Sitting by the sea
Text study on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 Lectionary text for July 10, 2011
That same day Jesus when out of the house and sat beside the sea.
What happened that day that drove Jesus from the house to the seaside?
It was the Sabbath. He began in the grain fields where his hungry disciples picked grain for a snack. The Pharisees accused them of violating the law. Jesus defended his disciples in a revolutionary way, by saying, "Something greater than the temple is here," and, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice."
We follow Jesus into the temple, where he met a man with a shriveled hand. The Pharisees asked, "Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?” (Guys, are you listening?) Jesus replied by asking them if they would rescue their only sheep if it fell into a pit on the Sabbath. "How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep!" Mercy! The man’s hand was restored.
Jesus knew the Pharisees were planning to kill him. He left the temple and a large crowd followed him. "And he cured all of them."
They brought Jesus a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. Jesus restored him to health.
"We want to see a sign from you!" the Pharisees and teachers cried out. Are you kidding?
In the last verse of chapter 12, Jesus points to his disciples and calls them his family. And then, he goes out of the house and sits by the sea.
I think I get it.
It had been a very full day and people were just not paying attention. That would be enough to send anybody to sit by the sea.
He still couldn’t get time alone. So many people followed him that he got into a boat. Jesus looked out at the people on the shore -- people who hadn’t been getting anything he had said all day -- people who ignored every sign:
"I desire mercy, not sacrifice."
"People are more valuable than sheep."
"If you’re not with me, you’re against me."
Healed: one shriveled hand; a large crowd; one blind, mute, demon-possessed man.
The Parable of the Sower ends with, "Let anyone with ears listen."
Lord, make me the good soil. I have ears, let me hear. Give me a thirst for mercy; help me value people first. I do these things so poorly most of the time. Please remind me to come and sit with you by the sea.
• What keeps you from noticing the mercy Christ offers to all?
• What sacrifices get in the way of reveling in grace?
• Where do you go to have your faith recharged -- to sit with Jesus by the sea?
Lesley Watson is a trainer, wordsmith, outrageous auntie, former opera diva and fantastic friend. She lives in New York City.