"Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” With those words, he and the disciples got into a boat to go to that quiet place. However, "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." Mark 6:31-36.
So much for the quiet place to which Jesus had promised them! Filled with over 5000 acephalic people, Jesus taught and healed them until suppertime. The disciples, who had not had a chance to rest at all since leaving for this "godforsaken" place, now used His previous exhortation against Him. Hear the sarcasm dripping from their desperate tongues: “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” On the surface, they appeared to care for the people, but underlying their "request" was an accusation that the remote place He had brought them to wasn't going to provide enough food for all those people. So the disciples, no doubt hungry themselves, felt it necessary to point out the obvious to Jesus. That He clearly didn't understand the situation these humans were in and what they needed.
How quickly they forgot that Jesus Himself had been led into a remote place by the Holy Spirit and had become ravishingly hungry after 40 days and nights! Earlier than that, Moses, directed by God, had led the Israelites out of a life of slavery into a similar wilderness - one in which they ended up wandering for 40 years. Now the disciples were in a destitute place of their own. Do you think that maybe they were starting to get worried that their wilderness would last 40 days - or worse - 40 years, as well?! Whatever was going through their minds, Jesus had asked them to come with Him to this quiet place and get some rest. Of the thirteen in the boat that crossed the lake that day, only One came to the other side fully rested.
So what was it about that rest Jesus promised them that eluded the disciples? Their bodies may have rested some in that boat, but their mind still reeled, showing up as frustration, despair, and maybe even a little bitterness later in the day. How very similar we are to those disciples! Most of us aren't called to physically go into a remote place to be with the Lord, but we know that having a quiet time with the Lord each day is essential for a maturing spiritual life. We know that Mary was praised by Jesus by choosing to sit at Jesus' feet instead of scurrying around in the kitchen like her sister Martha did. We know that God rested from His work, and we are called into that rest.
But, while It's a nice thought to start your day off reading the Bible and praying, it sometimes feels like a dry and deserted desert-y wilderness! How often do you find it hard to relax in His presence? Does your mind wander? Do you find it difficult to sit still enough to listen for even a minute, let alone an entire hour? Maybe, like me, you TRY to trust Him when He calls you into a time of rest and renewal, but in the end you feel resentful for being in that very spot! ("If I hadn't have spent so much time in my prayer closet this morning, I would have gotten the laundry done - and now my kids have no clean clothes, I'm way behind on my schedule today, I don't have time to go to the grocery store, and I thought you wanted me to be a good Mom. Right, God???!") Sound familiar?
Have you ever considered a different perspective, that those quiet times are short respites in your day, not just another task to add to your to-do list? The disciples probably had no idea that all those people would arrive at the far end of the lake before they got there, but Jesus knew. If they had rested when He did - in the boat along the way - they just might have been in a better mindset for what lay ahead.
What is it that God wants you to hear and discover during your daily time of solitude? When He asks you to do something outside of your normal ability to do so while in that time of solitude, is that not the spot that God will show you something? Is that not the moment when He says, "Let me display My love and wondrous works to you?" Or do we instead fill the air with "hangry" complaints like the disciples? Are we like the Israelites in the wilderness who cried out to Moses to lead them back to the land of slavery when they didn't have enough food or water? Reading the next chapter in their stories, we can see that if the Israelites and the disciples had just held off on complaining for a little while longer, they would have been in for a very pleasant surprise and would have acted with more grace from the get-go! In the case of the Israelites, God miraculously provided manna from heaven and water from a rock for their sustenance. In the case of the 5000+, Jesus took a few simple loaves of bread and a couple of fish, blessed them, and divided the food equally among everyone, all of whom got their fill, with leftovers to boot! Can you envision something just as miraculous in your times of God-infused solitude? Can you take the time to stop and know that God is...well... God?!
Oh, how I would have loved to have been called to get into the boat with Jesus that day! I would like to think that I would have seen Him rest on the journey and would have followed suit. He who knew what lay ahead took advantage of the precious moments with His followers to rest Himself.
Would I have rested, or would I have been more like the disciples? Worried about not bringing any snacks for the boat. Worried about not getting "stuff" done that demanded my attention. Worried about how to please Jesus and yet please all the other people in my life who need me.
Simply worried too much to rest.
May I learn the wisdom of resting with Him so that I'm less concerned about food and more motivated by a hunger for Him.
Dear Jesus, call me to "come away with You and rest." Help me to take advantage of the short "boat rides" You give me to recharge physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And open my eyes to the miracles of provision that will always follow. In Your name I pray, Amen.