This week’s gospel paints a picture of success. Either the ministry of the apostles was quite effective, or Jesus’ fame had spread abroad, or both, for the people came in such numbers that the missionaries withdrew from the crowds. The desert was not only a place of escape, it reminded the people of the formative period of their past, when in the desert God entered into covenant with them. A return to the desert was often a time of re-commitment. Their departure did not deter the crowds; they followed them. Jesus was moved by the plight of the people, whom he saw as sheep without a shepherd. He knew that they followed him so eagerly because they were bereft of strong and dependable leadership. And so he began to teach them.