Gospel: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 30The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As he 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.
53When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Did you notice that today’s Gospel reading has a big gap in it? It skips nearly 20 verses between 34 and 53. Are you curious about what happens there?
Actually, it’s a good idea to review what happened before as well. Mark is the shortest Gospel in our Bibles, and can be read all in one sitting. However, that can’t happen in the one hour we have for worship on Sunday mornings!
To review. Two Sundays ago, we heard that Jesus sent his disciples out two by two to share the Gospel in many ways. Last week, we heard Herod’s reaction as he assumed Jesus, the one who had sent out all those preachers, might be John the Baptizer raised from the dead. Today, we heard how all those who had been sent out now have returned, sharing with Jesus their experiences on the road. Jesus’ response is to urge the disciples now to get away from the crowds, to rest.
While they go in a boat to a deserted place, however, the crowds anticipate their destination and get there ahead of them, and Jesus has compassion for them, because he sees them as sheep without a shepherd, and he teaches them many things.
Then comes the gap in our reading. Two separate things happen in that gap.
First of all, it gets late, and the disciples urge Jesus to send the people away so that they can find and buy food for themselves. Instead, Jesus tells them to give the crowds food from what they have, which is only five loaves of bread, and two fish. After everyone in the crowds had eaten their fill, the disciples gather twelve baskets of leftovers.
The second thing that happens in the gap is that Jesus orders the disciples to take the boat over to the other side of the sea while he dismisses the crowds. They go, the crowds leave, and Jesus stops to pray. Early the next morning, Jesus sees that the boat trip was not going well, because the wind was against the disciples. Jesus walks across the water, intending to pass them by, but they see him and cry out in fear. He reassures them and boards the boat, at which point the winds stop, allowing them to finish their crossing to the other side more easily.
Then we get to the last portion of today’s reading, when they get out of the boat at Gennesaret and people rush to bring everyone who needs healing.
So, I titled today’s message, “Sabbath.” I did that because of Jesus’ words to the disciples who had returned from their missionary journeys. He ordered them to come away from the crowds to rest.
The word used for rest here is not the same as the word for sabbath, though the word for sabbath also means rest.
It is possible that the disciples were able to rest while Jesus taught. They weren’t exactly resting while they distributed their food to the crowds and picked up the leftovers. They probably could not rest at all on the boat with the winds against them. Maybe they could rest again while the crowds clamored around Jesus for healing when they landed again at Gennesaret.
Summer is often seen as a time of rest. Maybe it’s from the years we spent in school with summers off—even though many had work to do in the summer. Usually, though, there was work to do in the winter, too, and summer left more time for rest and play.
I’m wondering if that’s changed. I’m wondering if we’ve begun filling our summers with too many things so that they are no longer as restful as they could be. We schedule… maybe we overschedule!
My two weeks of vacation were not quite as restful as I had planned. I wanted to spend a week of it in rather rustic camping, but circumstances negated that!
Jesus says, “Come away and rest.” How do we do that?
In this country, we’ve built up a culture of work, with many people blaming others they believe don’t work enough. The standard people quote all the time is a 40-hour work week, but that isn’t enough for salaried people. Salaried people are often expected to be working at least 50 and often sixty hours a week. Then again, if you work in a lower-paying job, you might work more hours than that to make up the difference, and then when do you sleep? When do you play?
In ancient Israel, they used the law to require everyone to have a full day of rest every week. They called it Sabbath. They made all kinds of restrictions as to what constitutes work and what doesn’t. Jesus came along and said you’re missing the point. You still need to haul your cow out of the pit if it falls in on the Sabbath. You still need to care for a sick child. You need to eat and you need to sleep. You also need to rest.
Rest might include sleep, but it’s more than that. It might include playing a game, but it can’t be only that, either. It’s time for relaxation, rejuvenation, re-creation (or recreation, if you want to pronounce it that way).
The ancient Sabbath laws were based on one of the creation stories, the one ordered by six days of creation with a seventh day of rest. What happened on that Seventh Day? We’re told God rested. We’re not told how God rested. Maybe by playing with the cows or the otters… maybe with the people… maybe with the clouds and the mountains…
Today, I extend Jesus’ words to you. “Come away and rest for a while.” I’m hoping this time on Sunday mornings here at Concordia can be a part of your time of rest. I’m hoping this time will give you energy for the more strenuous portions of your life. I hope that here you hear Jesus, and receive his gifts for you. In Jesus’ name. Amen