Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
I was right there with the disciples sighing relief when Jesus said, “Come away to a deserted place…and rest awhile.” Like the disciples I too worked hard last week, showed up for lots of people and I was ready to get away from it all, ready for my Sabbath rest. But things did not turn out that way. Even before we could steal a moment of silence and solitude people were gathering, people with needs. I want to say to Jesus and the people, “Look here, I have worked hard and I deserve my Sabbath time.” I want to put up neon signs that say, “Do not disturb.”
But Jesus would hear none of that. Instead he “had compassion.” In the New Testament the word compassion is translated from the Greek word splagchnizomai and it means to be ‘moved in the bowel,’ to be with the experience of another human being in the most elemental way, in our very bowels. No days off. No do not disturb signs. Being with and for other human beings is fundamental to being real human beings. And there is no warrant for time off from being real human beings.
When Jesus invited the apostles to “come away to a deserted place… and rest a while,” he did not invite them to indulge their desire to get away from it all. By extension I presume Jesus is not inviting me to indulge my introverts desire to stake out my Sabbath day with no trespassing signs. No, I believe Jesus is inviting all of us to “crossover” to another way of being, being with and for one another, most especially those in need; to have compassion.
At the same time I cannot for a moment think that Jesus of compassion is asking me, the disciples or any of us to get burned out. I believe this story from Mark’s gospel intends to remind us that where ever we go there will be people in need. The question is not, how can I get away for them and find my rest. Rather, the question is how may I stay rooted and peaceful in my relationship with God? How may I receive rest and divine nourishment while in the midst of people in need? And of course Jesus shows us the way, the way of compassion, the way of reaching into our bowels and realizing our need and their need are essentially the same. We are all tired and hungry and thirsty and we are all healed when touched by compassion.