Press On in the Press
You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’re ready for some well-deserved “me-time, after a significant yet draining period of ministering to others. Jesus’ disciples experienced all this, when, after extensive ministry, “…they didn’t even have a chance to eat…” (Mk.6:31). (now that’s overloaded). Jesus told them, “’Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (v.31-32) In other words, they responded, “All right! This is one request that’s easy to obey immediately!”
Only one problem—a lot of people saw them leaving, told their friends, and by the time they got to the other side, an even bigger crowd awaited them, with their needs. Their “me-time” had been usurped by a pressing “help-me” time! Jesus felt compassion on the huge crowd needing shepherding, and proceeded to offer a spontaneous all-day Christian-living conference. (v.33-34)
The disciples, meanwhile, were probably thinking, “Oy vey! Can’t a guy get any peace and quiet anywhere?!” (they still hadn’t had a meal yet either). But being good disciples, they endured and waited until late in the day to approach Jesus with reality--“’This is a remote place… and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can… buy themselves something to eat.’” (v.35-36) Also implying, “…so we can finally get some rest and eat in peace!”
Wouldn’t we feel the same way? They’d already served way beyond the norm. Besides, who likes crowds? They’re noisy, get in our space, make us uncomfortable, and often stink (especially back then)! Unless you’re one who likes to get smushed in a mosh-pit, most of us prefer to handle people one by one or in manageable groups. Especially after a long, tiring day and week when we’re “running on empty”.
Being by Jesus, the disciples experienced the full press of the surrounding crowd, with no escape. But even worse, Jesus told them, “You give them something to eat.” (v.37) If I were one of the disciples, I’d be thinking, “Are you kidding? I’m hungry to the point of fainting, I desperately need fresh air and space to rest, and I don’t even know most of these people! Now you want me to serve this huge mass of malodorous humanity?! Besides, we’re way out here in the “boonies” with no catering and no fast-food lox and bagel cafes.” That’s how the disciples did react—by pointing out the lack of provisions and reality of it theoretically taking way too much wages to buy enough food. (v.37, Mat.14:17)
What would have happened if Jesus had responded, “Yeah, you’re right. I should’ve thought of all that. Guess we should just call it a day and send everyone home so we can finally take care of ourselves.”?
We wouldn’t have had the miracle recorded in all four Gospels (Mat. 14:13-21; Mk. 6:30-44; Lk. 9:10-17; Jn. 6:1-15)-- the feeding of 5000 men, plus women and children, with only 5 pita breads and 2 small fish—with heaps of leftovers for all to see! Everyone, disciples included would’ve missed out on the blessing, the joyful memory, the encouragement, the faith-builder, and the reminder of God’s unlimited grace and goodness.
When we’re feeling squeezed by demands on our time, energy, and resources, Jesus responds to our cry for “Help!” He takes our too-little-not-enough, and multiplies it to overflowing blessing on those who need what He can give through us. He’ll even meet us at our natural reluctance to continue serving, and motivate us to keep pressing on in the press. As Gal. 6:9 promises: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”