Three Ways Jesus Modeled Rest

Renee Bethel

Renee Bethel

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Published: May 26, 2022
Three Ways Jesus Modeled Rest

Reflecting on Jesus’ example of spiritual, physical, and mental rest invites us to slow our pace, rest, and make space for life-giving things so that our pitchers are filled with life-giving water to pour into the people God brings into our circle of influence.

Have you ever asked someone how they are doing and received the quick response, “Busy!”? The word "busy" denotes a lot of activity. Sadly, being busy has become a status symbol in our society, and many people equate being busy with feeling important. 

How often and how much you rest may not make you feel important, but it truly is one of the most important things you can do to thrive in the world. In the beginning, God made rest. Rest is a beautiful gift God created for His beloved children because He knew we needed it. Jesus modeled rest after He spent six days creating the world. On the seventh day, God rested from all of his work (Genesis 2:1-3). When we look at Jesus’ life on earth, He changed the world in three years of public ministry which is impressive, but He also knew how to rest.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines rest as “cessation of motion or action of any kind, rest from labor, rest from mental exertion, a place of quiet.”

Most people will agree that they need more rest. According to 18,000 people from 134 countries who took part in the Rest Test, an online survey to investigate resting habits and attitudes towards relaxation and busyness, sixty-eight percent responded that they don’t get enough rest.

So, what can we learn about rest from Jesus’ example?

Jesus never seemed hurried or busy. He had people around him with a lot of needs. Jesus went from preaching in the synagogue to casting out a demon to healing a sick friend to ministering to the whole city gathered at His door at sundown. (Mark 1:21-34) Following all of this activity, Mark 1:35 states, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

After Jesus spent time ministering to others and before he poured (visualize a water pitcher) Himself out again, Jesus left everyone and spent time with God. We see this pattern repeated throughout the Gospels. 

Just like a pitcher has to have water in it in order to have something to pour into glasses for others to drink, we have to pull back, rest, get quiet, spend time in God’s Word, and recharge. We need to do this to fill ourselves with life-giving water. If the pitcher is empty, nothing can be poured into glasses (other people). 

Another example of the importance of rest is after John the Baptist’s death.

Jesus is talking to the disciples, “. . .  because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he (Jesus) 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.” Mark 6:31-32

Jesus knew that when the disciples were physically and mentally exhausted - too busy even to attend to their physical needs for food - it was time to withdraw and rest.

Jesus understood the importance of rest.

Also, God obviously wanted us to learn something about rest, or He would not have talked about it throughout the Bible. Rest or a derivative of rest is mentioned in the Bible 400 to almost 600 times, depending on which translation you consult. 

Matthew 11:28-30 in The Message translation states, “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.”

I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me. Watch how I do it.

Don’t you love that?!

Jesus doesn’t just offer rest. He shows us how to rest!

During his earthly life, Jesus displayed what I call "whole body" rest.

He rested spiritually, physically and mentally.

1. First and foremost, Jesus modeled Spiritual Rest

He took time to be alone with God - this was the highest priority of His life - so that he could:

  • Hear God’s voice

  • Seek God’s direction

  • Rest in God’s presence

We can experience this same spiritual rest. 

We can: 

  • Hear God’s voice - we have to quiet the noise so we can hear.

  • Seek God’s direction - when we are seeking God for direction, He is faithful to answer.

  • Rest in God’s presence so we can be refreshed, restored, renewed.

Spending time praying and reading God’s Word is how we fill our spiritual pitchers/vessels.

Robert Morris, author of Take the Day Off, says, “Sabbath rest is a gift God has instructed you to give yourself so you can be His healthy, productive, long-lived representative to a broken world, and accomplish everything He put you on this earth to do.”

2. Jesus Also Modeled Physical Rest

In Mark 4:35-41, we read that Jesus was sleeping when a storm came up. 

Even when others frantically wanted His help, Jesus was willing to take a nap. He knew when His body needed physical rest, and He never apologized for taking that rest.

We can experience this identical physical rest. 

We can:

  • Take a nap or just lay down for 15-30 minutes, close our eyes, and quiet our mind and body (which also provides mental rest).

  • Take a walk outside in the fresh air or ride a bike to get some exercise which can help with sleeping better at night.

  • Take a break from our cell phones which put our bodies in fight or flight mode from constant stimulation.

Did you know that Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill regarded midday naps as essential for maintaining his mental balance, renewing his energy, and reviving his spirit? Some say napping was Churchill’s secret productivity weapon. He had gotten into the habit of napping during World War I. Even during the Blitz (an intense bombing campaign undertaken by Nazi Germany against the United Kingdom during World War II), he would retire to his private room in the War Rooms after lunch and sleep for an hour or two and then return to work. Churchill’s valet, Frank Sawyers, later recalled, “It was one of the inflexible rules of Mr. Churchill’s daily routine that he should not miss this rest.”

Winston Churchill was a model for many leaders. Several American presidents (John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson) and military leaders (Douglas MacArthur) followed Winston Churchill’s example and instituted napping in their day.

We would be wise to regularly rest like Winston Churchill before we are too tired.

3. Lastly, Jesus Modeled Mental Rest

He was not afraid to pull away and leave the crowds, even when they desperately wanted Him. Jesus would get into a boat with the disciples and go to the other side of the body of water, away from all of the noise and activity. 

Jesus was clear on what God was calling Him to do and did not allow other people’s pressing needs and their desire for His presence to drive His activity.

We can experience this type of mental rest. 

We can:

  • Make space to have quiet time to get perspective and direction.

  • Brain dump when our minds are full by writing down our thoughts.

  • Process out loud with a family member, close friend, or Christian Life Coach.

Our brains are truly amazing! The average adult human brain can store the equivalent of 2.5 million gigabytes of digital memory. The brain’s 100-billion microscopic brain cells produce enough electrical signals to power a small light bulb. Understanding the capacity of our brains can offer insight into why we need to give them rest.

Reflecting on Jesus’ example of spiritual, physical, and mental rest invites us to slow our pace, rest, and make space for life-giving things so that our pitchers are filled with life-giving water to pour into the people God brings into our circle of influence.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Prostock-Studio

Renee Bethel, author of Finding Me: A Woman’s Guide to Learning More About Herself is a Professional Christian Life Coach and a Gospel Centered Certified Enneagram Coach. She helps Christian women explore what’s possible and live in alignment with their identity in Christ and their personality so that they have purpose in their second half of life. Renee would love to connect with you on Instagram.

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