Large Crowds Come to Jesus
7Jesus led his disciples down to the shore of the lake. Large crowds followed him from Galilee, Judea, 8and Jerusalem. People came from Idumea, as well as other places east of the Jordan River. They also came from the region around the towns of Tyre and Sidon. All of these crowds came because they had heard what Jesus was doing. 9 He even had to tell his disciples to get a boat ready to keep him from being crushed by the crowds.
10After Jesus had healed many people, the other sick people begged him to let them touch him. 11And whenever any evil spirits saw Jesus, they would fall to the ground and shout, “You are the Son of God!” 12But Jesus warned the spirits not to tell who he was.
(Matthew 10.1-4; Luke 6.12-16)
13Jesus decided to ask some of his disciples to go up on a mountain with him, and they went. 14Then he chose twelve of them to be his apostles, so they could be with him. He also wanted to send them out to preach 15and to force out demons. 16Simon was one of the twelve, and Jesus named him Peter. 17There were also James and John, the two sons of Zebedee. Jesus called them Boanerges, which means “Thunderbolts.” 18Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus were also apostles. The others were Simon, known as the Eager One, 19and Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus.
Sometimes I don’t understand Jesus. Here he has been healing people, blessing people, astonishing people – his ministry is growing. To borrow a phrase from Malcolm Gladwell, Jesus has reached his “tipping point.” It seems a strange time to go to the lake.
It is surprising. Just when things really start to get going Jesus goes on retreat. Just when people really want to hear what he has to say, he puts out a gag order. Just when people are really starting to buy into who he is, he downloads authority to his lower level people.
It is all about authority, after all, not just celebrity, and not even just power. Who has authority over disciples, over disease, over demons? Jesus, obviously. Even the demons understood that. Jesus wasn’t engaged in a desperate attempt to attract a crowd by asserting his authority. Jesus was acting on his authority by means of a disciplined and well-considered plan. Jesus was playing a deeper game, exercising authority through self-limitation – the same authority that brought him down to us from heaven, and put him on the cross.
Imagine Jesus on that boat, the crowd retreating, somewhat disappointed. Does Jesus look worried to you? Jesus has a plan and this is not the time. The question is whether we believe that we could trust him.
There are leadership lessons we could take from this. When things get crazy – head to the lake. When the rhetoric gets overheated, control the message. When you can’t handle everything yourself – empower others. But all of that would miss the point. It is not about the discipline, after all, it is about authority – and when you have it, as Jesus did, you can be confident. You don’t have to be desperate.
And neither do we.
Dear Lord, It is hard to stay disciplined when everything in the world seems to press against the truth you came to teach. I tend to want you to be more assertive. Forgive me my lack of confidence. Give me patience to wait for your plan in your time. Amen.