THIS WEEK'S MESSAGE
Time for a Vacation
July 22, 2018 - Sermon Text: (Ps 23) Mark 6:30-34
A man and his wife were getting ready to leave on a vacation together. On the way to the airport, they stopped at the dentist’s office. She told the dentist, that their flight leaves in two hours. I want a tooth pulled, and I don’t want the Novocaine because I’m in a big hurry, the woman said. Just extract the tooth as quickly as possible and we’ll be on our way. The dentist was quite impressed. You are certainly a brave woman, he said. Which tooth is it? The woman turned to her husband and said; “show him your tooth dear”.
I have no plans of visiting a dentist before I leave on holidays later this week. Since I have already worked six months, and this congregation has kept me very busy, I told Dennis that I was going to take a short holiday and I should be back in time for the Christmas Eve service.
It’s hard for us to imagine Jesus, living in first century Israel, being busier than us living in our hectic twenty-first century lifestyles with meetings, cell phones and computers. Jesus would have made the three annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and He would have never missed the weekly meeting at the Synagogue. Generally speaking, life was a simpler in the first century, as long as you paid your imperial tax and avoided the Roman Soldiers.
Quite a few years ago, when Johnny Cash’s son received his driving permit, he asked his father if he could drive the car. Johnny took his son aside and said; “I’ll make a deal with you. Bring your grades up, study you Bible a little and get a haircut and I’ll consider your request”.
About a month went by and the boy again approached Johnny and asked if he could drive the car. Well, I’m real proud of you son, Johnny said. You have brought up your grades and I see you have been studying your Bible diligently, but you still haven’t gotten a haircut. The boy thought about it for a moment and replied “you know dad, I’ve been thinking about that. You know that Samson had long hair, Moses had long hair, Elijah had long hair and even Jesus had long hair.” Yes son”, replied Johnny, “but they also walked everywhere they went.”
Without a doubt, Jesus and his disciples walked all across Galilee, Samaria and Judea. On a few occasion they took a short cut across the Sea of Galilee in a fishing boat.
Somebody once calculated, that based on scripture alone, Jesus might have walked over 1800 km (3000 miles) during his three year ministry. This is considered a conservative estimate since John says “there are many other things Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
When Jesus became known, both far and wide, along with his miracles, healings, teachings and exorcisms the people crowded around him wherever and everywhere he went.
Without a doubt, the world and the time that God choose to enter as a human being created a high demand lifestyle for Jesus and for His disciples. He was constantly surrounded by crowds of people. People wanted to speak with him.
Some wanted to touch him. Many wanted to be healed or to have Jesus come and heal somebody else. Everyone wanted a piece of Jesus. We can’t begin to imagine how exhausting it must have been for Jesus & his disciples.
The gospel reports how “Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat” (Mark 3:20). At another time, “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed” (Mark 3:7). When the people heard what Jesus was doing, the people came from all over the region to find Jesus. One day after teaching, they got into boats and “he (Jesus) said to his disciples, let us go over to the other side” (Mark 4:35). Upon landing, they are met by a man possessed by many demons.
As Jesus’ fame continued to grow it became impossible to find any time for a vacation in order to get away and get some rest. When the disciples returned from their first mission trip, excited to tell Jesus everything that happened, the crowds were again gathering and growing around Jesus. Again, a second time we hear how they didn’t have time to eat as “He (Jesus) said to them, come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).
“So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But 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. So he began teaching them many things” (Mark 6:31-34).
After feeding the multitude with five loaves and two fish, “Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd” (Mark 6:45). “As soon as they got out of the boat, the people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he (Jesus) was” (Mark 6:54-55).
It’s interesting, that in the middle of all this busyness, we find the story of the calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. But notice, that unlike the calming of the storm found in the gospels of Mathew and Luke, it’s Jesus’ presence in Mark’s story that calms the storm. It was night. The boat was in the middle of the lake. “The disciples were (alone and) straining at the oars, because the wind was against them” (Mark 6:48).
On their own, the disciples were struggling and terrified. Then Jesus appears, steps into the boat, and wind died down. Where Jesus is present – we find green pastures, a place beside quiet water where I will fear no evil.
No matter where Jesus went; a town, village or out to the countryside, the people found him and begged him to heal them. Jesus never turns anyone away and all the while He is trying to find some quiet peaceful time to be with his disciples in private, to have a little vacation together and celebrate the wonders that they experienced as they ministered to people on the mission trip Jesus sent them on at the beginning of chapter 6 as Jesus “send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits” (Mark 6:7).
I have to wonder if the disciples ever felt resentment or jealousy, because Jesus appears to spend his time with other people. When did Jesus have time to listen to them & what they needed to ask & talk about?
At just about at every turn, we find Jesus so busy that nobody gets a chance to eat. His exceeding compassion for the humanity his Father created becomes so apparent as Mark makes the connection to the imagery of the Good Shepherd, which would sustain King David through much of the challenges he would face, with King Saul, with his wayward son Absalom, and with his own ungodly behaviour with Bathsheba. When Jesus looks over the crowds of people “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34).
When they saw Jesus; they felt his empathy, peacefulness and love.
Ministering to so many needful people wasn’t easy for a very human Jesus. Not eating was only a minor inconvenience. When we look at all the stories surrounding today’s Gospel reading, we will discover that life was not all that calm for Jesus and His disciples. Jesus had just been run out of the Synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth.
That’s also when his family tried to take Jesus by accusing him of having lost his mind while the religious officials are claiming that Jesus is in league with the prince of demons. To top it all off, Jesus just received the sad news that his cousin, John the Baptist, has been executed by Herod while His disciples are like giddy children, excited & anxious to tell Jesus about the success of their mission trip.
And, as we’ve already heard, it’s not only the twelve who want Jesus’ attention. Jesus is getting noticed by everyone and everybody who saw and recognized him wanted his attention. And guess what, this is still true today. Although Jesus is not standing in our midst, in the flesh, as his faithful followers – we also want Jesus’ attention. We are also excited to share our joys and blessings and our experiences with Him. We are so thankful for the little things, for sunshine, for flowers, for the birds singing sweetly in the trees. We want to tell Jesus about our miracles, and especially for our answered prayers.
But, life is not a bed of roses and we want to have time to also bring our concerns, our aches and pains, and our hurts to him. We want to be able to gather around Jesus, like his disciples once did, but then, we notice that everybody else wants Jesus’ time. We might wonder - if Jesus even has time to listen to us.
And then, we begin to realize that we can understand Jesus not having time for us, because we live in a world that is even busier than that of the first century. We know just how busy we are with this and that, and going here and there. We are pulled in many different directions, by friends and family, by the different activities we are involved in and we make every effort to also have some time left over for our church community and where we can serve in Jesus’ name.
Sometimes, we are so busy we avoid people we know because we don’t have time to stop and chat with them because we are so busy. Our lives run on a tight schedule and sometimes, we don’t have time to slow down & often we don’t even have time to stop and eat.
I know what it’s like and I’ve been there. Back in the electronics industry, in the late 80s, early 90s, it was nothing for me (and others) to work 60 to 70 hours per week. In one of my congregations, I was required to log in my work hours. I found myself clocking between 50 to 60 hours per week and the church council felt I wasn’t doing enough.
This is not unusual in today society. At Walmart, I once worked thirteen straight days before my manager told me, although she needed me to work, I had to take a day off. It might surprise you that Walmart is open to the public every day, except for Christmas, when employees are still asked to work.
And so, amidst our busyness, our schedules and our planned activities Jesus is asking us, His twenty-first century disciples, to go against the flow, against a society that says we have to do more and do it faster, as he calls us to slow down and spend quality time with Him. Jesus calls us to go off with him to a quiet place in order to find peace and rest in His presence.
The Father desires that we call on Him in prayer and spend time with Him. And then, listen to what He says to us through His Word, as “He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3). Without a doubt, even today, we often act more like sheep running off in every direction, as if we are without a shepherd, as our Lord comes and invites us to come with Him to a place of quiet and rest.
Have you ever noticed how the influences of the world have crept into the church and the worship of the people of God? I have told people that St Andrew’s is the most prayerful church that I have ever been to. When Mary and I were searching for a deeper relationship with Jesus, back in the early 90s, we went to different churches where the prayers of the people seemed to last an eternity. We weren’t accustomed to long prayers or long worship services back then. Church, like the world in which we live, was something that was done quickly and then we could get out and on with the rest of our day. When the sermon, or the music or the Worship of God gets just a bit too long – people will to complain - guaranteed.
Today, Jesus challenges us to spend some quality face to face time with family and especially with the Father who loves us so much that He was willing to sacrifice his own life on the cross so that we might spend all eternity with Him. God doesn’t need our worship, but God desires that we spend time with him without being influenced by our society’s “too busy to stop” mentality; fidgeting, looking at our watches, counting the number of verses or songs that we’ve sung, thinking we don’t want to share our joys and sorrows with Jesus “right now” during the prayers of the people - because we might cause the service to go on for too long.
Sadly, I’m just as guilty as everybody else. I’ve been tempted to take my watch off, before starting the service, because on occasion I check how we are doing for time. But through it all Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves and He also knew that his disciples wanted some good quality time with him so that they could share their good news with their teacher.
And so in the midst of his busyness Jesus says to them “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). They needed the space to share without interruption everything they had done. Notice what happens. Jesus doesn’t turn a single person away. No matter how busy he was he takes time to be with everybody including his disciples.
Jesus is also calling, inviting us to go away with him to a place of quiet and peaceful rest where we can spend time with him as he ministers to us. You are guaranteed by scripture that Jesus will not avoid you or turn you away.
King David understood this need for resting in God. It’s from his experiences as a shepherd that he writes the most beloved of all the psalms inviting and saying “He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).
This is what the Good Shepherd desires to do for you today. When life gets busy, Jesus is our vacation - bringing us comfort and His peace.
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