By Timothy P. Nixon
“When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:13,14)
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD.” (Mark 6:34)
I have been asked to reflect on how I would respond to the events of Ferguson as a Minister of the Gospel. My humanity touches the despair of my community, a community that has seen the death of so many young African Americans finding no justice and being criminalized. When human systems fail, our only alternative is God. And the place where people come to seek answers is the church.
I find great comfort and instruction from a powerful experience in the life of Jesus, at a time of deep despair in His own ministry. The occasion was the beheading of John, His cousin. When He received the word of his untimely, unjust death, the Bible says, Jesus withdrew to a “solitary place.” No doubt this news greatly disturbed Him. He must have thought of the injustice of such an act. The thought of His own future must have crossed His mind.
At that moment of personal mourning and grief, He is confronted by myriads of people who are also filled with despair. Why John? Why now? What should He do? How should He respond? Should He place His questions, His needs and His concerns ahead of others? The Bible says, in the midst of His own pain and concern for the injustices and questions that bombarded Him, He felt compassion for the people because they were like SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD. They needed His care, concern and direction.
It is at times like this, when the systems of humanity fail; when injustices happen; when people are wandering in the streets, filled with unrest, like sheep without a shepherd; that we as ministers of the Gospel must provide teaching, guidance and healing to the community. We cannot think of ourselves but must minister to them. And as we minister to their needs, miracles will take place. It is significant that two of Jesus’ greatest miracles, the feeding of the 5,000 and His walking on water, both happened when He ministered to the needs of the people. God brings triumph out of human tragedy.
Beheadings will happen; hasty trials, trumped up charges, and crucifixions all will occur again and again until Jesus returns. And if the Bible is true, as time advances, the incidences will only become more blatant and progressively worse. We must expect that. And when they do, we have no other alternative but to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. When societal breakdowns create human despair, we must be the Oasis of Love and Citadel of Hope that God has called us to be. God’s Church Militant must be God’s Church Triumphant.