16th Sunday of Ordinary Time / Trinity 7.
This Gospel passage is a great contrast with the death banquet of King Herod in the Palace during which John the Baptist was murdered [Mark 6:17-29]. The Gospel however introduces the the banquet of life promoted by Jesus with the hungry people of Galilee in the desert [Mark 6:30-44]. The passage presents only the introduction to the multiplication of the loaves and describes the teaching of Jesus.
Rabbi Jesus welcomes the disciples when they first joined Him and told Him all they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away to some lonely place by yourselves and rest for a while.” These verses show how Jesus formed His disciples. He was not concerned only with the content of the preaching, but also with rest for the disciples. He invited them to go to a lonely place so as to be able to rest and review what they had done.
Rabbi Jesus welcomes the people when they noticed that He had gone to the other side of the lake, and followed Him on foot, to the other shore. So as He stepped ashore He saw a large crowd, and He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd and He began to teach them at some length. Jesus was sad, seeing that crowd were like sheep without a shepherd. He forgets about His own rest and begins to teach them. In becoming aware that the people have no guide, Jesus began to be their shepherd, to teach with the ideas of Psalm [23:1:3-5]. “The Lord is my Shepherd! I lack nothing. In grassy meadows He lets me lie. By tranquil streams He leads me to restore my spirit. He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits His name. Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for You are at my side. Your staff and Your crook are there to soothe me. You prepare a table for me in the sight of my enemies.”
Although Jesus needed to rest with His disciples, the desire to respond to the needs of the people impels Him to leave rest aside. Something similar happens when He meets the Samaritan woman [John 4:31-32]. The disciples went to get some food. When they returned they said to Jesus, “Master, eat something!” but He answers, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” The desire to react to the needs of the people always leads Him to forget His own hunger responding to the people who look to Him. Then He can eat. “My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me and to complete His work [John 4:34].
Then Jesus began to teach them many things. The people were impressed: A new teaching! He taught them with authority! It was unlike that of the scribes! Teaching was what Jesus did the most and Mark tells us another fifteen times this is what He usually did [Mark 10:1].
Jesus was a welcoming Rabbi who wanted the good of the people. This goodness and love came from His words formed part of the content. They were His temperament. A good content without goodness and kindness would be like milk poured on the floor. Jesus’ teaching manifested itself in a thousand ways. Jesus accepts as disciples not only men, but also women. He does not only teach in the synagogue, but also in any place where there were people to listen to Him: in houses, on the shore, on the mountain, on the plain, in the boat, in the desert. It was not the relationship of pupil-teacher, but of disciple to Master. The professor teaches and the pupil is with him during the time of the class. The Master gives witness and the disciple live with Him 24 hours a day. It is more difficult to be a Master than a teacher!
We are not pupils of Jesus, we are His disciples! The teaching of Jesus was a communication that came from the abundance of His heart in the most varied forms: He makes clear the misunderstanding of the return of Elijah [Mark 9:9-13], He uses parables that invites people to think and to participate [Mark 4:33], Our Gospels reveal Christ the Rabbi who witnessed what He Himself lived, revealing His love! “Come to me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” [Matt 11:28-30].
Fr. Nathan Williams