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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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St Paul's, Efford
Tony's Reflection 32
What’s your idea of a good day off? Are you up at the crack of dawn, full of energy and determined to make things happen? Do you lay in bed, get into the day slowly and just let life happen to you?
Some of us like to grab hold of life and squeeze the most out of it. Others are content to let life happen to them.
The last spell of annual leave I had, Jean had a “chores list” which she was determined we would both work our way through, together. The priorities were set for the week. They remained hanging over us for the entire break, until we got them done. I would have preferred to lay back and let life happen for a week. But thanks to Jean we had clear priorities and got them done… at least, most of them!
Ancient biographies, like Mark’s on Jesus, have lots of short stories, to tell us what the subject of the biography is like. Today, Mark gives us a little episode, which is a window into Jesus inner life.
In just a few short verses
Mark speaks volumes about what drove and motivated Jesus. We see Jesus was not someone who simply let life happen around him. He had clear priorities. Those priorities are rather surprising. Let’s take a closer look…
Jesus has just been through a totally manic day.
It started with confronting a demon, during a synagogue service. The interruption had been an unwelcome challenge, but Jesus had come through it unscathed.
Then Jesus had healed Peter’s mother-in-law from fever.
We know from elsewhere in Mark’s biography, that when Jesus healed somebody, “power went out of him”
. Healing did not come without effort, for Jesus. If that was the case for healing, as with Peter’s mother-in-law, how much more when he was fighting demons?
By the end of the day, the house where Jesus was staying was under siege with people wanting to be healed, or needing to have demons cast out. Jesus had helped all of them. We are not told how late he stayed up, healing and casting out demons, but we can only imagine he would have felt tired and drained afterwards.
When had this frenetic day fallen? It happened on a sabbath (Saturday). The sabbath was a day of rest. A time when you stopped work and recharged batteries. Jesus didn’t get much time for rest, that Saturday.
It would have only been natural for him to take it easy, the next day. He could have put his feet up, taken it slowly… relived some of the amazing healings he had seen, the joy on the faces of the blind as they could see for the first time, the exuberance of the lame as they went leaping and running, the relief of the demonised as their tormentors disappeared into thin air. He could have savoured those moments, as he sat back and enjoyed the self-satisfaction that comes from work well done.
He didn’t do that. He was too energised by the priority that gripped him.
What he did was surprising, even shocking.
Despite a hard day before, he was up at the crack of dawn, before anybody else. Why? He wanted to pray.
This was the Son of God. He had a wonderfully close and intimate relationship with Father God, already. Yet even Jesus still felt the need to be up early, just to make sure he had time to pray.
Prayer was a priority for him. It wasn’t going to get squeezed out. No matter how busy the day before had been. No matter how tired he was.
Jesus was driven to pray. He knew it was how he could get close to his Father God.
Jesus had become a celebrity overnight. He had spectacularly healed a whole crowd of people. As Peter told him, everyone was looking for him. Everyone for miles around wanted to see him. To hear him. To be touched by him. To be healed. Jesus had it made.
Having come close to his Father in prayer, Jesus, though, knows exactly what to do next. He is not to stay around in Capernaum, enjoying fame and adulation. His priority was the message God had given him. The message of good news. His priority was to do all that he could to spread that message as widely as he could. He had to go… others needed to hear him.
We don’t know what Jesus prayed, out in the wilds that morning, as the sun was rising.
We do know that, even though he was the Son of God, he still needed to take time in prayer to get close to his Father God.
We do know that, when he did this, he had the wisdom he needed to make the right decisions about what to do in the day that was dawning.
Prayer was a priority, even for the Son of God. He needed it to get priorities and purposes right for the coming day.
If prayer was the priority for the son of God, how much more for you and me?