In Mark 6:31a, Jesus instructed His disciples to “come away, by yourselves, to a remote place, and rest for a while”. Given the context, His instruction seems a bit out of place. Perhaps changing perspectives was exactly the point. Think with me about this for a minute.
Sitting at a computer dulls our senses. But here we sit.
Just for a moment, recall the smell after the rain. Imagine the feel of spring grass between your toes. In your mind, hear the roar of waves crashing against the shore. Visualize the rustling of autumn leaves in the breeze.
Breath deep. Reflect on the peace that wells up inside as we dwell in these moments.
I wonder if Jesus ever did these things. I bet He did. In my mind, I can just see His hand graze across the heads of wheat as He walked toward His mission.
In the Gospel of Mark, there is a dramatic contrast set before us. Over 40 times, Mark uses a word that we translate as “immediately” or “straight away” or “at once”. Mark uses this to emphasize the servant nature of Christ amid the constant demands of His ministry. Consider just a few examples from the first chapter of Mark:
- And when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove (v10).
- The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness (v12).
- Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him (v17-18).
- And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him (v19-20).
- And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching (v21).
- And immediately He left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John (v29).
- And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once (v42-43).
Jesus was constantly being pushed, hurried, harassed, and pressed for something. And what did He do? Sometimes, He just walked away. Please don’t misunderstand this: Jesus certainly didn’t shirk His mission, and neither should we. He met the spiritual and physical needs of the people in faith, but sometimes He just left.
Consider the scene after Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Such a crowd gathered that evening that Mark describes it as the “whole city was gathered together at the door”. But the next day is striking. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for Him, and they found Him and said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for You.’ And He said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.'” (1:35-38)
Did you catch that? Jesus went out to be alone and pray. And then, when His disciples found Him and excitedly described how everyone is looking for Him, He said, “Let’s go …”.
They would go to the next town on foot. Walking, talking, reflecting, taking in the sights and sounds of creation. Perhaps watching the lightning storm in the distance. Maybe throwing a rock at a dead tree. Turning to feel the cool breeze on their cheek.
In the sixth chapter of Mark, we see something similar. The disciples have just returned from what amounts to a ministry training session. Jesus had sent them out, two by two, with instructions to teach and heal. They brought back stories of God’s authority, excited about how they had served. Jesus doesn’t pat them on the head and send them back onto the mission field. Rather, He says, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while” (6:31a).
What happened to all the “immediately” and “straight away” and “at once”? What happened to the excitement and passion of the moment? It seems Jesus knew His disciples’ need to be refreshed. Perhaps Jesus was simply reminding His disciples that busyness, even in ministry, was no substitute for worship.
Sometimes, we just need to get away. That may be as simple as stepping out the back door to watch, listen, smell, and feel creation.
And, as we are refreshed by the sensations of creation, remember they were not intended to be the object of your affection. The created was never intended to be the object of your awe. Rather, the created was intended to reflect the glory of the Creator and direct our attention to Him.
All of creation – including you – were meant to reflect the glory of the Creator. Dogs and bugs, trees and wind, flowers and rain – all of creation – does what it was created to do. It reflects His glory. And when we, as people made in His image, dwell in His presence and reflect on His creative majesty, we also bring Him honor, and glory, and power.
Spend time with Him. Smell the dawn air. Listen to the songbirds in the morning. Hear the crickets and frogs in the evening. Even if you simply close your eyes and imagine … come away, by yourself, to a remote place, and rest for a while.
Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” Rev 4:11.