For the last few months I've been spending time reading the Gospels. I'll give you a quick snapshot of how my time in the Word works. I choose a book to focus on and then I make why way through it reading anywhere from a few verses to a handful of chapters at a time. I begin each "session" by journaling, then I switch to reading, and then I alternate between reading, copying down key verses, making notes, and praying until I'm out of time. This usually goes on for about an hour or so.
About a week ago, I made it to Mark 6. Mark is the third gospel that I've read in the last few months, so the details of many of the stories are starting to become familiar. I've noticed that this has freed me up to focus less on the WHAT and more on the WHY of each one. When I came to Mark 6, I read about Jesus being rejected in His hometown, Jesus sending the disciples out with the clothes on their back and a staff to call anyone who was willing to listen into repentance, and then I read about the death of John the Baptist. I reached the end of verse 29 feeling the weight of the faith that these men must have had and the heaviness that must have settled onto their shoulders as they faced each of these events.
Then, in verse 31, Jesus tells them it's time to follow His lead. He says to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while." The verses that follow tell us that they got into a boat and headed to such a place. I was marveling at this Scripture and wondering how I had missed it during the countless times I've read this book. I've studied Jesus's habit of going away by Himself to pray over and over again. I've tried to figure out how how He knew it was time and just exactly what He did while He was away. I've tried to imitate Him and cling to the Father the way that He did...Here, in Mark 6, Jesus was teaching His disciples to do the thing that I'm convinced sustained Him during His time on earth. So, I'm reading along and thanking God for finally showing me this. I'm copying down the verses and settling in to read what comes next.
Maybe you already know what comes next or maybe you've disconnected these accounts the way that I have. I'm sorry to admit that it's highly likely that I skimmed over verses 30-33 during my previous encounters with this chapter.
Jesus recognized that the disciples needed rest. He tells them to go away to a desolate place to rest for a while. They obey. They get in a boat and head out. A lot has been going on. Some of the most trying days of their early ministry have happened. They are tired and hungry and they must be looking forward to this rest. Then, comes verse 34. They make it to shore and a crowd had figured out where they were going and was gathered together waiting for them. Jesus gets out of the boat and begins to teach them. Get this. Jesus tells the disciples to rest and they are interrupted. The crowd stays gathered. The teaching goes on and on. It grows late. The men who were tired and hungry are more tired and more hungry and the desolate place Jesus told them to find would be the very place they are in except that all these people won't go away. The disciples ask Jesus to send the crowd away to find food for themselves so that the disciples can get to this "rest" they came to this place to find.
What's about to happen is the account of the time five loaves of bread and two fish fed 5,000 men until they were satisfied. Get this. The story they taught you about in Sunday school every year happened because people who were seeking rest in a desolate place were interrupted. I'm still going over all of the implications of this story. The fact that Jesus knew exactly what they were going to find when they reached that desolate place is weighing on my mind. The emotions the disciples must have been feeling are the ones I find myself relating to. The point of the whole encounter is something I do not want to miss.
And since this post is long enough already, I'm going to leave you hanging. We'll pick up part two next week. Until then, I'd love to hear about what you're reading and what God has been teaching you through it!