And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”– Mark 6:31
Jesus sent the twelve apostles on a short-term mission trip to preach the word, heal the sick, and cast out demons (Mark 6:7-13). After some unspecified time, the disciples return to Jesus and report to him all they did and taught (Mark 6:30). The ministry of Jesus consisted of words and works. The apostles continued Jesus’ ministry by proclaiming truth and performing miracles.
This is the ultimate basis of spiritual accountability. Each of us should regularly check in with Jesus and report our words, works, and ways to him. Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Live every day as one who will give account to Jesus for what you say and do.
How did Jesus respond to the apostles’ report? Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). This is a wonderful picture of the concern, gentleness, and wisdom of Jesus. After the disciples told him all they did and taught, Jesus did not grade their efforts. He did not use this as an opportunity to teach and train the disciples. And the Lord did not immediately give them their next ministry assignment. Jesus was most concerned about the toll their ministry efforts had on them. So he bid them to get away from the crowd, retreat to a quiet place, and rest from their labors.
The Lord’s concern for his first disciples is the Lord’s concern for all of his disciples. The psalmist described the Lord as a compassionate father: “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). Paul has one of the best descriptions: a treasure in jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7). A great investment has been made in us. But we are merely clay pots. As weak people, we need regular time of rest, refreshment, and relaxation. Vance Havner said it well: “If you do not come apart and rest, you will come apart.”
But Mark 6:31 is about more than taking vacations. Jesus called his disciples to rest after they wore themselves out doing kingdom business. This verse is not a call to take a break from your worldly pursuits. It is a spiritual challenge: When is the last time you wore yourself out ministering to others in the name of the Lord? Unfortunately, many churches exist by the 80/20 principle: twenty percent of the members do eighty percent of the work. But that is not the way it is supposed to be in the church. Paul exhorts us all: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). May the Lord fill our congregations with saints who are so busy for the Lord that he bids us come apart and rest awhile.
Take note of one more thing. The apostles retreated from the crowd to a quiet place with Jesus. I would recommend that you take a vacation whenever you can. But do not take a vacation from Jesus. Your vacation should never involve locations, company, or activities that exclude Jesus. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).