Our Lord led a busy life—preaching and teaching, healing, driving out demons, doing things only He could do. One day Jesus, when He was being persecuted by the Jews for healing a lame man on a Sabbath day, said to them, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” (John 5:17 NIV).
On another occasion, before He healed a man born blind on a Sabbath day also, Jesus declared, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. The night comes when no one can work.” (John 9:4). The Lord realized that His life on earth was short and that He had but a few years to fulfill the purpose of His coming to earth. So He took advantage of any opportunity to minister and do good.
But Jesus was no workaholic. He knew how to pace Himself and even learned to take a break from it all. One specific example is an incident that Mark records. It happened at the time when the Lord’s popularity was reaching its peak. The Gospel writer narrates that the 12 apostles had just returned from a teaching-healing ministry and were gathered around Jesus to give a report of what they had done. It was some sort of debrief and short furlough but because of the coming and going of many people they didn’t even have a chance to eat. And so for the disciples’ physical, emotional and spiritual benefit, He invited them to “come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile,” (Mark 6:31) - away from the madding crowd. This was, of course, a very sensible suggestion. After all, He Himself needed rest from time to time.
The Bible states that there would be moments when our Lord would slip off to a solitary place by Himself. John 4:6 says that “Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well”. One night, in a boat with His disciples, while a storm was raging, “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion” (Mark 4:38). These are telling evidences that our Lord valued times of rest and sleep.
We are living in a world populated by harried folks. Our “to-do” lists make us hurry and scurry—to meet a deadline, to fulfill a commitment, to finish an errand. In the process, we can hardly catch our breath as we practically race from doing one task to completing another. We have been tyrannized by the urgent. And what do we get? —frayed nerves, anxious minds, overworked bodies. If we aren’t careful, we might become vexed, irritable, feisty and in danger of losing our focus and neglecting our priorities.
Praise God, He “knows our frame” (Psalm 103:14). He does not expect us to be constantly on the run and finding ourselves spent and tired. Like our Creator, who “rested on the seventh day” after pouring out His energy in six (6) days of creative activity, we, too, should find the time to enjoy the break He offers us. What gracious provision of rest He has given, not only between each day, but also one day out of seven during the week. And surely the “holidays” we enjoy, especially during the summer months, are blessings from Him that we can never take for granted.
“Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” — Mark 6:31
But why do we need to take that break? Maybe this story from Terry Hershey’s “Sacred Necessities; Gifts for Living with Passion, Purpose and Grace” will give us a little hint of the reason. “There was once an American traveler who planned a safari to Africa. As a typical Type-A person, he did a thorough research of his travel destination and made a timetable, drew maps and set a clear agenda of the things he needed to see and do. He even hired ahead of time local people to carry some of his supplies he needed for the trek throughout the area. It was that level of planning. On the first morning, they all woke up early and traveled fast and covered a great distance. The second morning was the same—woke up early, traveled fast, and traveled far. Third morning, same thing. But on the fourth morning, the local hired help refused to move. Instead, they sat by a tree in the shade well into the morning. The American became incensed and irate and said to his translator, ‘This is a waste of valuable time. Can someone tell me what’s going on in here?’ The translator looked at him and calmly answered, ‘They’re waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.’ “
He does not expect us to be constantly on the run and finding ourselves spent and tired.
Jesus invited His disciples, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31 NIV). In effect, the Lord was saying that they’ve worked hard and were physically tired. The invitation was for them to get away from everyone else and spend time with one another and with Him for relaxation, rejuvenation and refreshment. It was not just going to be frolic and fun but also time for communion with Him. Their “souls would then be able to catch up with their bodies” and be ready to go back to the byways and highways of life to draw men to Jesus as He will send them on their errands anew.
Plunge once more into the task to which God has called you.
I am sure that most of you have had wonderful moments of rest lately. The Lord had wondrously provided them for you—enjoying the outdoors, swimming in the lake, hiking through trails, relishing those meals cooked outdoors, basking in the sunshine and laughing your hearts out as you shared stories with family members and friends. For sure there were special times of prayer, meditation and worship also. Whatever you did, those moments must have been priceless for you have been greatly refreshed and reinvigorated. Now you are ready to plunge once more into the task to which God has called you—as an employee or a supervisor, a teacher, a nurse, a factory worker, a housekeeper, or even a student as well as a volunteer in our church—for the honor and glory of God. As we have come to another season of ministry and service for Jesus, I am confident that you are physically and spiritually ready to face the challenge before you because the Lord has graciously provided the strength and energy through your days of rest. May it be another exciting and fruitful year ahead as you serve Him in the best way you can wherever He has placed you.
This post was originally published in Connect Newsletter Summer 2014, Volume 7 Issue 3.