This week’s gospel speaks about the apostles gathering together with Jesus and reporting all they had done and taught. Jesus said to them,” Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:30-34). The phrase ‘to rest’ has become something that I always look for due to the hectic schedule of life. There are just so many issues, expectations and work to do that at the end of the week, I think to myself, “How did I manage to do all that and come out of it?” The answer is to rest in Jesus and to surrender to him in prayer.
The gospel also tells us that the crowd looked to Jesus as the Good Shepherd as he took pity on them due to the fact that they were like sheep without a shepherd. The question that we have to answer would be ‘Are we able to relate to Jesus as our shepherd in today’s modern day and age?’ Well, to understand that, we have to look at the story of a 21st century shepherd.
I chanced upon this article in The Telegraph titled, “Could you handle life as a modern-day shepherd?” which describes the highs and lows of a real life shepherd in Lake District, Northwest of England. James Rebanks is that modern day shepherd who narrates his struggles in his life. Growing up, James was interested to be a shepherd and his teacher thought that it was considered silly to be a shepherd as there was no future in the job; it was not a professional job nor did it bring in a large sum of money.
James’s teacher saw what farm work was . . .“The idea that we might be proud, hard-working and intelligent people doing something worthwhile seemed beyond her. For a woman who saw success as being demonstrated through education, ambition and conspicuous professional achievement we must have seemed a poor sample.” I felt sad as this is what society is constantly driving at, that the grades matter or there would be no future.
Looking at the Lake District pictures that accompanied the article, I could tell that it was a very beautiful place and that James had a family who stuck by him, accompanying him and helping him to manage his flock of sheep. Sheep are known to be defenseless and helpless creatures compared to other animals in the animal kingdom. They are unable to fend on their own and need direction, so the shepherd has to guide them. Similarly, we too need Jesus in our lives to guide us in our choices and to always walk the right path, free from danger.
James liked shepherding as I got a sense of freedom and his love for his flock from his account,”I love lambing time. In the long, sodden and wind-lashed winter weeks, I sometimes daydream of escaping the muddy tedium, but I wouldn’t want to miss lambing. I’ve always loved it, ever since I used to follow my grandad around, helping him feed the ewes in pens of little hay bales, sometimes being given one to lamb like my daughters do now.
I always marvel at how gentle some of the men were at this time of year, how you saw them kneeling in the mud or the straw of the pens, delicately threading a stomach tube down an ailing lamb’s throat, over the little pink tongue. You could see how much they cared. My dad would be gutted if he lost a lamb; it would hang over him like a grey cloud until he had put things right by saving others.”
At times, I too like James wondered what would it be like if I was somewhere else, doing other things. However, I know that it would not compare to having my family and friends here with me. I know that Jesus cares for me and loves me, even when others don’t. Whenever we do something wrong,we are hurting Jesus but he does not give up on us. Rather, he would put things right and always reach out to save us.
Yes, the role of a shepherd is not glamorous or famous but Jesus readily takes on the role because he is willing to sacrifice so much for us. He always makes sure that we are safe and comforted when we are in distress.
In the back of my mind when the going gets tough in school, I always dreamt of being somewhere in the mountains like the shepherd in the story where there is peace, quietness and stillness,away from the stresses of life. The smell of the cool breeze and the feeling of the warm ground could be what I desire; perhaps being close to freedom could come from observing nature.
As the weeks and days get longer and the nights of sleep get shorter, I know that I should place more trust and faith in Jesus, knowing that he will lead me to fresh and green pastures where I can just be with him, and together we can watch the sun go down just behind the mountain peaks.
To end off this post, this hymn “Lord, We Touch You Today” reminds us that we can reach out to touch the face of Jesus when we are like lost sheep without a shepherd.
“Lord, we touch you today.
Lord, we touch you today.
You gave us your life,
You gave us your love.
Lord, we touch you today.
To live is to die
And to laugh is to cry.
To live is to love with all your heart.
To live is hope, is to talk to the Lord
And love live is to sing in His love.”
God Bless! and we pray that all of us can come to Jesus for the rest that we seek.
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong