Jesus had a pretty clear training plan for his closest followers. We call them the twelve disciples. Peter, James, John, Andrew, two guys named Judas, Matthew, and the rest.
Jesus picked them out of the big crowd of fans that had started following him and invited them to follow him. They started traveling with him from place to place.
They watched how he worked, who he talked to, who he cared for and who he criticized. They watched how sometimes stuff just happened when Jesus was around.
He touched people and they got better. He spoke to people and they felt convicted.
After a few months, Jesus sent them out on their own short-term trip. He told them to say the things he’d been saying and do the things he’d been doing. And they left.
Jesus kept teaching and touching people.
Eventually, the twelve came back, coming by twos, which is how they went out. As they came back to town and found Jesus, they started to tell stories about what had happened. The stories were pretty exciting, the kind that we often hear from people who were at camp or on an internship.
“It was really hard. We were really scared. But we did what you said. And this one man could see again. And even when we got kicked out of town, we found another place.”
And in the middle of that reunion and storytelling, some people who had followed John the Baptist came to Jesus, too.
They had a story about how Herod had killed John the Baptist, had chopped his head off. They had managed to work through the bureaucracy to get his body and bury him. And now they came to Jesus. They were trying to figure out what to do next.
So we have disciples of Jesus who are excited and exhausted, disciples of John who are exhausted and grieving, and Jesus, who has to manage all this intensity and to grieve the death of a relative, John, who died as part of the big mission Jesus was in the middle of.
It would have been pretty overwhelming. Everything was beginning to churn. John had attracted enough attention so that he was killed by the puppet king of the area. The disciples had traveled around in six teams doing the kind of miracles that Jesus always did. Jesus himself was doing miracles and preaching.
The occupying army of Rome, the local political structure of Herod, the local religious structure of the Pharisees, the popular political and revolutionary groups were all aware, all starting to pay attention, all starting to move.
“Let’s go away,” Jesus said. “To the other side of the lake.”