Mark 6:30-34 (Eighth Sunday after Pentecost—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
July 22, 2012
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from the Gospel reading in Mark 6:
The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves. 33 The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
Vacations are great, aren’t they? Everyone needs time away from their regular routines and schedules. Everyone needs time for rest and refreshment. We need that time of rest and refreshment because we get worn out from our jobs, from our responsibilities as parents and homemakers, and from the daily grind of life. Spending last week in the Mt. Washington valley of New Hampshire was rest and refreshment for me and my family. And while not everyone can take extended vacations, we can still take a day or so to care for our need for refreshment.
That’s what Jesus was having the Twelve Apostles do when they returned from their teaching and healing venture for which Jesus had sent them out. Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” Jesus recognized that they needed a break and that they couldn’t get that with all the people that were coming and going. You can’t get rest and find refreshment when there isn’t even time to eat! So “they went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.”
As it turned out, that boat ride on the Sea of Galilee to that secluded place was the Apostles’ time of rest and refreshment. When they got to the shore Jesus saw that a great crowd had come to that “secluded” place on foot and had arrived ahead of them. Now the plot thickens. What should Jesus do? Send the crowd away so the Apostles can have more time for rest? But look at that great crowd. Don’t see their numbers, but see their need as Jesus did. See their need for rest and refreshment too. They are like sheep without a Good Shepherd. Can they be denied the compassion of Jesus?
Everyone needs time for rest and refreshment. What is true of us physically is also so very true spiritually. We need spiritual rest and refreshment. Those without Jesus also need that same spiritual rest and refreshment.
As I look at this text, I see the Apostles representative of those of us in the Church. We are called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit to be the baptized people of God whom He sends out into the world with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. And like the Apostles who were sent, we also need spiritual rest and refreshment from Jesus. Without spiritual rest and refreshment, we will wither away. We will be overcome by what we face day to day as Christians. Martin Luther said it this way, “Look around and see whether [you are] still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble . . . . [you] will certainly have the devil also around [you], who with his lying and murdering day and night will let [you] have no peace, within or without.” Life as believers and our service to others in the name of Jesus wearies us, just as it did the Twelve. Our constant bombardment by temptations from the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh make it so necessary that we come to Jesus for refreshment and rest. And we should do so because He has invited us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Jesus’ rest is found here in Word and Sacrament. The Divine Service is the Christian’s time of rest and refreshment. It is in this time together as Christians that the Lord meets us here with His Gospel Word and Sacraments. It is here that Jesus comes and refreshes our sinful selves with the healing balm of His forgiveness. He applies this soothing ointment to each of us in the words of Absolution, “As a called and ordained servant of Christ and by His authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The Lord continues our time of rest and refreshment as we hear His Word read and then proclaimed to us from this pulpit. It is a word of Law that shows us our sins and a word of Gospel that announces that in Jesus our sins are forgiven and so we have refreshment in our Savior who gives us new life. Then comes the meal of refreshment. Jesus feeds us with His own body, once crucified, now risen from the dead. Jesus gives us to drink of the very blood He shed for us on the cross. In this sacred and holy meal, Jesus gives us the spiritual refreshment of sins forgiven, of life, of salvation. Through the eating and drinking of His body and blood with the bread and the wine, Christ refreshes our faith, strengthening it for further service and love toward Him and our neighbors.
And then, in the words of one of my favorite communion hymns, “Too soon we rise; the vessels disappear; The feast, though not the love, is past and gone; The bread and wine remove, but Thou art here; Nearer than ever; still my shield and sun.” (LSB 631:6) Just that quickly, God’s service to us is over. A short hour or so, short, like the Apostles’ boat ride to that no-longer secluded place. But it is enough. Our rest and refreshment time received from the Lord’s Word and Sacrament is completely sufficient. We are strengthened. We are renewed. We are empowered by Word and the Holy Spirit to get back out there into the world where Christ has sent us.
As you leave the boat of this church, look at the great crowd on the shores around us. Look at the crowds of Hazardville and Scitico, Thomsonville, and Enfield. Look at the crowds in Suffield and West Springfield, Longmeadow, and Somers. Look at them with the same eyes of Jesus. They are as sheep without a shepherd. They have no rest and refreshment from their sins, from Satan, from the sting of death. They have no release from the pangs of their guilt. We cannot deny them the compassion of Jesus. That’s why we bring the refreshment and rest of Jesus to them.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Jesus meets the needs of both those inside His Church and those outside of it. He is the Savior of all people. He went and suffered death on the cross for your sins and for theirs. He rose again from the dead winning victory over death for you and for them. The Lord calls you into His presence here in this sanctuary week after week to refresh you with the forgiveness Jesus won for you with His cross and resurrection. He calls you here to pour on the ointment of His grace and love that removes your guilt and strengthens your faith and love so that He can then send you back out with His love and grace. Christ refreshes you here so that you can demonstrate His compassion out there as you are the ones who bring the compassion of Jesus to a hurting world.
What a humbling, yet joyous responsibility we have been given as the members of the household of God! I think this quote from St. Theresa of Avila, who lived from 1515-1582, puts it well: “Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.” You and I are blessed with the rest and refreshment of sins forgiven and life everlasting in Jesus Christ so that we might bless others with the same refreshment and rest of the Savior. Come regularly and receive the blessings of Jesus. You need this time of rest. And when you leave this place of holy refreshment, be awesome blessings to others as you share the compassion and the refreshment of Christ—His forgiveness, life, and salvation—with your friends and neighbors. Amen.