I met the most interesting man ever over forty years ago. He is my best friend, one I can share anything with, the good, bad and the ugly of my lifelong journey.
Recently I was asked to teach chapel for Junior High students. I introduced myself by telling them I have retired. One of my favorite times is when I get to pick up our grandchildren at school when need arises. Often my first question is: “How was your day?” with the normal answer “fine” or “average.” I would dig a bit more and ask if was average-plus, average-minus, or average-average to help them be more aware.
I posted a blog a few weeks back on self-renewal, encouraging us to learn to be aware of what is happening within as life engages us. It’s too easy to float through life rather than to make choices from honest self-awareness. Much of my days are routine, peppered with highs and lows. To simplify, I try to identify God’s footprints by looking at the plus and minus times. I call my plus times the “yippees!” (from my enjoyment of western novels, especially Louis L’Amour!) and the others the “yucks.”
I had just read through Mark 6, and thought the best I could bring these Junior Highers would be a snippet from the life of the most interesting person ever, Jesus, as He navigated the highs and the lows of His day. Seeing how Jesus responded, then making choices to follow Him, has changed me over the years. At times, we may tend to forget that Jesus was thoroughly human in every aspect (and certainly without sin since sin is an intrusion into authentic humanity). Perhaps so we don’t jettison His Deity (He is also fully God, oh mystery!) Today my focus is on Jesus’ humanity. Both/And!
First, Jesus returns to His home town after a large measure of success. Momentum is building and a solid team has been formed. He is rejected by His home town (6:1f). For me, a yuck.
Second, Jesus, the most interesting Man ever, sent His Twelve on a training mission (6:7). As one who has been a coach/mentor/discipler, this is a thrill to see the first fruits of our labor. For me, a yippee!
Third, Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist was beheaded. Literally. His head was served up on a platter (6:27-28). If you have recently experienced a devastating loss in any arena of life, you can empathize with Jesus. A big-time yuck for me.
Fourth, Jesus’ disciples returned, gathered relationally around Jesus and swapped stories from their training exercise (6:30). Having experienced this personally, a big yippee!
Fifth, Jesus certainly ministered actively…and He also knew when He had reached His limit. He took His disciples away with Him to a solitary place to recharge spiritually, emotionally and physically in His Father’s presence (6:31). When I’m pressed in an exceptionally busy season of life, I long for these times to rejuvenate in the presence of the Father, Son and Spirit. Yippee!
Now comes one of Jesus’ traits that make Him the most interesting Man ever. A large crowd found Jesus (6:34). I ask myself how I would respond after an especially challenging time with the ups and downs of an intense, busy ministry. I’m afraid I would be tempted to opt to be alone with the Father. Instead, Jesus “had compassion on them” and ministered to their needs for teaching and for food (6:34 +42).
The word compassion is interesting. The English word comes from two words, “feel” and “with.” Compassion is a deep empathy that feels what the other feels and is always followed by action in the gospels. The word in the original language is “gut” or “pit of the stomach.” In our society, deep emotions are expressed by referring to our heart. In the 1st century, deep emotion seated themselves in the stomach or gut. It’s the idea of having a “gut rending” experience. When someone rejects you, what churns? When you experience devastating loss, what hurts? Our gut! Jesus forgot about Himself, threw His remaining energy into what He saw the Father doing (John 5:17 + 19), and cared for sheep without a shepherd.
The most interesting Man ever, Jesus, laid down what I often consider my right after a busy, tiring time, taking solitary time alone with the Father. How do you respond in similar circumstances after being rejected or experiencing devastating loss? Is your focus more on you and your need, or on what the Father is doing, like the most interesting Man ever?
At last, though, Jesus got His solitary time with His Father to recharge (6:46), although He had deeply experienced the Father’s presence even during His “ministry of presence” to those in need. All in the Father’s rhythm for His best.
How do you recharge when you are physically, emotionally, mentally and/or spiritually exhausted? I asked the Junior Highers what they did. Things like electronic games, music, sports, and friends came up. Jesus yearned for His Father’s presence.What about you? Have you found any rejuvenator better than Jesus, the most interesting Man ever?
Finally, I want to remind you and me. When we experience rejection or tragedy, joy or excitement, as the man for others, Jesus rushes alongside to touch you personally. Lean in closely to Jesus. He cares…always!