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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


Slow Boat, Fast Crowd

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:32-34, NIV)

The disciples needed rest after their intensive tour of ministry in Galilee (6:6-13,31,32). They had no sooner linked up with Jesus than a crowd massed around them, and they didn’t even have time to eat.

They are evidently on the northwestern shores of the Lake of Galilee since Luke (9:10) tells us that their destination is Bethsaida on the northeastern side of the lake.

There’s also a very strange phrase: “But many who saw them leaving recognized them” (Mark 6:33). How could you not recognize Jesus and the Twelve getting into the boat? It could be that they slipped away very early in the morning while it was still dark.

I wonder if, when Jesus told His disciples to get into the boat, they thought twice about the risk of traveling with Him on water. The last time they got into a boat while dead tired, a fierce storm almost sank them (4:35-41). Would another storm arise?

In everyday life, some days are storm-filled and others are not. This one was not. A trial of a different nature awaited them — this time not on the lake, but on the land.

The crowd outran them! It must have been a slow boat and a fast crowd. The trip was anywhere from four to seven miles, and the people reached the spot ahead of the boat.

If I’ve pieced together the timeline correctly, Jesus and the disciples got into the boat sometime before the dawn’s light. The morning would have been spent on the lake, while people were running through the countryside and towns keeping an eye on the trajectory of the boat. By the time Jesus and the Twelve pulled to shore, it’s early afternoon, and the crowd is already there.

All the Gospels only count the number of men present — 5,000 — although Matthew alone notes women and children were also there (Matthew 14:21).

I had always wondered why the women and children weren’t counted. When you look at the scenario you can understand why. People in the crowd ran for hours to get to the spot. Men were in better condition to make such a jaunt. Men were counted because that’s mainly who was there. The women and children would have lagged behind, thus their proportion of the crowd would have been greatly reduced.

Several things stick out. First, Jesus did not see the crowd until He landed. Second, He did not get back into the boat and escape. Third, the motivation that prevented Him from leaving was compassion. Fourth, what motivated the compassion was the spiritual state of the people — they were shepherd-less.

Although Luke does tell us that healings occurred (Luke 9:11), the main focus of the afternoon was Jesus “teaching them many things” (Mark 6:34). Think of the occasion as a Men’s Retreat with Jesus. He’s helping them become men of God, better persons, more loving husbands and fathers, and more responsible citizens.

That’s what He does for us as well. His words nourish our souls.

A prayer of response
Lord, have compassion on me. Feed me Your Word today and help me to digest it so that it remains in me. Teach me, Lord, many things today.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

Previous Years

2013 On Your Mark

2012 On Your Mark

2011 On Your Mark

2010 On Your Mark

2009 On Your Mark

2008 On Your Mark

Podcasts of On Your Mark are available in video and audio.
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