Jesus knew that the apostles were tired and hungry after their mission. Those in active ministry realise that they must spend time in quietness, to process what has happened and to listen to what God is saying to them; otherwise the work takes them over and they cannot separate themselves from it. Jesus wanted to take his friends to a quiet place. He was God the shepherd, “leading them to fresh pastures to give them repose.” He would want to let them talk about their experience. We can find God in many places but we especially need to spend time with him in silence, where his gentle voice can be heard. Many people are not comfortable with silence, even in church.
The disciples’ solitude did not last long, for they were discovered by the crowds. Jesus took pity on them. The image of sheep without a shepherd is very apt, for without protection the animals panic very easily and can become prey to dogs or wolves. Jeremiah had prophesied about the kings of his own time, who had allowed their flock to be scattered in Babylon, deprived of their temple and under foreign influence. In Jesus’ day the people were ruled by a cruel Roman governor, a self-seeking king, a priesthood which was probably corrupt and colluded with the Romans, and pharisees who were more concerned about their honour and status than giving good example. Jesus was and is a very different leader.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)