The disciples had just returned from a long and arduous trip proclaiming the good news that Jesus had entrusted to them. The days were so full that they hardly had enough time to eat. So, what was Jesus response? “Being a missionary preacher is tough work, so buck up!” Well, not exactly. What he said is recorded in Mark 6:31 — “Obviously they were tired so I encouraged them to join me in a quiet place where they could rest.”
What strikes me here is the importance of common sense not only in the ordinary issues of life but in the more important as well. There was nothing more important than telling the people throughout Galilee that God’s kingdom was breaking in. It was crucial that they learn about it so doesn’t that mean that every last ounce of energy and every remaining moment be used to spread the message? So we might think and in the contemporary world we would work at it all the harder (and probably solicit donations as well.) But Jesus suggested that they find a quiet place and take a rest.
So what does this suggest about how we are to carry out our responsibilities as ambassadors for Christ? One thing that Jesus’ recommendation suggests is that God’s kingdom doesn’t depend in an ultimate sense on how diligently we carry out our part of the task. Hard work pays off in earthly pursuits because as a general rule everything depends on us. Spend three or four extra hours on the job and we will earn more. Use ever evening and every vacation working on “your book” and your fellow academicians will praise you for your contribution to knowledge in the field. Preach hard every day of the week and . . . . here it seems to break down because no longer does everything depend on our hard work. Along with Paul we plant the seed but it is God that makes it grow (1 Corin. 3:6). Jesus was pleased with the disciples’ work but more effort wasn’t the key to success. It was God stepping in and making their seeds grow. He knows that our enthusiastic involvement is not the key when it comes to matters of the spirit.
Interestingly enough, as they sailed away to the quiet place, the crowd got there first. When Jesus saw them “his heart went out to them . . . they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). So the day was spent in teaching and healing and then at the end of the day Jesus fed 5,000 with nothing but five loaves and two fish. Sometimes the quiet time has to be postponed but let it be Jesus who makes the recommendation.