Expectations are a powerful thing. A plan is made . . . an outcome is envisioned . . . anticipation mounts. But what happens when expectation is not realized . . . disappointment, big time disappointment. I know how sour I can turn when something I’ve been looking forward to doesn’t materialize . . . how crabby I can become when things don’t happen the way I thought they would. I wonder if that’s how the disciples were feeling when they told Jesus, “Send them away!”
The disciples were learning a ton at the foot of the Master . . . including the rigors of ministry. Jesus had sent them out in pairs (Mark 6:7) . . . He had given them the message . . . He had given them the authority . . . He told them to take nothing else. “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them” (6:13) . . . emphasis on “many”. They worked hard . . . and in some places the message was received . . . in others, they were rejected. Demanding ministry . . . both physically . . . and emotionally.
Jesus understood. When they returned to Him and “told Him all that they had done and taught”, Jesus tells them it’s time for some R & R . . . they needed some downtime . . . ” ‘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” (6:30-31).
Yes! Disciples retreat! Who’s in?!? Get-away time . . . lose the crowds . . . hang out with the Master. And I imagine the expectation swelling as they get into the boat . . . and head to a desolate place . . . by themselves (6:32). Gonna sleep in . . . eat . . . enjoy some quiet time . . . eat . . . maybe throw around a ball or read a book . . . eat . . . hang out with Jesus . . . did I mention, eat? The plan had been made . . . the anticipation mounted . . . and then, guess who shows up!
Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:33-34 ESV)
They get to Camp Retreats-R-Us and instead of finding quiet, open spaces there is “a great crowd” . . . “great” not as in “awesome” . . . “great” as in “many” . . . “too many” . . . as in more work . . . as in there goes the “me time”. Maybe I’m being harsh on the disciples . . . if so, it’s because I’m viewing them through my own filter . . . how I think I might react. Are you picking up how I’d feel? Give you hint . . . it starts with “b” . . . ends with “ummed”. And that’s why I wonder if, when it grew late, the disciples weren’t quick to suggest to Jesus to send them away because they wanted to salvage something of their vacation.
But, while Jesus knew how much the disciples needed to rest . . . He also knew they needed to refocus. The disciples looked at the crowd and they, perhaps, felt disappointment. Jesus looked at the multitude of people and He was gripped with compassion. The disciples looked into the sea of faces and their hearts sank as they saw their plans go up in smoke . . . as they saw their alone time with Jesus get squeezed out. Jesus looked upon the same crowd and He saw sheep with out a shepherd . . . a hungry flock in need of someone to lead them to lush pastures where they could feed on the bread of heaven.
Maybe the disciples didn’t react how I imagine at all . . . but it’s enough knowing that I might. And so, I’m thinking I need to hold loose to expectations and, by the grace of God, get a grip on the heart of Jesus.
Whether I’m enjoying some down time . . . or pressing on to faithfully discharge that which He’s asked me to do . . . might just being with Him, be enough.
And they all ate and were satisfied. (Mark 6:42 ESV)