The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ For there were many people coming and going and they did not even have time to eat. Mark 6:30-31
The disciples have just returned from their very first ‘outreach program’. He had sent them out on a mission (Mark 6:7 – 13). They were eminently successful (vs. 13). Upon their return to Jesus they told him of all they had done (vs. 30), and the Lord response was ‘Come away…and rest awhile.’
It’s noteworthy that he doesn’t welcome them back with effusive praise or pats on the back. Perhaps that seems strange to some of us, accustomed as we are to our “age of affirmation.”
Nor does he correct them or conduct an evaluation of their work, as one might expect from a teacher.
Rather, Jesus looks deeper and sees their need. His emissaries are tired; worn out by the constant coming and going of the crowds that follow them everywhere they go. The Lord understands that this is not the time for praise or critique. Jesus invites them instead to come away, to find a place of solitude with Him, and to rest. Teaching and correction can come later. First, they needed rest.
There is a lesson in wisdom here for all of us. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that ‘there is a time for everything under the sun.’ We live in a culture that is overtaken by frenzied activity, so much so that according to one doctor I heard speak, excessive activity has become a national epidemic. He was advocating exactly what Jesus did with the disciples; i.e., today’s overly busy people need to learn to rest. You cannot do well without times of not doing.
But what exactly did Jesus mean by ‘rest’? Was He just saying, ‘Let’s get away from these crowds so we can sleep 12-14 hours’? I don’t believe so, for rest is more than sleep.
We sort of know that, but we don’t really. Our lifestyles testify to it as our nights get shorter and shorter. ‘Just one more thing…’ or ‘Got to check my email – or Facebook – one more time before I go to bed…’ Information technology has become a thief of our much needed rest.
But beyond even that, this isn’t just about sleep; it is about a change of pace, a space of time for quiet, for solitude and for prayer. When Jesus said, ‘Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, for I will give you rest,’ He was talking about much more than an eight hour sleep at night! Our inner man desperately needs rest and physical sleep, as important as that is, is but one part of the whole picture.
Rest for our souls is accessed in the presence of the Lord. Notice: Jesus didn’t send the twelve away to a hotel while He went elsewhere! He called them to join Him in a period of spiritual as well as physical rest.
How many of you have gone away for five days and on day four, when it’s time to pack to go home, you say to your spouse or friend, ‘I’ve just finally relaxed enough to enjoy this and it’s time to go already?’
Let’s be honest: Trying to fit 36 hours of productivity into an 8-10 hour workday on a regular basis will burn you out! Such frenetic activity dulls our senses and we become deaf to the still small Voice of the Holy Spirit whispering to us, ‘Stop awhile and sit quietly in My presence. Your inner man needs to rest and re-group.’
And if we’re blessed enough to have someone in our lives who urges us to take a break, our addiction to hyperactivity resists the good advice of a loved one. Come on – ‘fess up! You know it’s true!
There is a spiritual truth that is also a psychological truth: More is accomplished in a shorter time by a person whose inner being is at peace.
I love how Psalm 37:7 is rendered in the Passion Translation:
Quiet your heart in His presence and pray; keep hope alive as you long for God to come through for you; and don’t think for a moment that the wicked in their prosperity are better off than you.
Making time to rest not only your body, but also your soul is of paramount importance in this day and age. That is the beauty of the Sabbath. God invites us to “unplug” from our daily life, get quiet, turn our attention to Him, and breathe in His peace.
The emails will still be there thirty minutes from now. Mute the phone, close the laptop and take what I call a “Spirit-Break”. It may be five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes or more. Let the presence of the Lord give rest to your body, renew your mind and put you back in touch with the Holy Spirit who dwells in your spirit.
If high-powered engineers can stop and take 15 minute “power naps” – and they do – then you and I can certainly take 15 minute “power breaks” with Jesus.
I hope you find a few moments today to “come away” and rest a while. You need it…more than you realize. You will be better for it afterward and so will everybody around you.
Jesus is waiting….