- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 30 May 2018 30 May 2018
With the summer season upon us, many of us are looking forward to some time off from the daily grind to get away and find some rest. Appropriate rest is very much a part of God’s design for His creation. It’s much too easy to get caught up in the business of everyday life, making it all the more necessary to find time to rest and rejuvenate ourselves.
Rest, in fact, was built into the rhythm of life by our Creator. On the seventh day, after completing His work of creation, God Himself rested. Certainly, God did not need to rest, but did so to give creation a pattern to follow. By His own rest, God sanctified the seventh day as a holy day of rest. In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest is two-fold, it is for both physical and spiritual rest (Leviticus 23:3). The Sabbath brings rest for both humans and animals and is a time for sacred assembly. Even the land was to rest on the Sabbath to remind God's people that it was His land and they lived in dependence on Him. In other words, this two-fold rest was a way of teaching God's people that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that come for the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
After the disciples returned from their first mission trip, presumably exhausted from the demands of their work and their journey, Jesus invites them to rest. In fact, our Lord's words could hardly be more emphatic; “Come away, by yourselves, to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Come away and rest! Jesus invites His disciples to go with Him to a solitary place, a quiet place, a place where they can go and rest for a while! Mark tells us that they were so busy that they had no time to sit and have a meal (6:31). Presumably they ate, but probably on the run. So Jesus takes them to get some much needed rest.
Author Dick France writes, “Some Christians, governed by the ‘Protestant work ethic,’ have thought of ‘rest’ as at best a concession to human weakness, to be enjoyed, if at all, only with an underlying sense of guilt!” 1 For some of us, it seems as though it's ingrained into the fabric of our being that we always need to be doing something and if we're not, we tend to feel guilty. Sound familiar? I know I'm as guilty as the next person for failing to rest for these very reasons!
Jesus made getting away for rest and prayer a priority. And if He needed this, what does that mean for the rest of us? Rest is not just a seasonal need, but a weekly need! We may think we can work 24-7, seven days a week, but we will soon find out that this is not how God designed us. We may also think we can survive without the second part of God's Sabbath design, rest for our souls, but we will soon find out that this too is not how God designed us.
As much as we're run down from the daily grind and in need of rest for our bodies, we're also run down by our daily sins and failures and in need of God's grace, rest for our souls. Jesus is our Sabbath rest and, even in these summer months, His invitation still stands; “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We need rest from our sins, from our worries, from our burdens, from our struggles and from the crosses we bear in this life!
Wherever Jesus is, there is rest for weary hearts and burdened souls! We have been given the gift of receiving His rest where He has promised to be for us—in His Holy Church, in Holy Absolution, in His Word preached and proclaimed and in His Holy Supper. This is where Jesus continues to give us rest and healing for our weary hearts and burdened souls! God knew what He was doing when He gave His people the command to rest and gather for sacred worship (Leviticus 23:3). We need both and we need them regularly!