“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while,” said Jesus to his disciples, “for many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31).
Wyndham Mountain Vista isn’t a desolate place. We pulled in too late to book our favorite condo overlooking the fog that huddles in the Ozark valleys each morning. So we settled for one further down, with a keyhole view of the hills from our balcony, where we could see shingles and hear construction. But I had “come away” from my planner and inbox and garden work.
The crabapple and redbuds swayed pink along the concrete creekbed. We followed it to the rec center one evening, where we shared the pool with three shirtless boys. One of them jumped off the side and just missed my head. He swam over to me later:
“Sorry I jumped on your head.”
His name was Teddy Joe, but he went by T.J.
“T is one word, then J,” he explained, “T—J.”
T.J. had one front tooth and sandy hair. I guessed him to be seven or eight— at least, old enough to own his own BB gun. Sometimes, his grandpa even lets him shoot his crossbow.
“I’m not going to tell you what we hunted. I’m not going to tell. Do you want me to tell?”
“Sure,” I said from the poolside. He sat on the corner next to me, his legs in the water.
“We shot snakes.”
“Yeah. That’s not what they shoot on Walking Dead, though. On Walking Dead, they kill people in the ribs—” he jabbed a hand in his side, “and sometimes, they cut off their heads!”
“Yeah. Walkers aren’t real, though.”
“I’m going to be a scientist,” he said, “cause already I’ve found fossil bones.”
“At mom’s junkyard.” He pointed to a lady in the hot tub who looked embarrassed.
“I found a T-rex fossil this long,” he spread his bare arms. “I dug up hundreds of them by myself. I’m going to be a scientist. Or a zookeeper.”
I had stood up and started drying off. He talked more about guns and blood.
“I actually need to go now. It was nice meeting you, T.J.”
He stood up, too. “My room number is 6647. You can come visit. My grandma wakes up at three — very early. Just ring the doorbell.”
“Four seven!”he held up four fingers and yelled.
My siblings and I wore cold poolwater back to the condo, even though I’d spent more time sitting than swimming. But Dad said T.J.’s mom had smiled at the door:
“Thanks for listening.”
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
Two things I’d hoped for my vacation:
And to take gifts as they came, to let loose my plans.
Jesus said, “Come away and rest” but then got pinned in by people. The sea was wide and quiet, yet he rowed to a crowded shore and “began to teach them many things” because “he had compassion.” They were like sheep without a shepherd.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
God came away from his work on the seventh day of creation, not because he needed rest, but because he knew his people would. He created Sabbath — Shabbat — a pause, a stop, a cease in what he was doing.[i]
God knew Jesus would need it, too. He was a thirty-year-old who, between parables and miracles, sat on the rocks of a mountainside to pray in the stillness (Mark 6:46). He needed to rest his feet, yes, but it wasn’t just a break from work. It was a rest from works.
Simon, John, James, and the others had run back to Jesus and told him everything they’d done: Demons, gone. Diseased people, healed. Lame men, running. Unbelievers, repenting. Jesus didn’t clap them on their backs, but motioned:
“Come away and rest awhile.”
They were like sheep who needed to lie down, so Jesus pushed away from shore to let the sea lull their boat. But when he looked up, there were other people who’d run miles of shoreline to beat him. Unlike his own twelve, this flock didn’t have a shepherd to lead them to the water.
So, “he went ashore.”
He fed each empty soul, “Then he commanded them all to sit down on the green grass” (Mark 6:39). Maybe he spoke a blessing over the fish and bread:
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, by whose word all came to be.”[ii]
And the God whose Word worked the world into being for six days, and who “rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done,” spoke a meal into being, then slipped away to a quiet place (Gen. 2:2, Mark 6:46).
“He leads me beside still waters.”
The day after our swim, we took a volleyball to the lake before a storm creeped in, and I skipped down to the shore to watch clouds pile up on the horizon. I was turning to leave when the wind kicked up off the water, suddenly cold in my face. It brought waves heaping up, over the rocks and my feet. I took off down the shoreline— wind in my ears, water hitting my legs, grinning.
We waited out the worst of it in the van, all nine of us watching rain slap the windows. Across the parking lot, a man stood next to an empty trailer on the boat ramp, looking into the wind. Fifteen minutes passed before a stray pontoon came into view, wrestling the white caps, teetering back toward the floodlights of the marina.
“And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land” (Mark 6:47).
At last, Jesus had a chance to pray where no one would see. His cousin John had been murdered, his headless body laid in a tomb.
But the wind was against his friends’ boat, cold and violent. They heaved at the oars but got whipped backward. Seawater found the seams, and it wasn’t the first time they’d fought it. It wasn’t the first time they’d sweated while Jesus rested.
“The boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep” (Matt. 8:24).
And it wasn’t the last time.
Jesus died the way John had — murder — and was laid in a tomb the way John was. At last, the disciples had a chance to weep and pray in a room where no one could see. But they were sheep without a shepherd, and there was no rest.
Then they saw him standing in the middle of the room. They saw him walking across the sea. And he said, “Take heart” and “Peace,” and the sea stopped rioting. The wind laid down. The shipwrecked disciples found a shoreline in Jesus’ words.
“Come away” he had said, and not just to a sea or mountainside or condo in the hills.
“Come to me… I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).
“He restores my soul.”
We spent our last afternoon on the lakeshore again, but now there was light on the water and heat rising from the rocks. Our feet and shoulders turned brown. I sat on the pebbles with minnows at my feet and built a little pool out of rocks. It caught each wave that washed in, holding water there for a second or two.
We’d come on the Sabbath.
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).
Jesus created the seventh day, the gentle lake, the room for rest. The Pharisees were looking for satisfaction and rest in their works, so when a disfigured man stood up in the synagogue, they watched Jesus to make sure he wouldn’t work against the Word.
But the Word said to the man: “Come here. Stretch out your hand.”
“He stretched it out, and his hand was restored” (Mark 3:3, 5)
Jesus created the seventh day, the gentle lake, the room for rest.
God made rest, on lakeshores and in condos, and calls it “good.” But it’s also just a rock pool reflection of a wider, deeper lake. It reminds me I can lie down from my works — my sweating and striving — because Jesus’ hardest, bloodiest work blankets me.
So he says, “Come away and rest awhile,” and I stop along the way to listen to lost boys. I run down the shoreline, into the storm. I hear him say, “Come here” and stretch out my tired hands, feeling restoration run up my arm and down my back.
I “come away” and “rest awhile” only because I can come to him to rest forever.
“So then, there a remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Heb. 4:9-10).
[i] The Bible Project Podcast. “The Restless Craving for Rest – 7th Day Rest E1.” (BibleProject: October 14, 2019). https://open.spotify.com/episode/5pyIpDQRM67pjMexCLOpfk?si=1fda021b24de4a6a
[ii] Jewish Practice. “Texts of Blessings Before Eating.” (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/90551/jewish/Texts-of-Blessings-Before-Eating.htm#6