“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him on the other side, while he dismissed the crowd” (Matt 14:22).
The crowd pressed and packed together everywhere on another hot Galilean day. Jesus turned out for work at the usual place, right on time, and the disciples with him. Lines had already formed on the grassy slope as mothers lugged their young ones up the incline, hoping for some miracle. The disciples took time to sort the crowd out. A day of appointments and side-bar consultations with the disciples dawned. Who was next in line? There were logistical, practical and political issues to resolve, questions to answer from the hierarchy of the day, the occasional miracle and more. Providing food and water for the multitudes formed the basis for a miracle. The specter of cheap popularity, misunderstood motives, and the critical chatter of the leadership structure, the Pharisees, was always present. The crowds cared little. They knew what they wanted and they valued what Jesus had. He was willing to transact and transform.
The accounts of the crossover episodes are full of meaning and implication. Jesus journeyed in a boat, on the water, to the other side. Tired, he slept in the bottom of the boat. Another time he withdrew to meditate and pray. He changed the pace, paused for reflection, sent the disciples ahead and the crowds away, then he crossed over. On the other side, he could gain a new perspective. No doubt, Jesus was greatly revived in his crossovers.
Sometimes, the crowds of duty and work can become heavy and crossover opportunities recede. When we cross over, there is an opportunity to go to a new level. The ministry of service can be daunting and wearisome, as we strive to “finish the work of the gospel.” There is room for the other side, to escape the crush of problems and challenges, for these will always be present as the crowds were. Might it be possible to do so well in service that we omit the “other side” to our own detriment? Be not weary in well-doing, but take time to reflect. There is always “the other side,” where prayer is possible, resources strengthened and energies replenished. The service of the work must never consume the worker of the service, for God intends us to be made whole constantly. Today, let us bask in the presence of the cross. If you don’t have a boat, drive a car. If neither, just walk away for a brief respite. Take a few friends along with you. Cross over, my friend, cross over. The crowds will still be there upon your return, but you will be refreshed, re-energized, and prayed-up.