Text: Mark 6:30-34
Date: July 21 & 22, 2018
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
Mark 6:30-34 (EHV)
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught. 31He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” For there were so many people coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat. 32They went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33But many people saw them leave and knew where they were going. They ran there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34When Jesus stepped out of the boat, he saw a large crowd. His heart went out to them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He began to teach them many things.
Jesus is our Rest-Giver
- He encourages rest for weary bodies
- He provides rest for beleaguered souls
Rest is not a foreign concept to most Americans. While we spend a large amount of our time working, the amount of money and time spent on leisure activities is really staggering. Think of all the industries in our country that exist solely to entertain and relax: TV, movies, games. There’s so much there to buy and digest, we have so many options and things tempting our money and our time.
But that’s the two-edged sword of it all. Growing up, I remember always having things that I wanted but could not afford. I realized quickly, though, after having a real job with a real schedule and a real income that, while maybe now I could afford some of those previously out-of-reach things, I had far less time to use and enjoy them.
We can very easily get a disjointed outlook on rest and its importance in our lives. In our brief lesson from Mark’s gospel for this morning, though, Jesus shows that he is our Rest-Giver. The rest that Jesus facilitates is a true, appropriate rest. He encourages rest for weary bodies and he provides rest for beleaguered souls.
Our lesson takes place just after Jesus has sent the 12 disciples out two-by-two. They return after their mission work to report everything that has happened. They preached and taught; they healed and drove out demons in Jesus’ name. They are excited from their first taste of the ministry and want to share all their experiences.
But they’ve also just recently received the terrible news that John the Baptist has been killed by King Herod. Many of Jesus’ disciples were John’s disciples before they began following Jesus. John was the one God had sent to prepare the way for Jesus, and for many of Jesus’ disciples he did exactly that. He was still a dear friend and one whom they valued greatly as pointing them to the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
The disciples, then, have a mix of very strong emotions: extreme joy in their work, near-despair at the loss of their friend and fellow worker in the Lord. But even at that, the immediate work has to be done. There are people around them and Jesus that are demanding their attention. Jesus sees the weariness in their bodies and knows that before they can press on with the work before them, these men need to rest. So he says as much, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.”
Have you ever been in that situation where you feel pulled in about eighteen different directions? Perhaps some family and personal matters are weighing heavily on your heart. That big project at the house is looming large since it really should be done in the next month. Work is being absolutely brutal and you’re not sure just how much more you can take. And then someone makes a very simple request of you. Maybe a child asks for a ride somewhere or a friend asks for a helping hand for just a few minutes. But that little request in the context of everything else is just too much and you snap.
Stress doesn’t do anything good to us, and stress on top of physically and emotionally draining times can just compound things. It’s almost as if these things create a window of free access to our sinful nature and just allows him to say or do things without being checked, things that we almost immediately regret. And yet some rest—maybe a nap, maybe a night’s sleep, maybe just a few minutes unplugging and decompressing—can change your whole outlook.
When you’re under that kind of load, take Jesus’ advice. Go with him to a quiet place and get some rest. Quiet time in restful meditation with God’s Word is very often a solution to the problems that await us and the things that need our attention. Time with Jesus changes our outlook, drowns our sinful nature again, and recharges us to face what we need to do with renewed zeal. That’s why our personal and family devotions are so very important. Very often they may be the one time that we get some rest, emotionally and spiritually, to recharge.
But note that Jesus is also concerned about our physical well-being. If we’re letting things become too overwhelming, if we’re letting ourselves be rundown, that’s not a good thing either. We need to take time to rest and recharge. But we need to be careful not to make the rest our end-goal. Free time can so easily become an idol for us that we’re chasing after rest as a goal rather than using it as the recharging break that God intended it to be.
The disciples didn’t have the luxury of really indulging in that rest though. Depending on how the translation goes, either the crowd of people actually were at the landing point of the boat before the boat, or they at least had very little time to themselves once they arrived. This crowd of 5,000 men will eventually be the one that Jesus will feed with a small lunch—and the disciples will, at least, be doing the physical labor of hauling the 12 baskets of leftovers around.
Jesus had shown his care and concern for his disciples, but now he demonstrates that heart even for this very pushy crowd. Mark tells us, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” Jesus concern as the Rest-Giver goes far beyond just simple, physical rest for a weary body. He wants to bring rest souls beleaguered with sin.
Just as a night’s sleep or some time on a recliner might bring rest and recharge to a physically drained body, time with God’s Word is the only way to bring rest to the soul. Jesus knows that and his compassion for these harassed and helpless sheep is such that he launches back into teaching that rest-giving Word.
We were in that same restless and helpless condition. We were like sheep without a shepherd. As sinners, we were lost sheep who could never find our way home. We could only find our death in the jaws of a wolf, at the bottom of a cliff or through starvation. There was no hope for us—we were destined to wander, exhausted, until we died.
But Jesus looked at you and had compassion on you. He was deeply moved at your condition and wanted to help you. So he took matters into his own hands. You couldn’t find the rest from your sins because there was nothing in your power to solve that problem. No sleep therapy or vacation could solve the exhaustion that you’d brought on yourself—the exhaustion of death.
So Jesus put himself in your place. Jesus, the Rest-Giver, took the load of your exhaustion-causing sin on himself. And he carried it away from you to Golgotha where he allowed himself to be killed. He allowed himself to suffer the hell that you deserved—complete separation from the rest of God—so that you wouldn’t have to. Jesus became your true Rest-Giver by sacrificing himself.
Because of what Jesus did, his words spoken to comfort us take on whole new meaning. When he tells you, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29), you understand more fully what he means. The rest Jesus speaks about isn’t the rest the disciples found on that boat going across the water, it’s not the rest that I might find in a nap on a Sunday afternoon. It’s rest for your soul.
The physical rest that Jesus encouraged his disciples to get and encourages us to get as well always has an end. It’s finite because as long as we’re here, we’ve got more things to be doing, more tasks to complete, more work to be done. But things will be different at our death. Consider what John tells us he saw and heard in Revelation 14, “And I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “because they will rest from their labors, for their works follow them.” (v. 13). Our true rest will come in the Lord. Our true rest will come when we can be with Jesus forever. Our true rest will be when our Rest-Giver gives us release from our labors in this world of sin and allows us to relax in the perfect halls of heaven because he saved us.
So rest now. Rest in the promises of God that he fulfilled in Jesus. Rest in the promises of God that he has made to you that he will fulfill when he calls you home. In the same way that we rest from our physical labors, may we continue to find rest in God’s Word which restores us spiritually and strengthens us for the road ahead, a road that leads to true rest in our Savior’s love.
Lord Jesus, grant us strength till that day that you call us home. Amen.