10th Sunday after Pentecost
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
Can you imagine Jesus running away from something? From anything, anyone? This is the man who didn’t run away from the cross. Yet when the people of His day wanted to make Him their king, Jesus ran away.
He ran off into the hills all by Himself. He ran away and hid. He even sent His disciples away by themselves. He’d catch up with them later by walking on the water. He could walk on the water, but He was afraid the crowds would drag Him to be their king. So Jesus ran away.
If you remember me saying last Sunday, the church asked us to skip right over Mark’s story of the feeding of the 5,000. We read the verses right before and after it, but we skipped the miracle of the loaves. There were hints that something was brewing, but only hints in Mark.
Today though, we hear that same story but from the perspective of John. And John doesn’t leave any doubt about what’s taking place among the people. What Mark implied between the lines, John says straight out. The feeding of so many from so little was a sign from heaven that Jesus was God’s Messiah.
Jesus had done just what Moses had done in the desert during the Exodus. He fed God’s people miraculously. Surely, this was the leader long foretold. Those thousands of people were ready to take Jesus, by force if necessary, and anoint him king. So Jesus ran away.
What was Jesus so afraid of? In one word: David. Jesus did not want to be David. David was the idealized king of Israel. David was the supposed model for the coming Messiah that the people were waiting for. When the kingdom came crashing to an end in 587 B.C., the people of Israel hoped and waited for it to return through the reemergence of another David.
About 200 years later, they tried, but that failed almost immediately. So again, they hoped and waited. Another 300 years went past, and now the people were hearing stories about this Jesus the wonder-worker.
Thousands of them were fed by a few loaves and fish. They began to see themselves as the Exodus people ready to fight their way into a new Promised Land. Now they thought for sure that Jesus was the one they had been hoping and waiting for, a king like David, who would lead them. So Jesus ran away.
Jesus wanted nothing to do with being a king like David. Think about the opening words that Maureen shared with us in today’s first reading: “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah.” War wasn’t a necessity; war was a habit, a custom. War was as regular as Spring flowers. You could count on war just as surely as you could count on warmer weather.
Just before the time of David, Israel didn’t have kings. They had Judges. A Judge would arise in times of crisis, like when an enemy threatened. Then, when the crisis passed, so did the rule of the Judge. But once Israel had a king, well, kings need armies, and armies need something to do, and well, war became a habit. So Jesus ran away.
You know, there’s an awful lot of Jesus-talk thrown around in politics nowadays, but it disappears when it comes to war. The United States has the most powerful military in the world by far. The temptation is always there that if you have an army you use an army. Considering our Gospel story today, I wonder what Jesus’ advice for us would be?
Then the story of David moves on to a story of rape. It’s not called rape in the Bible, but that’s what it is. David’s palace was located on the highest ridge of Jerusalem. The rest of the city lay below him. In days long before running water, David catches a glimpse of Bathsheba bathing on her own rooftop. It moves quickly from voyeurism, to rape. David sends his soldiers to grab Bathsheba and drag her to his palace. Then the king rapes this terrorized woman.
In this long overdo time of the #MeToo era, maybe we should give a bit more consideration to Bathsheba’s point of view. Not a word is voiced in the Bible about it. This was just the way things were. How did she feel when David sent her back home after he had used her? Who could she ever tell this story to? Who would care? Who wouldn’t say that it was her fault for bathing? This is the story of David that the people there on the mountainside with Jesus knew and this is the king they wanted Jesus to be. So Jesus ran away.
Bathsheba’s plight is not over. She becomes pregnant. You heard the story. David calls her husband back from the war hoping that he will lie with his wife and then the child could be explained away. But Uriah is an honourable man and does not allow himself the luxury of domesticated life while his brothers in arms are still fighting.
So David has Uriah killed. David raped the wife and murdered her husband. Some people’s lives simply did not matter. Ohhh, the king’s did, but people like Bathsheba and Uriah, their lives were unimportant. I wonder what Jesus would have to say to us about something like this, that some lives matter and some just don’t. Again, this was the king that those who were fed by Jesus were waiting for. So Jesus ran away.
The Massachusetts Conference Minister, Rev. Don Remick, recently quoted Einstein in one of his articles and it’s posted on our church’s FaceBook page. Quoting Einstein caught my eye immediately. It’s purported that Einstein once said: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Einstein had to rethink everything to figure out the universe.
He had to start from square one. He had to question all of the old assumptions that had been accepted by everyone for hundreds of years, and then he needed to create new ones that better answered the questions. Einstein is synonymous with genius because he realized that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Jesus ran away because He came into the world to solve the problems that persist and repeat themselves generation after generation, world power after world power, of hatred and violence, of prejudice and selfishness, of greed and self-righteousness. Jesus came into the world to show us another way to live and also to lead – a radically new way.
And to do so, Jesus had to move well beyond the expectations of His very own people. They wanted Jesus to be their king like David, and they were ready to do so by force if necessary. Jesus wanted nothing to do with this example of war and the abuses of power and of people. So Jesus ran away.
And when He ran away from this thousand years of expectation, Jesus gave us a warning, a warning still in effect today, a warning still in the Bible’s voice to us and for us today. Don’t be surprised when Jesus surprises. Don’t imagine that the will and way of Christ has to be the same as ours. Ours has to be the same as His.
Maybe religion and the religious need to be more prophetic. Maybe we need to rock the boat so that we don’t get too comfortable and think that the way things are, are just fine with Jesus. Maybe we need to look at the society we’re building and then compare this with Jesus’ gospel.
If there’s a disconnect between the two, we can throw around all of the Jesus-talk we want, but still Jesus will run away. Maybe we need to speak out so that Jesus’ message can be heard loud and clear above the message of all the world’s Davids. May Jesus guide us as church and as Christian so that He never has to run away from us.
In His name we pray. Amen.
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