“10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.” (Luke 9)
I get the impression Jesus was a “I’ll-sleep-when-I’m-dead” kinda guy. When the time came to begin his ministry it was like he knew a clock was ticking and he had but three short years to do all he meant to do besides all of the unscheduled stuff he would want to do along the way. He taught and healed until late into the evening often and we’re told he spent a lot of nights and early mornings praying. He had a goal it would seem: he wanted to come to the end of his life with nothing left to give having given it all away. To die flush, so to speak.
It also appears this wasn’t just an ingrained habit with him. It wasn’t just something he picked up from Joseph in the workshop. A family trait. Good breeding. It was a credo. A conscious belief in how it should be done which he tried to pass on to his followers. Take this passage in Luke for instance.
The disciples, the twelve, were sent out in two man teams to preach, heal and drive out demons from all the nearby towns. They went on a mission trip. Exciting! Exhilarating! Exhausting! These are not professional missionaries and from what I’ve read and learned of professional missionaries, the most common killer among them is burnout. The mission field is taxing! The point of the spear feels very alone. They were walking with fear and anxiety in every step and Jesus made sure they would by telling them to take nothing for the journey, in some versions, not even a staff! They didn’t know where they’d eat. If they would eat. Where they would sleep. If they’d be arrested. Beaten. Killed! You know the feeling you get in your stomach right before you try and tell some stranger about Jesus? Yeah, extend that over all day, every day for who knows how long and throw in a very real chance they will kill you. We’re not told how long their mission was but when they came back, you can guess they wanted to regale, rejoice and REST!
And Jesus is not indifferent. He wants those things too. Remember, he loves these knuckleheads. “30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place 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 desolate place by themselves.” (Mark 6)
They get into “the” boat. This is Mark who I’m told got his story from Peter. “The” boat is probably Pete’s boat. This may be confirmed by their destination as told by Luke, Bethsaida. Pete’s hometown (John 1). So they get into a boat and Pete sets sail for home. Where else would you want to go to rest? When was the last time he had seen his family? Home and hearth and Mama’s fresh baked bread. MMMMMmmmmfff, I can almost smell it!
Alas, it was not to be. “33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6) Please, please mark, this is not planned! Jesus didn’t see this coming! He was sincerely trying to get some rest and alone time for his followers and himself. He could smell that bread too! He had a tummy! But Jesus, when forced to choose between loving his closest companions by giving them rest and loving a crowd by giving them healing and the Word, chooses the latter. Jesus goes with the greater need!
Jesus. Is always. On. Mission.
And if the Chief Shepherd is at work, then you can bet your bottom denarius the undershepherds are busy too. Not just from incidental contact but willfully. “12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” (Luke 9) The twelve, the dirty dozen, have just come off a mission trip, where they were specifically told to take no provision for the journey, they returned and had no time to eat because of the crowd, they got into a boat, tummies grumbling and plopped out here…to another crowd! They got nothing! Jesus, look. We get the whole, rely on God thing! Kay? We saw how people took us in while on the little mission trip. Kay? We get it! But look around! People, people everywhere but not a crumb to eat! Kay? These people can’t feed themselves! How are we supposed to feed them?
I don’t know if Jesus smiled wryly or was slightly disappointed, but I can picture him either way saying, “What say you? Where do you think the food on your journeys came from? Did it come from men or from your Father who sees you and knows what you need?” Then as if to prove the point, Jesus blesses five loaves and two fish and feeds five thousand men, untold numbers of women and wives, countless children and possible slaves.
Jesus lives at a breakneck pace. Jesus gives as if there will always be more. Jesus loves with reckless abandon. Because Jesus knows whom His Father is! You cannot exhaust the inexhaustible! God is infinite! In-fin-ite! Without end! You are finite! You need rest. You need to eat.
But Jesus, which is getting to be my favorite phrase, says, “32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12)
Work now, give now, stay on mission! We’ll sleep when we’re resurrected!