Mark 6:30-34

Many of you have heard me quote my favorite poem in one setting or another. The author is anonymous, but the message that is communicated is both insightful and energizing. The poem is entitled, Just A Minute. This is what it says:

I have only just a minute,
Only 60 seconds in it,
Forced upon me, didn’t choose,
Didn’t seek it, can’t refuse it.
So it’s up to me to use it,
Have to suffer if I lose,
Pay a price if I abuse it,
Just a tiny little minute,
But eternity is in it!

Time is the most precious commodity that you and I will ever possess. We may possess and then lose a large amount of money, but it is possible to reacquire money later in life. We may have what we think is the ideal job, and then suddenly that job that can be taken away by layoffs or downsizing or being fired. However, with a little determination and patience another job can be found. We may be facing a serious illness of some sort, but with expert medical care and the healing touch of a loving God our bodies can be restored to health. Almost anything that you can lose in this life can either be restored, replaced or we discover that we can keep on living without it.

Not so with time. We do not know how much or how little time God has assigned to each of us to live. We do not know just when our time on this earth will run out. But there is one thing that is absolutely certain; when our time runs out we will not be given anymore. You cannot buy time. You cannot borrow time. You cannot go back and relive time. All that you and I can do with our time is make the most of it for as long as it lasts.

On this day when we honor those of you who have graduated from high school, college and graduate programs, and who are now advancing from one stage of life to the next, what I am telling you today is as important a lesson as anything you ever learned in school. Make the most of your time. Realize that time is precious, and do not waste it by concentrating your attention on things that are of little of no lasting value. Take time for those things in life that are most important; your head, your health, your home and your holiness. If you prioritize your time around the protection, the preservation and the perfecting of these four things you will live a life of which you can be proud and about which God will say “well done.”

That is the lesson Jesus is modeling for us in our text in Mark 6. The disciples had been sent out on their first preaching mission, and now they had returned to Jesus and they were anxious to tell him everything that had happened while they were out in the field. But the Bible says Jesus told them to “come apart and rest for a while.” The crowds had returned and people wanted to be healed or to hear the message of salvation. No sooner had they finished one assignment than it was time to begin another. They had no time to rest or to recover. And Jesus wanted to teach them a lesson about how to sustain yourself in your career and in your life over the long haul. “Come apart and get some rest.”

I would submit to you that what Jesus wanted to do was give them some time to talk about their experiences; that is to take care of their heads. He wanted to give their bodies some time to rest after their rigorous schedule; that is to take care of their health. He wanted them to reestablish their relationships with one another after having been apart for a while; that is to take care of their home. Finally, he wanted them to sit still and spend some time in his presence and be spiritually strengthened; that is to take care of their holiness. Let us consider each one of these in order, and let me remind you that each one of these is important. If you are too busy to give attention to any one of these four principles then you are too busy and you had better slow down.

Let me give you another way to think about these four areas that I have just mentioned. When it comes to taking care of your head, think about the issue of life long learning. When we speak about taking care of your health; think about lifestyle changes. On the subject of taking care of your home, think about time spent with your life partners. And when we talk about taking care of the matter of holiness; think about the biblical promise of the abundant life.

First of all, take time for your head. Education is about taking care of your head. It is about gaining knowledge and developing skills that will allow you to provide for yourself, and also to make a contribution to the wider society. That is why Jesus spent so much time teaching his disciples, and that is why he had sent them out on a mission on their own. He wanted them to learn and to grow by experience.

I salute those of you who have graduated from some academic program, because without that training there is very little in this society that you will be equipped or allowed to do. If you do not finish high school, it is most unlikely that you will be able to find a job that will allow you to support yourself and any family you may form along the way.

The truth is that even a college degree may not be enough to live at the level you may desire. If you have finished high school, go on and finish college. If you have finished college, go on and get a master’s degree. If you have finished a master’s degree, keep on pushing and get a doctoral degree. Take time to take care of your head.

I grieve over the thousands of young people who have decided to drop out of school and not take care of their heads. They became distracted along the way by drugs, or sex, or gangs or some other risky behavior. They paid more attention to the latest fashions than they did to their home work. They spent most of their time getting their nails done, and having tattoos applied, and talking on their cell phones and hanging out with their friends. Now they have no useful skills in a society that demands a skilled work force. They have no useful information in a society that is driven by information. Many of them have never learned to speak the English language properly. The best job they can hope for in the legal economy is flipping hamburgers, or washing cars or working somewhere in the service industry. Many of them will turn to the illegal economy of drugs and other street level activities, and as a result they run the risk of being confined in a prison cell or buried in a cemetery before they reach the age of 25. I congratulate those of you who have graduated, and I encourage you to keep on learning.

However, I do not want to limit the discussion about education just to those who are currently involved in some formal academic program. I also want to speak about education as something that can and does happen away from an academic program. Education is not limited to those who are enrolled in school at one level or another. Education ought to be an ongoing activity that continues for as long as we live. I hope that all of you will embrace the idea of life long learning, and agree with me that for as long as we live we ought to be reading, and thinking, and wondering and developing. It is never too late to go back to school and enroll in a formal degree program, but a classroom is not the only place where education takes place. Just because you have graduated does not mean that your education has or should come to an end. Continue to take time to feed and challenge and nourish your head.

The next thing I want to urge all of us to do is take time to take care of our health. We can run and rush through life, moving from one event to the next without ever allowing our bodies to rest and recover. I suppose I am preaching to myself at this point, but I am sure that I am preaching to a few others as well. We are so anxious to get ahead that we burn the candle at both ends. We are so anxious to enjoy and experience everything that life has to offer that we leave little if any time for the common sense issue of taking care of our own health.

Notice that Jesus tells his disciples that they needed to rest for a while. The pressure on all of them was relentless. Mark 6 paints a picture of men who were in perpetual motion. They were always being called upon to do something for someone else. There were the sick who wanted to be healed. There were the seekers and searchers who wanted to have their questions answered. There were the hungry who wanted to be fed. There were the sinners who wanted and needed to be saved. No sooner had they come back from one mission than the crowds were pressing in on them again. And even when they tried to get away to a quiet place, the crowds followed them there and the pressure continued. Jesus knew that they needed to rest for a while, but finding the time can seem to be so hard to do.

I am certain that there are people seated in this church today who know that something is wrong with them. They have not been feeling well for some time. They have pains that are crying out for attention. They have been told by their doctor that there are some lifestyle changes they need to make. But we tell ourselves that we are so busy that we do not have time for health-related issues right now. We tell ourselves and others that we will get around to those things later on, but quite often something tragic happens before we take action.

When I was in college there was a young man who lived in my dorm who was a phenomenal basketball player. He was in his sophomore year and was certain to play at the professional level. He was one of those athletes you watched in action and just knew that they had something special that set them apart from everybody else. It was amazing just to watch him play. However, one Saturday afternoon he told me that he was feeling some numbness and tingling in his fingers and toes. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he said that he did not have time to see the doctor that day. There was a dance on the campus that night, and he wanted to finish some school work so that he could enjoy himself later that evening.

The evening came and I was already at the dance, and I was looking for my friend. The hour got later and later and he had not yet arrived. Suddenly I remembered him complaining about that numbness in his fingers and toes. I left the dance and started walking across the campus back to our dormitory. As I turned a corner that brought the dorm into view I was met by the flashing red lights of an ambulance. As I rushed inside and upstairs to his room, I saw the emergency workers huddled over his limp and lifeless body that was lying on the floor near his bed. He had suffered from a stroke of some sort at the age of twenty and died. He knew that something was wrong, but he told himself that he did not have time to deal with the problem. And before he found the time to do so, it was too late.

There is a wonderful scene in the movie The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner. Now understand that I do not think for one moment that either of those two Hollywood actors bears any resemblance whatsoever to what the actual ancient Egyptians looked like, but let me share the scene from the film nonetheless. Moses has decided to give the Hebrew slaves one day off for rest from their hard physical labor. When his brother Rameses asks him why he has done so, Moses answers by saying, “because strong slaves make many bricks, weak slaves make few and dead slaves make no bricks at all.”

Let that scene be a continuing lesson for all of us. Whatever it is that we want to do in our lives, we do it better if we take care of ourselves physically. This is essentially a matter of living a healthy lifestyle. It just makes sense to eat right, and avoid the abuse of any substance that can damage our health. It makes sense to see the doctor and to follow the advice that is given. It makes sense to take time to be healthy.

The next thing I urge all of us to do is to take time for our homes, by which I mean to take time to spend with our family members and with our friends. Take some time not only for rest, but also for recreation and fellowship with those to whom we are the closest. I know how busy life can be, and yet it is important that families take time to sit down together and share a meal where they can reconnect with one another. It is important that families do things together that serve to strengthen the bonds that tie them together.

It does not have to be anything expensive or extravagant. It can be something as simple as watching a movie together at home, or going to the beach or to a pool. It can be sharing in a household project together or going out to get an ice cream cone on a summer night. Strong families and strong marriages do not happen accidentally. They happen because people intentionally take the time to be together.

I am convinced that just being together again was part of what Jesus had in mind in Mark 6 when he invited his disciples to pull away for a while. He wanted them to get back together again. He wanted them to restore and refresh their relationship with one another. Like many of our families, the disciples had gone off in different directions and had lost contact with each other. Jesus wanted them to get back together. Many times our families are pulled in different directions; school, work, social events, household chores and more. Every now and then it is important for us to pull away from all of that long enough to reconnect with our family and with our friends. These are the persons who are our life partners, and we need to nurture those relationships every chance we get.

In my book on pre-marital counseling I quote a song by The Beatles that says, “Money can’t buy me love.” My point is too many people spend all of their time at work trying to provide material things for their family, but what the family really wants is more of their time. A lot of couples end up getting a divorce, and a lot of families end up drifting apart because somebody in that relationship stopped investing their time. They got caught up in work, or in being with others outside of the family. Strong family life is the backbone of a strong society, so take time to take care of your home.

However, as important as it is to take time for our head, for our health, and for our homes, it is even more important to take time to maintain a holy lifestyle in this sinful world. No matter how busy we may be, we need to take time to be holy. In our Friday morning Bible study we are currently reading the book of Jude. That short, one-chapter book falls into two simple sections. The first section of Jude describes the sinful behaviors that are present in the world, and it talks about the people who might be right around us whose lifestyles may be immoral, illegal, ungodly and sometimes even inhumane. That not only described the world in which Jude lived and wrote, but it describes our world today as well. There are people all around us whose behaviors are immoral, illegal, ungodly and inhumane.

The second part of the book of Jude is instruction on how to keep on living as a Christian who loves and fears God while still living in the midst of a sinful and wicked world. Listen to the advice that is given; “Build yourselves up in our holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” The only way to stay strong in the faith in a world like this is to take time to build yourself up in the faith and to take time for a strong and regular prayer life. The world around us does not appear to be getting any better. Worldly temptations that have the power to destroy our lives, sometimes before they can even really begin, are awaiting us at every curve in the road. The only hope we have of surviving with our souls in tact is to build ourselves up in the faith and to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I do not know about any of you, but I need to spend some time with God every day. I need to talk with God through prayer in the morning. I need to listen to God through the reading of scripture in the evening. I need to check in with God at various points throughout the day through spiritual music or quiet times of reflection. I enjoy being in church on Sunday morning, but that is not enough time with God to sustain me through the week. I enjoy the Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study, but that is not enough time with spiritual things to strengthen my soul for what comes at me every day.

I will confess to you that even though I am a pastor, I do not always succeed in this area. I can allow myself to get so busy doing the work of the ministry that I leave no time for my own spiritual formation. I am so busy looking after the souls of others that I leave little or no time to look after my own soul. I find myself being inside the church, but not always in the spirit. I am inside of God’s house, but not necessarily in God’s presence. If I am going to be of any spiritual value to you then I need to quench my own thirsty spirit, and I need to refresh my own parched soul.

This can happen to any one of you as well. You can be so busy going to school and rushing to class, that you take no time to be holy. You can be so busy working on some project on the job or around the house that you leave no time to work on your relationship with God. You may come out to church on a regular basis, and you may only get out on an occasional basis; and I tell you that you cannot become all that God wants you to become when you work on a schedule like that. In order to be the holy and righteous people that God wants us to be, we need to maintain an ongoing contact with God. This is what the Bible means by the abundant life. It is a life that is solidly connected to God in ways that allow us to filter out those things that can hurt and destroy us, and hold onto those things that can be a blessing in our lives.

Like many of you, perhaps, I have switched to one of those battery operated tooth brushes that has bristles that move up and down and in a circular motion all at the same time and at a high rate of speed. I must confess that it does seem to work better than the old-fashioned practice of actually brushing my teeth with a regular brush. However, there are two spiritual lessons I have learned from battery operated toothbrushes. The first one is that they do not work if you do not put a battery in the handle. The secret to the brush is not in the bristles or in the handle; the secret is in the power that comes from the battery. That is what drives the brushes to clean the teeth. If there is no battery on the inside, nothing is going to happen on the outside.

That is true of tooth brushes, and it is just as true of the human soul. We are not self-made and self-sustaining creations. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are shaped by God’s hand and animated by God’s spirit. Jesus says in John 15, “I am the vine and you are the branches; apart from me, you can do nothing.” We need to take time to be with God and to build ourselves up in the faith and to pray, because if we do not this sinful world will surely suck us in and then pull us down. However, I have learned another lesson from the battery operated tooth brush, and it is that it is not enough to insert a battery inside the handle if the battery does not maintain a constant connection with the positive and negative contacts on the inside of the handle. The first time I had to change the battery in my tooth brush, which seems to be necessary quite often by the way, I pushed the on button and nothing happened. The batteries were both in the right location, but for some reason I could not get the bottom of the handle to reconnect solidly. The batteries were not solidly connecting with the contacts, and as result the bristles could not operate, the tooth paste could not be applied and the brushing that I needed could not be performed. The battery was close to the contact, but it was not a solid connection.

Is there anybody here today who is close to God, who comes to church and attends Bible study, but you are not maintaining a solid connection. It is not enough to be in the building if you are not in the spirit. It is not enough to be in an auxiliary if you are not in the spirit. It is not enough to be a church officer or a church worker, if you are not also engaged in worship and prayer and praise. Ushers; it is not enough to stand by the door if you have not opened the door of your own heart to Christ. Choir members, it is not enough to sing the words if you do not believe them in your own heart. Preachers and deacons, it is not enough to preach to and pray for others if we are not allowing the intimacy of prayer and the power of the word of God to nourish our souls as well.

Time is the one thing that we can least afford to waste. Of all the things that can occupy and consume our time, we need to be sure that we are leaving time for the things that matter the most; our heads, our health, our homes and our holiness.


Marvin A. McMickle is pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland, OH

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About The Author

Marvin A. McMickle is the president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. A pastor for more than 30 years, he has also taught preaching at New York, New Brunswick and Princeton Theological Seminaries. From 1987-2011 he was Senior Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church of Cleveland, Ohio. He was the Professor of Homiletics at Ashland Theological Seminary from 1996-2011. Upon leaving Ashland he was voted by his faculty colleagues to be Professor Emeritus. He is a member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He was elected to be the 12th President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in 2011.

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