HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. –Mark 6:31
Rest Helps Us See Things in Their Right Perspective
Most of us, at this season of the year, are looking forward to a time of leisure. We are hoping to get away for a brief space into the quiet and beauty of the country. A period of rest is not a luxury. A period of rest is a necessity. It is part of the constitution of our nature which can never be disregarded with impunity. It is not to be spoken of apologetically, as something of which we are half ashamed. It is to be spoken of with perfect frankness, as part of the wise ordering of God. There are people who tell you they do not need a holiday. Such people are always to be pitied. They are like men with some malignant trouble, who tell you that they do not need a doctor. It is one thing to need a thing; it is quite another to feel the need of it, and perhaps there is no man who so needs a holiday as the man who assures you that he does not want it. We need a holiday that we may rest, and we need a holiday that we may see. There is nothing so fatal to a kindly vision as an unceasing and unvarying routine. To understand anything we must not only look at it; we must learn the art of looking away from it; and holidays are given us for that end, that we may see things in their right proportions. That is one of the ministries of sleep, which is among the most blessed of all holidays. It is one of the ministries of convalescence when we are getting better from an illness. And it is meant to be one of the ministries of summer, and of the rest that summer brings to us–come ye apart, and rest a while. Now what I want to do is this–I want to examine this rest of the disciples. I want to see what were the elements of the leisure to which they were invited by Christ. And I want to see that, not from curiosity, but from the most practical of motives; for it will teach us, as nothing else can do, how to enjoy the very best of holidays.
A Rest of the Disciples Earned
Well, in the first place, this was a rest which the disciples had very richly earned. They had flung themselves heart and soul into their work, and now they were thoroughly ready for vacation. You could never imagine a man like Simon Peter doing his business in a halfhearted way. You could never imagine John, with his deep soul, camping anything to which he put his hand. And now they were back again, Peter and the others, from a work which had been incredibly exacting, and the first thing which Jesus saw was this, that His disciples had richly earned a holiday. There are masters who never awake to that. There are congregations who never awake to that. There are husbands who never seem to notice that their wives might be the better for a rest. But Jesus Christ was very quick to notice it. He saw that they were exhausted and forspent. His workmen had richly earned their leisure, and everything must cease till they had had it.
Some of the Best Gifts We Cannot Earn
Now, some of the best gifts we cannot earn. They are given us free from the hand of God. We cannot earn the sunshine or the morning, or the lights and shadows on the Highland hills. But I want to say that no one deserves a holiday, and certainly, no one will enjoy a holiday unless by faithful and conscientious toil he has honestly and fairly earned it. I dare say we are all apt to envy those whose lives are one continuous holiday. We think it would be heaven to live as they do, and spend the year following the sun. But I question if in all humanity there are any such poor and miserable creatures as those who have nothing else to do save to chase the sunshine across America and the Caribbean. A question was put to a doctor once, an English doctor in the south of France. His patients were entirely drawn from that class, and he was asked if they were happy people. It was reported that the look he gave, nor the ring of scorn that was in his voice–“Happy,” he said, “happy? It’s the most miserable business under heaven.” When it’s all work it is but sorry work, and when it’s all holiday it is but sorry holiday. If you want a good companion for your holiday, get a man who is a giant-worker. Wholehearted toil gives a whole-hearted holiday; gives it a freedom and a happy conscience, and the man to avoid for a holiday as you would avoid sin is the man with an uneasy conscience.
Rest in Fellowship with Others
Again, the rest to which they were invited was a rest of mutual intercourse. Come ye apart, said Christ, all of you together, and we will go into a desert place. When Christ went up the Mount of Transfiguration, He took but three of His disciples with Him. When He entered the chamber where Jairus’ daughter lay, it was the same three, and they alone, who were so privileged. But here, in the happy interval of rest, there was no such setting apart of any three; they were all to mingle, in their short vacation, in mutual and loving intercourse. When Jesus sought His rest, He went alone. He was alone, and yet not alone. He stole away to the quiet mountainside and lifted up His heart under the stars. But when He said to the twelve, “Come ye apart,” He knew it was best that they should not be alone. He did not call them to the rest of solitude, but to that of sweet and happy fellowship. Now, do you know why He acted so? Well, this, I take it, was the reason for it. They were becoming strangers to each other, in their separate missions of evangelizing. They were losing the sweet touch of real comradeship. They were drifting a little into isolation. It was inevitable in their engrossing work, but none the less it was regrettable.
There are times for all of us when it is good to go out and be alone. There are seasons when the best of all society is the secret company of one’s own heart. There are times when other voices are impertinence when other faces are a harsh intrusion when the deepest craving of our mysterious being is to be alone with self and God. All that is true, and he who has never felt it is either very shallow or very wicked. All that was understood by Jesus Christ, and for it, He has made full provision. And yet remember that in our city life, with its constant pressure and absorbing work, there is another side to a true holiday. You talk about the companionship of towns. Do not forget the loneliness of towns. There is far more fellowship in little places than in the jostle and the crowd of Babylon. We hardly see each other in the city, we have so little time for social intercourse. And nothing is easier in the city than for friendships to become little else than names. It is in view of that we get our holidays. A holiday is not selfish, it is social. It is the golden opportunity of God to put our tattered friendships in repair. It gives us the leisure to approach each other, and mingle with a freedom that is sweet, and feel, what here we are so apt to lose, the warmth and the reality of brotherhood. How little time some of you businessmen give your wives and children! Some of you hardly know your children, and some of your children hardly know you. Now use your holiday to put that right. Give them your leisure, and be happy with them. Begin to play the father for a little, which is a different thing from playing the fool.
Rest in the Fellowship of Nature
Then, once again, the rest they were invited to was a rest in the fellowship of nature. “Come ye apart into a desert place.” Now do not associate with that word desert the scenery which it commonly suggests. When you say desert, you picture the Sahara or some rocky and barren wilderness. But it was not to such a dessert that they went. It would not have been like Christ to lead them there. It was a desert because it was deserted, that is, it was remote from human life. I have no doubt it was a place of beauty, and the sunshine slept upon the hills around them. And overhead there were the fleecy clouds, and far off there was the shimmer of the sea. And it was full of rest, and full of healing, with only the murmur of the brook for music, and the stirring of the wind among the lilies only intensified the deep repose. Christ knew every nook among these hills. He had wandered among them since He was a boy. Where the grass was greenest He had dreamed His dreams, and read the writing of His Father’s hand. And now, looking upon His wearied twelve, He thought of one choice spot He had long loved, and He said, “Come ye apart and rest awhile.” For Him, there had been rest in nature. For them, there was to be rest in nature. Taught by the breeze, the mountain and the stream, they were to come to their true selves again. They were to bathe in that deep and mighty silence that spreads itself out beyond the noise of man. They were to let the peace of lonely places sink with a benediction on their souls.
The Beauty and Peace of Nature Remain Unchanged for Us
Many things are changed since Jesus walked and taught in Galilee. But one thing is still utterly unchanged, and that is the beauty and the peace of nature. Still are the stars shining in the sky. Still are the flowers waving in the fields. Still, do the great white clouds go drifting by, in the glory of the summer afternoon. And if these had a ministry for wearied men who moved in the fellowship of Jesus Christ, remember that they have that ministry for you. Do not despise it, or call it sentimental. Jesus Christ was never sentimental. Do not imagine you can do without it. Have done with toiling for a little season. Open your heart, and let the peace steal in. You will be twice as fit for every task, when for a little you have let God do everything.
A Rest in Which He Had a Share
Again, the rest to which they were invited was a rest in which He had a share. Christ did not say to them, “Go ye apart”; He said to them, “Come, for I am coming too.” It might have been natural for Him to wait behind, that there might be someone to carry on the work. He might very well have said, “I cannot come with you; my presence is demanded in the towns.” But Christ did not say that–He did not tarry–He knew that rest without Him would be a mockery; and so when the disciples had their holiday, Jesus was their holiday-companion. None of them thought that He would spoil their holiday. None of them wished that He had stayed behind. None of them dreamed that their freedom would be marred because their Master was in the midst of them. On the contrary, they rejoiced to have Him, and they felt that their cup was running over now; and they were happier, and the world more beautiful, because Christ was their holiday-companion.
Now, is it going to be so with you? That is the question which I want to ask. There are people whose one aim upon a holiday seems to be to forget Christ altogether. They never leave their fishing rods at home. They often leave their religion at home. They seldom pray, seldom read their Bible, seldom give a thought to Jesus Christ. They pack their boxes with a hundred things which no one will ever possibly want; and then discover when the Sabbath comes, that they have forgotten to put in the Bibles. Such people when at home are decent churchgoers. On holiday, they seldom go to church. If they do, it is to the fashionable church, where of course there is a wonder of a preacher. I do not doubt he is a first-rate preacher, but what I do most seriously doubt, is whether they ever would have discovered him had he been a minister of the dissenting chapel. You call it tolerance. I call it snobbery, and snobbery in religion is contemptible. And you have no idea how hard it makes things for the minister whose church you never enter, and whose only fault is that he has been true to the communion for which his fathers suffered. I believe better things of you. I believe you will take Christ with you when you go. It will not dim the sunshine; it will not spoil the laughter; it will not mar the beauty nor the peace. Nay, on the contrary, it will increase it all, and make it the happiest holiday you ever had. There is no one with such a title to be happy as the man who has the companionship of Christ.
Rest Which Fitted Them for Better Service
Then lastly, the rest that they were called to was a rest which fitted them for further service. It was not “Come ye apart and rest forever”; it was “Come ye apart and rest awhile.” As a matter of fact, it did not last long. Our holidays at the longest never last long. They had hardly reached the quiet of the hills when their congregation was wanting them again. But it was long enough to make them men; to give them strength and vision for their duty; and if a holiday has not that effect, I for one would write it down a failure. Of course, I know that it is often hard to take up the dreary round again. It is hard to leave the freedom and the sun for the office desk or for the schoolroom. But that will pass, as it has passed before, and we shall settle to our familiar task, and it is then we shall discover if our leisure has been honourably used. Memories will awake in winter days of quiet places where the sun was shining. Friends will meet us in the thick of work, and they will be different because they knew us then. Love will be kinder in the city home; father, mother, and children will be nearer, because of the long hours they spent together when the summer wind was in the grass. God grant to all of us a time of rest that will make us better when November comes! God grant to all of our new power for service, drawn from the riches of a happy holiday! It is that which is in the heart of Christ, as He looks down on us and on our city, and says in the prospect of the July days, “Come ye apart, and rest awhile.”