A reflection on the readings for Proper 11: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 by the Rev. Kate Hennessy-Keimig
It’s easy to imagine the scene. Simon and his brother Andrew, James and John, Philip, Nathaniel and Matthew, Thomas and the rest of them all gathering around Jesus. They are fresh from their mission trip; all talking a mile a minute and gesturing wildly, each wanting to be heard, each wanting the beloved rabbi to know that he had been out there teaching and preaching and healing. Perhaps wanting some praise for a good job done, or just to let Jesus know that he had indeed gotten it, that he was a good and accomplished disciple.
And all around them are the people, coming and going, people who are pressing in on every side, people making demands. There was not even time to eat! Jesus invites them to take a break with him, and they get into the boat to go in search of some peace and quiet. But of course, the people “recognized him,” got to other side of the lake before they did, and instead of a peaceful deserted retreat, Jesus and the disciples are met by the crowd full of need.
Mark says the people were like sheep without a shepherd. These people were wandering, looking for something, looking for someone. They had been failed by those in whom they had put their trust. They have been at the mercy of poor shepherding for a long time with a series of harsh and unjust leaders. The people recognized something different in Jesus and came to him came to him believing that if they just touched the fringe of his cloak they knew they would find healing. Those sheep had found their shepherd and they gathered gratefully close around him, sure and certain that what they needed would be found in him. Mark says he had compassion for them. Compassion -- empathy, mercy, love and concern all in one package. No wonder they were drawn to him!
We are told that the people in the crowd “immediately recognized” Jesus. We can’t help but wonder how. Surely not the way we would recognize him, from having seen his picture on the evening news, or having him be our friend on Facebook! They knew him by who he was, by what he did, by how he lived. His life was the most consistent expression ever of loving relationship with God. To know Jesus was to know God. The constancy of Jesus’ compassion and love revealed his kinship with and dependency on God. He knew God’s love in every fiber of his being and his every action manifested it.
As we run around in our busy lives, out there on our mission trips, working hard at meeting the world’s needs, struggling to find the leisure to rest or eat, perhaps it’s good for us to remember that there is more to our story, too, and to rest in the faith that we too are part of God, loved by God and to be God to each other by the way we live every day.