The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 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. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 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. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
Today’s text begins with the apostles gathered around Jesus telling him all that they had done and taught on their missionary trip. Jesus had earlier sent them out in pairs to preach, teach and heal in his name. They had taken nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts and were only to trust in the hospitality of those along the way for their needs. I cannot imagine how exhausting this all was for them. I can imagine, however, their excitement to share all they had experienced with Jesus. In response, Jesus says to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Jesus knows the apostles need rest after their busy trip, and he makes it clear that they wouldn’t enjoy real rest unless they spent time with him.
Those are words I need to hear today. It can be so easy to get busy with our lives, so much to do with so little time. Jesus provides an example for us. Throughout his life, Jesus recognized that he needed time to stop, reflect, pray, and nourish his inner life so that he could fulfill his ministry and mission. During the season of Lent, many of us grew up with the practice of giving up things, but sometimes it is more helpful to take on something; perhaps more time with Jesus to share our successes, our joys, our pains, our struggles, and to be refreshed. As we see in our reading today, there will always be more work to do as we minister to those in need and show God’s love and compassion. I pray that we always continue to hear and respond to Jesus’ invitation to serve others, but today he says: Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, pg. 832)