Just a brief comment about this very brief passage before we move on to the story of Jesus walking on water. Back in verse 13 Jesus seeks to have some alone time because he hears the news of John the Baptist's gruesome execution. Yet he can't catch a break because the multitudes come clamoring after him, so he gets to work healing them and tending to their needs. It is the disciples' complaints that draw attention to how weary they all are. "Send the multitudes away," they plead. They're tired too, not just physically but emotionally they are reeling from John's death. Yet instead of turning the crowds away, Jesus pushes his already exhausted disciples to dig deep and find the faith to do the impossible: feed these five thousand men, plus the women and children.
After the multitudes are fed, all the leftovers are picked up, and the multitudes are finally sent home, Jesus puts his disciples in a boat and sends them off to the solitude they so desperately desire. Then he himself withdraws to a mountain top to pray by himself. Jesus and the disciples have long craved this down time, but it came to them only after they had reached the end of their strength. They were called upon to muster still more, so they mustered, running on fumes, and at last they are rewarded with rest.
I've had many days similar to this. The day was a rough one and I thought I was done. I'm ready to turn in but then in the eleventh hour I'm called upon to tend to some need, some emergency. One of the kids just shattered a glass full of milk on the floor. My daughter suddenly remembers a homework assignment she hasn't finished, and of course she needs my help on it. I understand that I have to be a servant, but aren't there limits to one's strength and sanity? Why is God dumping this stuff on me? He knows how tired I am, and now I'm off to serve him all cranky and resentful and irritable. Interestingly, I usually discover that I do have a second wind hidden somewhere in my reserves that comes mysteriously out of nowhere.
Why does God call you to serve him right when you feel the last of your strength ebbing away at the close of the day? I don't know, really, but I know he does that sort of thing. And I find it comforting to see that he also called upon Jesus and his disciples to serve when they were spent. Maybe it is because too often we serve him in our own strength and secretly give ourselves the credit for it. Calling upon us when we feel we have nothing to give is the only way to show us that the strength flowing through us isn't our own, and never was.