The Rest that transcends Sleep.

Mark 1: 29-45 [note verse 35 highlighted below]
“In the morning while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed…”

In today’s reading Jesus is very busy! He had moved from the synagogue to Peter’s house, hoping perhaps for a little rest and relaxation but even there, he was called upon to minister healing, a call to which he positively responded. That response opened a door as it were, through which scores of others entered, seeking Jesus’ healing touch and, as Mark implied, he graciously and uncomplainingly responded.

Details of Jesus’ healing actions in the passage seem to bookend the highlighted verse, so much so, if not careful, one could miss its significance and the meaning it conveys. Notice for example that the time was not only dark; it was very dark. It was that very still time before daybreak, that time when sleep would pull one deeper into the folds of oblivion, particularly so if physical energies are at a low ebb. For Jesus to get up at that time then, highlights two very important character traits…

  1. He jealously guarded times of solitude and stillness
  2. His soul [more than his body] required the kind of rest that was beyond sleeping.

Have you ever felt at the end of a day that your energies are spent and even as you look back at all you have done or achieved, there’s still something missing?

These days, the challenges of our world with related pressures to conform, not least of which is ensuring “To Do” lists have been completed, often leave us physically fatigued, emotionally drained and mentally uninspired. The gift embedded in each new day often eludes us as we spend every waking hour, worshipping at the altars of muchness and manyness, gods we have created, that are incapable of responding to, let alone loving us.

In this almost overshadowed verse then, Mark lets us into the open secret of Jesus’ life, showing us the bond he had with the Father…the union with God that was the source of his authority and confidence…rooted in a love Jesus knew would never let him go. No matter how tired he was therefore, Jesus would always spurn the lure, casting aside sweet blankets…of sleep, for that place where he could truly rest…in his Father’s presence and find all that he needed for the further journey.

Perhaps with the many demands on your time, attention and energies, coming as they do from several quarters; perhaps with the Covid 19 epidemic – the uncertainties, anxieties and fears that have become like a second skin for many, you too are at a place of physical, mental and emotional fatigue. Perhaps life has slowly become for you a matter of doing…one task after another and your spirit is crying out for rest.  

Jesus’ example of constantly, intentionally seeking the Father’s presence is the act you and I are being challenged to emulate. It may seem a tough one at first, but with consistent practice, we will begin to understand why with all our activities and achievements, a life where God is not the epicentre, will always be hollow and meaningless.

St. Augustine’s famous words then, paired with Psalm 16:11 provide motivation as we seek to venture forward. Augustine wrote…

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in Thee.’ Then as if in response, the Psalmist declared…

“In his presence there is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Viewed through the lens and wisdom of the Saint and the Psalmist, we are facilitated in perceiving truths regarding the possibility for every human being…you and me, to be able amidst of the storms and chaos of prevailing cultures, to find rest and refreshment in an ever deepening relationship with our good and gracious God.

This Lenten season then, provides the perfect opportunity for you to get up close and personal with God in Christ; if you grasp it, there’s every reason to believe that the same power that was at work in Jesus Christ, enabling and supporting him in his life and ministry, will be with [in] you cf. Romans 8:11 and as such…all will be well.

For your further reflection/action:

Challenge yourself to get out of bed before daybreak, while it is still very dark. Be still…listen for the sounds of the approaching dawn, including the birds as they offer their morning songs. Let the stillness envelop you and open your heart with expectancy to God. What does he say to you…how will you respond?

Contributed by Rev. Canon Georgia ‘Grace’ Jervis