Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Although this is in the pericope of the feeding of the five thousand, it is noteworthy in that our Lord encourages his disciples, and by extension, even us, to break away from service, from ministry, from our work, and get some quiet rest.
We live in a society which lives for its weekends, but little knows, I suppose, the rest Jesus talks about here. We need time and space to gather our thoughts, to gather ourselves, since we get so enmeshed, worked up and worked in the bundle of necessary and even good, healthy in its place as long as it has some balance, but the normal everyday workaday world. Unlike so many societies in the past and present, we have plenty of time for diversions along the way, for entertainment and plenty of distractions. But how much of the kind of rest the Lord was pressing on his disciples, do we really get? Do we know much at all about such rest?
Of course in the case above, life came pressing in on Jesus and the disciples, so that the plan was thwarted, a multitude coming to be fed not only from the five loaves of bread and the two small fishes, but from the mouth of the Lord himself. But there were surely times when they were able to get some of that rest.
I need that kind of rest. I used to enjoy complete solitude and would often want to get away to wooded, scenic places to be quiet, read scripture and pray, to simply enjoy the scenery. I still like to get away, but preferably with my wife. I still like some solitude, but I prefer company, easily getting lonely, so that I would long for human companionship. In the case of Jesus and his disciples, evidently they would be with each other and him, but apart from the crowds, the noisy throng of people who clammered to the Lord to be healed and to hear just what he would have to say. So it must have been a highlight to the disciples, and to the Lord himself, to actually find such spaces, though in the gospel accounts, we find such withdrawals interrupted.
I look forward even to breaks from the normal routine, ideally two weeks away, although we usually have just around one week away. Whatever time we can get in quiet and loving fellowship or communion with our Lord and each other, is a good time. We probably need more of it. Especially some of the poor, who because of the evil of the day, do not have a job which gives them a living wage, not to mention, good healthcare. Both ought to be a given, not because they’re a “right,” but because these people are made in God’s image and loved by God, and should be loved by all, their personhood and needs met.* Instead too many of them work more than one job, sometimes two or three, and barely have enough time to rest at all.
Yes, everyone needs and deserves, being made in God’s image, and loved by God, some rest from their work. We all need to make that a priority for ourselves and encourage others to do the same. So that we can find ourselves and each other and the Lord. To hear his voice, to be renewed and refreshed. To know that we are loved, as we love each other. Quiet. Rest. May we know some of that this summer, and this year. And in so doing, find new strength, new vision, maybe just new quiet, and know more and share the love God has for us.
*From Public Faith in Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity by Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz, a book I would highly recommend.