In the early chapters of Mark, Jesus recently had completed a busy season of ministry – calming the storm (4:35-41), healing the demon-possessed man (5:1-20), the woman with the issue of blood (5:25-34), and Jairus’ daughter (5:21-24, 35-43) – and now, significantly, He had commissioned the disciples to go out and minister to the masses on His behalf. It was a season of transition and shared responsibility in the labor of Jesus’ kingdom ministry. If you read back over Mark’s concise account of the disciples’ ministry, you’ll see it was also a season of unparalleled unity among the disciples, where they faced remarkable opposition but experienced dynamic victory because of Jesus’ empowerment. In short, the context of Mark 6 is a hectic and strenuous ministry pace when the disciples excitedly report back to Jesus. Mark sets the stage perfectly for Jesus to give his next discipleship lesson to His new followers – a lesson in rest!
“Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So, they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves” (6:30-32).
Characteristics of Rest
This short section might be familiar to you, but if you slow down and read it closely, you’ll notice six characteristics of rest that Jesus highlights with his frazzled men. Although briefly stated, believers today would be wise to heed Jesus’ instruction! Through these next few weeks, I’d like to explore these with you and discover together how we can apply these characteristics to our lives.
Characteristic #1: Obey Jesus’ Command!
‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’
The concept of a sabbath rest is introduced in the creation account (Gen. 2:2), so it fits that Jesus – the Creator Himself – would stress this concept with His followers. In other NT contexts, the word “rest” is set in contrast to the words “labor” and “work” (Mt. 11:28; Rev. 14:13). In Mark 6, “Come aside” and “rest” function as two commands in Jesus’s short directive in these verses. His sharp exhortation reflects His priority for the disciples at this point in their brief ministry experience. It becomes apparent in the bigger picture of this passage that Jesus’ command regarding REST (6:31-32) is just as important to Jesus as His command regarding MINISTRY (6:7-12), and His expectation, although unstated, is that His followers obey Him.
Followers of Jesus today need to pause from time to time and evaluate – “Do I have a good balance in this work/rest tension? Am I being obedient to Jesus’ command?”
Characteristic #2: Process the Season!
“Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught . . .”
Imagine what the conversations must have been like when these disciples returned from their first ministry trip to report back to Jesus! Mark’s silence with those details invites the reader into the conversation with their imagination. With the supernatural power of Jesus bolstering the disciples’ ministry ventures, their excitement must have been electric. Significantly, this short focus on the ministry report from the disciples implies Jesus’ authority over them and their ministry activities. They had seen God’s amazing power at work firsthand, and they excitedly recounted those events to the One who had commissioned them to go.
In a modern discipleship context, resting biblically should include time focused on celebrating and processing all that God has done in and through you! This important aspect of rest raises the reflective questions regarding when, how, and where I am going to process what God is doing in my life.
As you continue to walk through busy seasons in life and ministry, it’s crucial to listen to the biblical mandate of rest on a regular basis. Christians must be sure to obey Jesus’ commandment of rest and process the season in which we are living, so as to be effective and fruitful in ministry without burning out.
Be sure to check out the next two characteristics of biblical rest on our blog next week! We want to continue to encourage you as you seek the Lord in all seasons of life, even the busiest ones.