33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.
They ran to be at the place where Jesus would come. Jesus and his disciples were crossing the sea in boats; the people ran around the sea to be there when they arrived.
Galilee is not a small lake. It is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, not quite as big as Lake Tahoe, but considerably larger than most recreational lakes. I don’t know if people were running to the complete other side of the lake or just round the corner to wherever Jesus was stopping next, but it is no small run just for the chance to hear Jesus’ words and, perhaps, be touched with his healing.
His words are read every Sunday, and the bread broken and shared as he shared it. But the only time I remember running for church was when my step-father was honking the horn and I wasn’t completely dressed yet – running to the car with shoes and tie in hand.
His words are read every Sunday. Why has the chance to hear it lost its power to make us chase after him?
I fear it is because we have so domesticated his words, boxed and bound them into systems of obedience – whether moral rules or ecclesiastical rules. Those who heard him, and continued to meet together after his death, shared their resources with one another so that none would go hungry – but we have made Jesus (or at least God) the defender of private property. Those who heard him know that he welcomed sinners and outcasts – indeed many were sinners and outcasts – but we have made Jesus the advocate of prim and proper. Those who heard him know that he taught love of all, even love of enemies – seeing and treating them as members of one’s own household – but we have made that into a noble ideal rather than an expectation for our daily lives.
Those who heard Jesus know he was proclaiming a message that would overturn the world they knew. Maybe we like the world we know and that’s why we don’t run to hear his words.
Or maybe those who are reading his words have turned it into a defense of the world we know.
But those words of Jesus are still rattling around. They are hard to domesticate. And every now and then they break out with new power to grab someone’s life and we end up with a St. Francis, or a Pope Francis, or that retired couple I met by accident in a suburban church who, every Wednesday, made a hundred sandwiches and took them down to hand out on Cass Avenue – the center of the homeless poor in Detroit.
There are people who still understand that these words are worth running to hear.