4. He strategically used retreats for His own rest and for the renewal of His team. (Mark 3:13-14)
Previously in this series we noted how Jesus claimed to be “Lord of the Sabbath.” He was criticized severely by the Pharisees for His ministry activity on Sabbath days. They felt He was defiling the Sabbath.
Far from rejecting the Sabbath, Jesus was actually fulfilling it. He was serving, forgiving, and healing people and setting them free from the massive burdens that sin had created in their lives. He was making it possible for people to actually return to God for a real rest.
And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him…” (vss 13-14)
Going up on the mountain probably served several purposes for Jesus. First, it got His team away from the crowds, the noise, the unending demands. Secondly, it physically represented an intentional drawing near to God and a narrowing of focus. There is an incredible message in this for us.
The first calling that Christ’s disciples would hear from Jesus was a calling TO HIMSELF! He chose them. He wanted them. He wanted them to be WITH HIM. This is the first and primary calling of every Christ-follower!
“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor 1:9)
We are not primarily called to work for the Lord. We are called into fellowship with Him. And that means we must cease from our own striving and rest in His “finished work”! Only then, after learning how to be with Him and live in Him, are we prepared to be sent out to work!
It’s quite amazing to realize that Adam was created at the end of the Sixth Day of Creation – so his first full day on earth was the Sabbath. This means that he began with fellowship with God..not working for God. God worked for six days and then rested. Adam fellowshipped with God first, then worked! This is incredible.
I love The Message translation of Matthew 11:28-30:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Keeping the Sabbath Day holy is much more about intentional drawing near to God in fellowship than it is about any particular ritual or regimen. We need to develop a rhythm of getting alone with Jesus.
A rhythm of proper rest and fellowship with the Lord is essential to effective, powerful, and fruitful ministry. A Sabbath rhythm might look like setting aside the first hour (or more) of everyday for private prayer, Scripture reading, and meditation. And setting aside a day of the week for drawing away from the expenditure of precious energy and focusing on rest and fellowship with the Lord.
Anyone who routinely avoids honoring the principle of the Sabbath is asking for a spiritual, emotional, or physical train wreck. It is very possible to make an idol out of work and/or ministry and give no real attention to the most important priority of all: fellowship with the Savior!
What is keeping you from experiencing a real Sabbath rest with Jesus? Is it as simple as lack of intentionality or priorities? Or is it more serious, something on the inside of you that is avoiding God’s presence?
Please remember that just as Jesus called His first disciples, he also desires and wants you to be with Him as His follower and friend.