April 20, 2008 – Mark 6:30-33 – Return of the Disciples
The Gospel of Mark is intense and to the point – and this citation is no exception. Today we reflect on the return of the disciples to Jesus after they had been sent forth with his Word to heal and free the oppressed and suffering. Looking at this chapter as a whole, we read of how Jesus appears on the world stage, preaching in synagogues on Sabbaths, answering the many questions put to him, and also challenging his listeners with questions of his own. He makes a circuit of the villages. He sends forth the twelve in twos, giving them power over unclean spirits, instructing them to take nothing for their journey but their trust in the Lord. He schools them in how they are to enter a house and offer peace – and that if this peace comes back to them they are to shake the dust of this place from their sandals and move on.
Sandwiched between the departure and return of these disciples, we have the story of how John the Baptist is executed to serve the silly jealousy of a corrupt family. This serves as a clear instruction to us, Jesus’ 21st Century apostles, that while following the Master is a glorious and rewarding journey, it is a path hemmed in by dangers of all kinds. Following the return of these workers, we see Jesus feed five thousand followers from five loaves and two fish. Then Jesus walks on water and performs other miracles. This is a chapter packed with energy and wonder.
This is what I like most about Mark, his clean presentation of the lightning bolt effect Jesus has had on our physical and spiritual worlds. There is so much going on that when we to pause to meditate on just a few verses we see well beyond the words . . . we understand stories recorded in our collective experience. Who among us has not at some time done something we never thought possible? Who has not reached the safety of a refuge after a rewarding but difficult day of working in God’s vineyard to collapse into the sureness of God’s love? Who has not desired to draw apart for a little while and found that the very people we were escaping have met us on the shore?
Today we reflect on how these disciples blunder along behind Jesus, are sent by him and return to him in awe of the sign of Christ’s love for them . . . the gift of healing they have been given to share. We see them pile into their fishing crafts to withdraw and rest in a desert place . . . to be met by a mass of people who have anticipated their landing and who have hurried to meet them. These people hunger for the words of life which Jesus offers them, and so these weary apostles gird themselves, put off their own search for quiet and peace, and do as Jesus tells them. They trust in their Teacher. Their rest will have to happen later.
And so we pause to pray, we who seek to draw apart a while into the desert and rest, but who are met by the mass of demands of our life of apostleship:
Jesus, friend of all, we return to you weary from the life of work which we have done in your name: Give us refuge and strength.
Jesus, master of all, we return to you with the fruits of our journey, the signs of our love for you: Give us food and drink.
Jesus, lover of all, we follow you into the next life where we wish to dwell in the house of the Lord: Give us insight and compassion.
Jesus, brother of all, we bring ourselves to you, a gift given and now returned: Give us peace and joy. Amen.