In 2002 Norah Jones released a song called “Come away with me”
Come away with me in the night
Come away with me
And I will write you a song
Come away with me on a bus
Come away where they can't tempt us, with their lies
And I want to walk with you
On a cloudy day
In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high
So won't you try to come
Come away with me and we'll kiss
On a mountaintop
Come away with me
And I'll never stop loving you
And I want to wake up with the rain
Falling on a tin roof
While I'm safe there in your arms
So all I ask is for you
To come away with me in the night
Come away with me
In our Gospel passage today, the context is different, but Jesus words to his disciples in verse 31 echo the words of Norah Jones (or perhaps it is the other way around): “Come away with me... and rest a while”
They are words that help emphasize how important it is that we should make time to re-charge our batteries.
Jesus invitation to the disciples to come away with him and rest a while comes after two significant passages in Mark’s Gospel. Firstly it comes after the passage where Jesus sends out the Twelve. Secondly, it comes after the news that John the Baptist has been beheaded.
In response to the disciples missionary journey, Jesus points out the need for them to rest and to be recharged. Jesus is in touch with their humanity. He is not a slave driver. Jesus is concerned about their well-being. Jesus knows that it is not possible to keep on keeping on without a break. He is in tune with the rhythm of life. There is a time to work. There is a time to be out engaging with the world. And there is a time for retreating from the world.
There is a time to come away and rest a while.
Even computers need to defrag once in a while. And if we never take out cars in for a service they no longer run efficiently.
This is true even of Jesus. In this passage, we encounter something of Jesus own human need. He has just received news of the death of John the Baptist. Jesus needs to take time out in order to sit with his pain and his grief.
It is a reminder that grief is not something we can escape. The only way out is through. A hospice nurse once said that grieving is like digging through a mountain with a teaspoon. And there are no short-cuts to the other side of the mountain.
Jesus draws aside to sit with his pain and grief. He does not try to avoid it.
It is a reminder that we too have inner work that we all need to do that cant be avoided.
Secondly we see that even with Jesus his plans can go awry.
While Jesus is making plans to get away, the crowds are making plans to find Jesus. In verse 32-33 we read that Jesus and the disciples left by boat for a quiet place where they could be alone. But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them.
It sounds a little bit like the paparazzi.
Or imagine wanting to get away for the weekend and when you arrive at your destination your clients are waiting for you in the hotel lobby!
Jesus’ response is quite remarkable and reveals that there was something remarkable about him. It reveals his enormous capacity for compassion.
We read in verse 34 that when Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
The Greek word for compassion in the text ('splanchnizomai') refers to being moved in one’s gut. The Hebrew word for compassion is taken from the root word 'rechem', which means womb. Both words suggest that Jesus is moved and touched in the depth of his being. There is a maternal instinct in Jesus. It is as though Jesus considers each of those in the crowd as though they were his own off-spring, his own children. They are part of the circle of Jesus love.
Though most of us might have been tempted to tell the crowds off or to send them away, Jesus reaches out to them in love and compassion. Jesus expresses God’s heart of love where all are embraced and included.
There were plenty of other religious teachers like the Pharisees, who told the crowds that they were unclean and not good enough for God. In what follows, out of compassion Jesus begins to teach them, communicating to them in his words of God’s love and compassion to the crowds.
And then at the end of the day, rather than sending the crowds away as the disciples have suggested, again out of compassion, Jesus wishes to see everyone fed.
For the past 150 years or so, debate has raged around this text whether a physical miracle occurred with Jesus multiplying 2 fish and 5 barley loaves, or whether the real miracle was the miracle of sharing.
Some have pointed out that it was the custom of Jews to carry around woven food baskets whenever they left the house in order to make sure that they had kosher food if they were far away from home. Some have suggested that undoubtedly, many who were in the crowd would have had food baskets with them. It took Jesus’ willingness to share what little he and his disciples had in order to open the hearts of others to do likewise so that in the end there was more than enough for everyone.
I don’t know for sure how to interpret the passage, but what I do know is that even if one had to speak in terms of a miracle, it would never have happened in the first place without the risk of sharing with others.
In Paul' s first letter to the Corinthians (11:17ff), it is clear that Holy Communion was originally a community meal where people brought food to share so that even the poorer members of the community could eat and be fed. When Paul in Corinthians says that we must eat mindful of the body of Christ, he is talking about being mindful of the Church community, and especially those who do not have enough.
In the end, the miracle that God wishes to achieve is not ultimately the multiplication of loaves and fish, but rather the transformation of the human heart into a heart of love and compassion. A heart that is able to make room for others and not simply exist for itself.
And so may we, like Jesus, make time to come away and rest a while in order that we might create room in our hearts for others and to respond to them with compassion and love in their time of need.