Tony's Reflection 58 

 Have you ever watched Channel 5’s Our Yorkshire Farm? It’s the story of ordinary Yorkshire people: a would-be model, Amanda, who married a Yorkshire farmer, went to work with him in the Dales and had a family of nine children, as you do.

Both Amanda, who had ambitions of a career in fashion and husband Clive have a huge passion for their sheep. Their enthusiasm for shepherding and commitment to their flock shines, as they work flat out for the sheep who need them so much.

In this week’s episode from Mark (
6:30-44), we see another shepherd with huge compassion for his sheep.

Back in the Old Testament, “shepherd” was a word sometimes used of a national leader. This story comes right after the one about King Herod. We saw him taking great delight in parading his stepdaughter as a sex object at a drunken party for his cronies. After that, things had only got worse. That was the kind of “shepherding” coming from Herod’s palace.

The contrast couldn’t be greater, as Mark quickly changes scene and shows us a very different kind of shepherd. One whose remarkable commitment to his sheep knows no end.

Spare a thought for Jesus, though, before we raise the curtain on this new scene.

He has just sent the 12 out, with his authority, to heal, sort out demons and tell people the good news about him. His best friends have just had their first “missionary adventure” and come back exuberant.

“Can you believe it, Jesus? We prayed for sick people just like you told us to - and guess what? They got better.” “We even came across demons. You should have seen them. Screaming, hollering, seriously scary – but all we had to do was mention your name and they scarpered.”

Like every good teacher whose pupils succeed, Jesus is thrilled for them. He is longing to hear their stories, rejoice with them and – just maybe – help them get their feet firmly planted on the ground, once more.

It had been high-fives and high excitement all round.

Then came some much darker news. Gossip about The Royals always travels fast. Even without social media and tabloid newspapers. There was plenty of salacious scandal surrounding Herod and his court. His dubious marriage to his brother’s beautiful wife had now been trumped, by stories of what he had done to John the Baptist.

As that dark news came to Jesus, his mind was a whirl of emotions. That voice which had boomed out God’s message so faithfully, for all to hear, silenced for good. The hero who had laid aside his own glory, to point on to Jesus the crowds who clamoured around him, has been done away with, in a sordid plot. Jesus’ cousin… dead.

Jesus is torn between conflicting emotions. Pulled simultaneously between the elation of his friends and the knife stab of pain and sorrow, right to the heart, as he heard about John.

All this going on, all at once and still there is the merciless mobbing of the crowd.

“Heal my neighbour…” “Bless my baby …” “What do you think about Herod, Jesus?” The demands are endless. The bedlam intense. There’s not even time to eat.

Jesus just wants to get away with his friends. They all need to regroup and recharge.

Jesus looks away from the crowd for a moment and longingly at the nearby lake. The water gently lapping the shore seems to beckon him and his friends away, promising peace and quiet.

He clambers into a boat moored on the water’s edge.

“Hey boss,” says the “captain” with a smile, “looks like you boys could do with some rest. I know just the place, real quiet … no one will find you there.”

Jesus and the 12 are on board and sail off. Away from the throng, they relish the gentle breeze and the peace. The clamour of the crowd fades, lost behind the tender caress of the water on the side of the boat. How they need this time away, to rejoice and to grieve together.

Back again on dry land, they take a deep breath and savour the tranquillity of the haven of peace. They look around, enjoying the emptiness.

But there is movement in the distance.

It seems the “captain” wasn’t the only one who knew where to get some quiet. Some bright spark in the crowd had figured out where they were going. He had hurried around to where Jesus would land and led everyone else there too.

“Oh no, look…” Peter pointed to the crowd getting ever closer. The sigh of dismay from the others was palpable.

“Back in the boat, while we still can,” moaned John.

Jesus just stands in silence and looks.

The 12 have got used to moments like this. They can read his face. He looks strangely sad, disturbed almost. Deep emotions are welling up within him.

“No,” says Jesus. He is gritty and determined. “I’m not going anywhere. These are sheep … and they need a shepherd.”

Jesus has the same commitment to you. You are his sheep, too.

signed Tony