So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When He disembarked and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
The Apostles had gone out as directed by Jesus. In faithfulness to Him they preached the gospel and healed the sick. They had returned to Jesus to report all that they had done. They filled Jesus in. Certainly they were both excited and exhausted. As a good spiritual leader would do to this very day, Jesus invites them to come away to a quiet place where they can pray and rest. Here’s where Jesus experiences the full brunt of His humanity. He could not get away. People kept coming in need of His teaching and healing. They were hungry for God’s word, something the leaders of the day could not provide. Jesus and His Apostles were so engaged that they couldn’t even eat.
Finally, there was opportunity – they could get to their boat and could head off to a quiet, deserted, peaceful place. Those moments of prayer and rest were at hand. The best laid plans… they arrive and waiting for them is an even larger throng of people.
We know Jesus’ reaction: His heart was moved with pity for them… and He began to teach them many things. We might wonder if the Apostles reacted in the same way? We know what it is like; can place ourselves in the situation. They were expecting alone time with Jesus – rest and prayer. We can easily understand their frustration, they might even have been angry.
Jesus’ actions are our first challenge. How do we react when confronted by the unexpected, when our personal wants, desires, and expectations are frustrated, when God’s way counters against what we want? Do we follow Him?
This is a very pertinent question in today’s world. We are called to act as Jesus would act. His actions and words, God’s way of life naturally fits with proper human desires. Seeing a mass of people in need we naturally want to help – at least deep inside. Yet selfishness gets in the way. Our battle is to overcome personal selfishness, having things our way, and in the process conforming ourselves to His way.
It comes down to how we react to challenge. Our Facebook friends tell us – this is the way the world should be. Our colleagues at work say – don’t bother. Politicians demonize anyone who disagrees. Our gut check is Jesus’ way as given us by Scripture, Church teaching, and Tradition. Acting in accord with Him we meet the challenge.