The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 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.” Mark 6:30-31
The twelve apostles had just been sent out by Jesus on their first mission. For many months they had followed him around the Galilean countryside, watching him preach and demonstrate the Good News of his Father’s Kingdom. With each healing, each sermon, each widow upheld, the students had been learning first-hand from their Master - but now it was their turn. They were to take nothing along. Just the Spirit and the lessons they had learned. Ambassadors of Jesus on their first mission.
Now in these verses we read the disciples have come home. The trip is over. And what’s the first thing they do? They gather around Jesus. Do you see it? Let that line paint a mental picture.
“The apostles gathered around Jesus”.
What a beautiful scene.
That’s what it is to be a disciple and that’s what it is to be the church. A disciple is one that has come around Jesus. And disciples gathered together around him is a perfect definition of the church - the students of Jesus, gathered around Jesus.
As the disciples converge they begin to report all they had done and taught; and we wonder what that scene was like. Our first impulse is to think of little school children, excitedly chirping and cheering around their teacher - boasting in their many successes. But what if it wasn’t like this at all? What if the scene was more tempered? What if a few sat in the back, their stories more filled with disappointment and scuttled attempts? What if it was down right sullen?
We often read the accounts of the disciples and deem them to be those rare types who just seemed to make everything work. The super-Christians. But when we think about it, this isn’t the picture the gospels paint at all. It’s the one we’ve formed and later consecrated through haloed art and glowing titles but the truth is, the gospels give an account of the disciples as daft bunglers; never quite understanding Jesus and always doing things he has to both forgive and correct.
No doubt, this is the idea we have to carry into this scene. Sure there were the stories of success. But there were also the stories of failure, disappointment, regret and confusion. Which makes what comes next even more lovely.
As the reports were shared it appears they went on for a long time (sometimes church is like this!). Interrupted by the many who were coming and going the disciples didn’t even have time to eat. And then we read these words of Jesus: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest”.
Sigh. Yes. This is what disciples need. As we gather around him reporting all our kingdom joys and the many sorrows, in the end this is what we really need.
We need him and we need the rest he provides.
It’s maybe the one lesson that all the events and missions of our lives are trying to get us to understand.