Jesus has been preaching and healing, healing and preaching. And it’s going well. We are now past the point where he’s a hipster messiah that only the “cool” sick people know about. People are coming from miles around to watch him do his thing.
And then, things get really weird.
I’m not going to quote the whole “feeding the five thousand” or “Jesus walks on water” passages here, but you can find it at Mark 6:30-44, and 6:45-56, respectively. You should go read them. And as you do, try to forget for a second that you’ve heard both of these stories a thousand times. Try to embrace the complete strangeness of them, the utter “It’s — it’s a dinosaur“ness of it all.
Are you there?
That’s some bizarre stuff, amirite?
Now, I’m a good Methodists. So I’ve heard lots of people, even preachers from the pulpit, try to explain away passages like this.
“Jesus didn’t really walk on the water. There’s actually a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation for that! I saw it on the Discovery Channel!
“Oh, the feeding stories! Haha, well, most people don’t understand, but those are actually stories about the crowd sharing their food. The problem all along was a few people hoarding their food. Jesus tapped into their own innate generosity!”
Look, I’m a good liberal. I’m all for wealth redistribution. But this is — excuse my French, but ç’est des conneries.
These stories were told for a pretty specific reason: to turn the volume up to eleven. Because while preaching was cool, and healing was neat, truth is lots of wannabe messiahs were going around doing that. But feeding thousands with a couple fish and some loaves? Taking a midnight stroll across the Sea of Galilee?
Ain’t nobody else doing that.
Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
~Mark 6: 51-52
Somehow, even those closest to him didn’t get how special all this was.
Good thing we don’t have that problem…
We have a pastoral intern at church right now. His name is Bailey. I like him a lot. He preached on Sunday, and he did a very nice job. None of what follows is meant to disparage him, so please don’t take it that way.
He’s a business major, which is fine. I think the church has loads to learn from every field of study out there, knowledge that can be adapted to serve and grow the Kingdom. So yeah, soak it up.
What took me off guard was the reason he is a business major is that three different mentors had independently recommended it. And I’ve blogged before about the numerous church growth books I’ve read and plans I’ve been a part of. All of them make extensive use of business and marketing strategies.
But here’s the thing: The Church is not a business. Congregants are not shareholders. Those outside the church are not clients, customers, prospects, or projects.
God is not a CEO.
Jesus is most definitely not a product.
And I don’t think Bailey believes any of those things. But I’ve been in churches that do. Funny thing is, I don’t they didn’t start out believing them.
They just forgot how big, how amazing this story is.
They forgot the “it’s a dinosaur”ness of it all.
I know I forget it. All the time.
It’s interesting that Chapter 6 starts with Jesus going back to his hometown, where he is roundly rejected. The Scripture even says he couldn’t do any miracles “except heal a few sick people” because of their lack of faith. And their problem wasn’t that Jesus was strange to them; it was precisely the opposite. Their problem was that they knew him. And Jesus — well, the Jesus they knew just didn’t behave like that.
The late, great Keith Green captures it pretty well in his “Song to My Parents.”
Isn’t that Jesus? / Isn’t that Joseph and Mary’s son?
Well, didn’t he grow up right here? / He played with our children
What! He must be kidding / Thinks he’s a prophet!
Well, prophets don’t grow up from little boys
Do they? From little boys? / Do they?
In the Church today, we know Jesus very well. We’ve watch him “grow up.” And the Jesus we know doesn’t behave like that, with the feeding and the water walking nonsense. He is tame.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this right now. I do know that I miss that kid in summer camp, who fell in love with Jesus for the first time and knew, better than he knew his own name, that anything was possible. I miss the passion and the newness.
I want to get my it’s a dinosaur! back.
And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to find dinosaurs in a focus group.