We have just finished a week of vacation Bible school. As I write, I am surrounded by boxes of decorations and teaching supplies: bed sheets, shoe organizers, space rugs, cast iron pots with lids, the list goes on.... It seems with any task, there is preparation, execution, and resolution: i.e. collect the stuff, use the stuff, put away the stuff.
Jesus' life may not have been surrounded by stuff (in fact, when he sent out the disciples, they were told to take only a staff--imagine teaching VBS with only a staff (for some of us, that might be a blessing!)), but His life was more full of people and needs than any of our lives. In Mark chapter 6, Jesus sent out His disciples to preach (v. 12), and their return was met with news of John the Baptist's death. It was a heavy load. They were tired physically and spiritually, and now they were no doubt frightened and discouraged. "And He said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.'" (v. 31).
Jesus, of all people, recognized the need for seclusion and rest. He understood the demands his disciples had been shouldering. He knew the press of the people, the pain of John's death, and the prostration of weariness. There was nothing self-indulgent or wrong in separating themselves from the people and their ever-present needs. It was necessary and appropriate for the disciples to get away. It was a gift.
Two things strike me. The first is that it was a command couched in an invitation. He wanted to provide for the disciples and He knew their need. Was it any less important to obey Christ in rest than in work? To obey Christ is to do what He says, regardless of the task. Rest is a task. When He invites (or commands) me to rest, I have a choice--to rest or not to rest, to obey or to disobey--knowing there is always blessing in obedience.
The second thing, then, is the disciples' response. Unlike many of us, they didn't ignore Christ or argue with Him. They readily obeyed. How often, when we hear Christ's faint voice calling us from the busyness of life, do we argue with Him and justify pressing on? Could it be that we are striving to finish the work that He would have us leave behind? Could it be that we are more concerned with our own reputation than with His? Or could it be that we no longer hear Him because we failed to heed long ago and have hearts that are hardened past the point of sensitivity? Perhaps there is too much busyness to listen--or we choose the busyness because we are afraid of the thoughts that plague rest and how God will use the rest itself to transform us.
Rest when He calls. Trust His voice. The needs remain. They are not yours to meet--they belong to the Father. The demands may not lessen, but obedience to rest is the same as obedience to work. It has the same value. It is the same Lord, the same Master, who calls us to both.