Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
In Numbers 27:12 Israel stands poised to enter the Promised Land. This is the completion of the salvation begun when He delivered them from Egypt. While the Exodus is about real people in a real place, the underlying revelation in the story is about a universal spiritual story. Salvation has two dimenions—freedom from sin and death (Kingdom of Darkness; metaphorical “Egypt”) and entry into God’s Kingdom where we become one with Him and each other (Promised Land= theosis). Moses "knowing he was soon to die, Moses asked God to "appoint someone over the community... [to lead them]… so that that the Lord's community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd."" Why did Moses make such a prayer when God is faithful? Because God has given over the world to us. Our openness is a vital part of the Kingdom coming. This is why Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” God heard Moses’ prayer and designated Joshua as the shepherd. There would be other shepherds as well, the Judges, the Kings, especially David, and, of course, the Messiah, Son of David.
In Jeremiah’s day, the failures of David’s sons had reached its pinnacle. The King and leaders had failed the people. God was angry and spoke a word of judgement. First He condemns those in leadership for abusing their power. God says that He 'tend' to them, and then He will tend to the people. In every age those in power are accountable to God for abusing their power. In every age God speaks salvation to those who are victims of oppression and abuse. We will all be responsible to God for our abuse of power.
In the Gospel reading today we see Jesus fulfill the Word: Jesus is the perfect fulfillment both of Moses’ prayer and Jeremiah’s prophecy. Jesus is the True Shepherd who brings us into the Kingdom union for which we were made.
Mark shows how hard this type of Kingship was. Jesus gets no rest. Ever. The crowds seek Him out everywhere. Wherever He goes, they find them, so He teaches and heals, endlessly. He is fully human, and we sometimes gloss over this. We negate His humanity and say "He is God," ignoring that He is God Incarnate. No doubt exhausted beyond our imagining, Jesus is always the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. Every day He dies on the cross so we can live.
Believe this: Jesus is your Shepherd, too. You are His lamb, a sheep of His flock. You are precious and beloved. He wants to teach and heal you: body, heart and soul. But we doubt it is true. We are afraid it won’t work. We look at the crowds and say “others are more needy or deserving." So we withdraw or wander.
But, if we turn to Him, He will minister to us. But God said that He will raise up other shepherds, raise up others who will tend to the broken ones. Jesus empowers us to be shepherds in His name. The Church is Jesus present in the world. The world does not need our arguments and political wrangling. It needs truth and love. It needs to be taught God's word and be healed and set free. We, too, must believe and have the courage to act on our faith. We are to be the answer to Moses’ prayer and Jeremiah’s prophecy. Through us, Jesus continues to teach and heal. In us Jesus is God’s love incarnate, leading people from Egypt to The Promised Land. This, too, can be hard to believe and hard to do, but it is what God redeems us to be: One with Jesus. And Jesus sends us in His name for others.