Mark 6:30-34 | 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
No One Way
I have never really paid attention to this preamble to Mark’s Feeding of the 5,000. Now I understand why the disciples were frustrated and wanted to send the people away to eat after Jesus taught on the mountain.
As we saw last week, the disciples had been sent out two-by-two for their first on-their-own missionary journey. They had all just returned and Jesus had called them together to debrief and rest. They jumped in a boat with Him, thinking they were going to escape the crowds that swirled around Him and have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences, get His perspective and advice on what they had just accomplished. But no such luck. The crowds followed them, and Jesus’s “heart was filled with pity for them…and he began to teach them many things” (v. 34).
Jesus promised the disciples, His closest friends, a chance to rest after an arduous and exciting journey, one they undertook at His behest. Then He took that opportunity away from them when He felt pity for the crowds. I bet the disciples were thinking, “What about us? Feel a little pity for us!”
How often have I felt that? “Wait! What about me? I’m trying to do what You want!”
I also find these four verses interesting because so much of the gospels encourage us to take time out to reflect and to spend quiet time with God. But here, it seems Jesus turns that message inside out—He lets go of reflection time with there are other needs. But aren’t there always other needs, other pressing important issues?
So what is the point of this passage? Possibly, Mark wanted to show that there is not one way to be holy. There is no question that reflection time, time alone with God, is important. Jesus took it regularly as is evident in all four gospels. Sometimes He even took it when people were right there begging for His help. But not this time. This time, something about these people called to Him on another level. And He gave up His promised reflection time with the disciples to be with the people. This time, for some reason, Jesus focused on the needs of the people over time away with God.
Maybe it was because He was teaching over healing. With teaching, he could help great numbers of people simultaneously. Maybe it was because He knew the people had journeyed a long way through difficult terrain to get to Him. But maybe there was some other reason altogether. This is Jesus; we don’t understand everything He did and does! Maybe that’s Mark’s point, that there’s a time and a season for every way of doing God’s will, of being holy, and it’s not up to us to decide which way gets the merit. I still feel for the disciples, just as I sometimes feel sorry for myself too! But I know on this side of heaven I will never fully understand. I can only try to follow God’s lead.