Help Lord, I need a vacation!
Urgency is one of the most obvious theme's in the Gospel of Mark. The ministry of Jesus and the Twelve is bracketed by the language of hurry. That Mark used the Greek term "euthus", usually translated "immediately", 42 times is one of the markers of this expediency. Everything happened fast. It's more than that, though. More than any of the others Mark noted the pace they kept, moving from village to village, region to region, friend to friend. And, it wasn't just the rush, but even more the relentless itinerary that moved them throughout Judea, Galilee, and beyond. Throughout the text they were getting in a boat, crossing over, coming to the other side of the sea, moving on from there, being followed by a large crowd, returning from somewhere, and other notations of movement and activity. Mark used the word "again" more than fifty times.
On one occasion Mark wrote---
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.
And, he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a
while". For many were coming and going...
Mark 6: 30-31, ESV
Evidently Jesus saw the wear and tear on the twelve men he was re-training to be fishers of men. He certainly knew their human limitations when he called them to be messengers of the Kingdom. He himself was driven too, his nourishment being to do the will of the one who sent him and finish his work (see John 4:34). Early in their ministry Jesus had signaled them the rigors of the mission he was sent to fulfill. Mark wrote about it too---
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.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and
casting out demons.
Mark 1:35-39, ESV
They wanted him to stay in a village for an unspecified period of time. But, Jesus reminded them that his purpose was to preach "throughout Galilee" and must stay on the move. He said it was why he was sent.
Later Jesus told them about their human frailty. On the night before his passion, while they were in the Garden of Gethsemane he told them that their spirits were truly willing but their bodies were week. So, in the Mark 6 passage, he was reminding them, early on, that they would need to take refreshment from time to time. Mere humans must occasionally step away.
Chapter 3 of my book, Finish. Period. Going the Distance in Ministry is titled "Discipline for Going the Distance". There are five steps Jesus modeled that enable his followers to reach the distance in ministry, you know, the proverbial finish line. They are---
Step Down: The Step of Humility
Step Up: The Step of Leadership
Step Back: The Step of Perspective
Step Aside: The Step of Discernment
Step Away: The Step of Refreshment
The Mark 6 passage was a revelation for me. Jesus had said, "Come away...", what appears to be an invitation for them to join him in rest. For me it was a wake-up call, a moment of clarity, because refreshment and rest seemed so low on the priority list of most of my ministry cohort, me included. Looking around beyond my colleagues in ministry I noticed that just about every person I encountered every day was tired and worn. Clearly the step of refreshment isn't standard operating procedure these days.
And, here we are in May, nearing the end of another school year when so many people are hanging by a thread and praying, Help Lord, I need a vacation. Perhaps it's time for some refreshment, even moments of it. That's why I titled that chapter "Discipline for Going the Distance" because refreshment, rest, and recovery are disciplines that we must learn, how to step away on occasion for time off the grid, even when we can't take a full fledged vacation.
So, that's the deal right now, the rest and refreshment that enables the pace of life today. Thursday will be about Happy Places, and Friday will cover the topic of learning to retreat.
Are you praying, Help Lord, I Need a Vacation? Read on this week.
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