*Photo by Pedro Pardo found here.
If you’re reading this, I want to invite you to participate in a little exercise with me.
I want you to place yourself among the crowds of the story you can find in Mark 6:30-34.
You’ve heard the rumors of the man, supposedly a carpenter from Nazareth, who has been healing all kinds of physical ailments, forgiving sins, and inviting people into a new reality. You’re interest is piqued, could there really be more to life than your farm? Your fishing boat? Struggling to feed your family, let alone yourself? Could there actually be someone who cares about you despite your physical ailment? Your societal uncleanliness? The fact that you are a woman? The fact that you are a child? The fact that you’ve cheated people out of their money? Could you possibly have a chance to be invited into this new life?
You overhear that Jesus has been spotted miles away from your hometown. Everybody around you is rushing their children out the door, heading towards the place someone last saw this man. In your desperation, you leave behind your work, your livelihood, and join the growing crowds in search of Jesus.
Your sandals are worn down (if you even have them) and your feet are dirty, the clothes on your back thoroughly sweated through, and multiple layers of dust and dirt cover your skin.
You find yourself among thousands of people. You’re surrounded as far as your eye can see, you hear the kids screaming and the babies crying, parents arguing. You can smell it too.
Although Jesus had been looking for a place to be alone, he sees the crowd you’re in, and he stops. He is filled with compassion, he feels it deep in his insides, he is moved to action. You are sheep without a shepherd. He is the shepherd. You are his sheep.
Not only does he teach you of a new reality, of the new kingdom that he brings, but he walks through the dirty, smelly, loud, messy crowd and heals the sick. Then, somehow there is enough fish and bread to feed the entire crowd, you get to eat your fill.
I want to invite you to take a moment and move through the crowd right behind Jesus. It’s a messy one. It’s not people dressed in their Sunday best gathered in the comfy chairs of the main room, screaming kids tucked away in the kids ministry building. It’s the sick and the dying and the dirty and the broken. And Jesus loves each one.
You may have heard the news of the latest caravan walking to the border, seeking asylum. Set aside your political opinions for a moment, and keep following Jesus as he makes his way through this crowd. The broken, the hungry, the messy, the exhausted, the sick, the dying, the desperate, the hopeful, the persistent, the resilient. Jesus loves each one.
I’m not talking about politics right now. I’m talking about individual people, each of whom Jesus dearly loves.
And if you’re still reading this, I’m inviting you into a moment that may feel stupid, useless and/or uncomfortable. Whatever you’re feeling—anger, sadness, compassion, hopelessness, helplessness…Take a moment and tell Jesus about that just using the words that you have. And just for this moment, allow him to lead you.
Not the stories in the news, the political opinions of your friends, co-workers or parents. Not the late night talk show hosts or the president.
But Jesus. Our shepherd.