He told them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while,” because so many people were coming and going that they didn’t even have time to eat.
The responsibilities, busyness, stresses, and strains of simply living, can cause each of us to neglect what is important and have a lasting effect on what we consider to be immediately urgent and vital. Even the duties and tasks to which God has called us can be placed higher on our daily agenda than those things that are vital to our spiritual well-being – taking time to be alone with the Lord.
Mark is the shortest gospel… detailing the work of Christ’s ministry, the calling of His disciples, the healing of the sick, and the teaching of the kingdom, at breakneck speed. By chapter 6, Jesus has already been falsely accused of performing miracles by the power of Beelzebub, rejected by both the Jewish leaders and the people, and had started to teach His disciples through parables – so that only those with ears to hear would understand.
The twelve men chosen to be Christ’s apostles, had been commissioned by the Lord to travel throughout the cities of Judah in pairs, preaching repentance wherever they went. They were given authority to cast out demons, raise the dead, heal the sick and anoint them with oil. It was a demanding schedule, and they were not always welcome in the places they visited.
It was not an easy task for the Twelve, for they were forbidden to take any sort of provision for their journey. They were not even allowed to take a bag with them, food, money in their pocket, or a change of clothes. During this assignment, they were to rely entirely on God’s provision and His sufficient strength – just like the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.
The Lord Jesus knew how the pressures of ministry affect the human body. He knew what it was to be tired and thirsty, weary and worn out. He was well aware that times of mental and spiritual refreshment are necessary for all God’s people, and the strenuous work of the Kingdom had caused His disciples to neglect their own bodily needs – they didn’t even have time to eat.
Their preaching assignment was followed by days of caring for the physical needs of 5000 hungry people. Together with Christ’s rejection at Nazareth and the shock of Herod’s bloody murder of John the Baptist, the rigorous schedule had taken its toll on both the bodies and emotions of this little group.
Recognising their fatigue and need of restoration, the Lord, in His gentle chiding, but gracious compassion, told them, “‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while,’ because so many people were coming and going that they didn’t have time enough to eat.” Throughout Scripture God often uses the simple, natural things to teach us important spiritual truths, and these gentle instructions of the Lord to His faithful little band ‘to rest awhile’, were no exception. Just as the body needs time to recover and recuperate, so also the spirit and soul need times of rest and refreshment.
Just as Jesus gave these men work to do, so He called them to step aside from their mission and ministry and rest for a while. Just as the Lord provides opportunities for service so He also gives us periods of ‘time-out’ to recharge our batteries and refresh our soul. Although Jesus was fully God, He was also fully human. He understands our weaknesses – and in His grace He called His disciples to, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while,” because so many people were coming and going that they didn’t even have time to eat.
We too need to hear the Master’s tender warning and provide ourselves with the necessary rest and refreshment in our wearisome labours, mounting pressures, escalating fatigue, and the worrisome hardships that are strewn across the daily paths of each one of us. We are all well aware of the effect of the disregard and neglect of our physical needs and need to be wise in the way we conduct our lives and our various duties, but of far greater significance is the neglect of true, spiritual refreshment, and the failure to spend quality time with our heavenly Father.
Life’s pressures can start to take a severe toll on our relationship with the Lord Himself, as intimate contact with the Lord Jesus is edged out by urgent time constraints… and too soon we discover He is pushed outside the door of our helter-skelter lives. May this never be. May we take serious steps to address this issue in our lives.
The desert place to which He calls us is not necessarily connected with a TIME or a PLACE, but rests on an ATTITUDE of heart towards our Lord. May we keep the eyes of our heart firmly fixed on the Lord Jesus day by day. May we abide in Him and He in us, moment by moment, and may we respond to His call to ‘COME AWAY’ to a deserted place by ourselves with JESUS, knowing that He will provide the nourishment for our souls and the sufficient strength to live holy lives – as we take time to rest in His love and enjoy sweet fellowship with Him.
Thank You, Father, for Your Word and for helping me to recognise how quickly You can be pushed out of my life. Help me to change my attitude from prioritising the urgent things in life to that which is of eternal value. Help me to recognise that keeping the eyes of my heart on You is the more important thing in life. Refresh my weary soul today I pray, as I abide in You and rest in Your love. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.