Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 NRSV
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
The gospel of Mark is a gospel that focuses on healing. It is also full of drama and juicy story lines. In this chapter alone, Jesus experiences betrayal from his own community, Jesus gives the 12 disciples their orders and authority over “unclean spirits,” John the Baptist is murdered while imprisoned, the miracle of feeding over 5,000 people happens, and Jesus walks on water. This chapter in particular is full of stories and vignettes of Jesus’ action-packed ministry. In your own devotional period, read this chapter in its entirety with a focus on Jesus’ humanity. Is this kind of activity sustainable for a human to engage? Would you be able to keep up with this kind of schedule?
Today’s lesson will focus on the sacredness of rest. Read the scripture out loud together.
What is happening during this passage?
After all the activity in this chapter, the apostles came to Jesus and talked about the work they had done. He instructed them to “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” They were not even eating properly. So, they went away in a boat. But still, people recognized them and rushed to greet them. Jesus saw the crowd and was moved to compassion because “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” He began to teach.
The next passage details the work that they did in Gennesaret. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized him (and them), and they brought the sick and infirmed to him. Even on mats and other accessibility aids! No matter where he went, whether cities, villages, or farms, those in need of healing swarmed around him even to touch his cloak. All who came close enough to him were healed.
What kind of demands were on the disciples and Jesus?
The second chunk of scripture in our reading today explains why they all needed a time to rest. No matter where they went, people recognized them and were swarming for healing. And this makes sense! The people were in need of healing. Think of all the diseases and conditions we have just found remedies for in the last few hundred years. And even still, healthcare is not always as “Caring” as it could be for all people.
At this time (and sadly still today) the evidence of physical distress in one’s body was considered “demonic.” If you had anything like acne, arthritis, fibroids, or irregular menstrual cycles, you would be seen as having a spiritual issue. If you needed mobility aids like mats, crutches, or wheelchairs, people would ask, “who sinned, this man or his parents?” If you were blind, deaf, or mute, there was no way to translate necessary stories and information to you unless you were in community with people who could support you. People who came to Jesus and the disciples were desperate. It was not just about being able to move without restriction; it was about having a community where you would not be left out.
What happens if you cannot rest?
All our hours are carefully scheduled to accommodate rising cost of living, housing prices, and stagnant wages. If you feel like you are working more than you used to, you are! We have less free time than previous generations. There is increasing pressure to monetize our hobbies for the sake of building multiple streams of income. We do not currently have a livable wage. At this point, the “fight for $15” has been outdated, and is not enough to keep up with rising costs. There is a lot of pressure to work. Because working keeps us paid and being paid gives us the ability to live. We hope.
Jesus tells the disciples to rest, but it is more than just a finger-wag. He does not say “you should go on vacation,” while adding more things to their to-do list. He does not say, “you should practice self-care,” and finish the rest of his story. He says, “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves.” The disciples were not even eating well. They were not nourishing themselves physically or otherwise. They could not! There was such a demand for their services.
The text describes a Jesus who “had compassion for them,” and perhaps felt moved to teach even though he was supposed to be on vacation. This happens sometimes. But what is most instructive here is that Jesus knew to bring the disciples away.
What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?
Connection to Today’s World
The Nap Ministry is a project started by Tricia Hersey. A trained theologian at Emory University, Hersey uses the power of naps and rest to reclaim healing for Black people. The Nap Ministry is “a community installation that examines the liberating power of naps. We believe rest is a form of resistance and install Collective Napping Experiences for the community to rest together in a safe space.” In her work, you can find “collective napping experiences,” immersive workshops, lectures, coaching, and a program called “Resurrect Rest School.”
But her most compelling work, one might argue, is in “deprogramming” Black people who are conditioned to believe that we are our work. She does this through inspirational, convicting, and healing messages on her Instagram page.
In her own words, she inspires us to:
“To all the resters and resisters, good work! Keep resting! Keep connecting. Keep
pausing. You are doing great.”
“Power to the people. Rest to the power. Liberate us all from grind culture.”
You can even hear a dedicated message that affirms your rest if you call 1-833-LUV-NAPS. It is real! The message changes every Tuesday.
Especially in a time when work has followed us into our homes, it is even that much more important to set up boundaries. Perhaps you do not have vacation days you can use. Do you have ten minutes in your day to sit quietly? Maybe you do not have the funds to take a class you have been interested in for some time. Can your community invest in you, or can you seek sponsorships? This call to rest is a communal one. It reminds us that we have to hold each other. When we have time to watch other people’s kids so they can get their hair done, let us do so! Let us support each other, fairly, so that one person is not holding all the communal work alone.
Journal: What fun thing will you do for yourself this week?
Closing: Listen to “I Can See Clearly Now,” sung by Johnny Nash
You have given us so many examples of animals playing and enjoying themselves. We see your power in sea otters swimming, in dogs play-fighting, in birds bathing in little puddles. Thank you for the vision of nature basking and delighting in joy.
We need your help to get away into the boat. We know that you will accompany us on our way to the boat. Whatever work awaits us will be there when we return. Most of all, we ask that you strengthen our communities so that more people can take a rest. We ask a special blessing over all single parents, elders, students, workers of multiple jobs, essential workers, and anyone else who may feel their schedule does not belong to them. Move all obstacles out of our way, so that You might get the glory.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.