Come rest a while

I’m amazed at people who don’t have time to eat. How can anyone miss out on eating? But young people, especially, have so much going on and so many friends in need, as well as their own emotional crises, that they can’t find time to eat.

What have we done to ourselves to create such a culture, where even the most basic of human pleasures and needs is an afterthought or even a nuisance? But it happens, and it happened to Jesus and his disciples, too. There were “so many people coming and going,” Mark 6:31, “that they did not even have a chance to eat.”

To some people that’s a good sign, though – all that productive work being done, everyone’s time filled up to the brim with creative ideas, and church growth statistics off the chart. It’s addictive. But so addictive it’s hard to stop. And to Jesus that wasn’t good, because right in the middle of all that wonderful growth and action, he tells his disciples, “Come rest a while.” It had gone far enough. A person can be so busy that his mind turns against him, forcing him to keep working at such a frantic pace it actually threatens his physical survival.

But isn’t work and being as productive as possible the sign of a life well lived? To a point, yes, but there’s also a point at which work becomes counterproductive, the sign of which is no interest in or time for food, and that’s when Jesus pulled the plug. “Let’s go to a quiet place and get some rest,” he said.

Not exactly the Protestant work ethic, is it? But Jesus wasn’t a Protestant, fortunately, so work wasn’t everything. To him, taking time out to rest was fine, but a revolutionary thought, I imagine, for many Christians hooked on church growth and huge attendance figures.

If we don’t rest, though, we’ll be forced to. The body has a marvellous defence mechanism for dealing with an overactive mind. It gets sick. It pushes blood pressure up to alarming levels and causes all kinds of embarrassing things to happen, like fainting at lecterns, spouting drivel at important meetings, and making one’s face puff up and turn blotchy. It also has a nasty habit of collapsing and dying just when things are at their most exciting. How inconsiderate.

Jesus, however, was considerate. He knew his disciples had reached their limit, and even when things were looking great – all those people coming and going and showing huge interest in them – it was time to go to a quiet place. It was fine with him to “rest a while.”