Mark 6:30-34

Dear Friends in Christ,

When I was a teenager, I worked a few times on a friend’s pig farm helping store bales of hay in the barn during the summer.  It was hot, sweaty, itchy, heavy work.  We wore jeans and flannel shirts in the middle of summer in a hot barn as we took the heavy bales of hay off of the flatbeds and threw them up to the loft in the barn.  It seemed like we were at it all day, but it probably only lasted 2 or 3 hours at a time.  One of the things I looked forward to most was when we would go into my friend’s air-conditioned house and he would hand each of us an ice cold Pepsi.  It was simply revitalizing to sit down as we consumed our refreshment. 

You can relate, no doubt.  After you have put in a hard day around the house or at work, you are ready for a nap, or you’re ready to sit down and eat or drink something that refreshes you.  When you do, you also realize that this doesn’t mean all the work is done.  You know there’s more ahead.  But this rest helps you physically and mentally prepare for what’s to come. 

In the words before us, we see that kind of rest going on.  Rest to recoup and to revitalize.  But there’s more to this rest that is going on than may immediately meet the eye.  And that’s because of the one offering the rest to begin with: Jesus.  Just as Jesus offered rest to his weary disciples and to ignorant crowds, Jesus also offers you real rest

 

Do you have those days when you are physically, mentally, and emotionally drained?  You put your heart and soul into something and now you are just plain exhausted.  That seems to be the case with Jesus’ 12 apostles or disciples.  They had just returned from their first ministry trip. 

Jesus had commissioned them to go out 2 by 2.  They were to preach and teach, to evangelize.  Their message was repentance.  If you don’t think that’s exhausting, just ask a pastor how he feels after preaching a sermon.  Most that I’ve talked to say that they’re tired after preaching and often catch a nap on Sunday afternoon.  It’s physically, mentally and emotionally draining. 

Not only were these disciples preaching and evangelizing, they were traveling from place to place.  Meeting different people.  While it was, no doubt, energizing and exciting work that they were doing, once the adrenalin left, they would be tired from their experience. 

Now couple that with something else that was going on at this time.  They would have just gotten word that John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod.  Keep in mind that two of their number had actually been disciples of John the Baptist before John urged them to follow Jesus.  The other 10 may or may not have known him personally, but they certainly knew who John was and what he was all about.  Not only would they have been grieved by his loss, but they most certainly would have had concerns that they might be the next victims of Herod. 

It was with this mixed bag that they would have met up with Jesus once again.  Grief over John the Baptist; discouragement over the difficulties they met; and joy over their successes.  So they simply unloaded to Jesus.  They let him know all that they had been through. 

But that sharing moment in Capernaum didn’t last long.  They were barely able to eat, let alone converse about everything that was going on.  There were so many people around that they didn’t even have a chance to beep down.  So Jesus extended the invitation: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 

Jesus knew what they needed.  The Son of God had become human so that he could save us.  And now, as a human, he experienced what they did, and so he knew from experience what they needed.  They needed some time alone.  Away from the hustle and bustle of the activity of the people. 

Your life, too, becomes so full of activity.  Even when you’re retired, right?  You and I understand the value of rest, don’t we?  Whether it is sitting down for just a few minutes, or whether it is a week-long vacation.  We value that time. 

Yet we realize that the vacation or brief rest doesn’t mean the end of our activities.  It’s simply a time to re-gather ourselves and get ready for the rest of the day or the next few months.  It refreshes us so that we can go on. 

After all, we recognize that remaining faithful to God is hard work.  We daily struggle with ourselves to do the God-pleasing thing.  We look for opportunities to serve God. And that’s all hard work!

Thankfully, we have Jesus who invites us to take a rest.  No, he’s not telling us to take a break from our Christian life.  He’s inviting you to rest by coming to listen to him talk to you.  Let his soothing voice calm your restless heart and reinvigorate your soul. 

When you don’t do that, don’t you feel something missing?  Maybe you can’t even put your finger on it.  But what’s missing is that valuable close time that you have with your Savior. 

When you go on vacation, it can be a temptation to take a break from God too.  That would be a big mistake.  It’s at those times that you want to stay close to God.  Don’t forget church!  Our WELS website has a simple feature that allows you to find Wisconsin Synod churches in the area you are visiting.  And it won’t be long and you will be able to view our worship services online.  No matter where you go, God is there.  Stay in touch with him. 

And it is really important for you to do that on an individual basis too.  Each individual person needs to connect with their Savior alone.  I’m talking about a devotional life.  Family devotions and devotions with couples are great and important, but each one of us needs to spend some alone time with Jesus.  To report to him what we’ve done, good or bad.  To hear his calming voice, assuring us of his love for us.  There are so many ways to do that.  Meditations booklets.  Meditations on your computer, tablet or even phone.  If you’ve never really done that or aren’t currently doing that, I challenge you to start.  If you are doing that, I urge you to keep it up and look for even more ways or more time with your Savior.  Rest in the voice of his Word. 

After all, your Savior wants to talk to you.  He goes out of his way to do so.  He showed that with the clueless crowds of people that followed Jesus after Jesus climbed into the boat with his 12 apostles.  Jesus sailed along the shore of the Sea of Galilee with his disciples only a few miles so that he could go with his disciples to a remote place.  The crowd of people followed the boat along the shore, and met Jesus and his disciples. 

This crowd of people were uninvited guests.  You could say they were rude for intruding on the time that Jesus and his 12 enjoyed.  So what did Jesus do?  Ignore them?  Tell them to go away?  Not a chance.  Jesus saw that they were like they were like sheep without a shepherd.” 

What a picture that is!  Sheep without a shepherd are in trouble.  They have no one to lead or guide them.  Left to themselves, they’ll either starve, run off a cliff, or be eaten by a wolf.  This crowd had no direction either, and if it remained that way, they would be in great trouble. 

So Jesus had compassion on them.  His heart went out to them.  He went to work on the crowd, because he knew exactly what they needed, even though they didn’t really know what they needed.  You can be sure he taught them about the rest from their sins that he had come to provide them. 

That’s the same rest that we have too.  This rest comes to us because of what Jesus has done.  He lived for us.  That means that the LORD is our Righteousness, as Jeremiah proclaimed in the Old Testament lesson.  And Paul reminds us Ephesians that you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  His death brought us rest from our sins, so that we could live in the presence of God. 

We all need rest.  Rest from our labor.  Rest to recharge so that we can get back at it.  Spend time taking Jesus up on the rest he offers.  Remember that not only does he provide you rest for your souls here, but he promises you that an eternal and perfect rest is waiting for you.  That’s a rest worth waiting for!  Amen.