“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 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. 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 6:30-34
As mentioned on Sunday, Mark has created one of his trademark narrative sandwiches. In between the disciples’ departure and their return, he revisits the unfortunate narrative of John the Baptist’s execution by Herod. It would be so much more fun to read about the disciples’ accounts of their first missionary journeys; however, Mark leaves us wondering exactly what happened and how the men felt about it. We only know that they followed their instructions to proclaim the kingdom, heal the sick, and cast out demons. We also know that they did all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ. The twelve were just ordinary men before they met Jesus. Nothing had changed except for the power and authority he had entrusted to them. It was his name that inspired awe and reverence, not theirs.
Though surely exhilarated as they returned from their journey, the disciples were also exhausted. For the second time, Mark tells us that the demands on Jesus and his disciples were so great the men did not even have time to eat (See Mark 3:20). And so, Jesus called them to join him for a time of rest and restoration. How do fishermen get away? They jump into a boat and head out for a desolate location. The only problem was Jesus was quite the prominent figure at that time. Much like our celebrities today, someone was always watching him and reporting his whereabouts to others. By the time their boat reached the shore, a multitude had already gathered in anticipation of their arrival. Rest and renewal would have to wait.
We do not know how the disciples responded to the crowd, but we do know how Jesus responded. He looked upon the people and was moved by compassion for them. Using imagery that was familiar to the nation of Israel, Mark writes that Jesus saw them as sheep without a shepherd. No one was caring for these people; no one was faithfully teaching them the ways of the Lord; no one was showing them God’s heart of love and compassion. No one, that is, except Jesus. He was the embodiment of God’s love, presence, and power. Instead of satisfying his own need for respite, Jesus attended to the needs of the crowd.
There is a common phrase in ministry that says, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Often Christians are encouraged to show the love of God through service, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for those who have been afflicted. Acting as the hands of Jesus is incredibly important and plays a major role in building the kingdom of God. However, Jesus also demonstrated his compassion by teaching the people. He taught them the truth of God’s word, as well as how to live as the Lord’s disciples and faithful children. Jesus did not just feed, heal and drive out demons; he taught about the kingdom of God and what it meant to be part of that kingdom. Jesus used his words and his actions to proclaim the Gospel and calls us to do the same.
The Lord longs to see his people shepherded in the ways of God, faithfulness, and truth. Do we recognize how important the teaching ministry of Jesus was and is? Do we position ourselves to learn continuously from those God has appointed? Do we strive to understand and faithfully share the Scriptures?
May we receive the teaching of God’s Word and then may we faithfully teach those whom God brings to us.
Reflect and Respond:
How might the Lord want to grow you in your faith through a teaching ministry? Are you committed to continually learning the truth of God?
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the Living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
Comments will be approved before showing up.