This six-week span of time that we refer to as “the holidays” are in motion. We are in search of “perfect gifts” and setting things up for parties and get-together’s. We are handling all of the responsibilities that we are bound to throughout the rest of the year, as well as adding the new pressures that make this season so memorable (for good or for bad depends on the power of your memory or your ability to trick yourself). I ran across a verse this morning that I’d read before, but it stuck out a little more prominently because of this glorious time that we know of as “the holidays”.
And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Mark 6:31 ESV
It’s not that rest is a new concept in the Scriptures. From the 7th installment of the Creation narrative we see rest as a notable theme. In fact, the call to rest comes with the force of a commandment, chiseled into rough stone, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”. These two events define our general understanding of rest, it’s an example set and a command issued. These methods are somewhat impersonal in their delivery, though no less true or needed. So Mark’s gospel adds a personal touch to the doctrine of rest, and to be quite honest, it feels good.
Jesus looks at his friends and acknowledges that they’ve been at it. It’s always nice when a leader recognizes your effort, when they let you know that they’ve been watching you put in the time, put in the hours. Jesus, like a good leader, does this. He tells them, essentially, that they are in need of a much deserved break. Get some food, find a place away from all of the needs, separate yourselves from the hectic scene for awhile…it’s time to kick back.
Granted this doesn’t play out as neatly as they would like for it to, and truly as we read through the account of the feeding of the five thousand we see some of the profound effects that lack of rest had on the disciples (selfishness, a decreased willingness to serve, harmful cynicism, frustration, etc…). But, for today, it’s enough to know that God not only sets an example of rest, and He not only commands rest, but He looks at us and with warmth and compassion and concern says, “let’s go and take a break…it’s good for all of us”. Jesus is not just Jesus, He’s God, God told the disciples to stop ministering, to stop meeting needs, to stop sacrificing for the sake of the kingdom. How profound. What a difference the Incarnation makes.
Friends, I encourage you, in a season that will take your energy, time, and patience and do it all under the guise of “cheer” and “joy”, make sure you take a break. Sit and rest, go eat without pressure. Relax with those closest to you, not to entertain them, but to come together and recharge.