All media was working on them. All eyes and ears were turned upon them. They proclaimed that all should repent. They drove out many demons, and healed the sick. They have done miracles. All talked about them. Even King heard about all this. And not only them, but also their teacher’s reputation had spread everywhere. “He is Elijah. No, he is a prophet like one of the prophets of long ago. No, he is the John the Baptist who was beheaded but now has come back to life.”
Yes, it is about Jesus and his disciples. And now, Jesus’ disciples return from their first missions and come to him. They are eager to tell him all they had done and taught. Like children standing before their mom and dad, or school teacher, they try to be the first to tell what they have done, what they have achieved, and what they have heard from the people whom they met and taught and healed. “I am first to tell him. . . . No, I am the first. No, it should be me, because I did more than you. . . . No, I am the first.” It’s a lovely and beautiful scene. It’s so joyful moment. They all expect from their teacher saying, “Well done. You all did good job.” They deserve that. It was the first time for them to go out without him, and to do alone what their teacher ordered.
But, . . . their teacher says, “Come away from here to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Then, the disciples might say, “But, my Lord, we did it as you had done. And we worked so hard that we could not even have a chance to eat.” But, he is saying to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Yes, they need some rest. But, . . . why should they leave here this lovely place, the place of success, acclaim, and joy? Why is their Lord saying to them, “Come away to a deserted place of solitude, quiet, and the wilderness?” Some might say, “My Lord, Not this time. Finally, the time is coming. It’s your time, your age. You did it. And we did it. They all need you and us. Yes, they need you and us. You are the king they have wanted and expected to come. This is the time to build up your kingdom. It’s so perfect timing. . . .
But, . . . .Leave? . . . Now? . . . Why?”
And some might think, “Yes, I know, he has a plan. Pretty sure, he has a plan for that, to take the throne, and build up a new kingdom. All love him, all follow him. And, he is saying, we should go off to some quiet place. Yes, I am sure, he has a plan. Something is about to happen now. Let’s see. Yes, he wants us to make some plan for that with us in secret, and in some quiet place.”However, we know, Jesus did not have such a plan that they expected.
“Come away with me to a deserted place all by yourselves and be with me and rest in me.” However, he does not ignore their ministries and activities. He does not want them discouraged. They need some food and rest physically. “Mom, you know what, I have done this and that, and it was so awesome. Everyone loved me. And I am so proud. Are you proud of me, mom? . . . But, Mom, I am hungry. Give me something to eat?” This kid needs some food to eat. But, this kid, first of all, needs her mom and home, to rest. The kid need physical food and also spiritual food from her mom.
They needed food for their body, and also, for their spirit. Jesus knew their needs, not only their physical needs but also their spiritual needs. They need rest physically and spiritually. Our hunger for food for body gives sign to us, and we feel it and to eat. But, it is not easy to recognize the sign of the hunger for spiritual food. They felt their hunger in body, but they did not feel their hunger in spirit, because they captivated by what they have done and taught.
Jesus directs them to see beyond ‘themselves’ imprisoned in what they have done, achieved, or failed, and in their own vision and plans. But, “turn your eyes off from ‘I’ or ‘We’,” he is saying, “Come away with me from here to a deserted place all by yourselves and be with me and rest in me.”
Then, Mark told us, they went away to a deserted and solitary place.
However, ahead of them, a large crowd has come there already. It’s not a deserted place anymore, it has already become a marketplace crowded with people. Their plan to have a quiet time alone with Jesus, and to eat and rest a while has become sabotaged by them. But, he did not kick them out from there. Neither did he let disciples find some other quiet place for rest. Yes, we are living in such a world where a great crowd are wondering around like sheep without a shepherd.
The deserted, quiet place where they are coming, has now become a marketplace which has crowded with the people bringing their own pain, sufferings, hunger, and loneliness, and seeking a shepherd, and his help and care. In fact, it has become a marketplace, but it still a deserted place for the disciples to meet God in the face of the people whom Jesus has come for, whom God has passion for. In there, the disciples meet the God of love face to face, and experience his mission of compassion for his people. They see God working in the midst of his people who are looking for their Shepherd, their God.
“Come away with me to a deserted place.” He is not saying about a place, but saying about being with God, being in Him, simply, faithfully. It is a deserted place and at the same time a marketplace to see God beyond themselves.
Jesus, from time to time, has gone out to a deserted place to pray, to meet his Father face to face, and to talk and listen to him, and to be with him simply. As we already know, at the beginning of his ministry, after being baptized by John the Baptist, he went out to the wilderness, such a real deserted place, to be tempted and examined by Satan. And then he began his ministry for the people. And at the end of his ministry, he would go out to Gethsemane, a pretty quiet, deserted place to pray, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Remove this cup from me. . . . But, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:32-42). He listens to God, and follows his will. He throws himself before God, and remember his sheep wandering around for a shepherd. And, Jesus finally would go out to the place which is totally deserted, abandoned by people to die. This Good Shepherd on the cross, the deserted place, would pray and cry to God, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” And cry, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Then, he would die at the deserted place, being with God.
For Jesus, the deserted place is not separated from the real world, the marketplace, where we live. In deserted place, Jesus has seen the Father face to face, and heard His Voice, and felt his compassion for the people who are like sheep without a shepherd. And in the field, on the street, and in the marketplace, he has followed the will of God and has done His mission of love and compassion for the people. And now, when Jesus saw this large crowd, having compassion for them, he welcomed, and taught, and healed them all.
As he called his disciples together and sent them out to the world, he calls us and sends out to the world, saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). And, “God therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).
After doing our works and mission, we may or should come back to him, and gather around him, to tell him our story, and all that we have done and have left undone, and all that we have succeeded or failed. Then, he will say, “Come with me to some place where we will be alone and you can rest with me. Just be with me, and rest in me.” “You need to come away with me from here where you feel comfortable and love to stay, to a deserted place where you may be afraid or not like or feel uncomfortable to come. Come away with me to the deserted place to be with me alone and rest in me.” And then he will say as he said to his disciples, “Abide in Me, not in you, in yourselves, in your words of self-sufficiency, or in the words of praise from others. Abide in Me, in my Word of life.”
Let us, brother and sister in Christ, be with the Lord, simply, and faithfully. See what God sees, hear what God hears, feel what God feels, and do what God has done in Jesus and now wants us to do. Amen.