The disciples return from a long journey of visiting new communities and sharing the gospel message with whoever would listen. It's no surprise Jesus met them with an opportunity for a reprieve. A quiet getaway to a little city. But their efforts were fruitful, and as word spread, people from all over the countryside came looking for Jesus. Despite their effort to withdraw privately, God's work was still to be done. Jesus and his disciples welcomed the crowds, teaching and healing those who came.
Sometimes God's best work is done in the interruptions. As a minister, some of my most profound experiences happened on days when I thought I would sit in my office alone all day working on a sermon or Bible study. It was often those quiet days when I would receive an unexpected visitor looking for pastoral care or counseling. Aside from the abrupt shift from my introverted self to my extroverted self, those encounters often changed me more than they changed the people coming to visit. Now, as a parent of teens, I still experience those unexpected encounters. Kids from all over stop in to hang out at our house. It's usually on those days when I think they're all self-sufficiently keeping themselves occupied that one will park themselves on my couch or linger in my kitchen, hoping for a conversation. It's tempting sometimes to tell them I'm busy, but then I remember those days in ministry, and I set my agenda aside and listen. It is during those unexpected conversations that I feel the presence of God most tangibly. And I am blessed.
On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.