“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them… And when it grew late, His disciples came to Him and said, ‘This is a desolate place and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.'” Mark 6:30-33, 35-36 (ESV)
The disciples had just come back from the ministry Jesus had sent them on. They had been preaching to people about repentance, casting out demons and healing the sick. They came back and they were tired so Jesus took them away to a desolate place so that they could rest and eat, and probably so that they could talk to Jesus in peace because that was impossible with all the people coming and going. So they left. But the crowds followed them and actually went ahead of them so that they were already there when Jesus and his disciples returned. We find out later that there were at least 5,000 men (so there were women and children not counted in that number). Jesus had compassion and taught them but it grew late and they were in a desolate place so the disciples came and ask Jesus to send the crowds away. At this point Jesus does his miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish.
Reading this story the other day, I realised how much I sympathise with the disciples. I know sometimes I react with “Can’t we just send them away”. I think this more than I actually say it but it’s still just as bad. There have been times when I’ve had a long week and I just want to talk to a few of my friends and get their encouragement but other people come and join in and want to share the company; can we send them away please? I want to sit by myself and eat but Boy wants to tell me about his day; oh can’t I just send him away? Or what if I just left, I’ll just leave and hope they don’t follow; can I do that?
The person who I don’t behave like in this story is Jesus: “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34 ESV). I don’t see my friends as being like sheep without a shepherd, but sometimes they want to talk to me at “inopportune” moments (well inopportune for me, not for them or God). I really don’t feel like it and sometimes I even act on that selfishness by asking if it can wait (Oops, not really denying myself there am I?). I certainly love myself more than I love my neighbor at that point.
So now I’m working on it. Sure I still find “Can’t we just send them away?” creeping into my thoughts but I am trying to remind myself to dismiss that thought and show them love. I try remind myself of that old saying “What Would Jesus Do?” because He certainly never dismissed them or thought of his own needs first but instead welcomed them and fed them, poured into their lives and denied Himself.