What are sheep doing in Shinjuku?!
Last week I was at the OMF Japan Headquarters near Tokyo for the Pre Home Assignment Workshop (PHAW). It was a chance to prepare for our Home Assignment which is a year back in the UK starting next spring (dates tbc). (I plan to post about the purposes of Home Assignment next time.)
I also had the chance to catch up with some friends in Tokyo while I was there, hence being in Shinjuku, an area of Tokyo known for shopping, politics and a very busy train station. I have just discovered that Shinjuku station is the busiest station in the world! Everyday over 3.6 million people go through it – that’s more than the total population of Wales!
At PHAW, I reflected again on the huge needs in Japan; more than 127 million people, about 0.3% Christian… a plentiful harvest with very few workers. I was reminded of the feeding of the 5000 when Jesus saw the crowds.
30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
If I was in Jesus’ shoes, I would have reacted very differently:
“We’ve deliberately sought out a desolate place… to rest! We’re tired after the mission trip and need some down time to debrief. We’ve just been with lots of people, working hard, serving. Now it’s time to get away, have some peace and quiet, some privacy. Not to be inundated again with crowds of people… [moooan, grumble, complain]”
But not Jesus. In characteristic selflessness, He sacrifices His desires for peace, quiet and rest. Rather than shooing them away He teaches them. He has compassion on them. He shepherds them.
In Shinjuku station I saw the crowds. They hustled, they bustled, this way and that, hurrying through the station, trotting down the stairs, flocking onto trains…
They need a Shepherd.