God’s word for Jan. 30

Good morning from Liverpool, New York! Our reading for this Friday, January 30, 2015

Is Mark 6:30-42.

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.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”


We all acknowledge that we need time to rest. We cannot be our best or do our best when we are not rested. We know that without rest our immune system is weakened and we are susceptible to illness, yet rest is difficult to find. In our culture we are compelled to busyness, much of which is necessary to live and work while some we put upon ourselves. A popular Christian song for 2014 was simply entitled “worn.” I presume its popularity was due not solely to it tune or style, but because of its theme. Most people I converse with express being worn.

Jesus and the disciples were not unacquainted with such pressure. As Jesus’ popularity began to grow with the masses greater numbers followed after Him. Wouldn’t you have become a fan and been curious if you had heard of the controversy surrounding His teaching and Jesus’ reputation for doing the miraculous? Of course you would. Villages would anticipate His arrival and as we read in this incident there was little time or place where Jesus or His disciples could go to find relief from the pressures of the ministry. Even when Jesus attempted to provide some down time for the disciples and Himself the crowds soon found Him. This was the case with the incident of His feeding of the five thousand.

We typically focus our attention on the miraculous provision of the loaves and the fishes with which Jesus fed the crowd, but I would turn your attention to the interruption of the crowd which prevented Jesus and His troupe from getting some rest. Jesus does not complain. When they come He responded which also meant that the disciples also had to jump into action, whatever it was they did when Jesus taught. Maybe it was to mill with the crowd to answer questions and clarify what Jesus was saying. Maybe they simply observed and listened themselves. We do know that Jesus brought them into serving, especially this day when he gave them the task of feeding the crowd.

Now it seems to me that the easier solution was what the disciples suggested that Jesus simply dismiss the crowd to go into the local villages to find sustenance for themselves. Now this was a very compassionate response. They observed the crowds, the time of day, and were sensitive to their need.

Was this so? On the surface it may appear so, but their underlying motivation might have been to get free from the crowd so they could have what they originally expected, some rest. I could suggest that Jesus saw beyond their surface explanation and used the opportunity to teach them to be honest about their intentions. He simply asked them to take responsibility for feeding the multitude.

The disciples made it more complicated than it needed to be. As I have written previously regarding this event, I think we misunderstand the miracle behind the feeding. We naturally assume that Jesus miraculously multiplied the loaves and fishes, something we cannot do no matter how much we pray.

I believe Jesus had compassion on the crowd and matched His teaching on the nature of love to provide the opportunity to tangibly teach the power of love. I have suggested that there were people who came distances who brought with them things to eat for themselves while others may have been lax. By using the generosity of the child that we discover was offered in another account of this incident, and by the prayer of Jesus, moved the crowd to be generous as well, adding what some had to what was first being distributed. The result was everyone had enough.

Many have challenged me with regards to this interpretation. That’s Ok. My take dos not mean I do not believe in the miraculous, but I can see the miraculous when people embrace compassion and generosity toward their neighbor. I think our compassion for the needs for others falls short of what Jesus desires us to have. We may give and feel stressed by the fact we give. We are asked by faith to give and give more to which there seems to be no end to the need. The pressure builds to hidden resentment as we cry out inside to God, “But what about me!” Jesus could have responded that way too as He was attempting to carve out some time for rest for Himself and His crew. No, He couldn’t because He was Jesus. Though He grew tired as we would Jesus was tireless; His compassion for the crowds drove Him and drives those who follow Him.

But what of our need for rest? The answer can be found in the way Jesus provided for the crowds. He helped empower them to provide for themselves and one another. We are not the solution for everyone’s problems, but we can help to organize them and help them provide for one another. True compassion is not simply dismissing the crowd and saying “do it for yourself,” but by embracing the need and the opportunity to contribute to the resolution to their problems and fulfilling the need. By so doing we take responsibility but avoid over involvement which we might call accepting the temptation to micromanaging and placing the stress entirely on our shoulders.

Rest can be found while caring for others by defining how much we accept upon ourselves. Jesus taught and modeled by example, yet Jesus gave opportunity for others to join in caring for themselves and others; He did not do it on His own. Any other approach will result in our becoming frustrated, worn and leaving only room for a miracle to resolve matters, when serving can become a joy when others are taught how to find solutions. After all, we are not everyone’s savior. There is one Savior and that is Jesus. When we accept the role of being savior we will burn out and justify abandoning compassion or limiting involvement because of the insurmountable need. We release the pressure upon ourselves when we trust others to help themselves by involving them in finding compassionate solutions. Jesus blessed what He had available and gave the opportunity to those being served to join the miracle of loving one another. The result was certainly a miracle and resulted in provision and joy for all involved.

Blessings!  Dr. Brian Homan