They had spent the afternoon trying to manage the crowd. Then had
some quiet time to themselves to discuss the day's happenings. What
did all the commotion of the day mean? Could Jesus really be a king?
What would his kingdom be like? And how would we be involved?

But now, at the end of the day when his disciples really needed him,
he wasn't there. All their fantasies and speculating came to an end;
the hard reality of their circumstances begin to take shape.

March 26, 1982
Darkness. . . and Jesus had not yet returned. The disciples embarked
for a night crossing alone, without him. It had been a mountaintop day--
followed by a dark and threatening nightfall. Full of uncertainty.

March 31, 1982
It turned out to be a stormy night. Strong winds, difficult rowing, water in
the boat, possibility of drowning, fear for themselves and their loved ones.

Jesus Christ, the boat is sinking and we're far from shore and the
currents are much stronger than we are. Everything happening so fast.
Instincts take over. Prayers for deliverance seem to be instinctive?
So is cursing.

But these were fishermen and they had survived storms before. The Sea
of Galilee is known for it's sudden and treacherous gusts of wind.

In the noonday sun they had received with wonder, joy and thanksgiving
the nourishment that fed their bodies and souls. Now in the darkness
they cried out in fear and anguish and felt very much alone in their fight
against the stormy blast. What extremes there are in following Jesus!

Any disciples who wanted glory, without suffering, better leave now.
Anyone who expected only smooth sailing, would surely be disappointed.
It's instructive that after the experience of Pentecost that is recorded in
Acts 2, physical separation from Jesus didn't automatically generate
anxiety. That's when spiritual realities began to supersede the physical,
and faith became stronger than fear.

January 1, 2002
As was the healing of the invalid in the previous chapter, the feeding of
the 5000 was problematic. But this time the reaction was just the opposite.
Instead of the authorities wanting to get rid of Jesus and planning for his
death, in this situation a crowd of ordinary people wanted to make Jesus
their king and primary ruler. Neither of these outcomes was in the plan
for Jesus just yet. The gospel writer, John, intends to show us that
Jesus came to die, at the appointed time, as the Lamb of God.

March 19, 2011
Miracles are mysteries that can not be explained. They are held in awe
and wonder and gratitude. We need miracles, too. Yet like the disciples,
when we need those miracles the most is when we feel like we are
facing a monster and Jesus is no where to be found and we don't know
what to do.

I was about 20 years old when I heard someone comment in a matter
of fact tone that God was hiding. At the time, I thought it sounded like an
odd thing to say. But as I grew older, I think I began to understand what
that person was expressing. I too have known some dark nights when
Jesus disappeared, as though he withdrew from my life. Times when
I looked up and saw a "Gone Fishing" sign on heaven's door.

All the talk about God caring for me, providing what I need, all those
promises to never leave me alone--it can all seem so not true. Because
I feel like I am alone, no one cares and I don't have what I need.

I learned over time there are rhythms to our life with God--times of
nearness and times of distancing. Days of being nourished directly from
the hands of my Father in heaven; nights when I struggle alone against
all odds. Seasons when my faith feels good; intervals when doubt casts
a frightening shadow. Trust and fear are constant rivals.

During those struggles, faith becomes a matter of the will, an intentional
decision to persist even though I see no immediate results. I hold onto
hope's fragile thread until I catch once more what appears to be a work
of God, an act of love, a sign of renewal. Like the flower bulb buried for
months in the hard frozen ground and then emerging in the spring thaw
with a beauty made more sweet by those cold winter nights.

Many of us are familiar with the gospel stories and we know how they end.
But like us, the characters lived "in the moment" without knowing the
outcome of the decisions they had to make and without any guarantee
that they could survive their ordeal. That's how we live, too. We share
their faith that God will remember. Maybe not now, but sometime soon,
Jesus will show up and once more walk with us along the way.

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