When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.
Last month the premiere of the latest Harry Potter movie took place. Normally these events fill the whole of Leicester Square, with hundreds of film fans turning out to see the stars arrive for the screening. Harry Potter, though, is now such a successful film franchise that fans filled not just Leicester Square, but also Trafalgar Square. Over the years the films have gained such an enormous following that people travelled from across the country, and indeed the world, for the premiere.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus was followed by huge crowds. People turned up to listen to him teach, or in the hope that they might be healed, or even just to witness one of his incredible miracles. People told their family and their friends that Jesus was in the area, and in no time at all, thousands of people had turned out to see Jesus. There was no escape for Jesus. Even when he retreated to somewhere quiet in the hope of enjoying a few minutes peace and quiet, he was followed by crowds.
Perhaps these days we take Jesus for granted. Maybe we’re so used to reading his teachings in the Bible, or reading of his miracles, that we’ve lost the excitement, the sense of expectation felt by those who discovered Jesus during his earthly ministry. If we lose that excitement, though, it doesn’t take long for us to neglect our faith; we stop reading our Bibles, we stop praying, and any excitement that we had left about Jesus gradually disappears. When we make Jesus ‘normal’, we downplay the magnificence of his words, the majesty of his kingdom, and the breath-taking events of his death and resurrection. When Jesus’ victory over death becomes something that we just accept without response, our faith withers and dies.
The truth, of course, is that nothing about Jesus was normal. He was – and is – radical, inspirational, saving and life-giving. We need to be careful not to lose sight of that. We need to be more like the crowds that followed Jesus, passionate about following him, desperate to see him, and eager to hear every word that he says.
Let’s resolve today to ensure that our faith is a living faith. Let’s ensure that we’re excited about Jesus, and desperate to study his every word. Let’s strive to live our lives as a response to Jesus’ words. And let’s pray for enthusiasm of the crowd that see in today’s reading.