It had been a busy day for Jesus. It was the Sabbath and we were in Capernaum so we went to the local synagogue where Jesus was teaching. The religious authorities were amazed at his insight and the skill with which he taught. At one point a man with a demon began to shriek at the top of his voice and Jesus had to cast the demon out of him. Then after the service we went to Simon’s house where we found Simon’s mother ill with a fever. Jesus healed her and when people with various diseases heard about it they came from all over town to be healed. It was a long and tiring big day for sure! So the next morning Jesus simply rolled over and told his disciples to let him sleep.
Wait a minute!! That can’t be what the scriptures say! Right. All three synoptic gospels note that while it was still dark Jesus slipped out of the house and found a lonely place where he could be by himself and pray. Later in the morning we disciples realized he was not there so we set out to find him. When we found him we explained that all sorts of people were looking for him in order to be healed so it was time for him to go back to work. Jesus’ response was that his purpose in coming was to preach the good news and that it was now time for him to leave Capernaum to carry out his mission throughout Galilee.
Two things strike me about Jesus in this encounter and both suggest how we are to live the Christian life. First, the absolute centrality of prayer. After that extremely exhausting day Jesus demonstrated that his spiritual need for renewal was greater than his physical need for sleep. This strongly implies that our greatest need, as we share with others the message of the cross, is the absolute centrality of prayer. Spiritual battles are won by dependence on God, not by having on hand the latest weapon available. The enemy is far less concerned with all the time we spend mapping out a program for evangelism than they are with our decision to drop to our knees and pray that his will be done.
The second point is that nothing distracted Jesus from this primary purpose in life. He said, “I must preach the good news about my Father’s kingdom. That’s why I came out here this morning; I need to be with God.” He maintained his priorities. And the lesson is clear for us — As Christian we must keep our lives in focus. I encourage you to take a break and refocus on what is central for you. What has God assigned for you to do? How can you best carry out that mission? Not suggesting that you essentially “quit living” (e.g., no time with the family, no vacations, little sleep) but that you keep in mind that while all these other things are important they should not become our purpose in life. Let them serve to help us achieve our goal, not become that goal.