Mark 6:30-43, John 6:3-14, Jesus’ Compassion
The disciples had just returned from their ‘internship’ and had told Jesus about their experiences. Jesus had just completed a grueling schedule of teaching and healing. Yet they jumped back into their ministry to the people so much that they did not even have time to eat. They headed out to get away from the pressure, but as often happens; things did not work out as planned. Whether in full-time ministry, or serving the Lord through other occupations, we need wisdom about how to meet our own needs and desires. Three statements that Jesus made might give us help for our lives.
And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31a
They were all tired, and Jesus suggested they go away by themselves and rest. What they did reveals Jesus’ humanity as well as his deity. It is good to plan for some R & R when it is needed. We do need to balance the obligations of ministry as well as our personal needs and those of our families. A long and fruitful ministry requires an understanding of our physical limits. If we want to keep our families intact, we must pay attention to our spouses and children. They deserve our love and service as well as anyone else. Well-timed vacations and time-off are not a waste of time. However, rest and recuperation are not an entitlement in ministry, and our plans are not sacred. Though he wanted to take a break with his disciples, Jesus had compassion on the crowds that interrupted their plans. He realized they were starving spiritually. However, he also had compassion on the disciples who needed to understand that R&R could come in many different ways.
“You give them something to eat.” Mark 6:37
It was late and the crowd was hungry. The disciples had a plan: send them home! They were ready to quit. Jesus knew, and they knew, that this was impractical. It was a large crowd who was far enough away from the nearest town that they would not be able to simply go and buy food. Sometimes we must take responsibility for things we did not cause. Sometimes Christ-followers are called upon to do the impossible. I will be the first to say that God does not always shower us with miraculous gifts of wisdom, food, or money to solve a problem. I will also testify that he often does help us in miraculous ways. He may not give us exactly what we ask, but we will find that trust and faith, combined with doing what is right, will usually help us resolve a problem that we thought was impossible.
And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Mark 6:39.
Jesus knew exactly how much food there was. But he told the disciples to do their homework, to investigate, to get out among the people and check out the situation. We need to ‘rub elbows’ with the people and have personal contact with those who are involved in the situation. We need to investigate to make sure we know the facts in order to know that the next steps are. Jesus’ command to the disciples to feed the people and to check out the situation forced them to see exactly what they were up against. It also gave them an opportunity to know what they had to work with. No one could walk away from that meal and say that there was food there all along. God’s miraculous work is truly revealed when we understand what the true need is. Then we know what we can do, and what we cannot do.
The disciples gave Jesus what they had, and Jesus gave them what he had. The people saw that Jesus was not just any man. John writes, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” (John 6:14). They wanted him for their king!
What Jesus’ followers know is that Jesus is the one who sustains. His compassion for us and through us can feed a starving world. Whether it is physical needs or spiritual needs, he is the one who provides. However, God chooses to be in partnership with us. He works through multifaceted ministries around the world. As we rest in him, he feeds us with the peace and the strength we need to use the abilities he has given us. We should be among the people. We have the Gospel and we can offer what will sustain us for life on this earth and for eternity. Check it out and see what God wants you to do. Through it all, you can rest in him.