"When We're in Desperate Need of Rest," The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

"When We're in Desperate Need of Rest," The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

Jul 22, 2018

Passage:Mark 6:30-56

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

Series: Pentecost

Category: Healing

Keywords: compassion, healing, rest


In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus and the disciples seek much-needed rest, but the crowds and the need are so great. Jesus sees their suffering and looks upon them with compassion. This compassion is not the kind that pities from afar, but enters into the journey with the person who is suffering and walks with them toward healing. Jesus' compassion offers all of us grace and rest in God's love.


May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

Have you ever really been tired?  No, I mean so exhausted that you think you can’t take another step? You can’t think straight? You feel truly desperate for any relief?  Most of us have been there at some point.  If we haven’t yet, we will be at some point.

The apostles may not be that tired when they gather around Jesus.  But they’ve been busy.  They’ve been traveling to different regions, preaching and healing in the name of Jesus. 

Now, they’re back with Jesus, telling him all the things they’ve done.  We can imagine the mixture of excitement, relief, and fatigue.

As they talk, Jesus recognizes how much they need a break.  They need time to slow down, time to eat without interruption.  He tells them to come with him to a deserted place and rest. 

We’ve heard throughout the gospels about times when Jesus seeks time alone to rest, pray, and simply be in the presence of God.  He knows that the apostles need it, too.  They won’t be able to keep up their ministries if they don’t rest.

At this point, there’s a sense of relief that rest is on it’s way.  It’s that feeling when we dare to hope that we can let down our burdens for just awhile.  Maybe we can slow down and soak in the world around us.  Maybe we can lie down and sleep.  Maybe we can take a walk or talk with a friend without interruption. 

The disciples get onto the boat, anticipating this time of respite and retreat.  Then they see the crowds rushing ahead of them to meet their boat on the other side.  The crowds know Jesus is on that boat.  They know that he can heal them.  They’re desperate for relief, too. They don’t want to miss out on their chance to meet Jesus.

So, Jesus gets off the boat.  Mark says he has compassion for them.  He sees their desperation and all the commotion.  In his compassion, Jesus sees them as sheep without a shepherd.  They don’t know which way to turn, who to trust, what to do. 

Now, this is where the lectionary passage for today leaves out important parts of this story.  It even makes the story more confusing. 

The missing parts give depth to this compassion Jesus feels for the people.  What is missing is the story of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish.  It’s also missing the story of the storm at sea and his reassurance to the disciples that they have nothing to fear.  And in between, Jesus goes to the mountain to pray, to spend time with God, to rest in God’s love.

After Jesus calms the sea, the boat lands again in Gennesaret.   As Jesus and the apostles land, the crowds bring everyone they can to Jesus.  They rush around looking for all the sick people they can find.  They even carry some of the sick on mats to meet Jesus.  Mark says that the sick “beg” Jesus to “touch even the fringe of his cloak....”  And all who touched it were healed.

Mark doesn’t tell us that Jesus stopped to ask who the people were or why they were sick or whether they believed in God.  Jesus saw them...and had compassion for them. 

Compassion is one of those words that can have a lot of different meanings.  Sometimes we think of it as pity or sympathy.  We can look at someone and say we feel bad for them.  We can stand on the sidelines and offer sympathy.

But Jesus’ compassion for the crowds is much more than that.  He meets them in their suffering and pain.  He doesn’t keep his distance.  He enters in their journey toward healing and wholeness. 

This story is filled with compassion, not only from Jesus, but the people who bring the sick people to Jesus. 

These people run around the whole region finding the sick.  They bring them to Jesus wherever he is.  They even carry people on mats to get them to Jesus.  They recognize suffering.  They show compassion. 

They don’t just pity the sick from a distance.  They reach out to them.  They literally walk with them and for them in their suffering and in their hope for healing.

What if we could see ourselves and everyone else through this lens of compassion?  What if we could pause and consider what each person looks like through the eyes of Jesus?  What if we stop being so critical of ourselves and each other? 

What a relief that would be!  What a respite from our constant need to judge ourselves and each other so harshly!  What rest we’d find if we let ourselves be loved and love each other!

But it’s often so difficult to let go of our default of judgment and criticism, especially when we’re tired.  When we’re tired, it’s hard to expend the extra energy to look at people from a lens of compassion.  We’re in survival mode and just trying to make it through the day, or even the next hour. 

To muster up the energy to look at people from a place of love, to see ourselves as God sees them...precious children that God created and loves without condition. That just seems like too much!

It’s especially hard to gather up this compassion for people who are so different from us...for people who need us so desperately...for people who don’t show us the same consideration.  It’s often most difficult to offer ourselves such compassion.   

How on earth are we supposed to walk along another person’s suffering when we may be exhausted from our own suffering?!

The Good News is that the Body of Christ is here.  Jesus didn’t gather up the sick all by himself.  Those other people were there to help out. 

And showing compassion doesn’t have to involve huge, complicated acts.  Compassion actually works best when we offer those small gestures over and over. 

Earlier this year, eight-year-old Maurice Adams, Jr., was riding in the car with his mother.  They were stopped at a red light when Maurice saw an elderly woman crossing the street.  When he looked at the other side of the street, he saw the stairs that she would have to climb using her walker.  He got his mother’s permission to help this woman.  He jumped out of the car, ran to the woman, and began helping her up the stairs.  When they reached the top, she expressed her gratitude and told Maurice that he was special.[i] 

This act of compassion didn’t require great planning.  It didn’t take a lot of time.  It didn’t even require money.  Maurice’s heart was already filled with compassion.  He eyes were open to someone else’s difficulty.  And he acted with love and kindness.  This woman did not have to face at least this one obstacle alone.

Even Jesus relied on others to have compassion.  And that’s what the Body of Christ does.  That’s what we do.  We stand in for each other when someone is too tired.  We recognize suffering and pain.  We look at ourselves and each other with compassion.  We offer grace to each other.  We give each other a break.  We accept compassion and help from others when we need it, too.

When we walk in this way of love and compassion that Jesus models for us over and over and over again, we experience grace for ourselves.  And when we accept that grace, we can give to each other, even when we’re tired...even when we’re not at our best...even when they’re not at their best. 

We can find rest in this compassion and love.  We can be renewed and strengthened.  Jesus’ compassion for each and every single person in Creation assures us that we’re not alone and there is rest in God’s love.  Amen.