Continuing our examination of Jesus as Administrator…
Mk 6:33, 34 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
Following their first ministry trip the disciples needed to ‘off-load’. They had experienced some tremendous healings and so on, and Jesus determined to hear all about it and to draw out lessons to help them grow in their gifting. To do this he needed a place where he could have their undivided attention.
Being on the edge of the Sea of Galilee the logical way of finding some peace and quiet was to get into a boat and sail to a lonely cove. However, the crowd had other ideas and, recognising they would have to come ashore somewhere, they followed the boat’s progress carefully.
Distraction or Main Purpose?
When the disciples ran the boat up onto the beach a crowd was waiting for them. What should Jesus do? Training his friends was a high priority. Should he abandon his plans? Was he going to be deflected by the whims of the crowd? Surely there was a higher priority at this moment than speaking to the crowd – developing the twelve in their gifting? After all, the crowd would benefit in due course from the disciples’ being trained.
How often are our plans interrupted? How should we decide the way to handle such interruptions? Jesus had to make a snap decision; should they get back into the boat or abandon his plans for the time being? The decision was, in fact, an easy one to make as he carried a strong sense of destiny.
Knowing his calling
The commission from his Father was well defined and flowed through his veins. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon you to preach good news to the poor’. In Luke chapter 4 Jesus quotes this verse from Is 61:1 and applies it to himself. So it was clear that this was no ‘red herring’ sent by the enemy to deflect him from his purposes since it was compatible with the manifesto given him by the Father. As a man of compassion his heart went out to the people and, while not allowing the emotion of the moment to persuade him, he recognised that they nevertheless needed him and were demonstrating their faith in him by their persistence in pursuing him. They were ‘like sheep without a shepherd’.
How essential it is for us to carry such a sense of purpose and calling so that we are prepared when the enemy tries to deflect us. We too are able to make rational decisions that are in the will of God.
I well remember when I was similarly taken by surprise in this way. It was 1973 and we were about to convert the Bible study group which was meeting in our home into a ‘house church’. Unexpectedly I was offered a very attractive job that would take me and my family away from the area. In career terms this was a ‘no-brainer’ – not to take the job would be professional suicide! Having fasted and prayed (to be honest, without hearing anything clearly) I took the logical decision and sent a letter of acceptance. But before the letter hit the bottom of the mail box I knew I had got it wrong and was able to phone ahead of the letter’s arrival to tell the recipient to ignore it.
Out of that group came the first church Terry Virgo planted and, ultimately, the family of churches now called Newfrontiers. I feel sure God would not have allowed my ‘natural decision’ to prevent the fulfilment of his plans, but I am so glad he had already spoken to me years before about ‘full time’ ministry. I was carrying a sense of calling and this awareness allowed me to reverse the cerebral decision I had made. I would hate to have now been a bystander watching from afar all that God has graciously done through Terry and the family of Newfrontiers churches!
Learning point: Know your priorities