These verses just before today’s Gospel reading provide us with the complete story. “The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.”
But the people saw them leaving and ran ahead. When they embarked from the boat, Jesus had pity on them and began to teach them. When it was time to eat, Jesus took a few loaves of bread, blessed them and fed five thousand men plus women and children.
“Then he made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.”
Jesus did this a lot. When the crowds pressed in around him and everyone was demanding his attention, he would slip away to pray. Sometimes Jesus would take three or all of the disciples with him, but even then, he would go off by himself to pray to his Father.
In this case, the disciples were out in the communities working, teaching the Good News. Jesus knew that the disciples were weary and did not even have time to eat so he tried to slip away with them to a deserted place to rest and pray. But the crowds wanted help from this person who performed miracles.
Jesus knew that the disciples were exhausted at this point and made them get into the boat and leave even before the crowds were gone. Only then could Jesus go off to the mountain to pray.
After all of the festivities of Christmas and New Year’s parties with family and friends, it’s time to rest. Serving others is difficult work. It is mentally and emotionally draining. Our bodies require some down time to let the Holy Spirit minister to us, to refresh us and give us a new attitude of joy and patience. Then we can love others as Jesus loves us.