Mark 6:30-31 “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
When we have more work than we have time, we are tempted to think that we need to work more, and work harder. If we put in more time at work, maybe we can catch up. Maybe we can get on top if it all. This wasn’t just any work Jesus and his disciples were doing. Real people were coming to them with real problems–disease and disability. Some were looking for the spiritual comforts of Jesus’ words. The opportunity was ripe to grow Jesus’ ministry. How could they leave in the middle of all that?
Jesus, however, saw the need of the twelve men who assisted him. If he didn’t take care of them, and himself, how could they take care of others?
God recognizes that rest is not an option. He created his world with a day of rest. When he summarized his will for people in the Ten Commandments, one of the ten had to do with rest. “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (Ex. 20:8-9). There is no commandment reminding us to eat, or dress warmly, which are also human needs. But he does command us to rest our bodies from work, and to rest our souls in his word.
Why do we resist? Could it be pride? I don’t want to admit, to myself or others, that I have limitations. No job is too big for me. No challenge is more than I can handle. We all have a little bit of Annie Oakley from Annie Get Your Gun in us: “Anything you can do, I can do better.” Sinful pride insists, “I can do this, even if it kills me.” You know, it just might.
Maybe we neglect rest out of a kind of despair, born of an overactive sense of responsibility. We feel alone, abandoned, trapped. If we don’t do it, no one else will. Keep a stiff upper lip. Soldier on in pain and silence. Endless work might make us miserable, but we don’t see an alternative.
Neither pride nor despair makes much consideration of an almighty and all-loving God. Both put us in God’s place. That is a dangerous spiritual place to be. For this, Jesus must bring us to the end of ourselves, to the point of utter exhaustion. Only then we can see what he sees: Time to rest is part of our true need.
Here is his prescription: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Jesus’ formula for rest comprises three parts. “By yourselves”– get away from the world, from the people who are draining all the life out of you. Leave behind the daily struggle with priorities, opinions, and practices of those who follow a different master. That doesn’t have to mean absolutely alone. Jesus and the Twelve had their little fellowship: faithful friends and family (some of the disciples were brothers) they could count on for support. “Rest” can also include time with the people who are not a constant challenge, but a pleasure and a support for heart and soul.
Second, “…to a quiet place…”– away from work and the busyness of life, a place where office or school can’t find you. Maybe you remember a commercial in which a group of buddies are traveling in an SUV. Every once in a while they stop, and one gets out and holds his cell phone up in the air. They keep moving on until they find a place where there is no signal. Sometimes we need to be beyond reach, and beyond distraction. Jesus wants our attention on something else…
“Come with me…” That’s the third thing, but really the first that he said. Jesus wants our rest to be with him. He doesn’t want to give us a new list of tasks to complete. He wants to erase the things we falsely put on our task list, like “carrying around our guilt,” and “paying for our mistakes.” He already did all that for us at the cross.
“Come with me,” he says, not so that he can take us out behind the woodshed and give us a good beating. He isn’t looking to bring us up short, to point out all our faults. He is inviting us to forgiven and to be set free.
“Come with me,” says our Lord, not to be used, but to be loved. It’s okay to admit you are not so strong. You need to know that you are not alone. Jesus sees your true need to rest in his grace and love.