“But as for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after You...”
Jeremiah 17:16 NASB1995
My recent experience at a major tech conference highlighted the vast difference between the ways of this world, the tendencies of the flesh, and the ways of God’s kingdom.
One of the things that has blessed and challenged me most in the last decade of church life is seeing brothers and sisters who are willing to give, and give, and keep giving, to build up the church.
In the world, folks are always thinking of the end of the shift, of when they can clock out; and I’ve noticed that attitude can creep into the church as well: there can be a subtle tendency to think in terms of enough, or “I’ve done my part.” And in my heart, I begin “hurrying away,” as the verse in Jeremiah above says.
We have heard of the tremendous difference between the minimum Christian, who thinks of “what’s the least I can do to be a member in good standing,” and the maximum Christian, who says, “what else can I do to show my gratitude to the Lord for all He’s done for me?”
Especially when the pressures of this life weigh upon me, I have found that it’s good to consider the verse above: “Am I hurrying away from the church, in my heart?”
Jesus Is Our Example of Not Hurrying Away
We find an illuminating incident in the life of the Lord, when He heard about His cousin being murdered in Matthew 14. At the very time of mourning, He is called upon to serve. And rather than hurry away from the crowds who ignored His grief, Jesus faithfully healed the many who interrupted his time of mourning (Matthew 14:13-14).
Understandably, given all they knew of the situation, the disciples were ready for a break.
“When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, ‘This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’”
Matthew 14:15 NASB1995
They were ready to clock out! But Jesus wasn’t.
“But Jesus said to them, ‘They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!’”
Matthew 14:16 NASB1995
It’s at this inconvenient time — when Jesus was serving amidst life’s challenges, when the disciples were ready to call it a day and hurry away — that we see one of the greatest miracles Jesus performed: the feeding of the five thousand.
Jesus Calls Disciples to Keep Working With Him
What’s remarkable is how deeply Jesus required the participation of His disciples in the miracle. They had to pass out food by hand to several thousand people! And then, even after the meal, the disciples had work to do:
“When the crowds were filled, Jesus told His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.’”
It challenged me to see that there’s no command to the crowd. They just got to enjoy the Lord’s bounty. The crowd may recline. Those only interested in healing and a meal may relax.
But Jesus calls His disciples to keep serving until the job is done.
Jesus Always Goes Above And Beyond
It’s easy to read this story and begin to think that the disciples were somehow disadvantaged or burdened by their service. Far from it! They were the ones with front row seats to His power and love!
And furthermore, lest we ever think that we are the ones working longest or hardest, may we never forget that Jesus works longest.
After challenging the disciples to “not hurry away,” and asking for them to work beyond the window of convenience, Jesus dismisses them from duty, but He keeps working:
“Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.”
Matthew 14:22 NASB1995
Jesus, not the disciples, took responsibility for dispatching the crowd! Having just attended a large conference, I have renewed appreciation for this statement. I watched a lot of noteworthy presenters end their presentations only to be whisked away through a back door, never to be seen again or troubled by questions of the adoring crowd. One of the most generous of the famous speakers I observed did sign one book, “but this is the only one!” she said, even while she did it.
Crowds were regularly requested to remain seated until after the presenters left, so as to not inconvenience them, handlers working the crowd and helping them find exits.
Imagine how the scene must have been that day on the shores of Galilee. Approximately 15,000 people, who have not only been healed, but have also just been miraculously fed, surely didn’t disperse easily.
Jesus took that job Himself.
He did not employ handlers to do the job; not even His disciples. After asking much of them, Jesus is the One Who stuck around, who went above and beyond.
Jesus Christ is so completely opposite to what we see in this world.
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles Lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’”
Matthew 20:25-28 NASB1995
May the Lord enable us as disciples to follow His example of overflowing service, and give us strength by the power of the Holy Spirit to deny the worldly, fleshly tendency to “hurry away” from being poured out on behalf of His body.