“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
Yesterday we looked at these words of Jesus from Mark 6. The twelve followers of Jesus were functioning in overdrive. They needed to stop and recoup before moving on, and Jesus knew this. So He called them to come with Him away from the hustle and bustle and to simply rest (Mark 6:31).
Did you know physical rest isn’t optional? You may be able to pull an all-nighter here or there, but God designed our bodies to need sleep in order to function. Is sleeping for eight hours the kind of rest Jesus is talking about here? Let’s pick up the story in Mark 6 to find our answer:
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 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. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them (vv. 30–33, emphasis added).
After days (perhaps weeks) of keeping up a grueling schedule, Jesus and His friends finally were able to get away for some much needed R&R. But as you noticed, their reprieve only lasted a short while. They were greeted at the end of their boat ride with “a great crowd” (v. 34).
Looking Beyond the Obstacle
Does it ever feel like busyness is chasing you down? You try to find rest, but you simply can’t escape the crowds and the chaos. It’s discouraging and frustrating. Yet how does Jesus handle this interruption to solitude? It doesn’t say He was irritated with them, or He ignored them and stayed on the boat. Instead, the second half of verse 34 says He had compassion on the crowds. Compassion!?
If I were sitting on that boat with Jesus, compassion would have been the furthest response from my mind. I would have viewed the oncoming crowd as a nuisance, an unwelcome interruption to my solitude. Hello people, can’t you tell you’re being a bother? I’m as tired and hungry as you are. You can go back to your corner of the world now and leave me alone. I don’t have the time or energy to deal with you right now. Goodbye!
A response like this is a sure sign I’ve got everything backward. I’m ignoring that Jesus is King and placing myself in the center of the universe. I’m forgetting that the purpose of time with Jesus in peace and rest is to fill my soul in order to be poured out for others.
The disciples missed the point as well. “Send them away,” they told Jesus, “to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (v. 36).
Jesus does not listen to them. Instead, even though there were literally thousands of hungry people with empty stomachs, He turns to His disciples and says, “You give them something to eat” (v. 37).
Remember, there are over five thousand hungry mouths to feed in the crowd, and the next verse tells us the only morsel of food they can scrounge up is five bread loaves and two fish. Clearly the need is well beyond the scope of their abilities. But that doesn’t appear to be problematic for Jesus.
You see, He doesn’t see the people as an obstacle. He sees them as an opportunity.
Seeing the Opportunity
Jesus did not ask the disciples to solve this problem on their own or to be more and do more than what is humanly feasible. All He asked was that they give Him what they had. Sure, it was a meager dinner for even one man, let alone five thousand. But if they were willing to entrust it to Him, Jesus would take care of the rest. The point wasn’t if what they gave was enough, but if they were willing to give their all.
You may be in a season where you don’t have much to give. (I certainly am.) You may have physical limitations. Maybe you’re tired, discouraged, or lonely. You want to hone in on the “come away and rest” part and stay there forever and ever.
As we saw previously, there’s nothing wrong with times of rest. When Jesus leads you to that place of rest, embrace it with joy and gratitude! But when He leads you into a season of crowds, needs, and service . . . embrace that as well with joy and gratitude. Give from what you do have, offer what you can, and let Jesus take your meager loaves and fish and multiply them for the kingdom.
What is your response when Jesus asks you to pour yourself out for others? Do you begrudge the needy people in your life, or do you see them as Jesus did—as an opportunity to show compassion?