“When Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.”
Jesus didn’t really get what he wanted, did he? At least we assume that he wanted — even needed — a little time alone to miss John, time to just be by himself. Or perhaps that little time he had on the boat, as the crowd followed along the shore, was enough? Did they call to him, plea for him to cure them?
“Master my baby, he can’t hear, please please heal him, please.”
“The pain, dear Rabbi, the pain, it stabs.”
Jesus had compassion for them and cured their sick. Grief and sadness transformed to healing and connection.
I recall a pastor once explaining that the word “compassion” used in the Bible often has a context of a great twisting of the guts — a feeling of compassion so deep that another’s pain is felt in your gut. That how he looked at us along the shore, as we desperately were hope for healing, that perhaps he wasn’t annoyed or dismayed. Perhaps he was deeply moved, touched to his core, and eager to help. Perhaps he was extremely sad that the world was a broken place. Perhaps he was relieved to be able to help.
Anne Lamot in her recent book on prayer “Help, Thanks, Wow” talks about her experience of being told as a child that she was “too sensitive”. The adults in her life didn’t want her to question the brokenness around her, didn’t want her touching it to help or heal or understand. They just wanted her to care less.
Jesus would want us to feel the other’s sorrow and be moved to help in any inadequate way we could. Because that’s the next thing that happens — he teaches the disciples to feed the crowd and to not ignore the problem that this huge crowd will presently be very hungry and there was no food for them. This is one of the miracles of feeding, yes, but I think we could press it a bit further to a teaching of not ignoring problems but working together.
Coming up — there’s a bit more of John in this gospel believe it or not! Then I’ll look at John the Baptist in the other gospels. What I might do after (if) I ever get unstuck by John the Baptist (and how that transforms how we see Jesus) is to get stuck on something else — maybe Mary the sister of Martha. Maybe wells in the Bible, maybe stretch that to include springs — that is fascinating. But I won’t know what is next until it happens!