This is a copy of a talk I gave a few years ago. The Bible Reading was Mark 6:30-34 & 53-56.
Jesus had sent out the apostles two by two. They preached repentance, they drove out demons, they healed the sick, they spoke about Jesus the Messiah. Here we read how The apostles gathered round Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.
We’re not really told how long this took or how many people they met along the way. But I’m guessing quite a few were curious enough about Jesus to want to go see him for themselves. Perhaps this is why so many people were around when they returned to report back So many people they couldn’t eat. Good problem, right? But interestingly, even with all the opportunities before them, Jesus says “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So, they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. Jesus knew what his disciples needed. They needed a quiet place to rest.
Imagine the alternative. Imagine the disciples serving people faithfully, hour after hour, so that they didn’t have time to eat or rest. How long could they keep that up? Not long. There’s a reason God has given us a cycle of day and night, work, and rest. There’s a reason he commanded us to “Remember the Sabbath day.” Our Shepherd knows that his sheep need regular rest – both physically and spiritually.
When we don’t make time for regular rest, or when our schedule is too busy, what often happens? We focus more and more on just getting things done, trying to check things off our “to-do” list. “I’ve got to do this, then I’ve got to do that…” All our attention goes to what needs to be done and not to why we do it.
This is always a danger in the church and for those in ministry – not just clergy. We risk losing the giving attitude, the joy of service, losing the purpose for the time we have and the gifts we’ve been given. If that happens, we can be guilty, ourselves, of living as sheep without a shepherd.
So, Jesus said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place.” We need to rest with our Shepherd. Our souls need time hearing our Shepherd’s voice:
“I am your shepherd, and you are my sheep. You are mine. I bought you with my own blood. I laid down my life for you. I supply your every need. I am your defence and your protection. You are safe with me. I have set you free from service to sin and made you alive with me that your life would be filled with living service under me and sharing in my kingdom.” He feeds his sheep with his Word, restoring our souls (Psalm 23) that we might truly live for him and find our purpose for each day in him.
We see Jesus’ great shepherding care in vs33-34: But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, he began teaching them many things.
Jesus was moved to compassion when he sees people wandering like sheep without a shepherd. People in Jesus’ day were sadly not being fed with God’s Word in their synagogues. Instead, the message was more about man-made laws and self-righteousness. They were “like sheep without a shepherd.” Many of these people followed Jesus more to see a miracle than to learn from him. But that fact didn’t turn Jesus off them. In fact, like a shepherd would, he was moved to compassion and jumped at the chance to be a true shepherd in their lives.
And what did he to do shepherd them? “He began to teach them many things”! This speaks volumes to how Jesus shepherds us! He does not remove all trials and afflictions from our lives (though he will one day!). He doesn’t shepherd them by healing all their diseases and pains. He doesn’t shepherd them by lavishing upon them whatever they ask for with a magical shepherd’s staff. No – when Jesus had a crowd of sheep without a shepherd, he taught them many things.
Still, doesn’t it sound a little strange that Jesus met their need for a shepherd by teaching them? “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
These are not just words, not mere teaching, but Jesus’ saving Word! This is the voice of your Shepherd as he rescues you! The Word is his shepherd’s rod and staff. This Word is his warning cry and his watchful eye! This Word is his comforting embrace! This Word is his guiding footstep!
Without his Word, we too are like sheep without a shepherd and will not survive. With his Word, we are equipped with all our Shepherd’s benefits, and all his skills at work for us. Memorize your favorite phrases, meditate upon his teachings, his promises, and comforts. Use a daily Bible reading plan. Pray that you may learn your Shepherd’s voice so that he can keep you safe your whole life long.
And, when you are a sheep who is strong in your weaknesses, who rejoices even in unhappy circumstances, when you are certain of forgiveness even though you have sinned, when you trust you are blessed and rich even though you feel poor and empty, give thanks to Jesus!
Our readings today top and tail the feeding of the Five Thousand which comes about in-between Jesus trying to find some peace and quiet!!
Vs53-56. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went – into villages or towns or countryside – they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.
It’s been a busy season at the Galilean seashore. Comings and goings, revival meetings, feedings, exorcisms, and healings of one sort of another. It’s got to the point, in fact, that crowds are forming the moment Jesus gets out of the boat. This is one of the themes of Mark’s story about Jesus: he stands against all that would rob the children of God of the life and abundance God intends for them. That’s part of what the kingdom is: whole-hearted, abundant life, even here and now.
But there’s another element of Mark’s account is a regular, if less obvious, part of the story as well, and it is signaled in the first five words of this passage: “when they had crossed over.”
Jesus, it seems to me, is never content simply to remain where he is. He is always “crossing over” to a new territory. Nor is this simply geographic traversing. He crosses social boundaries as well. Moving from the familiar shores and folks of Capernaum to the foreign lands and people of Garazene and back again, conversing with leader and peasant, man, and woman, alike.
In fact, most of this first part of Mark describes Jesus’ moving between the familiar and expected haunts of a teacher of his stature and the unfamiliar and foreign lands of those who are different – other – than his own people. Jesus and the kingdom he bears will not, even cannot, be contained.
Yet one thing remains constant across his travels: he meets all those in need and restores them, bringing God’s abundance to them wherever they are.
Not a bad example for us to follow in our daily lives.