The day that 5000 people gate-crashed Jesus’ attempt to give his exhausted disciples some rest gives us some insight into Jesus’ priorities. The event occurred shortly after John the Baptist’s execution by King Herod (just a few miles away round the lake shore), and that vast crowd came to Jesus intent on overthrowing Herod and making Jesus king in his place.
It was a pivotal moment. Jesus could have gone with the crowd. He could have joined the revolution. It would probably have led to a blood bath, and we will never know how it would have ended. But he didn’t.
Jesus had a different plan. He talked to the people about God, using his usual mix of crazy and thought provoking stories. Then, after a few hours, when they were all tired and hungry, he fed them with a simple meal generated from one boy’s picnic. Then Jesus slipped quietly away.
The power of God, seen in Jesus, is not the political power of laws and armies, of influence and control. Jesus employs a much quieter and humbler power: the power to look after people’s basic needs.
Throughout history, Churches and Christians have often been seduced by offers of power and significance. It is a fundamental human weakness, but it is not the nature of God. As the season of Lent calls us to review our lives and our attitudes, we will do well to follow Jesus’ example, to discretely address people’s fundamental needs, and then slip quietly away.