9th Pentecost Sunday
July 22, 2018
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
“Jesus Prescribes Rest…”
1) Rest… Recovering from Faithful Physical Work
2) Rest… Preparing for Godly Labors Tomorrow
3) Rest… for Our Souls, Forgiveness for Our Sin
Dear disciples of Christ,
‘Come with me,’ Jesus says; ‘get some rest.’ Is he inviting disciples to some type of retreat, inviting the twelve to enjoy a little vacation? Or is Jesus welcoming faithful followers into retirement? Is Jesus just encouraging a good night’s sleep? Or is he possibly describing the sleep of death? God’s inspired account of a simple interlude in our Savior’s ministry rightly produces several applications for our life as a disciple today when we realize Jesus prescribes rest on several levels. Rest, a time to recover from faithful physical work, is our Lord’s instruction. Rest, a time to prepare for godly labors tomorrow, is our Lord’s expectation. Finally rest — a time to repent; time to rejoice in Jesus’ redemption – rest for repenting souls receiving forgiveness for our sins is our Savior’s all-important, eternal invitation.
Rest, time for our body to recover from physical labor, is a first application we observe as ‘the apostles gather around Jesus & report to him all they have done & taught.’ What did they do? Recall last Sunday’s gospel reading. Training disciples for gospel ministry they will be guiding after his own death, resurrection & ascension, Jesus ‘sent out the twelve two by two; Jesus gave them authority over impure spirits.’ Obeying their Lord’s instructions, ‘the twelve go out; preach that people should repent. They drive out many demons; anoint many sick people with oil & heal them.’ Returning from this amazing training exercise teaching them to trust God’s powerful Word to work faith in their hearers’ hearts; proving God will keep his promise to provide spiritual servants’ earthly needs, the twelve return to tell Jesus, ‘even the demons submit to us in your name.’[LK 10]
Preaching God’s truth – personally sharing the message of our Savior – can be exhilarating; at the same time, exhausting. Coming back where crowds surround Jesus – ‘many people coming & going’ — disciples reporting their success ‘do not even have a chance to eat.’ Have you ever had a day where you were too busy to take a lunchbreak? If work is productive; when we enjoy what we do, we may feel no need for food. But, sooner or later, our body needs to be fed; our energy tanks need to be refueled. Understanding their situation, Jesus tells the twelve, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place & get some rest.’
Rest can be time to recover from faithful labor, physical or mental labor in our ministry of God’s gospel truth. In line with Jesus’ example, Good Shepherd elects twelve men to lead our congregation’s ministry, each serving a three-year term on our Church Council. After serving three years, a Councilman can be elected again to serve a second three-year term. But then – even if this man has a unique talent to serve as our treasurer, our president or our Education chairman, for example — after serving six consecutive years, our by-laws mandate a year off – a year of rest. Similarly, while not written in our by-laws – while we called workers are always ‘on call,’ as it were — we never expect our teacher, our pastor or our ECC director to be working God’s works twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year without taking time to eat or sleep or rest.
Calling his apostles to ‘come with me to get some rest,’ Jesus may have more in mind than physical rest for their body. You see, as the apostles are sent out to speak for the Lord – to preach repentance & forgiveness, to preach law & gospel – John the Baptist is being executed by King Herod. Why is the Baptist beheaded? John preached the law. John accused King Herod of sinfully taking his brother’s wife to be his own illegitimate wife. While John’s listeners at the Jordan River often repented, King Herod refuses to acknowledge his sin, first imprisoning John; then executing John in a futile effort to quiet accusations his conscience would continue to offer. Are the apostles – whose training trip can be compared to a vicar spending a year serving as a student-pastor in some congregation – asking themselves, ‘If John the Baptist was beheaded for teaching God’s truth, what might happen to me?’ Are the twelve wondering, ‘Do I really want to confess Christ? Do I want to faithfully follow Jesus; do I want to speak for our Savor, in light of earthly consequences ministers might confront?’
Physical rest could also offer time to be rejuvenated mentally & spiritually as apostles spend a day or two with Jesus away from the crowd. Like the twelve pulled aside for some special instruction & encouragement, Jesus will personally encourage & instruct us as we take time – make time — to just read the Bible; just let the Lord talk to us one on one, away from crowds; where I can concentrate. Are we too busy to carve one hour out of our weekly schedule to read God’s truth? Are we too busy to set aside fifteen minutes a day to read Meditaions; to ponder what our Savior wants us to believe – to pray about what our Lord wants us to do for him & for his people? Friends, if we are really too busy to take time to hear God’s truth, too busy to rest & be renewed as the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith with the Scriptures – if our world will fall apart, if this earth would stop spinning should we stop doing whatever we do to talk with the Lord in prayer & let the Lord talk back to us as we read his Word — then we are ‘too busy.’ Then it is time to quit – not necessarily retire – but quit doing whatever will not let us prioritize hearing the Word of the Lord in our life.
Unfortunately, it seems the apostles do not get all the rest they anticipate as their ‘boat sails to a solitary place,’ for Mark reports, ‘Many who see them leaving recognize them.’ People ‘run on foot from all the towns,’ run along the seashore to ‘reach their landing spot ahead of them.’ No nice two-day retreat, but the twelve were alone with the Lord in the boat – were away from the crowd for a little while – were renewed by their Lord’s words (which are not recorded for us in Scripture at this point in time) — were prepared, as the Lord uses rest & a little timely refreshment to prepare us today for god-pleasing labor tomorrow. ‘When Jesus lands & sees a large crowd, he has compassion on them, because they are like sheep without a shepherd.’ Expressing no regret, as if people are foiling his plans for a relaxing vacation with his apostles, ‘Jesus begins teaching these people many things,’ undoubtedly showing them their sins; showing them he is their Savior.
Jesus will also put the twelve to work, first asking them to wrestle with the question of how they will feed five thousand hungry listeners late in the day before giving them ‘five loaves & two fish blessed & broken to distribute to the people.’ For these disciples, miraculously distributing food to a crowd of thousands, feeding the body, is a different duty from preaching repentance, feeding a soul, as they had done when Jesus sent them out two by two. But in both instances, they are serving the Lord; serving our Lord’s people as rest, a time for recovering from faithful labor in the past is also a time preparing us for god-pleasing service tomorrow.
Recalling our application of a Church council member resting after serving two consecutive terms, does Jesus using quickly rested disciples to distribute food for five thousand telling us we are not to look at serving on Council as a once-in-a-lifetime activity? After a brief rest & time for renewal (physical & spiritually), will be not be ready to serve again, as our God-given talents enable us to serve? Will we possibly serve in some other capacity? Similarly, as we ask Sunday School teachers to only teach three months at a time, allowing them six months to participate in our Sunday morning Bible study; to be renewed by taking time to ponder God’s truth, can any saint tell himself or herself, ‘I taught once in the past – I used my talents; I did my duty – I never need to think about ever teaching again?’ Not that I need to teach Sunday School every year of my life! Not that I must serve on Council six out of every seven years! In fact, God is gathering many talented individuals to work together at Good Shepherd to share Jesus’ gospel truth with more souls more often. But, I pray, Jesus’ invitation for his followers to ‘Come with me…to get some rest’ will remind us our Lord plans to provide rest & recovery from faithful, God-pleasing labor in the past while he, at the same time, prepares us to serve our Savior; serve our Savior’s blood-bought souls in some way tomorrow.
Inviting us to rest, is Jesus talking retirement? Not at all! Retiring from earthly careers never allows saints to retire from serving our Savior. How I serve might change – if I retire from public ministry, retire from banking, from running a business, changes might go different directions – but the fact saints will serve our Savior in some way never changes. Will we personally preach repentance? Will we pass out food? Let the Lord who, with his Word, renews & prepares us to serve – please let the Lord determine the form our service will take tomorrow.
Invited to rest, to spend time with our Savior in Scripture to be renewed & prepared for service – invited to rest, yet realizing, as we see Jesus’ apostles too busy to eat, realizing we today sinfully rest too often; we too rarely work God’s works, let me recall one more invitation to rest Jesus offers sinners like myself. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary & burdened; I will give you rest,’ Jesus promises…‘rest for your souls.’[MT 11] ‘Come to me,’ Jesus invites. Confess your sins of omission; confess your sinful failure to serve. Inviting repentance, Jesus promises forgiveness – “I will give you rest for your souls.’