In the Gospel of Mark, we read at this stage of the death of John the Baptist. We cannot imagine the sadness of Jesus.
Today the Apostles return. We read in the other accounts of their excitement at success and wonderment at some failures. Jesus’ answer to them is to come away to some lonely place by themselves and to get some rest. “for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat.” All of us have led busy lives. I cannot say that I was ever too busy to eat! I always managed time for that! I like the words of Jesus in another place: “come apart and rest a while” and I add, or come apart! Many times in his ministry Jesus sought solitude. It seemed the only time he achieved it was when he prayed all night.
This time we see the crowds flocking round the sea shore following Jesus who is in a boat. His dreams of rest and solitude are not possible. He sees a large crowd and has pity on them ‘because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. He sets out to teach them at some length.
This passage ends the Mission section of the Gospel and leads into the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Our Sunday readings stop here and take a different course. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest. The church takes us from next Sunday into the Gospel of John for five weeks. We take the whole of Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John and read it over five Sundays. We often say that the three yearly cycle of the readings features the Gospel of Matthew and Luke and Mark. Because Mark is short, some of Johns’ is used to fill in the weeks.