- Jeremiah 23:1-6
- Psalm 23
- Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Let’s set the scene in our Gospel Lesson. Jesus has been traveling around the Galilean countryside. He has healed many at Peter’s home, a man with an unclean spirit, a person with paralysis, a man with a withered hand, a leper. Jesus has preached to, as Mark puts it, a considerable crowd in Capernaum and several “crowds of multitudes along the Sea of Galilee. He has stilled a storm at sea and healed the Gerasene Demoniac, healed a woman with a hemorrhage without intending to, and brought a young girl back to life. Back in his hometown of Nazareth, they took offense at his teaching. And worst of all, John the Baptist has just been beheaded in jail, and his disciples have laid his body in a tomb.
It’s time for a break, don’t you think. So, Jesus says to them: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” In other words, I need a vacation! Let’s get in the boat and get out of here.
But what does he find: a mob that wants his attention. As they traveled by boat to get away from it all, the crowds had hurried ahead of them to meet them. He just can’t get away! Our Gospel text for today says: “As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.
It is Jesus’ compassion that most catches my eye. At the beginning of this passage, the key phrase is “Let us go to a place by ourselves?” What do they find? A hill full of people! My reaction would be to get back in the boat. Not Jesus.
Before we dig in any further here, let me say that this is not an invitation for giving up your much-needed vacation. This is not a reason to bring your cell phone and computer with you on a trip to the beach. Self-care and sabbath time are essential things; Jesus does teach us that as well. But what does impress me here is the compassion that fills Jesus’ heart.
How often do we see somebody needing care as an intrusion on our time and energy? It happens a lot, I know. But that is what makes Jesus’ response so amazing. Instead of storming off, leaving folks to fend for themselves, he looks at them with a heart of compassion.
True mission begins with our hearts being broken for the needs of others. Just about any other motivation is self-serving and certainly will not survive the test of hardship. When we hurt for another and have compassion for them, we are more likely to give our time, our energy, and our very lives to help. We will also do so with less of a chance of burning out.
Look at the world around you today. Where does your heart break? Where does your compassion call you to serve others?