God has been showing me many new things of late, but for months now there is one truth, one dimension of reality, which seems to be dogging me, as if the Holy Spirit is really trying to get my attention.
Do you remember those passages (there are several of them), contained in the four Gospels, in which “the crowds” – it’s interesting how in the Jesus stories “the crowds” functions virtually like a major character in the plot – are following, chasing after Jesus? In the stories we find Jesus walking around embodying the Kingdom of God in his person, in his words, in his deeds, and quite reasonably the crowds of fellow Jews flock to him and pine after him, looking for a blessing, looking for encouragement and help, looking for relief.
And time and time again, what does Jesus do? How does he react to these throngs of hurting and broken people who are in desperate need? Time and time again, not always, but certainly most of the time, Jesus the Good Shepherd and Great Physician does something which, if one stops and ponders it, is mind boggling.
Time and time again, he runs away from them. He avoids him. If they are going one direction, Jesus heads inthe other direction. He hides from them. He tries to escape from them.
Why does he do this? He does it in order to be alone. In order to seek his Father’s face. In order to find rest. In order to be in God’s presence. In order to regroup. Perhaps we could say, “in order to keep, or to regain, his sanity.”
As one who is set apart for ministry in the church (that means I’m supposed to “help people,” right?) I find this riveting. This is food for thought. This is fuel for reflection and a new paradigm for what it means to serve God in the world.
Because – think about this with me – who is it that is in those crowds? Of whom do those swarms of people consist? If we imagine these stories as they invite us to imagine them, we begin to realize that those crowds are saturated with people who are hurting beyond measure. Those crowds are full of the same kinds of people who have seemed to be filling my life recently. People who are on the brink of divorce; people who will literally die if they don’t get medical attention; people who are on the brink of mental and emotional breakdown.
Think about it. Jesus was being pursued by people on the brink of death and divorce, and he fled from them. He could have “saved” them, but he did not. What this means is that their marriages actually ended in bitter, painful divorce. They really died. They really had mental breakdowns and collapses.
What in the world is going on? When you stop and think about it, it is pretty amazing. It prompts an epiphany of how – and why – we do ministry.
At the end of the day, I must stop trying to “save” everyone and everything. I must let God be God.
If the one person in the history of the human race really could solve everybody’s problems, then surely those of us who cannot should stop trying to, stop pretending that we can.
In the intense, daily work of Gospel ministry, I, we, must finally let God be God.