Commentary on the Gospel of
“THEY WERE LIKE SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD.”
This text ends where it ought to begin: “And he began to teach them many things.” What did he teach them? But that is for another story. This one is about Jesus’ compassion, which competed at times against his own weariness and need for rest. After giving everything to the crowd, Jesus and his disciples had to get into a boat and cast off from shore to find a little seclusion. But then he saw the crowds—so hungry for another word; “They were like sheep without a shepherd.” And so once again, he goes ashore, he starts all over again, “he began to teach them many things.”
Those who engage in works of service and mercy know this tension. During the Holocaust, a young man worked for many nights forging false documents for Jewish refugees. “If I sleep for an hour, that will cost thirty lives,” he said. And yet of course he had to sleep, or else he would be unable to save anyone at all. We all must balance our duty toward others with our own self-maintenance. The same was true for Jesus. But sometimes his compassion overcame his weariness. He went ashore, and preached again.