Rhythms of Renewal: Responding with compassion like Jesus to the interruptions

As we endeavor to trust our Great High Priest and pursue rhythms of renewal, there will undoubtedly be times when interruptions come our way. How do we view these and with what attitude can we approach them? Are they actually interruptions? That’s what we’re going to begin examining this week as we continue our journey through the gospel of Mark and looking at the example of Jesus.

Let’s venture into Mark 6. This chapter begins with Jesus being rejected in his hometown of Nazareth, and then continuing to go about among the villages teaching. In verses 7-13, we see that Jesus sends out the disciples to do what he has been doing: proclaiming repentance, casting out unclean spirits, and healing.

In verses 14-29, we have a scene change to explain the death of John the Baptist, and in verse 30 we return to the apostles’ ministry to see that they’ve been busy. Let’s look at Jesus’ response to their report.

“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 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” (Mark 6:30-31 ESV).

Here’s another great observation we find in Jesus – He knew their need for this rest with him. He understood their humanity, how God designed them for rest, and he encouraged it. The disciples had limits and needed renewal that can only be found through being with Jesus.

Let’s keep reading.

“And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them” (Mark 6:32-33).

The disciples are attempting, by Jesus’ prompting, to retreat with Jesus for rest and food. And what happens? The needy people pursue them. Here comes our second important observation, again, focused on Jesus. How did he respond?

“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” (Mark 6:34).

Jesus responded with compassion. He began to meet the needs of the people.

And as we see the story continue, we see that still more needs arise – it’s getting late and the people need to eat. The disciples recognize this problem and think that surely it’s time for Jesus to send them away. Surely it’s time to retreat now, right? But let’s look at Jesus’ response again.

In verse 37, Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.”

How do you think the disciples felt here? I would guess pretty helpless. They even respond with a hint of disrespect and sarcasm. What Jesus is asking seems impossible. But again, let’s look at Jesus’ response.

“And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see” (Mark 6:38).

Jesus asks them to consider what they do have.

Jesus doesn’t acknowledge the impossibility of the task he’s calling the disciples to, and he also doesn’t acknowledge what they do not have. He wants them to consider what they’ve already been given.

As the ESV Study Bible points out, “Jesus clearly intends for the disciples to do what he says and to trust him for the outcome.”

And you know the story, right? Jesus takes the five loaves and the two fish and he multiplies it so that everyone is fed – five thousand men with their families. And they aren’t just barely fed, scripture tells us that everyone is satisfied, and there are even leftovers.

“As the true shepherd, he satisfies them,” (ESV Study Bible).  

Now if we continue reading in verses 45-52, we see that once again, Jesus sends his disciples off alone, and then he also retreats to pray alone. And even in the midst of this time of retreat, Jesus sees the need of his disciples in a storm-tossed boat, and he walks on water toward them.

So what does all of this mean? What possible connections and observations can we make from this?

As believers, we are sent out to proclaim the message of the kingdom – especially and primarily to our first disciples – our children. Like Jesus, we need to remain focused on our ultimate goal of making God known.

This will be a busy, tiresome and seemingly never ending marathon of a journey. It will often seem like we are faced with the impossible. We, like the disciples, may be tempted to respond to Jesus’ call with disbelief, sarcasm, or frustration. But we, like Jesus, need to remember that ultimate satisfaction comes from God alone, and he can do the impossible. When we feel helpless, he can and will satisfy using simply what he has given us. We are called to be faithful with the 5 loaves and 2 fish, rather than wishing we had two hundred denarii.

Sometimes our pursuit of alone time to rest in Jesus will be interrupted by the steady needs or pursuit of “the crowds.” But like Jesus, our response during this time should be compassion.

I once heard Sally Clarkson say that we are more capable than we think. If we truly understand the role and gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can continue moving forward with what God gives us to do even when we don’t think we can do it.

How do we show compassion when we feel exhausted and empty?

We pursue time with Jesus.

And when the interruptions come?

We trust Jesus. We go and see what we have. We offer it. We trust that God will use it and provide satisfaction in Him alone. And then we continue to pursue rest in Jesus.

We don’t pursue the moments alone with Jesus so that we can forever sit on the mountaintop and relax. We seek rhythms of renewal so that we can be faithful to the work God gives us. And when we understand that, we understand that the interruptions are not actually interruptions – they are the work. They are our duty. They are an opportunity to glorify our good, good God.

So continue on with the tension, friend – pursuing rhythms of renewal, experiencing the call to faithfulness (that may seem like an interruption), joining God’s work in the seemingly impossible in a way that shows it’s dependent only on Him, and experiencing the satisfaction that comes from Him alone.

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