I went to a weekly prayer meeting the other day. We started with a reading from scripture. It was just a short passage from Mark (chapter 1, verses 29-39) about Jesus’ early ministry. But I was so excited about the insight we got, that I want to share it here.
29-30 Then, leaving the synagogue, he and his disciples went over to Simon and Andrew’s home, where they found Simon’s mother-in-law sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. 31 He went to her bedside, and as he took her by the hand and helped her to sit up, the fever suddenly left, and she got up and prepared dinner for them!
32-33 By sunset the courtyard was filled with the sick and demon-possessed, brought to him for healing; and a huge crowd of people from all over the city of Capernaum gathered outside the door to watch. 34 So Jesus healed great numbers of sick folk that evening and ordered many demons to come out of their victims. (But he refused to allow the demons to speak, because they knew who he was.)
35 The next morning he was up long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.
36-37 Later, Simon and the others went out to find him, and told him, “Everyone is asking for you.”
38 But he replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and give my message to them too, for that is why I came.”
39 So he traveled throughout the province of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and releasing many from the power of demons.Mark 1:29-39 The Living Bible
The first thing we noticed was the timing. Jesus had just been at the Synagogue, so this was likely on the Sabbath– the day of rest! Jesus and the disciples walked to the house where Simon Peter and Andrew lived. This would be close to the Synagogue, since travel was curtailed on the Sabbath. But instead of being able to rest, Jesus ended up healing Simon’s mother-in-law. Then people start flooding in, before and after sunset, begging to be healed. After sunset, even more people could come from a farther distance, and many were there just to watch. Jesus worked far into the night, healing and casting out demons.
But look what happens in verse 35. “The next morning, he was up before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.” Jesus might have been tempted to sleep in. He might have decided to wake up and find a quiet corner of the house to say a quick prayer for the morning. He might have done many things. But He chose to wake up before dawn, even after an eventful evening, and go off into a solitary place to spend time with His Father.
Prayer was a priority with Jesus. Not sleep. Not comfort. Not convenience.
But later, Simon and the others tracked Him down and asked Him to come back. The response to His healing of the day before had been phenomenal. People were asking for Him, waiting to see more of His miracles and hear more of His teaching! Surely this was success!
But Jesus didn’t come to have a popular ministry. He didn’t come to do command performances and His miracles were not meant primarily to impress and astonish people, or to draw vast crowds. Jesus came to do His Father’s Will. And so He dismissed the opportunity to do an “encore.” Instead, He was focused on His true mission– to preach the Kingdom to the other towns as well. Some of these towns would be eager to hear the message and receive the blessings and healings that Jesus brought. Others would mock Him and urge Him to leave their village or city. But His mission was clear– He would travel where the Father led Him, and preach the message the Father gave Him. Even at the expense of His own popularity; even at the expense of the temporary success of his ministry.
What did Jesus and His Father speak of during that early morning encounter? Did Jesus talk about how tired He was from the day (and night) before? Did He share with the Father the success of His healing, and the great need in that village? What advice did He seek from the Father?
We know only that Jesus got up from Prayer and was immediately obedient to the Father’s Will. Though His trusted friends and companions were encouraging Him to return and repeat the success of yesterday, Jesus walked into the unknown, following the Voice of His Father. “For that is why I came.” Jesus could have done much good by staying put and continuing the success He had on the Sabbath. But that wasn’t why He had come. He didn’t just come to do “good.” He came for much more! Sometimes “good” can be the enemy of the “best.” It takes discipline, humility, and obedience to follow God into the unknown– especially when we are tempted to continue in our own power to do what others deem as “important” and “good.”
What voices are speaking to us today? Have you taken the time today to speak to the Father and seek His direction? Have you submitted yourself to His Will? Are there people “looking for you” to do good; to replicate a good performance from yesterday? What if God is calling you to move on? What if He has something better in mind? Maybe He is calling you to go out into a solitary place, where you can better hear His voice over the noise of the crowds or even the pleas of your friends.
My prayer today is that I will find the discipline to meet with God early, listen intently to His voice above the others, and obey! May I do not just what is “good” in the short-term, but what is “best” in the long-term. Even if “everyone” is looking for me– I want to be looking for God first and foremost! Don’t you?!