In today’s Gospel lesson, Mark 6:30-44, the apostles--Jesus’ sent ones--return from a missionary journey on which Jesus had sent them. They are exhilarated. The apostles had preached and taught the good news that, in Jesus, God’s kingdom had broken into the world and that, in response, God was calling people to repent and believe in the good news about the One Who had come to die for our sins and rise to give us life with God, Jesus. People had responded to the Gospel message presented by the apostles.Through them, people believed in Jesus. The apostles had also cured diseases and cast out demons in Jesus’ name. But now, exhilarated or not, the apostles were also exhausted. So, Jesus invites them to come with Him to a quiet place so that He can fill them again with the blessings of His Word. This, of course, is what Jesus invites us to do through weekly worship, the Sacraments, and reading and studying His Word. To all who have made the wrong choices when given the chance to do the right thing...to all born into sin and unable to free themselves (that includes all of us)...to all worn out from life, Jesus says what He effectively says to the apostles at the start of our Gospel lesson, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28)
But if the apostles thought that Jesus was inviting them to sit around a campfire with ‘smores so that they could brag about everything they’d done in Jesus’ name, they would quickly learn otherwise. Jesus, in fact, was going to present them with a dilemma. A crowd, anxious to hear Jesus’ teaching, had actually beaten Jesus and the disciples to a the quiet place they’d gone to on a fishing boat. The apostles may have been disappointed. But, Mark says that Jesus looked on the crowds and “had compassion on them.” (Mark 6:34) The root word for the one translated here as “had compassion” is σπλαγχνίζομαι. It means that Jesus looked on the crowds with a gut-deep sense of love and responsibility for them.
Jesus has spent hours feeding the crowd and the apostles on His saving good news, His gospel. Eventually, the apostles suggest that Jesus send the crowd away so that they can buy food for themselves. But Jesus confronts them with a dilemma, “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37) The apostles, so recently intent on telling Jesus everything they had done, say that can’t be done. “That would take more than half a year’s wages!” (Mark 6:37)
Jesus will never hold you accountable for what you don’t have or can’t do.
After Jesus feeds the throng, the apostles gather up leftovers: “twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.” (Mark 6:43)
Most of the spiritual dilemmas that we face in life aren’t really dilemmas at all. They’re just instances of us arguing with Jesus.