Mark 6:30-35 (ESV)
30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “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. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 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. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late.
As we saw in verse 12, Jesus had sent the twelve disciples out in pairs to preach repentance. In verse 30, they have returned to report to him all they taught and did. Mark refers to the twelve here as the apostles. The word “apostle” literally means “sent one” and indicates someone who is commissioned for a specific purpose. It is interesting to look at how Mark explains the account of Jesus sending the apostles out (vv. 7-12), then shifts gears to describe John the Baptist’s execution by Herod Antipas (vv. 13-29), and now picks the story of the apostles back up. Why would Mark insert John’s execution right after the apostles’ departure to do as Jesus commanded them? Mark uses this structure to show that martyrdom may result, as it did for John. After the twelve returned, Jesus asked them to come away and get some rest. The apostles were so busy; they didn’t even get time to eat. But the crowd wouldn’t leave them alone. When the people saw Jesus and the disciples getting into a boat, they ran to the other side to get there when the boat landed. The people were determined to see Jesus. Although Jesus and his friends were tired and hungry, Jesus still had compassion on them (v. 34), because they “were like sheep without a shepherd.” He wasn’t annoyed or irritated with them. Jesus knew these people needed a leader, and they needed direction. The crowd remained with Jesus, even when it got late.
Jesus called the disciples to come away by themselves to be with him, in all the busyness of working for and serving Jesus. It is easy to forget that his followers are called to get solitary time with him. It has been said that the busier we are, the more time we should spend alone with Jesus. What about you? In the midst of your fast-paced schedule, do you get time to be with Jesus away from the crowds? If not, you need to actually schedule times with God. Get out your calendar and make some non-negotiable appointments with the Lord. We can get so busy working for Jesus that we forget the purpose of working for Jesus is to lead others to a relationship with Jesus. If we want others to know and spend time with God, we need to be doing it ourselves.