Picture your secluded spot where you get away from it all. On the comfy chair with a good book. Away in the woods in a tent under the stars. Sitting in the backyard with a hot cup of coffee. Wherever your spot is, its peaceful. Quiet. Whether alone or with close friends and family doesn’t matter. It’s your spot to rest.
The followers of Jesus were just back from their first preaching tour traveling from village to village. All the preaching and teaching they did was away from the watchful eye of Jesus. When they met back up with Jesus, he recognized they were tired. They could use some time in that secluded spot, away from it all. So he calls them away.
In an age of texting and email, work phones alongside personal ones, you might not have a day off anymore. The long workweeks flow into equally long and stressful weekends. Even if you’re retired, many times life can seem busier than when it was just 9-5. School is on break, for now. But the homework, classes, and sports will return soon enough. Schedules get demanding. Rest seems far off. So in the gospel, Jesus calls the disciples and us.
Come away with Jesus
Naturally, the twelve disciples, called apostles because they had been sent out by Jesus, when they came back wanted to share their experiences. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.” They discovered things just as Jesus said. Some responded to their message and others rejected. People welcomed them into their homes. They did miracles in Jesus’ name and preached. That specific task Jesus gave them was accomplished. Preach that people should repent. The entire preaching tour they pointed people to, they taught people, Jesus. Under the grace of Jesus the apostles reported success.
Jesus was interested in what the apostles reported. He’s interested in what we can report to him too. The specific work we have of being followers of Christ and being ready to speak for him and about him. But maybe we haven’t occupied ourselves with that task. Letting Jesus know what we’ve accomplished on our own doesn’t work. Putting forward our successes of raising our kids, forgets those kids are a gift from the Lord and a responsibly he helps us with. The good behavior with the babysitter or at daycare seems to be us working hard, but that forgets the yelling at mom or dad at times. The money we’ve saved for retirement might seem like the product of a lifetime of hard work. But that hard work was hardly done without God’s help. Working hard is true and good. Boasting, taking pride, giving ourselves the glory is sinful.
These apostles were Jesus’ people. He listened to them excitedly talk about the accomplishments, knowing full well those came about only by his grace. Jesus had accomplished a lot too, and what he would accomplish would be much more valuable to all people. The work Jesus did made you his people. He alone could point to what he did and boast. But he points to it in his Word and fills you with hope in his accomplishments. Jesus got to work, living a completely perfect life. He kept the commandment to honor his father and mother. He could mark down success in growing up without sin. His hard work led him to sacrifice, a sacrifice that brought peace between you and God. Forgiveness won through work accomplished on your behalf.
We don’t know how long the apostles were gone or how far they traveled. Surely it was hard work. Each day having to find a place to sleep. Jesus kept them from bringing supplies. So each day was thinking about and planning for the supplies they would need to get. The hard work of preaching each day and teaching into the night. Being “on” all the time. And the overwhelming stress of being a spokesperson for Jesus. Plus while they were gone their good friend and former teacher had been killed. Any highs they felt were balanced by incredible lows too.
With the crowds, the demands, and time came a need for rest, physical and spiritual. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Time to themselves, but not alone. There would be physical downtime, but Jesus promised most of all they would have time with him. Jesus would grant restoration of their bodies and spirits. After a time of hard work rest was right. But not rest from Jesus, not time away from him. Through Jesus they would get new energy. He authorized the rest, invited them to it, and gave it. Rest with him.
Rest might be our ultimate goal. Work these next weeks and then take that vacation. Sleep till noon each day because soon school will start and the rest time will be over. There might be crazy long hours, working Sundays and holidays. We sacrifice our time for worship and rest with Jesus because we feel we have no choice. We’ll be fired. We’ll get worse hours. We won’t get a project finished. Other times we see rest as the way life should go. Rest might become the excuse for not working the mission as individual Christians or as a congregation. We’re resting still.
Sleep can energize you. Taking a day off can be good. Jesus even says rest is good. But that’s not a perpetual excuse to sit around and read or take days off. While you need sleep for physical rest, days off for rejuvenation, you need rest for your soul. You won’t find that rest sleeping an extra hour on Sunday morning. You won’t rest till you rest in Christ. Jesus gives all kinds of rest. Physical rest and time away. But rest in Christ focuses on him giving you his Word. Jesus teaching you time with him is rest for the soul. It’s him caring for you, guiding you, and leading you to peace. Comfort when you’re hurting. Love and compassion that went to the cross. The Savior worked hard in compassion to save you, so you wouldn’t have to work at all to save yourself. Rest, because the work is done. Enjoy the sunset, and remind yourself God gives every sunset. Relax on the boat, and give thanks to God who grants you the resources of time and money to do it. Carve out the precious time to be here, resting with Jesus and hearing his Word. Guard your devotion time from everything. Let the Word of God connect you to Christ and give you real rest knowing the hard work of getting you to heaven is already done by him.
The crowd intruded where it wasn’t invited. “But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.” The crowds wanted things from Jesus. Instead of rolling his eyes and telling the apostles to get rid of the crowds so they could rest, Jesus had compassion on the crowd. Rest couldn’t last forever. The sheep without a shepherd caught the heart of Christ and he responded. He couldn’t turn them away. That would never save their souls. Jesus rested when it was good, but the mission to save souls never stopped. He worked when necessary because people needed a Savior. He restarted after a time of rest.
We earn our days off and our rest. Can’t people leave us alone for just a while? We might turn off our phones, put our computers away, keep the iPads out of sight. Not working now. Resting. We work so hard, we don’t want to go back. As a congregation too,
there may have been big pushes in the past. Projects where people worked hard, spent hours here, put in the time and energy.
Christmas for Kids, worshiping in the park, and sending out thousands of postcards for Easter, these take a lot of work. Rest is good after big pushes. The work of Christianity is hard. It’s risky talking about Jesus. People might question us, so we make sure we’re living our faith and speaking clearly our faith. That effort takes energy. Eventually, we’re sapped and a time of rest seems necessary and we want it to go on and on.
The Savior who rested but restarted the work calls you to restart. You’ve rested, recharged yourself spiritually in the Word of Christ’s love. You’ve soaked up his compassion. You’ve had physical rest and spiritual rest. But in this world rest can’t happen, won’t happen forever. After the rest comes hard work again. And you’re ready. You’re called to work in this community and in your communities. Restart the work of things God does through you. He brings people into your path you can listen to. Listening to the needs of the community and dreaming big on how you might serve them, how we might serve them. Do mother’s need a place to come with their kids where they feel safe, their kids can learn, and they can interact with each other? How can we serve in that way? Are schools here or where you live looking for people who care to help them? Are there people in your communities who might not come here, but we could be going to them? Big dreams, big plans, and a big God mean big work. Individually and collectively restarting after resting means hard work. But you belong to Christ, victory is yours. The message of Christ is yours. The privilege is yours and ours to figure out where and how to put that out there.
It’s a cycle that repeats, but is focused on Christ. You get to report to Jesus what you’ve accomplished under his grace and with his power. You rest because Jesus says its good. And rested you restart the work again. It will be hard. Jesus knew full well it would be. But he provides you with all the compassion and love you need to do spiritual work till the end. That’s when the perfection Christ Jesus won for you will be yours to experience fully in heaven. The work will stop. The rest will never end. In heaven, for all time, we will come away with Jesus.