The Catholic writer Graham Greene famously summed up his life as a search for “Ways of Escape.” He said that his abundant writing and travels were simply a means to escape the panic fear, madness, and melancholia of contemporary life. Green’s life summation goes a long way in helping to explain some events found in the canonical Gospels of Jesus the Christ.
It often strikes the objective reader as odd that the future disciples drop everything on a dime when the stranger named Jesus comes walking along and says “follow me.”1 But is it really that strange? As Thoreau said, the majority of us do live lives of quiet desperation, and thus are seeking ways of escape.
Yet few of us have the intestinal fortitude of Graham Greene–the courage to fashion an escape route on our own. But if we have the opportunity to follow someone else, someone who can lead us, then the decision to break away becomes much easier. Strength in numbers, as they say. That is why cult leaders are so successful.
Jesus wasn’t a cult leader, though, no matter how much his disciples wished him to be one.2 Jesus sought to give his followers the strength to escape the chains that bound them, but once the break was clean, he wanted them to walk their own path.
Jesus Christ calls us all to be strong. Not strong for him, but rather our true selves, for the Christ in us.
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- As Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers–Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew–casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. “Come and follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” The two men left their nets at once and followed him. – Matthew 4:18-20 [↩]
- On the following day great numbers of people who had come to the festival, hearing that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, took palm-branches, 13 And went out to meet him, shouting as they went: “God save Him! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord: the King of Israel!” – John 12:12-13 [↩]
Gospel of Mark 8
About that time, when there was again a great crowd of people who had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him, and said: 2 “My heart is moved at the sight of all these people, for they have already been with me three days and they have nothing to eat; 3 And if I send them away to their homes hungry, they will break down on the way; and some of them have come a long distance.” 4 “Where will it be possible,” his disciples answered, “to get sufficient bread for these people in this lonely place?”
5 “How many loaves have you?” he asked. “Seven,” they answered. 6 Jesus told the crowd to sit down upon the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, and, after saying the thanksgiving, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to serve out; and they served them out to the crowd. 7 They had also a few small fish; and, after he had said the blessing, he told the disciples to serve out these as well. 8 The people had sufficient to eat, and they picked up seven baskets full of the broken pieces that were left. 9 There were about four thousand people. Then Jesus dismissed them.
10 Immediately afterwards, getting into the boat with his disciples, Jesus went to the district of Dalmanutha. 11 Here the Pharisees came out, and began to argue with Jesus, asking him for some sign from the heavens, to test him. 12 Sighing deeply, Jesus said: “Why does this generation ask for a sign? I tell you, no sign shall be given it.” 13 So he left them to themselves, and, getting into the boat again, went away to the opposite shore.
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take any bread with them, one loaf being all that they had in the boat. 15 So Jesus gave them this warning. “Take care,” he said, “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 They began talking to one another about their being short of bread. 17 And, noticing this, Jesus said to them: “Why are you talking about your being short of bread? Do not you yet see or understand? Are your minds still so slow to comprehend?
18 ‘Though you have eyes, do you not see? And though you have ears, do you not hear?’ Do not you remember, 19 When I broke up the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets of broken pieces you picked up?” “Twelve,” they said. 20 And when the seven for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of broken pieces did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said. 21 “Do not you understand now?” he repeated.
The Lord’s Prayer means more than you think.
To continue reading Chapter 8 of the Gospel of Mark, including Peter saying ‘You are the Christ,’ please click on page 2 below.
Before the Passover festival began, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave the world and go to the Father. He had loved those who were his own in the world, and he loved them to the last. 2 The devil had already put the thought of betraying Jesus into the mind of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon;
3 And at supper, Jesus—although knowing that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God, and was to return to God—4 Rose from his place, and, taking off his upper garments, tied a towel round his waist. 5 He then poured some water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel which was tied round him.
6 When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said: “You, Master! Are you going to wash my feet?” 7 “You do not understand now what I am doing,” replied Jesus, “but you will learn by and by.” 8 “You shall never wash my feet!” exclaimed Peter.
“Unless I wash you,” answered Jesus, “you have nothing in common with me.” 9 “Then, Master, not my feet only,” exclaimed Simon Peter, “but also my hands and my head.” 10 “He who has bathed,” replied Jesus, “has no need to wash, unless it be his feet, but is altogether clean; and you,” he said to the disciples, “are clean, yet not all of you.”
11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said: ‘You are not all clean.’ 12 When he had washed their feet, and had put on his upper garments and taken his place, he spoke to them again. “Do you understand what I have been doing to you?” he asked. 13 “You yourselves call me ‘the Teacher’ and ‘the Master’, and you are right, for I am both. 14 If I, then—’the Master’ and ‘the Teacher’—have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet; 15 For I have given you an example, so that you may do just as I have done to you.”
16 “In truth I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor yet a messenger than the man who sends him. 17 Now that you know these things, happy are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking about all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but this is in fulfillment of the words of scripture: ‘He that is eating my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 For the future I shall tell you of things before they take place, so that, when they take place, you may believe that I am what I am.”
20 “In truth I say that you who receives anyone that I send receives me; and you who receives me receives him who sent me.” 21 After saying this, Jesus was much troubled, and said solemnly: “In truth I tell you that it is one of you who will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, wondering whom he meant.
23 Next to Jesus, in the place on his right hand, was one of his disciples, whom he loved. 24 So Simon Peter made signs to that disciple, and whispered: “Tell me who it is that he means.” 25 Being in this position, that disciple leant back on Jesus’ shoulder, and asked him: “Who is it, Master?”
26 “It is the one,” answered Jesus, “to whom I shall give a piece of bread after dipping it in the dish.” And, when Jesus had dipped the bread, he took it and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot; 27 And it was then, after he had received it, that Satan took possession of him. So Jesus said to him: “Do at once what you are going to do.” 28 But no one at table understood why he said this to Judas. 29 Some thought that, as Judas kept the purse, Jesus meant that he was to buy some things needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.
30 After taking the piece of bread, Judas went out immediately; and it was night. 31 When Judas had gone out, Jesus said: “Now the Son of Man has been exalted, and God has been exalted through him; 32 And God will exalt him with himself—yes, he will exalt him forthwith.”
33 “My children, I am to be with you but a little while longer. You will look for me; and what I said to the Jews—’You cannot come where I am going’—I now say to you. 34 I give you a new commandment: love one another; love one another as I have loved you. 35 It is by this that everyone will recognize you as my disciples—by your loving one another.”
36 “Where are you going, Master?” asked Peter. “I am going where you cannot now follow me,” answered Jesus, “but you shall follow me later.” 37 “Why cannot I follow you now, Master?” asked Peter. “I will lay down my life for you.” 38 “Will you lay down your life for me?” replied Jesus. “In truth I tell you, the cock will not crow till you have disowned me three times.”
To read the next chapter of the Book of John, please go to The Gospel of John – 14.
This Online New Testament Gospel of John is excerpted from the book The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life (with New Century Gospels). Including over 200 bookmarked citations from the canonical Gospels, this Progressive Christian book appeals to the Unitarian spirit at the heart of all faiths.
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