Labor And Rest

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
“The apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.
And He said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile; for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
There is a word of great sweetness and comfort in these verses. We are introduced to a scene of real labor and toil. The Lord had called the twelve, and sent them out two by two, without anything for their journey save a staff. They went forth without scrip, or bread or money: they preached, they cast out devils, they raised the sick; it was a time of diligent service and incessant toil, but a time of labor which resulted in fruit. After this we find the apostles returning, gathering themselves together and rehearsing to their blessed Master all they had done and taught.
He had sent them forth, as it were, empty handed and destitute of all man's resources, and now they have returned and are spreading at His blessed feet their acquired treasures, the fruit of their work and toil; He, with all that tender grace and kindness which were ever His own, accepts it all, and in the divine and blessed love which ever sought the good of His own, He says,
Let us note it well. He does not say, "Go and rest," but "Come and rest." Ah! it is not the desert place that could furnish the rest, if so, it might have been "Go," but it is Himself there, there where no distraction can intrude, no surge of worry, no blast of care can for a moment enter. O! how blessed His company in that sweet retreat, made so by Himself alone!
But there is a further precious thought here. Our own Master and Lord knows the snare of active service, even for Him-the danger of giving it that place which alone belongs to Himself-the temptation to His poor, weak child and vessel to be more absorbed with it than with Him; hence, how often do we hear Him say,
“Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile.”
We are told that "there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.”
In this busy day of ours, with its confessed and crying needs on every hand, how true the picture before us is; yet while recognizing fully our clear, distinct duty to the Church and the world, and not in any wise seeking to clothe our indifference or selfishness with a religious sanctimonious garb, let all who love His blessed service, which is indeed perfect freedom, bear in mind the lesson of our passage, which is plainly this, that the quality of our work will be poor and attenuated indeed, if it be not connected with Christ, from Christ, for Christ.
Those who really and truly work for Him, must first of all be sustained and fed by Himself, as they hear Him say, "Come and rest." And O! how gracious of Him to take His poor wearied worker by the hand, as it were, aside, apart in a desert place with Himself, shutting him out from all but Himself, that with mind undisturbed and heart undistracted, all may be gone over with Himself, in rest and quietness, and fresh thoughts of Himself and His love thus impressed upon the heart, producing renewed vigor and energy for further service for Him.
After this we have recorded a delightful instance of the deep compassion of that heart which was ever touched by distress and need. We are told the people "out went them and came together unto Him." O! how He did attract the weary and wanting ones! How He also met and taught and filled them! How He made the desert place to yield bread enough and to spare, and then having finished all in His compassionate tenderness and goodness He Himself departed into a mountain to pray; His meat was to do the will of Him that sent Him and to finish His work.
But we must bring these thoughts to a close by a glance at the end of the chapter. In the departure of Jesus into the mountain, we are shown in figure His taking His place of intercession on high; His disciples cross the water in a boat, and we have their vicissitudes; it is such a comfort to think of what is said here,
“He saw them toiling in rowing.”
Not the shades of night, nor the earnest vigil which He kept in prayer on the mountain-top, nor the storm-lashed lake that they were crossing, none of these could hide His poor servants from the Master's eyes. Then He Who "saw them" came to them in the darkest part of the night, walking on the water in supreme majesty, but in love, and spoke such words of comfort,
“Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”
“In darkest shades, if He appear,
My morning is begun.”
Lastly, observe it is said, "He talked with them." How blessed the rest of that intercourse, after all the toil and labor.