30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
We see the pastoral heart of Jesus here. First he perceived that the disciples were burdened with caring for people to the point of not having time to eat or rest. So he asked them to come away to a quiet place. Then, when they got to this solitary place, there was a large crowd who were also burdened. Jesus had compassion on them and felt compelled to care for them too. These verses we read today are from the beginning of the account of the feeding of the five thousand.
Were the crowds that gathered about Jesus wherever he went something like first-century paparazzi? I’m sure some people were after him like photographers trailing a celebrity, curious to see what he would do next. They were simply onlookers, voyeurs. But others sought Jesus out of genuine need, and Jesus knew it and responded to them in compassion.
I guess there are times any one of us can stand on the sidelines of faith. Thrill me, Jesus, but don’t expect me to change. Other times we come from a place of real need. Help me, Jesus. Lord, help us recognize at all times that we are sheep needing Jesus our Good Shepherd.
Lord Jesus, we pray because you teach us to pray. We pray to you out of needs we hardly recognize, along with needs that scream out in their urgency. Help us put you in charge, not because we want to evade responsibility but because only you can put us in right places. Only you can heal us from the inside out. Let us give you today, to follow you. Amen.