Biblical Rest – Part Three

As we finish up our series on Biblical Rest, we hope that you have found time to reflect on these characteristics of rest and put them into practice in your own life. Jesus’ command to rest is not something to be brushed aside- it is an integral part of the Christian life. If you haven’t read parts one and two of the series, you can find them here and here. If you have, read on to discover the final two characteristics of rest in this series.
Characteristic #5: Be Alert to Your Weaknesses!
“…‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’
If you’re reading quickly, your eye may miss that little phrase “a while.” Why do you think Jesus gives this short description of their rest? This word in Greek means “a little while” or “a short time.” It functions as a qualifier to duration of their rest. The only other time that Mark uses the word “rest” is in Mark 14, where Jesus labors in the Garden of Gethsemane before His betrayal while the disciples were resting. Jesus comes to them a third time and says to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?” In other words, they were resting longer than they should have been. Mark may be suggesting here in a subtle manner that the disciples tend to rest too much. Thus, Jesus may be qualifying for them the duration of their rest – “a short while.” This qualification suggests that weaknesses – both for the disciples and Christians today – uniquely become a factor during times of rest. A time of intentional rest from the hubbub of life and ministry should alert a wise person to ways they may struggle while they rest.
Resting too long equals laziness! Not resting enough equals weariness, impatience, and burn out. Both postures are an abuse of biblical rest and likely open up a believer to temptation and sin. Characteristic #5 of biblical rest suggests that one should enter a season of rest wisely and in an alert manner.
Characteristic #6: Be Ready for God to Work in and through You!
“. . . But the multitudes saw them departing . . . . And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them” (6:33-34).
Ironically, this passage in Mark 6 is not primarily about rest. Jesus’ teaching about rest, although important, serves as a footnote to the main purpose of the section, which is to transition the narrative to Jesus’ miracles of the feeding of the 5,000 (“did not even have time to eat,” v. 34) and His walking on water (v. 45) – two of the major miracles surrounding Jesus’ ministry. These miracles uniquely emphasized both the power/identity of Jesus AND exposed the weakness/immaturity of the disciples. As a result, the reader’s perception of the disciples is diminished and the perception of Jesus is elevated! Characteristic #6 of biblical rest suggests that God was not done working in and through the disciples when they returned from their previous ministry season. In fact, the group never made it to their desolate place of rest before the multitude raced ahead and met them (v. 33). Significantly, Jesus modeled this mature ministry mentality about rest, as he had compassion on the multitude and taught them, despite their previously planned rest from the masses.
The final characteristic of biblical rest that Jesus modeled was for His followers to be ready always for opportunities to minister – even during planned and intentional seasons of rest.
Left unchecked, the follower of Jesus can experience the heartbreak of burnout in personal and in ministry life. Three short verse in Mark 6 describe six characteristics about rest and invite the busy Christian – whether new to the faith or a seasoned follower of Jesus – to evaluate whether and how they are resting. Each characteristic begs a pointed question to consider in conclusion:
1. Are you submitting to Jesus’ authority seen in His command to rest?
2. When you rest, how are you going to process what God is doing in and through you?
3. When you rest, what people will you allow into your life to refresh and refocus you?
4. When you rest, when are you going to get alone with God in silence and in prayer?
5. When you rest, what weaknesses may distract you from quality, biblical rest?
6. When you rest, are you alert to unexpected opportunities God may bring your way?
Consider these questions well as you attempt to follow Jesus – both in your obedience to His command to labor for Him AND in your obedience to His command to rest from that labor.