I Need Rest
Thorns and thistles. So long ago Adam and Eve went their own way away from the Lord. And the consequences of their sin we share today. Work used to be fun. But after they sinned, work is work. And yet, because it is work and because it wears us down and makes us weary, we need rest. That’s the context to understand as we begin to walk through this part of God’s word in Mark 6. The twelve disciples had been busy. They had worked. They had toiled. They went out two by two. Their legs were worn down as they walked from town to town. Their hearts were worn down as they preached God’s word again and again not knowing if the people would receive them into their homes or drive them out of their town. They needed rest—for both their legs and hearts. And so, we read: “30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”” (Mark 6:30–31 NIV11-GKE)
They need rest. They know it. Jesus sees it. So he tells them, “Let’s get a little rest.”1 Now, notice, Jesus does not tell them to get an overwhelming amount of rest. Instead, he tells them to get a little rest. So what happens next? “32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 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.” (Mark 6:32–34 NIV11-GKE)
They get on a boat to get away from the crowds and get some rest. But the crowds see them and they travel by foot.2 They run around the sea while Jesus and his disciples sail across the sea.3 And then, what happens next is shocking and surprising. What we would have expected is that Jesus would have sent the crowd away or sailed to a different place. Because he had just invited them to get some rest with him. But when he sees the crowds he has compassion on them.4 There are times that you can’t find a perfect word in english to bring out what is going on in the Greek or Hebrew. The word here describes something that disturbs you so much that your guts feel twisted within yourself. It’s that feeling you have when your teenager goes driving for the first time. It’s that feeling you have when your high-schooler graduates and then they leave—on their own. Jesus heart was in turmoil over these crowds. They were sheep without a shepherd. They had wolves—false teachers. But they didn’t have shepherds.
But just for a moment, put yourself in the shoes of those twelve. Jesus invited them to get some rest with him. But then what happens? The crowd comes and Jesus seemingly forgets about them. And here is where they learned a powerful lesson. It is true that those disciples needed rest. But what about those crowds? What about their need for rest? These were people who were so desperate that they traveled on foot, even running ahead of their boat for one reason—to hear God’s word. For they needed rest for their souls. From this, no doubt, they saw their sin. For it is a sin to lift up our own needs and then forget about the needs of others. And the same is true for us. The new mom loses so much sleep because of the little child. And there is the temptation to hate the child because of its needs. You go to work. And at the end of the day you have your keys in one hand and your jacket in the other. And then your boss comes around the corner with some extra work that needs to get done before you leave. And there hangs over you the temptation to hate him because, after all, you need your rest. When we were in school I remember a professor telling us, “When you get that phone call at 2 AM, letting you know that your member is in the hospital, there will be that temptation to ignore it because you need your rest. But when that phone call comes, you answer it, and you get to the hospital. Because they need rest from God’s word.”
This a real temptation to sin, isn’t it? It is a real temptation to conclude that my need for rest is more important than others. And so we see this sin and repent of it. And, as we do for all of our other sins, we turn to Jesus. Jesus had compassion on them. His heart was in turmoil over them. And his guts are twisted in care and concern today for us too. Look at your Savior. Look at the many times and ways that your needs came before his own. There were times that he should have eaten. But he didn’t so that he could teach the people. There were times he should have slept. But he didn’t so that he could teach the people. There were times that he needed privacy, but he didn’t have it, so that he could teach the people.
Jesus went without all these so that you would know that your needs went before his own. And with that perfect obedience in our place he won forgiveness for us. And with his perfect payment on the cross he payed for all the times we made our need for rest a ruthless right.
He has compassion on us to forgive us. But he also has compassion on us to give us shepherds. When we began vacation, we got out to MT in just enough time to arrive there for the installation of a new pastor at my parents’ church. They had been without a pastor for a little less than a year. And you see how much they needed a shepherd. They needed a fellow sinner as they were that God chose to share his word with them. And by sharing God’s forgiveness to them, again and again, they received rest.
Now my dear friends in Christ, this is an important point. Notice what Jesus did not do. Jesus did not show his compassion on the crowds by buying then a timeshare on the Mediterranean coast for a year. Jesus showed his compassion on them by sharing God’s word with them. For God’s word is what gives us rest. What good is it to have time for rest without a soul at rest? All you’ve gained is time. But you have no rest in that time. Every day off and every vacation should be a brief glimpse into our life in heaven, where we will have complete and perfect rest. But without God’s word, all you have is a fearful expectation of hell. Time off should be a time to relax and recharge. But what good is it to have that time off and then be all stressed out because you’re worrying about what will fall apart when you’re gone. Only in Christ, in his word, do you hear and receive these promises that Jesus will watch over all the details while you are away. And with that time off you actually get rest—both for your body and for your soul.
I need rest. There will be those times we say those words. Your Savior and Shepherd, Jesus knows this. And so he has compassion on you by forgiving you and by giving you a shepherd to share God’s word with you. Amen.
1 “ⲁⲛⲁⲡⲁⲩⲥⲁⲥⲑⲉⲟⲗⲓⲅⲟ̅” (Mark 6:31 GNT-ALEX)
2 “ⲡⲉⲍⲏ” (Mark 6:33 GNT-ALEX)
3 “ⲉⲇⲣⲁⲙⲟⲛ” (Mark 6:33 GNT-ALEX)
4 “ⲉⲥⲡⲗⲁⲅⲭⲛⲓⲥⲑⲏ” (Mark 6:34 GNT-ALEX)