“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 (deserted) place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
What a gracious and kind invitation Jesus extended to his twelve apostles on that busy day. They must have been so relieved and grateful when they heard his most welcome instruction. I’ve no doubt that their coming away included being fed, as well, since this verse tells us that they had not had a chance to eat yet. And, as we all know, rest is better when the stomach is comfortably full. Jesus understood their human needs and wanted to meet them. “Come with me…” he said, “…and get some rest.” And they obliged, of course.
Have you ever just been so exhausted that someone had to guide you to bed, either with forceful words or actual physical action?
I imagine the twelve were feeling that fatigued, and Jesus was that Someone. I believe Jesus was trying to teach his closest friends the importance of finding a right balance between actively serving God, and letting God tend to their physical needs. And in this case, he guided them to rest; sleep, I believe.
Finding that balance was a challenge then, just as it is now, in our daily lives. Sometimes we find ourselves in that exact situation, don’t we? We let ourselves become too exhausted to even think straight. Even though we are telling ourselves to get rested, it just doesn’t happen until someone else notices and states the obvious to us: “You need to go to bed!” So we listen to that someone, realizing that they care so much and are right in their assessment. We surrender. Resting via sleep finally comes and we are refreshed, ready to carry on with a new perspective towards people and projects. That kind of rest is essential to our health and well-being, and also our spiritual growth. It clears our head and restores our body to be more receptive to God’s leading in our lives. We become better vessels of God’s love.
But we needn’t wait until we reach that exhausted state of being. The balancing secret is to “come away” more often and rest regularly so that our doing is more effective. However, because we have more distractions than we can ever possibly control, we have difficulty with that. From our need to be quickly responsive to every notification on our phones, to our desire to be entertained by everything “techy”: movies, podcasts, music, to name a few. Then there are family issues that weigh heavily on our minds. All these and more contribute to our inability to “come away” and rest. Not to mention the fact that we are doers. We pride ourselves on the finishing of tasks. We are compelled to check things off our lists, more than rest. Maybe we should write REST on our to-do lists, so we can gleefully check it off afterwards!
“Rest” may not necessarily mean sleeping to some of you. Perhaps you find your rest another way. Whatever it is that brings you renewal in body and soul, make time for it. Jesus invites you to frequently come away with him and rest. It will prove to be time well spent.
Gracious and loving God, help us to love and care for our human bodies as much as you do. May we seek rest when needed and may our souls also feel restored by your grace and peace. Amen.
(PS- I couldn’t resist this photo of Hank, our border collie (RIP), soundly sleeping on our unmade bed. He knew how to rest!)