He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Here is a clear reminder that God takes account of our needs. The disciples were in the middle of all sorts of ‘stuff’ and Jesus recognised that they needed a break. The deserted place is really attractive when lots, and even too much, is going on. There is nothing wrong with that. We all have things that we need to do – but one of those things, sometimes, is to get away from the other stuff. Rest is part of what sustains us. It is the Sabbath principle. The disciples are here invited to rest a while.
It is so difficult to get away. There are always things crowding in on the omni-present ‘to do’ list which constantly demands attention. But we need the times of refreshing rest.
It is important that the disciples are addressed by Jesus. This going to ‘a deserted place’ happens because he speaks to them, suggesting the possibility. If we are not listening, then God is going to have difficulty getting through to us! God does speak to us, and one of the questions is whether we are ready and willing to be guided by God. (Sometimes we think we know better!) Another question is as to how ready we are to ‘come away’ when that is the invitation. Sometimes we think we can’t be spared. We need to find the ‘come away’ spaces, even if they are momentary and don’t include geographical movement.
We need to allow God to identify the ‘deserted place’ of the moment, and to readily go there. What does it mean to ‘rest a while’? What does that do for us? Surely it sustains us for everything else.
We are told that “they had no leisure even to eat”. It is actually not good to have no leisure. We need balance in what we do and how we are – even though that is not easily achieved when we are functioning under pressure.
It is also important to remember that, vital though it is, the ‘deserted place’ and the opportunity to ‘rest a while’ is but a step on the way. In this particular instance, the context is that they will soon find themselves in the midst of that busy incident to which we normally refer as the ‘feeding of the five thousand’.