The twelve disciples were like sheep without a shepherd. PHOTO /CORRESPONDENT

They were like sheep without a shepherd

By Father Felix (African Times Guest Writer)

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark (6:30-34).

At both beginning and end of this section of the Gospel we are reminded

that the foremost duty of the disciples is to be with Jesus: ‘they were

to be with him’ (Mark 3.14), whatever else they do. At the beginning

the disciples who had been sent out on their mission return to Jesus,

and at the end the much larger crowd ‘from every town’, who had

searched for him so determinedly and successfully, are welcomed and

pitied by Jesus.

Furthermore, he begins to teach them. The final quotation, ‘like sheep

without a shepherd’ is a clear allusion to the Israelites after the

death of Moses, who would be like sheep without a shepherd until Joshua

is appointed as leader (Numbers 27.17), and more widely to the LORD

sending a shepherd to replace the careless and self-indulgent shepherds

of Ezekiel 34.

As any car-driver on the village roads knows so well, sheep without a

shepherd are the epitome of helpless bewilderment. This will become

even clearer with the feeding of the five thousand in the green

pastures beside the restful waters of the Lake of Galilee (compare

Psalm 23 (Gk 22)).

The passage therefore serves as part of the discovery of who Jesus is:

his wonderful actions and his teaching have led the crowds to search

eagerly for him. He pities them and shows them the divine mercy – the

Greek word is related to ‘guts’, so it is a profound ‘gut-feeling’ –

and yet he repeatedly withdraws to be alone with his disciples to be

sure that they understand his teaching. To be alone with Jesus is an

essential part of their calling.

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