(for the Eighth Sunday After Pentecost, July 19, 2015)
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves 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 deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things…
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:30-34 & 53-56, NRSV).
Even Jesus needed to fight to find leisure. Perhaps especially at this stage of his mission.
The twelve, now designated apostles, recently proclaimed the gospel in the surrounding Jewish villages. Their strategy: ‘…they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.’
Their mission bears all the hallmarks of Jesus’.
It must have been a heady experience. Mark tells us very little of the apostle’s mission. Just the above summary statement and then they gather and tell Jesus ‘…all they had done and taught.’
Jesus’ response to all this is a time of refreshing solitude. His stated, but ultimately unsuccessful, goal is to take them to a deserted place for both ‘rest’ and ‘leisure’. Jesus is seeking somewhere where the crowds are not.
Climbing into a boat, however, Jesus and the apostles are easily recognised. It causes a flurry of excitement and hope. People run from their towns in pursuit of the boat. They are found waiting for Jesus in the wilderness.
Frustration could easily have been the master’s response. After all, this trip was specifically made to avoid the crowds.
Upon seeing the gathered multitudes, however, Jesus is overwhelmed. Not with anger, however. He is overcome by ‘compassion’. The word translated here implies a gut response. They remind him of shepherd-less sheep: vulnerable and seeking guidance. Put these two thoughts together and Jesus is moved to the core by their lostness.
And so Jesus, again, teaches them.
Between this arrival and the arrival in Genessaret sits the feeding of the five-thousand and Jesus walking on the water to the terrified storm-harassed disciples. Jesus seems to have spent the night in prayer. It is as close to rest as he comes.
And Genessaret is little better.
In this gentile region a strangely similar story unfolds. Again recognition of Jesus causes another rush. The sick are brought. Mass healing takes place. Once again Jesus found time.
Substantial time. Israel’s Messiah is found in gentile ‘villages’, ‘cities’, ‘farms’, and ‘market-places’. It is quite the extended tour.
And everywhere he went echoes of the mission to Israel are heard: faith, healing, miracle. Gracious and compassionate healing. The kingdom of God has come even here.
Jesus’ mission is flowing into all the world!