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29 Jun 2009: John 6:15

by Stephen Hebert on Monday - 29 June 2009

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

This morning I read “The Feeding of the 5,000” as presented in John’s gospel (John 6:1–15). One particular verse struck me in a way that it had not before.

Hebert Translation Nestle-Aland 27
Now, Jesus, recognizing that [the crowd] intended to come and seize him in order to make him king, withdrew again to the mountain alone. Ιησοῦς οὖν γνοὺς ὅτι μέλλουσιν ἔρχεσθαι καὶ ἁρπάζειν αὐτὸν ἵνα ποιήσωσιν βασιλέα, ἀνεχώρησεν πάλιν εἰς τὸ ὄρος αὐτὸς μόνος.

This verse presents a common problem to many readers of the New Testament: Why didn’t Jesus just proclaim his divinity from the rooftops?

That’s a great question, but I won’t really answer it here. Rather, what struck me about this particular verse was this idea that Jesus retreated; he took himself out of a situation and went to a mountain alone.

At the moment I am in the middle of a very confusing job situation. I am emerging (hopefully) from a long period of unemployment; however, instead of a full-time job, I am seeking a series of part-time jobs. When I drew up the plan for my “career” many years ago, this was not how it all happened.

An onslaught greets me every morning:

  • interviewers and their questions
  • questions about my job situation from friends and family
  • people telling me that there is “something better”
  • people and their opinions about what I should do next

I am thankful for all of these interested parties, but there are days when I just want to be alone; I just want to retreat and take a rest from it all. I want to do the opposite of Cheers: I want to go to a place where nobody knows my name!

Looking at this passage, I think Jesus may have had a similar feeling. After performing this incredible miracle, the crowd was pressing in on him, bringing a great deal of pressure to bear on him. Jesus’ response was to remove himself, to withdraw to the mountain, and (based on other such passages) spend time with the Father.

This morning, Natalie and I attended Grace Presbyterian Church here in Houston. The sermon focused on the Old Testament commandment to remember the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8–11; Deuteronomy 5:12–15). What a stunning reminder that we are commanded to rest, to take a break from the pressures of life, and spend time just being.

What are the pressures of life? Well, there’s tons of them, and I would say I need a Sabbath from all of them from time to time:

  • job/work
  • friends
  • family
  • self-analysis or self-criticism
  • expectations
  • ministry/volunteerism
  • et cetera

Jesus took the time to withdraw from the crowd even at the height of his ministry. How can we be so arrogant as to think that we don’t need any such respite from the stresses and pressures of this life?

NB: I write this at 3:30am after a very full Sunday. Irony anyone?

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