My Dear People,
After a brief interlude following the death of John the Baptist, Mark picks up where he left off with the mission of the Apostles (6:7-13). The Apostles now return to Jesus and report to Him all they have done and all they have taught.
Although Jesus’ previous instructions (6:7-11) did not mention teaching, it was part of the ministry to which He had appointed them (32:14).
Jesus recognizes that after their period of intense apostolic labors, the twelve needed to be refreshed once again in His presence and in their fellowship with one another. To “be with Him” remains a requirement of fruitful apostleship that must be constantly renewed (3:14; see John 15:4). This brief passage serves as a hinge, and concludes the mission of the Twelve; yet, prepares all for the theme of nourishment and bread upon which the next major scene will focus.
The deserted place recalls the desert (1:3-13) as a place of testing but also a place of solitude and retreat where God’s people withdraw from the world for special intimacy with Him. Jesus’ desire to give them rest evokes what God pledged to give his people in the promised land (Exod. 33:14; Deut. 12:10; see Heb. 4:9-11). It also shows His concern for the practical, physical needs of those who spend themselves in His service.
From the fact that people were coming and going in great numbers, we can conclude that the Apostles’ preaching of repentance (6:12) had hit the mark. More people than ever were being drawn to Jesus and preparing to receive His teaching and His healing power. Once again, Mark notes that the apostles’ ministry was so demanding that they had no opportunity even to eat (see 3:20). They are taking on the character of Jesus, who subordinates His personal needs to His ministry to His people.
This remark prepares for the miracle of the loaves, about to occur. Jesus and the apostles go off to a deserted place, which, as we will soon see, turns out not to be deserted after all.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Vincent Clemente