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.” Mark 6:31
The season of Advent can be busy. Decorating the house, buying and wrapping presents, preparing for the arrival of family, traveling to visit family, attending church services, the list goes on. All of these things are good, but is this all there is to the season? Think about it. After it’s all done, you collapse onto your couch, close your eyes, and begin to think of how you are going have to do it all over again next year. But is this really what the Advent season is all about?
In Mark 6:30-31, the apostles are returning from a preaching trip. They are excited and can’t wait to tell Jesus what they had done and taught. First, notice the word return. This tells the reader that the apostles have been in the presence of Jesus before they went out to preach. They sat at his feet, listened to his teachings, and applied what they had learned.
Upon their return, they were excited to share their experiences with Jesus. Surely Jesus rejoiced with them, but his primary concern was for the apostles themselves. We read his instructions to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” There are two parts to this command that I believe are important to us, not only during Advent, but during the entire church year.
- Come away by yourselves to a desolate place: Jesus understood the need for times of solitude. There are times when we need to be alone so that we can re-connect with the Father. Time to pray, read the scriptures, worship without distraction, reflect on what God is doing in our lives, and physically rest. So, what is a desolate place in our culture? In the past, I have taken trips to Anaheim to spend the day with Mickey Mouse. While I am away, I am not in a desolate place. A desolate place has the idea of being in a location with no distractions. Jesus’ command to go to a desolate place is one spoken out of example. Luke tells us, in Luke 5:16, “But he (Jesus) would withdraw to desolate places to pray.”
- Rest a while: Jesus wanted his apostles to get not only physical rest, but much needed spiritual rest. Many Christians believe that in order to prove themselves to God, they have to stay perpetually busy. Unfortunately, all this does is lead to burn-out and even resentment toward God. What we fail to understand is that God never asked us to be busy in the first place. The Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,” How did we receive Christ Jesus the Lord? Paul answers this question in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
This Advent season, I pray that we would become keenly aware of God’s grace in our lives, and that the result of this awareness would be to find where God is at work around us, join him, and then take time to rest and reflect on what God has done.