In the 1860’s, Mark Twain took a steamboat tour of Europe and the Holy Land, during which he visited Rome. He wrote about his experience there:
“Afterward we walked up and down one of the most popular streets for some time, and wishing we could export some of it to our restless, driving, vitality-consuming marts at home. Just in this matter lies one of the main charms of Europe — comfort. In America, we hurry — which is well, but when the day’s work is done, we go on thinking of losses and gains, we plan for the morrow, we even carry our business cares to bed with us, and toss and worry over them when we ought to be restoring our racked bodies and brains with sleep. We burn up our energies with these excitements, and either die early or drop into a lean and mean old age at a time of life which they call a man’s prime in Europe. When an acre of ground has produced long and well, we let it life fallow and rest for a season; we take no man clear across the continent in the same coach he started in — the coach is stabled somewhere on the plains, and its heated machinery is allowed to cool for a few days; when a razor has seen long service and refuses to hold an edge, the barber lays it away for a few weeks, and the edge comes back of its own accord. We bestow thoughtful care upon inanimate objects, but none upon ourselves. What a robust people, what a nation of thinkers we might be, if we would only lay ourselves on the shelf occasionally, and renew our edges!” (p. 160)
“Lay yourself on the shelf, and renew your edges” — This is basically what Jesus was telling His disciples in Mark 6:31, “And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)”
Jesus’ disciples found themselves in an extremely busy time and Jesus told them: “Come away … and rest.” Many of us are similarly busy, and we need to hear this word from Jesus as His disciples too: “Come away … and rest.” Listen and see how you need to apply Jesus words here to your own life:
I. Rest in Him for your SALVATION
There is a kind of person who is very busy about all kinds of “good works”, but they are doing all those things for the wrong reason: they are doing them in an effort to make themselves right with God.
From time to time I’ve heard people commend the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They say things like: they put us to shame with all the visits they make. Well, you probably would make all those visits too, if you thought your eternal salvation was going to depend upon it! They are very busy, but the reason they are so busy is that they are hoping to justify themselves before God. A lot of religious people are like this: the reason they are so religious is because they think their salvation depends on all the things they are doing.
Paul talks about this kind of person in Romans 10, when he says: “I bear them witness, that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge … for Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
He’s saying there are a lot of people who are very “zealous” in their good works, but they don’t realize what Ephesians 2:8-9 says about salvation: that we are not saved by our good works, but by faith in Jesus’ good work on the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, He called out “It is finished” — it is paid in full. The Christian person RESTS in what Jesus did for him on the cross. He wants to be busy about His Father’s business, but not because he is trying to justify himself. He knows he is already justified through his faith in Jesus. He has heard Jesus’ call in Matthew 11:28: “Come unto Me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” The Christian person does not stay up late at night worrying about whether they have done enough to earn their salvation; they know that Jesus has done it all for them, and they REST in that.
If you are one of those people who are all worried about whether you have done enough to be saved, then you need to find rest in Christ today. “It is finished!” Jesus has already done the work of paying for your way to heaven. Put your trust in Him. Have the attitude of the old song: “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.” Find REST in Jesus today for your salvation.
II. Rest in Him DAILY in His word and worship.
Mark 1:35 is one of the most important verses we find in this Book of Mark. It says: “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place and was praying there.” This verse shows us that Jesus made it a priority to get away every day to spend time with His Heavenly Father.
None of us have ever experienced the kind of busy-ness that Jesus did here in Mark 1. Verse 33 says “The whole city had gathered at the door” of the house where He was staying. How late must that ministry have gone on? It certainly wasn’t a “9 to 5” day! Jesus didn’t get to bed until very late.
And yet the very next verse says that Jesus got up while it was still dark and went away to a lonely place to pray. Even when He was SO busy; He knew He had to take this time to be with God.
He did it later here in Mark 6 too. After feeding the 5000 and sending them all way, :46 says “After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.” After all that! Jesus had an extreme commitment to time alone with God. Listen: if anyone could have “coasted” and not needed His quiet time with God, it was Jesus. But even in His most busy times, He did not neglect it. He knew just how important it was.
And if Jesus needed it, you and I need it even more so. We must see how important it is to have a daily time of “rest,” where we spend time with the Lord in His word and prayer. We need to say like David in Psalm 5:3, “In the morning O LORD, You WILL hear my voice.” We need that same commitment to that time of daily rest in Him.
This is one of the reasons why we are emphasizing our daily Bible readings. We just get bombarded every day with so many things that distract us, and worry us — so we need to get into His word every day so we can REST in Him and His truth. If you aren’t reading along with us, I hope you’ll get one of our Bible reading guides and start today. Jesus wants you to come away and find REST with Him every day in His word and worship.
III. Rest in a weekly “Sabbath”
Now, when I say “sabbath,” I do not mean the Jewish Sabbath that was commanded in the Old Testament. Observing the Sabbath on Saturday passed away with the Old Testament Law, and we are not under obligation to keep that as New Testament Christians. We see several indicators of that in the New Testament:
— In Acts 15, when The Jerusalem Council first accepted the Gentiles into the early church, they did NOT command them to keep the Sabbath.
— The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 14:6 “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.”
— And it is very instructive that the 4th Commandment, which is the Sabbath command, was the only one of the 10 Commandments which was not repeated in the New Testament.
So there is good Biblical evidence that New Testament Christians are not under obligation to keep the Old Testament Sabbath command.
But understanding that, we are also foolish if we don’t realize that God originally gave Israel the Sabbath command because He created us with a need for regular weekly rest. We just read in Mark 2:27 where Jesus said “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” This means that God gave us the Sabbath command “for man” — because we needed it. He created us to need a day each week to “recharge”, and not work, and let our bodies rest. God did not design us to keep going and going and going without rest. We need to build regular, weekly rest into our normal routines.
Just like Mark Twain wrote about, that’s hard for many of us Americans, who thrive — and sometimes even take pride — in our busy-ness. I knew a woman years ago in Oklahoma, who was always so busy. And she really “trumpeted” her “busy-ness”: if you asked her how she was doing, she would always say, “Oh I am so busy; I am just so busy. I am totally covered up; I just don’t have any time off; I am so busy.” And it wasn’t just in a certain season — we all have busy seasons — but she was always that way. I came to understand that she wore her “busy-ness” as a badge of honor: she derived a great deal of her sense of self-importance from her busy-ness: if she was that busy, then she must be very important.
Many people get caught in that trap: of trying to create their own sense of well-being and importance from their “busy-ness.” But the well-balanced Christian person will realize that they do not get their self-esteem from their busy-ness, but from the fact that they are LOVED by GOD! (Just like we sang last week: “I’m loved by You — THAT’S who I am!”) We need to learn to rest in that. We don’t need to get our “self-esteem” from our busy-ness — we should get it from our relationship with God, which is what He intends. We should learn that being over-busy is NOT a badge of honor, but it is actually a mark of disobedience — because if we are too busy it means that we are disobeying God in our priorities and our scheduling. It is not God who makes us too busy; He’s commanded us to have rest. As someone said, “God will give you the time to do, gracefully, everything that He intends you to do each day.” If you don’t have time to gracefully do what you are doing, and still get adequate rest, then you are doing more than God ever intended, and you need to hear Jesus say: “Come away, and rest.”
Now again, we are not under obligation to rest in order to go to heaven. You can not get any rest and still go to heaven — in fact, as someone said, you will probably get there even faster! But you will probably have a longer life, and most certainly you will have a better quality life, here on earth if you will get regular weekly rest.
This is one of the reasons why I make it a priority to take Fridays off to be with my family. I call it “my day off,” Cheryl calls it “your family day” — but whatever you call it, we protect that, and I do not go to the office; and we do not make appointments or schedule ministry, on that day — unless of course there’s a funeral or an emergency. I have also recently been setting aside at least one day a week where I purposefully do NOT try to get 10,000 steps on my Fitbit. My body needs a day or rest. We need to schedule regular weekly rest like that. God did not design us to keep going and going without stop. He made us to need regular, weekly “sabbath”-kinds of days of rest.
IV. Rest in Occasional “getaways” — (vacations or retreats, like Jesus led His disciples on here)
In addition to a weekly day of rest, we all need occasional longer periods of rest from our work, and even from our ministries. In fact, that is the immediate context of what Jesus was telling His disciples here. Verse 30 says “The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught.” So they had been out on mission, ministering among the people, and they had just returned, and were telling Jesus about it. And it was THEN that Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.”
It’s significant that Jesus did NOT say: “OK, men, that’s great work — now get right back out there and do it again!” No, He knew that they needed REST after that time of ministry; so He commanded them to come away with Him to rest for a while before He sent them back out.
This is so important. We all need rest — not only weekly rest from our work, but also longer, periodic times away from our work and our ministries. Jesus shows us here and elsewhere in His ministry that getting away for a time is a good and godly thing to do. NOT to get away; NOT to take time off, is NOT heroic; it is NOT a Christlike thing to do. Jesus took time away.
Some time ago an employee at a funeral home was telling me about a pastor he knew, and trying to compliment him, he said, “He’s such a great pastor, he never takes a vacation.” I didn’t say anything, but I thought to myself: “That’s not really the mark of a great pastor.” If what was said about that pastor is true, then he is not following the example and command that Jesus gave us to rest:
— He is hurting himself (his physical, emotional and spiritual health, which needs to be recharged by rest);
— he is hurting his family by not making time to be away with them;
— he’s hurting the poor next pastor who comes behind him, and his staff, whom his people are going to think are all slackers if they actually obey Jesus and get some rest!
— and he is even hurting the church he thinks he is serving so well, because he is not giving them the rested and refreshed pastor that they need serving them.
— And he is also hurting his people by giving them a poor example. Just as we need examples of hard workers, people today, in this “never stop” world in which we live, also need examples of those who know how to follow Jesus’ command to rest!
If you need a Biblical excuse to get away for a vacation, just look at :32 “They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.” If you ever needed a Bible verse to justify going on a cruise, there it is! “They went away in a boat to a secluded place”! Wife, you can look at your husband and tell him: there’s our word from God; we’re going!
But in reality, that is not that much of a stretch. Just like Jesus and His disciples, we all DO need to get away: whether it is on a boat on a cruise, or on an airplane, or by car to the beach, or whatever. Listen: you are not going to hear me criticize you as a member or teacher or ministry leader, for getting away 2-3 or so times a year for a vacation. We all need times of periodic rest. If you are here in town, you ought to be in church every Sunday you’re well. But from time to time we also need a vacation. We need to hear Jesus say to us: “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” We all need longer times of rest.
V. Rest Ultimately in Heaven
But even when we do try to take the kinds of rest that God has outlined for us in scripture, we often don’t really find all the “rest” we had hoped for. I know sometimes I’ll get up in the morning, even after a night’s “rest,” but I don’t feel refreshed. Or even after taking my Friday off, I don’t feel that rested. Or get back from a vacation but it wasn’t really “restful.” Some of y’all know what I am talking about. We can’t always find the rest we want here on earth.
But the Bible says there is coming a greater, more perfect rest. Hebrews 4:9 says “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” And Hebrews 4 makes it clear that God’s not talking about anything we are going to experience here on earth, but that He is speaking about the ultimate “Sabbath rest” that we are going to get with Him in heaven. In heaven we will have our ultimate rest with God; that rest that so many of us have such a hard time finding here on earth.
How many times have we had Christian loved ones, and we have seen them just struggle, and struggle, and finally the Lord calls them home, and we breathe a sigh of relief for them, and say: “They are finally at REST.” “Rest in peace” is not just a quaint old expression for the Christian; that’s our real hope: that one day we will have that perfect rest, and peace, forever in heaven.
In fact, there are a couple of verses in Revelation 14 that are very instructive to us regarding rest:
— Revelation 14:11, speaking of the judgment of the lost, says: “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have NO REST day and night.”
— And then :13, speaking of the saints who persevere in their faith, says: “I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so that they may REST from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
Did you catch the difference there? Those who are cursed by God “have NO REST day and night.” But those who are blessed by Him in heaven will “REST from their labors.” One of the big distinctions the Bible makes between the lost and the saved in eternity, is that God’s people will have REST there — the rest that we are all looking for, and so often just cannot find here; we will have perfectly there in heaven. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you should look forward to your eternal REST in the presence and glory of God forever!
But all these verses we have looked at today show us that it is not only in heaven where the Christian is marked by rest. Jesus says to His followers in multiple ways throughout His word: “Come away … and rest.” If we are His disciples, then our lives here on earth should be marked by godly times of rest as well.
Now someone may say: well Pastor Shawn, you’ve said all this about rest; shouldn’t we also emphasize work? And the answer is “absolutely yes!” Remember what I said last Sunday about balance: that so much in the Christian life is about balance? Last week we saw that we need to keep a balance between the fact that in Christ we have boldness and confident access to God as our “Abba Father,” and the need to always approach Him with respect and awe. Both both confident access, and respect, must be kept in balance in a healthy Christian life.
And it is the same here. In this passage Jesus is emphasizing REST. He says here: “Come away … and rest.” So we’re emphasizing that today. But again, we need to keep that in balance. Jesus’ disciples had been working hard on mission; so now it was time to rest.
The Biblical command for the Sabbath has that balance. It says, “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” There is a balance there: some people need to hear: “Hey, you need a Sabbath rest!” But there are others of us who need to hear: “you shall do your work.” Both work and rest need to be kept in balance.
But the fact is that many of us today are just like that “hurried America” that Mark Twain described all those years ago, and we need to really listen Jesus’ words today, and “Come away … and rest.” You’ll be a better worker, and a better follower of Jesus, if you will.