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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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St Paul's, Efford
Tony's Reflection 60
I have been checking out the skills a modern shepherd needs. The list is astounding. It includes castrating, catching, collecting blood, drenching, docking, hoof trimming, injecting, mouthing, replacing a prolapse, tipping and tubing. I will leave you to look up the last two, for yourself!
One of the most traditional shepherding skills is helping the sheep find good pasture. Sheep are too daft to find their own food by themselves. They often eat poisonous plants and suffer the consequences. The shepherd needs to move around with them, hunting out the good grass for them.
The shepherd is tuned into - and provides for - every practical need of his flock.
Mark has been showing us (
) how Jesus is second to none, as our shepherd.
Try to imagine the scene…
A crowd of over 5000 men has gathered around Jesus. If you include women and children, that could easily have doubled. Can you imagine what a crowd of 10,000 people looks like? That’s as many as Argyle get to their home matches. Not a lot as football matches go, but a huge gathering, if you picture all of them listening to just one man speak.
They have sat there, through the heat of the afternoon, utterly mesmerised, as Jesus has been teaching them. The hours have flown by. If they had watches, no one would have bothered looking at one. The sun, though, is now going down, the temperature cooling and the light starting to fade.
Jesus is still in full flow. He is animated, full of life, yet pouring with sweat and starting to look tired as he puts heart and soul into bringing his message alive for the crowd.
His disciples have been the first and only ones to notice how late it is getting. Everyone else has been spellbound.
Peter, always the one to speak up, draws close to Jesus as he pauses for breath and whispers in his ear. “It’s getting a bit late… shouldn’t you send them home, so they can get something to eat while the markets are still open?”
Jesus doesn’t mind the interruption at all. He looks at the crowd and realises they must be hungry. Then he fixes his gaze upon Peter. “You’re so concerned about them eating, why don’t you fix them something?” he says with a smile and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
“You gotta be joking! Where are we going to just rustle up something from, for this many? That’ll cost us thousands.” The 12 can’t believe what their master is asking.
“Well what have you got?” asks Jesus.
The 12 don’t like to argue, so they decide to humour Jesus. They scrabble around among themselves. Every last pocket and back-bag is emptied. Nothing.
A little boy in the crowd has seen the kafuffle among the disciples. He tugs at Andrew’s robe. “Please Sir, if Jesus needs something to eat, he can have my lunch.“
Andrew hurries over to Jesus. “Here’s the final count. Five little loaves and two tiddlers from the little lad over there,” says Andrew. “That won’t go far, will it?” He is just a little smug.
Knowing that the 12 have realised the task is completely impossible, Jesus looks at them knowingly, his eyes alight with the pleasure that says “prepare to be amazed”. He leans in towards the 12 and whispers, “Just watch …”
“Get everyone to sit down, groups of hundreds and fifties” says Jesus aloud for all to hear, “it’s suppertime.”
Jesus lifts the five loaves and the two tiddlers before God and gives thanks. He calls his disciples around him. He gives a handful to the first, as much bread and fish as he can carry and sends him off towards the nearest group, sat on the grass. The remaining 11 just stare. Jaws drop, eyes are wide open. Where did all that come from? It was far too much for Jesus to have had up his sleeve. It just appeared out of nowhere…
“Come on James, you’re up next. Don’t just stand there gawping,” says Jesus with a laugh, “Don’t you know we’ve got a crowd to feed?”
James dutifully steps forward and he too is sent off into the crowd with arms full of bread and fish. Then the rest of the 12. And so it goes on, until all the crowd have had a feast.
The hours pass, the sun is well down and the crowd have eaten their fill. Jesus looks at the 12 again. “What are you waiting for?” he asks. “We can’t leave a mess, can we? Go around and collect in the leftovers …” Twelve baskets’ full of bread and fish are gathered.
No one can quite believe what they are seeing. Except Jesus, of course. Jesus reads their thoughts and looks at them disarmingly. “Well, you didn’t think I’d let my sheep go hungry, did you?”
A good shepherd always makes sure his sheep are well looked after. Jesus could have sent them away, without laying on supper. No one would have starved to death. They would all have made it home.
But he didn’t.
Because he cares.
When Jesus cares for you, anything is possible. He feeds thousands on five loaves and two tiddlers. He cares for you just as much. How much dare you ask for, when you bring your needs before this Jesus, for whom the laws of nature count as nothing?