Sometimes you get the feeling that someone is avoiding you. Maybe you try to catch their eye in a room but never seem to quite make the connection, or maybe you send emails or text messages that never get returned. With persistence though, you eventually corner the person and demand answers! If you've had an experience like this then you know a little of what the members of the crowd in this story might have been feeling. This is the same crowd of five thousand or so that had just been fed from a few fishes and loaves of bread, so they must have been feeling pretty good about Jesus. Turns out there was such a thing as a free lunch that day, but what about the next? Jesus, apparently not looking to open a lunch stand, realizes it's time to make an exit. And if you've ever thought that someone was avoiding you, at least you can be assured they didn't walk across miles of water to do so. Jesus though, under cover of darkness, slips off into the night. Not even willing to let his disciples in on the great escape, he goes trotting off across the sea to lay low in Capernaum for a little while.
Of course, Jesus linked back up with his disciples, but he probably thought he was safe from the hungry crowd. Oh but for those pesky boats from Tiberias. They couldn't just mind their own business. Nope, they decide to give transport to the whole bunch all the way across to Capernaum, right where Jesus had holed up. Apparently it doesn't take long for the more industrious members of the crowd to sniff out where Jesus and his disciples were staying either. Finally, they can get some answers. Why did Jesus leave? Where is he going next? Will lunch be provided? Many emphatic nods punctuating that last one.
the members of the crowd had come expecting something, and in those expectations they had closed themselves to the real gifts being offered. In loving a benefit they had neglected the love for that benefit's provider. In this season of Lent we might feel like that crowd. We're searching for Jesus anyway, searching for the things we hope Jesus will do in our lives. We have to be careful in this search though. If we set out knowing exactly what it is we want, then at best that will be the only thing we'll find. If we let our expectations guide our love for Jesus, and for one another, then our love will never get beyond the benefits. Let us then search for Jesus because he is Jesus, and we will find our love called forth in ways we never expected.
Andy Rice, Senior MDiv student