“All right,” Jesus said, “it’s time for a break. Come away, just you, and we’ll go somewhere lonely and private.” . . . When Jesus got out of the boat he saw the high crowd, and was deeply sorry for them, because they were like a flock without a shepherd.” (6:31, 34)
Well, I am afraid I wouldn’t have been feeling “deeply sorry” for those crowds if it had been me. Maybe, resentful. Fed up. Used. I think I could have mustered up one good martyr syndrome at that point. I think I would have gotten back in the boat and rowed faster, somewhere else.
I don’t like this sort of all-consuming busyness Jesus seemed to be in the middle of. (Okay, maybe my ego does a bit, but that is a different post). Crowds pressing in. More and more demands on my time. Everybody wanting something more from me. I plain hate it. It turns me into a grump. It makes me less human and humane.
And I guess the more I think about it, it makes other people less human to me too. They become a deadline or a need to fulfill or a to-do list item. They become work. I don’t like to admit that, but I don’t think I am alone in this pathology.
Jesus just wants a little recuperative time with friends. This is absolutely essential for a healthy spiritual life. And Jesus regularly took such time. Maybe the constant crowds are what drove Jesus to seek solitude early in the morning and late at night.
Still, he saw their needs and was filled with compassion.
In one way, Jesus’ death didn’t first happen on a cross. It happened as he stood at the edge of Heaven just before his birth when he “emptied himself” of his glory and took “the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7). Death occurred in the desert with Satan as he took the hard, sacrificial, life-giving way to recognition, power, and popularity. Death happened once more this day on the seat of a small fishing boat as they pulled into a small port hoping to find solitude only to be greeted by the hungry masses looking for a meal. Maybe compassion will not come until we begin to die to our own wills.
Easier said than done, I know.