Here are the verses that I want to highlight first to show you the parts I found myself pulling together:
Verse 1 "...and His disciples followed Him."
Verse 7 "And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and have them power over unclean spirits."
Verses 30 – 32 "Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, 'Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.' For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves."
Verses 35 - 37 "When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, 'This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.' But He answered and said to them, 'You give them something to eat.' And they said to Him, 'Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?'”
Verses 51 – 52 “And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”
When looking at these verses out of context it is not as easy to see how they all relate, but here is the filler in between each of these verses that I hope will give you a bigger perspective as to the picture Mark was painting through his words in this chapter.
When the chapter opens, Jesus is coming back to His hometown and His disciples have followed Him (Verse 1) there, but upon His arrival He does not get the large reception that He has received in all of the other villages He has entered – people are so skeptical of Him they actually limit the ability of the Holy Spirit to heal so “He could do not mighty work there, except He laid His hands on a few sick people”. (Verse 5)
I am not sure what compelled Jesus to stay in His hometown or what even drove Him to go there, but stay He did and from there He sent out His disciples (Verse 7) on their first missionary journeys.
After a good time had passed and John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod, the disciples returned to Jesus. But Jesus was no longer in Nazareth. The reason I can say this is because in the upcoming verses, Mark proceeds to talk about how Jesus and His disciples “departed to a deserted place in the boat” (Verse 32) and Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, is not near any body of water. Therefore we have to assume that Jesus and His disciples gathered back together near one of the many places where Jesus had been before near the Sea of Galilee.
From the text, we get a good understanding of how excited and yet tired the disciples were from the ministry work they had just accomplished. Jesus even goes as far as saying to all of them that they needed to draw themselves away from the people and rest (Verses 30 – 32). But that rest was illusive as the needs of the crowd, that then surrounds Jesus and His disciples, sought Jesus out for instruction “like sheep not having a shepherd” (Verse 34).
At the end of the day, the disciples could not stand trying to uphold their own weary lives any more, so they came to Jesus and told Him that they wanted to make the ground they were standing on a deserted place, basically they wanted to get rid of the crowds due to their own weariness. Their excuse in making this request was that the day was pretty much over and the people seemed to be getting hungry (Verses 35 – 36).
But Jesus dis not give into the shallow, self-pleasing request from His disciples, and instead He said to them “You give them something to eat.” (Verse 37)
As always the disciples did not understand the connection between what Jesus was trying to teach them and the situation at hand. Instead they just saw a problem that was too big for them to solve. (Remember the devotional I wrote recently on this same chapter about how Jesus multiples what we give Him?) So, Jesus in His compassion, not only for the people who had gathered to hear Him teach that day, but also towards His disciples, multiplied the food the disciples could scrounge up to the point all the people were filled and there were leftovers to boot (Verses 42-44).
Now, as Jesus then sent His disciples out to sea in a boat before Him, in the back of their minds they were probably thinking, “Finally! Some rest is coming for us.” But, instead of resting in the boat they were left to do some strenuous rowing “for the wind was against them.” (Verse 48) In the meantime, while the disciples had been straining against the waves and seeking that illusive rest they were looking for, Jesus had received all the rest He needed as He spent time with His Father in prayer on the mountain (Verse 46). We have to only assume that Jesus had been just as much spent in His own ministry while the disciples were away and also we know from other gospel accounts that the news of John the Baptist's death proceeding this event had been very troubling to Him.
The scene in Mark 6 comes to a conclusion when Jesus starts walking on the water across the sea so He can meet His disciples on the other side, but He reveals Himself to them during His walk. What the disciples see at that moment Jesus does reveal a shadow on Himself to them, makes them “troubled” (Verse 49 and 50). But instead of leaving the disciples to their own fears and devices in trying to find rest apart from Him, He instead has compassion on them as He did the crowd earlier that day (Verse 34). He calms the wind and speaks to them and show them that the deserted place they had been seeking to find all day had been right before them, not a destination per se, but rather a place of the heart. In seeking what they thought they were looking for, the disciples missed what they really needed – time to sit at Jesus' feet and learn again, just like the rest of the crowd who had come seeking Jesus that day. Instead though, the disciples had hardened their hearts (Verse 52), they had elevated themselves beyond the people on the grass, and were unwilling to see what they really needed – what Jesus had set right before their eyes.
What about you? Do you tend to find yourself in that place, a place where ministering to others has left you tired and looking for a “deserted place” to steal away for just a few minutes to yourself? I went away this past week-end to a women's retreat, and found myself ministering even more to the hurting and those in need of wise counsel in what God has shown me and taught me over the years, than what I do on a daily basis at home. But, unlike in years past when I have gone away to seek rest for my soul, this year I felt refreshed in my arrival because my time with the Lord had not been a well unfrequented for refreshment as it has been in many years past. I cannot judge the disciples in their needy state though, because I too have been in a place where I have looked beyond Jesus for a means to escape the crowds and get away from it all so I could find rest in the way I wanted to find it and to filled the void that had been left by not drawing from His living water on a consistent basis.
Jesus alone, when we draw near to Him, gives rest to our weary hearts and provides all that we need to be refreshed from the ministry we dedicate ourselves to. And, Jesus also provides refreshment for all future ministry that He knows He will call us to in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. We can't spend our time looking for “deserted places” that will never bring us the real and perfect rest we are looking for because we are called to redeem every single moment we are given in our short lives here on this earth (Ephesians 5:15). Drawing near to Jesus as a habit every day, spending time in prayer and in His Word, fellowshipping with Him during the ups and downs that each day brings, and bringing all things under His authority in our lives is the only way we will ever find the consistent and necessary rest we need to keep going and not grow weary.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9
Losing heart can be defined as having a heart that becomes hardened and calloused towards the work God is doing around us. I am sure that this type of heart is not what you desire to have if your first desire is to please the Lord and live your life for Him. Choose then today to take the steps necessary not to let yourself grow to the point of being so weary that escaping away from the world is the only way you can collect up the scraps of your faith and ask God to some how piece them all back together again. It is not that God can't do this, but He has offered us another way that is less painful, more joyful, and filled with peace – and that is in His presence every step we walk with Him in perfect rest and purpose – sitting at His feet and learning along with the rest who are seeking Him for perfect instruction.