Several truth-packed stories in this section of Mark, but I can’t get past the second verse: Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while. Jesus said that. He said those words to his disciples after they returned from taking the message of the gospel to neighboring towns. Apparently they had so many people pressing around them, coming and going, making requests and demands, they didn’t even have time to sit down and eat. Ever felt like that?
If you have, Jesus’ words are for you: Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while. What an amazing invitation. What could those words mean for us?
Come away… Jesus doesn’t say, Go. Instead, he says, Come. That means he’s already there, in the quiet, desolate place, inviting us to join him there. When his disciples show up worn out and road-weary, he doesn’t say, “Go take some time to yourselves. Go clean up and then come back and we’ll talk.” No, he knew they needed more than time alone. He knew they needed him. So he said, “Come. Come away with me for a bit.” Instead of saying, “Go and get your act together,” he says, “Come, and let me put you back together.”
by yourselves… To some people time alone sounds like an oasis. To some it sounds scary. To some it sounds impossible. But Jesus knows that we desperately need time alone with him. Not when there’s a break in the schedule, but right in the middle of the demands. We need to periodically leave other people and their expectations of us. We need to walk away from the people we might be, unfortunately, living through or living for. We need to be alone with Jesus, reminding ourselves that the gospel is not just for other people, it’s for us.
to a desolate place… This part doesn’t sound as attractive to me, because I am a beauty-lover. I love beautiful places and soft cushions, good food and warm cups of tea. But there are times when I need to walk away from the things I normally turn to for comfort in order to tell myself, remind myself, that Jesus is enough. Those creature comforts are nice, but they are not necessary. All I really need is him. Going to the “desolate place” helps me to know that this is really true.
and rest a while. Ahhhhh. This is best part. Rest. Maybe why I couldn’t get past this verse is because I know how badly I need rest. Not sleep, necessarily, but rest. The kind of rest only Jesus can give me. Like Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Literally these words read, and I will rest you. Rest is not something we do. It’s something Jesus does for us. He invites us to come to him and receive what only he can give: rest for our souls.
You’d think that what follows Jesus’ invitation to his disciples would be an account of sweet, quiet time alone with Jesus away from the crowds. Not so. The needy crowds saw them leave and ran on foot all the way around the lake and met them on the other side! So much for quiet, alone time! (Sounds like life with preschoolers! Amen?) This surprise so encourages me because it seems that whenever I try to seize time alone with Jesus, the distractions that assail me are endless and sometimes unavoidable. But apparently, that’s ok. It’s not so much about the quiet, alone time as it is about being with Jesus. And that can happen anytime, anywhere.
During these next couple of holiday months, remember Jesus’ invitation to you: Come away with me and rest awhile. Seize those quiet moments whenever you can and allow Jesus to rest you. But also take courage in the fact that even when the crowd around you doesn’t seem to let up, Jesus can still give you the rest you need right in the middle of it.