LOAVES AND FISH
“And Jesus 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. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 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.” (Mark 6:31-34)
The disciples were genuinely depleted of their resources. They had just returned from their first preaching/healing/traveling tour, which would’ve been totally exhausting (Mark 6:7-13). No doubt they were physically spent since they had walked everywhere-which means their feet probably hurt (think first-century sandals on rocky terrain) and they were sleep deprived (think new bed in every new town and no beds in some towns). They were likely mentally and emotionally spent too, since Jesus hadn’t allowed them any provisions for the journey, not even an extra tunic (think no suitcases, no wallets, no resources of any kind). Not to mention that ministering to hurting people every day would’ve been plain hard. While God was faithful and all their needs were met, the experience was a lot to process.
They needed a break and Jesus knew it, which is why He invited them to rest.
Except they didn’t get to because thousands of people showed up.
With news of the supernatural spreading fast, the people of the city recognized Jesus and the disciples and followed them to the desolate place. What a disappointment that mustive been: to expect rest and be greeted instead by “sheep without a shepherd.” Oh, the sheer chaos in that place as men, women, and children clamored to hear, see, and be seen-every one of them with their own burdens, wounds, skepticism, and curiosity. And Jesus had compassion on them. After all, He knew God would continue to provide the strength and energy he and His followers would need to help the hurting masses.
Incidentally, sheep are needy by nature; without a shepherd, they don’t last very long. In Jesus’ day, shepherds worked and slept outdoors, moving their flocks to cooler pastures when the sun threatened to kill them from heat exhaustion. They sheltered them in caves to protect them from hyenas and jackals. They remained hyper-vigilant to keep them from falling into ravines and crevasses. It was difficult and relentless work. And here in front of Jesus were people he likened to sheep: dying from the heat exhaustion of Rome’s oppressive taxation and brutality, their souls led astray by hyenas and jackals dressed as false teachers, frequently falling into the ravines and crevasses of tribalism and division, untended to in a valley of fear, shadow, and death.
The need was great, but Jesus was about to lean in.As for the disciples? Not so much. They were tired and also wide-eyed. Because not only do we human quickly forget what God has accomplished in us and through us (think super recent healing/preaching/traveling tour), we also tend to think the problems in front of us are someone else’s to solve.
And that’s a big problem.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:1-4, 6)
- Are you or have you ever been profoundly tired (physically, spiritually, emotionally)?
- How has God been faithful to meet your needs and to also invite you to rest?
- Where do you see great need around you? Where do you see sheep without a shepherd?