Mark 6:35 – Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest
The context (Mark 6:30)
The apostles gathered round Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. The context of these words was the mission Jesus had sent them on reported in Mark 6:6-13. It had been an intensely busy period of evangelistic work round the villages in parts of the north of the country.
The exact itinerary is not given, but it is clear they had been away for a significant period of time. After its completion they returned to Jesus to reflect on the work they had done. Around that time there was an unexpected traumatic event that dominated public conversations. It was a killing that shocked the nation with its cruelty. It feels remarkably like the present time. The author of Ecclesiastes 1:9b wrote: There is nothing new under the sun.
It is disturbing how history so often repeats itself over the centuries. It is as if as a human race we are unwilling to learn the lessons of our history. We take some steps forward and then take other back.
For some of us the last few weeks have been very tiring with heavy work demands. Or they have been very stressful because of changing working practices that we struggle to master. After several weeks of this difficulty the strain begins to tell on our physical and emotional health. For others the isolation of lock down and the cancellation of virtually everything in our diaries has brought about a sense of loss that is difficult to articulate.
In addition, there have been many warnings in the press of the suffering of the people who need medical treatment, but cannot get it. Inevitably there will be some of us struggling with the fact that we have no idea when this pandemic will be brought to an end.
For these first disciples and many more people at that time, the brutal killing of John the Baptist had been so unexpected. The shock levels might have been even higher and the grief more traumatic if images of that night of excess had been filmed and placed on social media, especially the brutal beheading of John the Baptist. In our twenty-first century context it is the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis that is a defining image of the present day. There is though only so much we can take before we need a break.
The call (Mark 6:31-33)
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.’
When we have no time to eat or sleep it is a danger signal that we cannot keep this up for too much longer, without damage to our health. The natural tiredness of the ministry tour would have been reason enough to take a break, but the emotional trauma of coming to terms with John the Baptist’s execution would have increased their need to support one another at this incredibly difficult time. They had greatly respected him and some of them had previously been his disciples.
We all need to carve out some times for rest; this does not mean we have to fill all our time off with catching up on jobs not done, our priority may be in extreme cases to rest a lot and try to catch up on lost sleep. All of us need to find a way to be able to be quiet and rest and recuperate.
The compassion (Mark 6:32-34)
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognised 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 6:30-34)
Time out, like lock down, will not go on for ever. The rest and recuperation time was clearly cut short by the appearance of the crowds desiring time with Jesus. It is a reminder that we can make our plans but events can overtake them. There is always work to be done, but there is a limit to what you or I can accomplish. Then and now Jesus’ words here are ones we need to heed for the good of our own sense of wellbeing. We should be willing to do what we can but also to heed Jesus words in Mark 6:35: Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest.
Our song for reflection today is: ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’