Dear Hope Church,
As we have studied Mark in Women’s Bible Study this semester, I have been struck by the persistence of Jesus in shepherding the hard-hearted. Time and again he reveals himself to the disciples and they just do not get it. Yet he keeps showing up, keeps loving them, keeps teaching them, keeps shepherding them. I am also challenged by his heart, not just for the hard-hearted, but for the “sheep without a shepherd.”
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:30-34
As we go into Christmas gatherings, Jesus’ persistence and compassion for the hard-hearted and shepherdless is both challenging (in an overwhelming way) and encouraging. I don’t feel at all up to the task of loving others well, yet I am encouraged by how well Jesus has loved me. I know that many of us face complex family situations where we are wrestling with the question, “How do I draw healthy boundaries AND love with the selfless love of Christ?” Jesus both recognized his own needs and the needs of the disciples AND pivoted when the needs of the crowd superseded theirs. He spoke hard truths not just in love, but because of love. The gospels aren’t a textbook for navigating tricky and trying family dynamics. But they are an invitation to look at the heart of Jesus, to share in his compassion, to be shepherded by the Good Shepherd. In them, we find the one who put on flesh and was born into an imperfect, human family that had their own dysfunction. And in them we find the Prince of Peace, who brings us, the enemies of God, peace with God. Friends, as you pray for wisdom and seek the Lord’s will this Christmas, I pray that the peace of God will rule over your hearts and in your homes.