Let’s chat about this week’s lectionary reading today! It’s from Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 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.
53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, 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 it were healed.
We pick up here right after Jesus has sent the disciples out two by two into the neighboring towns to preach, plus a little aside about John the Baptist’s beheading. Verse 30 is apparently where the disciples have reconvened to tell Jesus about how things went in the neighboring towns.
But there’s a problem. There are so many people coming and going that they can’t really talk, let alone eat, without interruptions, so Jesus suggests they “come with [Him] by [them]selves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
I love that Jesus acknowledges the fact that these guys are likely super tired from their travels and preaching and wants them to rest. There’s a time for preaching and hard work and there’s also a time for rest.
But then there’s ANOTHER interruption. People on the shore are following them along the shoreline while they’re trying to go get some R&R. I’d be frustrated in that sort of situation, but Jesus doesn’t react the same way. In fact, he has compassion on them.
Next, we get the story of the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water, but interestingly this week’s lectionary reading doesn’t include those bits. Instead, we see that Jesus again tries to get away from the crowds, but they continue to seek him out wherever he goes. So much for incognito Jesus!
Jesus has become famous. He can’t go anywhere without being recognized. Though many are wackadoodles, I do feel bad for celebrities and politicians and other people who are in the public eye because they don’t have the luxury of privacy anymore. It must have been exhausting for Jesus to have crowds following him all the time, with very needy people – some who had been sick for a long time – begging for healing and aid. People invading His personal space, touching His clothes, placing sick people in His way.
But Jesus demonstrates His God-ness again as He teaches and heals them. What a loving and patient Savior we have!
The next section talks about the Pharisees and their complaint that Jesus’ disciples don’t wash their hands properly, but that’s a story for another day.
I think the lectionary skips over the miracles of the feeding of the 5000 and walking on water to show us what is going on politically leading up to Jesus’ arrest, sham trial, and crucifixion. Jesus can’t be ignored anymore. The simple fact of his existence requires us to choose. Is He savior, healer, and worthy of following as our shepherd or a rabble-rousing lunatic? There is no middle ground.