Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty through fifty-six of the sixth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the events which take place within it taking place on the heels of the account of John the Baptist in prison. In the preceding passage of scripture you find what begins with Herod’s perception of Jesus based on the opinions of others and based on the reports and rumors He had heard concerning Jesus and the mighty works which He performed in the midst of men within and upon the earth. Within the previous passage of scripture you find Herod finally coming the conclusion that Jesus the Christ was Hohn the Baptist resurrected and raised from the dead. What comes immediately after that is a description of Hohn the Baptist’s death at the behest and request of Herodias through her daughter which danced for the king during a party he threw for a number of his guests. So incredibly pleasing was the way Herodias’ daughter danced that Herod offered her anything she requested. Unsure of what to ask for she went to her mother and asked what she should request of the king. Herodias wasted no time seizing upon this opportunity to strike down and put to death John the Baptist, for she sent her daughter back to Herod to ask for the head of John the Baptist in a charger. Initially reluctant and hesitant in providing this request Herod was sorry for the thought of possibly having to put to death John the Baptist for he regarded him as a just and righteous man, and even received him gladly. Unwilling to lose face and popularity with the guests who were present on that day and for his oath’s sake he sent an executioner to the prison where John the Baptist was to put him to death by beheading him. Once the deed was done the head of Hohn the Baptist was brought unto Herod in a charger and was delivered unto John the Baptist. The first twenty verses of the sixth chapter concludes with johns disciples hearing of his death and coming to get the body in order that it might be properly buried. By the time we come to the twenty-first verse of the sixth chapter we find the account of Hohn the Baptist dying in prison and not experiencing any type of release or even any relief.
When you come to the twenty-first verse of the sixth chapter you will find the gears shifting within the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, as John Mark writes and records how the disciples came unto Jesus and spoke unto Him concerning all they had done in His name and on a His behalf among men. What you find and what you read in these passages of scripture is actually quite interesting and astounding for within the opening verses of this passage of scripture you will find Jesus calling His disciples to come away with Him in order that they might experience a time and place of rest. What’s more, is that as you read this passage of scripture you will find that not only did Jesus call the disciples to come away with Him unto a place of rest, but we also find that they were so actively engaged in ministry that they did not even have time to eat. So intense and so consuming was their time engaged in public ministry that they could not even take time unto themselves to eat and to essentially refill their physical tanks. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if the disciples—though ecstatic and excited about what they had done—had not yet learned how to rest, or even how incredibly important rest truly was when actively engaged in ministry. This concept of the disciples coming away with Jesus into a place of rest and not having time and space so much as to eat is actually quite astonishing and must be carefully considered when you find and read what comes next in the same passage of scripture. I feel a great need to pause for a moment and emphatically declare that there are certain times within our lives when sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is to allow ourselves to rest. There are times within our lives when the greatest act we can do is not engage in more ministry but actually taking time to come away with Jesus into a quiet place where we can find and experience rest and peace with Him. One thing I so love about this passage of scripture is that Jesus didn’t send the disciples away to find their own place of rest, and Jesus didn’t send the disciples away by themselves to seek out and find their own place of rest. What we have and what we find in this passage of scripture is Jesus inviting the disciples to come away with Him into a place of rest where they could enjoy His presence, and perhaps even some much needed peace and quiet fellowship with the eternal Son of God. I absolutely love how Jesus not only invited the disciples with Him into a place of rest, but He also joined them in that place of rest where they could enjoy each other’s company and enjoy each other’s presence. How absolutely incredible is it to think about and consider the rest which Jesus comes to offer and present unto us—particularly and especially if and/or when we feel tired, feel spent, feel worn out, feel weary, and feel as though we can’t do anything else.
I can’t help but be reminded of two distinct passages which are found in the Scripture concerning rest—one which is found in the Old Testament book of the Psalms, and the other which is found in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Within these two passages we encounter the tremendous reality that Jesus and the sovereign Lord are intimately concerned and acquainted with our need for rest. In all reality we must recognize and understand that the living God and Jesus the eternal Christ fully recognize and understand the tremendous need for rest within our lives—not only physical rest, but also a rest for our souls. Please note and please understand that there are in fact two distinct and two different types of rest, for there is a rest that is experienced in the physical and the natural realm, and there is a rest that is experienced in the secret place—in the inner part of our being where our soul is present before the Spirit of the Lord. In all reality, I would dare say that we need to recognize and understand these two concepts of rest, for these realms of rest are absolutely necessary and imperative for our own ability to function properly and correctly for the kingdom of God. I am convinced that we need to understand the tremendous need for rest within our lives—not only physical rest for our physical bodies, but also a rest for our souls and the inward part of our being—for there are countless men and women who would seek to continue engaging themselves in continuous work and ministry, and do not take the time to properly care for their bodies and their souls. Would it surprise you to learn that it is absolutely necessary for us to not only take care of our physical bodies, but also for us to take care of our souls—the inner man within us which is before the Spirit of the living God? Would it surprise you to note that soul care and engagement in rest on a routine and regular basis is in fact required by the living God in Scripture. In all honestly, and in all reality, I would dare say that rest is never and has never been an option or something we are able to pick and choose whether or not we will actively participate and engage in it. What’s more, is that even the living God Himself engaged in rest on the seventh day. After six days of creation, and after six days of creating the heavens and the earth and everything within them, the living God rested on the seventh day and ordained that day to be holy and set apart unto and for Him. Consider if you will that which is written and that which is recorded in the first and second chapters of the Old Testament book of Genesis concerning the living God and His work of creation:
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that move the upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all the work which God created and made” (Genesis 1:26-2:3).
The same reality which we find in the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis is not only referenced in the Old Testament book of Exodus, but it also stands and serves as the foundation for a rest which the Lord called the children of Israel to participate and engage themselves in. While in the book of Genesis we find the living God resting on the seventh day from all his works of creation, we find in the Old Testament book of Exodus the command given by the living God concerning the sabbath day, and it’s tremendous need within and among the children of Israel. Beginning with the ninth verse of the twentieth chapter of the Old Testament book fo Exodus we find the following words which were not merely a suggesting given by the Lord unto the children of Israel, but was actually a commandment. What’s more, is that the commandment to observe the sabbath, and the commandment to rest was actually part of the Ten Commandments which were given unto Moses atop the mountain of God in the wilderness. We must recognize and understand that the command and the call to rest wasn’t merely a polite suggesting, but was actually that which the living God commanded and instructed the children of Israel to engage themselves in, and to give themselves to. Consider if you will that which is found in the twentieth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis beginning with the eighth verse of the chapter:
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).
This reality and concept of rest not only applied directly to the seventh day of the week, which was known as the sabbath day, but it also applied to years as well. If you continue reading in the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find that the Lord not only ordained and appointed a seventh day of sabbath rest, but he also ordained and appointed a seventh year of sabbath rest for the children of Israel. If you begin reading with and from the tenth verse of the twenty-third chapter of this Old Testament book you will find the following words which were spoken by the living God unto Moses, which was to be commanded and instructed of the children of Israel:
“And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy olive yard. Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may be rest, and the son of thy handmade, and the stranger, may be refreshed. And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth” (Exodus 23:10-13).
What is both interesting and unique about this passage of Scripture is that within it—not only does the Lord directly link and connect the sabbath day with the sabbath of years, but the Lord also speaks of the tremendous rest which is needed for the physical body, as well as for the land. It’s interesting and worth noting within this passage that the Lord was not only concerned with a physical rest for the children of Israel and for their physical bodies, but the Lord was also concerned with a rest for the land as well. Within this particular passage of Scripture we find the Lord being greatly interested in the land as well as the people, for the Lord not only desired to care for and look after the people of Israel, but the Lord also desired to look after and care for the land in which the people dwelt and resided. It wasn’t enough for the people themselves to rest and to be refreshed, for the land itself also needed to experience rest itself. The Lord spoke unto Moses and declared unto him that six years were to be designed for work and for labour, and for gathering in the fruits of their labour and their works, but the seventh year was to be a year of rest and a lying fallow in the midst of the earth. The seventh year was supposed to be a year when both the people and the land rested from all their labour and from all their fruits, and to allow that which grew naturally to continue to grow in order that it might feed the poor of the people, as well as the beasts of the field. What’s more, is that as you continue reading this passage of Scripture you will find the words “rest” and “refreshed” mentioned by the Lord, for the Lord was not only concerned with the ability of the people of Israel to experience rest for their souls, and rest for their physical bodies, but also a deep and abiding inward refreshment. The seventh day was meant to be a day when the children of Israel could allow themselves to be recharged and reset from all their labour and from all their efforts and works in order that they might be ready and prepared for that which would come next. There is not a doubt in my mind that the seventh day was to be a time and place of rest and refreshment for the children of Israel in order that they might be be ready for the next six days which would come thereafter. We must recognize and understand just how important this reality and concept of rest truly is within our lives, for rest was never given unto the children of Israel as an option, but rather as something that was commanded and instructed. What’s more, is that rest was not only commanded and instructed for the children of Israel themselves, but also for the land, for both the land and the people would rest together before the Lord within the earth. Please do not miss the tremendous significance and importance of this reality and fact, for it has tremendous significance and bearing for our own lives in the here and the now.
Transitioning back to the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by Mark we find that after the apostles had gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught, Jesus didn’t immediately begin commending them for their works and their labour. As we read this passage of Scripture we do not find Jesus applauding the works which they had done in His name among men within the earth, but we find Jesus inviting the apostles to themselves come apart into a desert place and rest for a while. What’s more, is that Mark writes and records how at that time there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. I find this absolutely and incredibly intriguing and powerful when I consider the works and labour the apostles were themselves engaged in, for we would expect and we would anticipate Jesus the Christ to applaud and even commend the works and their labour among men within the earth. The truth of the matter, however, is that we don’t find Jesus doing either of these two things among the apostles, for we find Jesus inviting the disciples to come away with Him into a place of rest and into a place of quietness and peace with Him. Within this passage of Scripture and on this particular occasion we find Jesus the Christ not applauding their works and their labour, nor even asking them about it, but rather inviting them to come away with Him into a desert place where they might find and experience rest—rest from their works and rest from their labour. What’s more, is that Mark goes on to write why this rest was so incredibly important, and why it was so needed among the disciples, for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure to even eat and refresh themselves. So consuming and so demanding was the work of the ministry that they themselves had engaged int that they didn’t even have time to eat and to themselves be refreshed within their physical bodies. Oh, I can’t help but read the words which are written and recorded in this passage of Scripture and to consider how many times and how often we come before the Lord boasting and bragging of the mighty works and deeds we have done in his name among men within and upon the earth, and yet the only thing He is concerned with is that we find and experience rest for our souls—that we find rest and refreshment for our physical bodies. We would like to continue boasting and bragging about the great works and the great deeds we have done in the name of the Lord, and for His name among men upon the earth, and yet the one thing the Lord is concerned with more than anything else is that we find that place of quietness in the presence of Jesus. Oh, I can’t help but be reminded of the words of David in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms, as well as the words which Jesus Himself spoke, which are recorded for us in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel account which was written by Matthew. Consider if you will the words which are found in each of these passages, and consider them in light of what we find and what we read in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel which was written by Mark:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the stills aters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:O for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:1-6).
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
What we find in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of Psalms, as well as that which we find in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew bring us face to face with the awesome and wonderful reality of our great need for rest in the presence of the Lord. When we come to the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark we find the disciples gathering themselves together unto Jesus in order that they might speak to Him concerning what they had done and what they had taught, and yet we find Jesus inviting them into a place of rest. We find in this passage of Scripture Jesus inviting the disciples into a wonderful and powerful place of rest for their souls, and a place of quietness and rest for their physical bodies in order that they might be prepared for that which would come in the days ahead. The thirty-first verse of this chapter concludes with Mark writing how there were many coming and going, and how the disciples had no leisure so much as to eat. IT’s actually interesting and worth noting that the thirty-second verse of the chapter begins with the disciples and Jesus departing into a desert place by ship privately, but the people, however saw them departing. Because many knew Jesus the Christ, they ran afoot out of all the cities, and basically outran Jesus and His disciples, and come together unto Him. Picture this scene if you will, for Jesus invited His disciples with Him into a desert place where they might find and experience rest for their physical bodies, and yet upon seeing them departing, the crowds and multitudes of people went ahead of Jesus and found Him in the place where He intended on bringing the disciples to rest. It’s worth noting that when Jesus and His disciples stepped out of the ship Jesus saw the great crowds of people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd. What Jesus would do next was begin teaching the people many things, for they had gathered themselves unto Him in order that they might hear Him speak, and perhaps even in order that they might receive healing and wholeness within their physical bodies. What so amazes me about this passage of Scripture is not only that Jesus and the disciples were met with much people when they intended on going into a desert place to rest for a while, but also that Mark is careful to add the detail preceding this passage of Scripture that there were so many people coming and going that they didn’t even have any leisure to eat. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder when reading this passage of Scripture whether or not the disciples were themselves found in a place—not only where they were tired, weary and worn out from their works and their labour, but also themselves hungry having not had the chance to eat and refresh themselves. Jesus invited the disciples to come away with Him into a desert place in order that they might rest for a while, and yet what they found in that place intended for rest was actually a place of continued ministry was Jesus and the disciples were met by much people who were as sheep without a shepherd. Moved with compassion concerning the people, Jesus began to open His mouth and teach them many things, and He did so for most of the day until the evening was come.
What do you do when you yourself are hungry, and yet you are met with a host of hungry people who themselves need refreshment? What do you do when you yourself are tired and weary, worn out and exhausted, and yet you continue to find yourself presented with tremendous need among those before and around you? Within this passage of Scripture we find the disciples not having any leisure to eat because of the great crowds of people which were coming and going, and when they actually went with Jesus into a desert place, they were met with many crowds of people who knew Jesus and where He would most likely travel and journey to. When you come to the thirty-fifth verse of this chapter you will find that when the day was far spent the disciples of Jesus came unto Him and spoke unto Him concerning the fact that where they were was a desert place, and the time was now far passed. The disciples would go on to instruct Jesus to send the crowds away in order that they might go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy for themselves bread, for they had nothing to eat. Now, you would expect Jesus to agree with the disciples and to begin sending the people away in order that they might provide and fend for themselves, and yet this simply isn’t the case. What we find in this passage of Scripture is not Jesus sending the crowds away in order that they might fend for themselves and feed themselves, but rather Jesus instructed the disciples to feed the crowds and feed the masses. In fact, that which Jesus spoke unto and instructed the disciples to do was to give the crowds of people something to eat. What’s more, is that in the account of this experience as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew we find the apostle writing how Jesus declared unto the disciples how the crowds did not need to go away, and that the disciples themselves should give them to eat. Pause for a moment and consider this for a moment, for the disciples themselves were undoubtedly tired and exhausted from their ministry, and they had just spent the entire day listening to and hearing Jesus teach and speak many things unto the people. It’s quite interesting and astounding that when Jesus invited the disciples to go into a desert place to rest for a while, that place of rest wasn’t enjoyed by the disciples alone, but was also found and enjoyed by a great crowd of people who met Jesus and the disciples there. It would be there in that desert place where the disciples would be met and found by a great crowd of people, and they would have to share that place of rest with others besides themselves. Jesus invited them to come away with Him into a place of rest and quietness for their souls, and yet once they arrived in that place they were met by many people who themselves desired to hear and listen to Jesus. Please don’t miss what is taking place and what is happening in this passage of Scripture, for the disciples were invited to join Jesus in a place of rest, and yet once they were in that place they were met by much people who themselves were there waiting for Jesus when He arrived. What’s more, is that the entire day was spent hearing and listening to Jesus as He taught them many things—undoubtedly concerning the kingdom of heaven.
That which is found in this passage of Scripture is quite remarkable, for instead of sending the crowds away, Jesus not only instructed his disciples to give the crowds something to eat, but He also asked them what they had among them, which would be five loaves of bread and two fish. Upon hearing the disciples speak unto Him concerning that which they had present among the crowd, Jesus instructed the disciples to have all the people sit down in ranks by hundreds and by fifties. When Jesus had taken the five loaves of bread and two fish, looked up to heaven, and blessed and brake the loaves, He gave them to His disciples to set before the people. What’s more, is that Jesus took the two fish and divided them among all the people. What I absolutely love about this passage of Scripture is what is found and recorded in the forty-second verse of the chapter, for Mark writes and records how “they all did eat, and were filled.” Please mark those words and mark them well, for it would have been one thing for the crowds of people to eat and possibly not be filled, but Mark writes and records how not only did they eat, but they did eat and were filled. What’s more, is that not only did the crowds of people eat and eat until they were full, but there were also twelve baskets of the fragments of bread, and of the fish which was presented unto Jesus. FED, FULL AND FRAGMENTS! How absolutely remarkable it is to think about and consider the fact there in that place of rest—not only were the crowds of people taught by Jesus, but they were also filled with that which was provided unto Jesus from among those who were present on this day. It’s interesting and worth noting the tremendous importance of rest, and not only the tremendous need for rest, but also the demands that sometimes present themselves—even when we intend on entering into that place of rest with and before Jesus in a desert place. Within this passage of Scripture we not only find the disciples themselves having no leisure to eat, but in and from that place of not being able to eat ourselves we are then called to feed those who themselves are in need. It’s interesting to read this passage for what begins with an invitation to rest would quickly transition to a place of ministry and feeding the crowds of people, and would ultimately lead to being found in the midst of a storm. How interesting it is to think about and consider the fact that what began with a call and invitation to come away with Jesus and to experience a place of rest would eventually culminate with the disciples finding themselves in the midst of a storm that raged upon the sea as they were attempting to pass over to the other side. Not only this, but this was in fact the second storm the disciples had found themselves in, for there was an earlier storm that threatened them while Jesus was present with them asleep on a pillow in the midst of the boat. FROM REST, TO MINISTRY, TO THE STORM! THE UNPREDICTABILITY OF MINISTRY! THE UNPREDICTABILITY OF FOLLOWING JESUS! The disciples were invited by Jesus into a place of rest and quietness for their souls and for their physical bodies, and yet in that desert place they would find themselves distributing fragments of bread and fish to the crowds, and then ultimately found in the midst of a storm upon the sea. How absolutely incredible it is to read this passage of Scripture, and not only to recognize and understand the tremendous importance of rest, but also to recognize that while it is true that we have been called to rest, there are times when following Jesus—even into that place of rest—may very well require and demand of us to engage further in ministry, and might even ultimately lead us into a storm while Jesus watches us. Oh that we would pursue and desire rest for our physical bodies and for our souls, but that we would recognize and understand that following Jesus doesn’t always mean that we might actually get to enjoy and experience that rest, but might be found in an additional place of ministry, and even found in the midst of the sea tossed to and fro by the storm that rages all around us.