During the final period of his ministry, Jesus spent each day preaching in the outer court of the temple. It was there that he continued to teach “the people,” the laos, (not the ochloi, the crowds). However, each evening he would leave the city and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, probably in the village of Bethany with his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Since the religious authorities were watching him closely, looking for some excuse to arrest him, his departure each evening was probably due the need for the quiet atmosphere of a friendly home. In any case, each morning he would return to the city and people would flock to hear him teach.
That he left the city each evening suggests that he needed regular breaks in order to restore both body and inner self. Teaching such important issues to such large groups –from dawn to dusk and in the open air – had to be emotionally draining. Jesus took those quiet hours to allow his Father to restore and redirect his energies. We know from the recent Olympics that you can’t run a 10 K meter race as if it were a sprint. Energy must be carefully allocated so it isn’t missing in the final lap when it’s so crucial. We’ve all heard of ministerial “burn-out.” My feeling is that rather than being a sign of success it may well be an indication of failure, the failure to schedule times for renewal. It seems clear that God wouldn’t assign spiritual responsibilities impossible to carry out. Could the zeal we display in trying to do the job better than its ever been done be an expression of pride? I tend to believe that “burn-out” in the world of pastoral ministry is an indication not of achievement but of failure. Every evening Jesus left the place of activity and went “home” to be with friends and his Father. Should that not be our model?
It is hard to admit that spiritual progress is something that we as mortals cannot achieve. But the natural cannot perform supernaturally and spiritual progress is not something that we as mortals can do. Our sole responsibility is to open ourselves so that he can work through us. God’s power “is made perfect in [our] weakness” (2 Corin.12:9). So, like Jesus, we need regular periods of refreshment. No one but you can make that decision in your life.