Are you tired? Has summer worn you out? Or is it the school starting? Or work? Maybe it’s the stress. Doctors say that stress directly affects the amount and the quality of the rest you get, making you feel so tired. You could use some rest.
In Mark Six, Jesus invites his disciples (and you) to "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Then the text goes on: "So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things" (New International Version).
The apostles had just returned from their mission trips with news and questions. They had just heard about their co-worker, John the Baptist, being beheaded. They needed some time with their teacher, but too many people were coming and going and demanding Jesus’ time. And he needed rest too.
So they got on a boat. And surely on that boat ride, they spoke, they prayed, they remembered God’s promises. I think of that boat as their sanctuary — where they so often saw God’s power (his control over the wind and waves, the walking on water), where they could have those quiet conversations with Jesus, where they could hear God’s word, where they got some rest.
That’s exactly why your time in God’s word and in church is so important. Here you see God’s power. Here you get to talk to him. Here, you hear his word, his answer for all of your questions. And here, in his word, he gives you the greatest rest — forgiveness.
Because, you see, you were one of those people who weren’t willing to give Jesus rest in our text. They wanted their healing. They wanted their food (in the next verses we hear of Jesus feeding the 5,000). They were concerned more with the physical than the spiritual. Sound familiar? Whenever we make decisions that prioritize our work or greed or family or leisure or anything over what our soul needs, we are those people, those "sheep without a shepherd."
But, notice what it said. On that Gallilean hillside, Jesus had compassion. He put aside everything he wanted and needed and served because he loved them. He still does. He proved it on that Bethlehem hillside, in that stable (most likely a cave in that hill). There, he put aside his opportunity to be basking in his own glory and demanding praise from the world to become one of us. He was born to be the good shepherd that this world could never provide us — to give us the true peace and nourishment that we needed. In order to do that, this shepherd had to become the lamb of sacrifice. So, on that Judean hillside, just outside of Jerusalem, he offered himself to protect us from the dangers our sins naturally put us in — the real dangers — the dangers of doubt and despair and hell. And he suffered all that for us, because he had compassion on us. Then he declared it finished and rose to prove it.
That is rest. Yes, you might feel guilt for your failures. I know I do. But God’s Word of forgiveness gives your heart rest. His body and blood for me give me peace and strength and hope. Yes, we’ve been weak, we’ve messed up and we get stressed. But look at our text again and see the One who has done the work, who has won your rest tell you — "Come with me… and get some rest."
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.