The apostles returned to Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. Many people were coming and going, so there was no time to eat. He said to the apostles, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” They departed in a boat by themselves for a deserted place.Mark 6:30-32 Common English Bible
When Jesus invites his disciples to “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while,” we might think how nice it must have been to live in a simpler time when getting away was easier. We couldn’t take the time for something like that today.
When we examine the timing and circumstances around Jesus’ planned retreat, however, the circumstances don’t seem all that different from ours.
The disciples have just returned from a missionary journey on which they have been amazingly successful. Earlier in the chapter, Mark reports, “They went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them” (12-13). On their return, they’d reported to Jesus all they’d experienced, “everything they had done and taught.”
Can you imagine the energy in the room?
There is a buzz surrounding their ministry. Mark subtly hints at it when he writes, “Many were coming and going.” Stuff’s happening. People are responding. There is work to be done when Jesus says, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.”
We’re not ‘secluded place’ people
I’m not very good at this “secluded place” part, and if I had to guess, I’m not alone. Not many of us come by it naturally.
We are busy people. We’re doers. We solve problems and get things done. We live by deadlines, to-do lists, and goals. We value multitasking.
Yet somewhere deep in our spirits, we know Jesus’ invitation is meant for us. “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” But how can we?
I have this image of Jesus taken completely from Eugene Peterson’s rendering of a single verse in Luke 22. When Jesus sits down at the table for the Last Supper, he welcomes the disciples with these words, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you” (Luke 22:15, The Message).
I love that image. I’m hoping those are the words with which I am greeted at the end of my life.
I’d like to think this was Jesus’ typical greeting when he sat down at the table. How often did he come to the table, look at each guest, take a deep breath and say, “You have no idea how much I’ve looked forward to this time together”?
Before he sat at a table and told a bunch of busy people a story about those who missed a “great dinner” because they had other stuff to do, did he open the meal by saying, “You have no idea how much I’ve looked forward to this time together”?
When he invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house or sat down with Matthew and his tax collector friends, did he look around the table and say, “I’ve been waiting so long for this moment with each of you”?
I like to think that Jesus sat around the table with the people he loved, and felt like I do at Thanksgiving when after all of the preparation we finally get to sit down with our parents, and our kids who have been away at college, and the rest of our family. “You have no idea how much I’ve looked forward to this time together.”
Not later, now
Somewhere deep in my spirit, I hear Jesus’ invitation, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.”
Yet there is still that part of me that wants to respond, “Can you give me a couple of days. I’ve got some stuff to do first.”
The next thing on my to-do list, to call my parents, to check in with my adult kids, to read that book I’m still not through, to write the next blog post, to pray more, get more involved in my church, and read my Bible more. There is so much to be done.
When I get the courage to put all that down, I’m pretty sure I’m going to hear Jesus say, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward spending this time with you.”