Gospel: Mark 6:30-34
Epistle: Ephesians 2:13-22
Lesson: Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm: Psalm 23
CLB Commentary – Dr. David Veum
(Originally published in 2012)
Jesus invites his dog-tired disciples to come to a quiet place and rest. They were tired because they had:
- Just completed a very successful mission (6:7-13) preaching repentance, casting out demons, and healing the sick;
- Received word of John the Baptist’s martyrdom (6:14-29), a harsh lesson regarding the opposition faced by the followers of Christ;
- Been so busy with the immediate demands of ministry when back at headquarters that they had no time to eat.
Our Lord’s concern was not just for physical rest, but that they would be refreshed, i.e., restored. (See the pattern for the refreshing effect of Sabbath rest in Exodus 31:17 – see ESV or NASB translation – where it is recorded that God rested on the Seventh Day and was refreshed).
But rest seemed impossible. The crowds were waiting for them. Jesus begins to teach. There seems to be no resolution.
The resolution, the gospel, for these dog-tired disciples resides in the description of Jesus. He was moved with compassion—Robertson Mcquilkin translated σπλαγχνιζομαι “His stomach got all tied up in knots”—because he saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. Jesus Christ is the great Shepherd who will “tend (feed) them and be their shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:23).
The disciples needed to rest and to learn of their need for rest. Jesus, their Shepherd, gives the rest they need.
As this pericope continues in verse 35 to the feeding miracle, the disciples, still badly in need of rest, are faced with the impossible task of feeding the massive crowd. Jesus intervenes and miraculously multiplies the loaves and fish. There are twelve baskets left, one for each of the disciples.
But they quickly forget. Still in need of rest Jesus sends his disciples by boat back to Bethsaida. As they are rowing into the wind Jesus comes to them on the water. “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Still they are amazed. Mark comments, “They had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” And they won’t understand until the crucifixion and the resurrection. Only then will they truly receive the rest they need.