Mark 1:29-39, Isaiah:40:21-31
Jesus had a very busy day in Capernaum. Last week, we heard about his exorcism of a demon who dared to interrupt Sabbath worship in the synagogue. This week, we learn that no sooner did he leave the synagogue to go home with Peter for lunch than he was accosted with another problem. Peter’s mother-in-law was sick. The family probably rushed up when he came in the door to let him know that the meal was going to be delayed and inferior due to the illness of the mother-in-law.
Jesus solved that problem, but his day was not over. People waited till sundown, the official end of Sabbath, to bring him more problems, but the line was long and the Bible says the whole town gathered. It would have been late by the time he could go to bed.
The next morning, by dawn, the crowds were starting to gather again. They just assumed that the show would continue. It was a pretty good show. Bring up a sick person, get that person healed, shout and laugh, then do it again. It is exactly the sort of show Satan would like. This performance made Jesus a sideshow, not a savior.
Jesus, however, had a message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15) The miracles were evidence of his power and authority as God, but they were not the central message. Only the sick and demon-possessed got any real blessing out of the healings. Everyone else received entertainment. Nobody repented, and nobody even heard the good news. They were all focused on the magic of the moment. Jesus had not come to earth to become a celebrity. Jesus came to invite everyone into the kingdom of God, and to put God on the throne of every heart.
This is the reason that he went out very early the next morning, before dawn, before the crowds began to line up at the door, to pray. Jesus, true God, had all the power of the universe in time and eternity at his command, but Jesus, true man, needed time with the Father, time for refreshment and courage and inspiration.
We know that Jesus knew the Bible very well. When Satan mounted a frontal attack on him in the wilderness, Jesus responded to every assault with scripture. But the only Bible that existed at that time was the Old Testament. It seems completely reasonable to think that when he went out to pray, he turned to scripture for consolation. Did he wonder if he could ever get the crowds to focus on the real message? Did he wonder if he were really up to the work he had to accomplish? In other places in the gospels we read that Jesus warned the disciples that he would suffer and be killed. Did he wonder if he could carry his message to enough people before that happened? Did he wonder how he would endure what he knew was coming? Did he simply need to connect with his Father and spend some time enjoying that fellowship?
It seems reasonable to believe that in those moments before dawn when he sat all by himself somewhere outside Capernaum, Jesus thought about the first lectionary reading for today—Isaiah 40:21-31.
Isaiah wrote about God as we might see God in his heavenly, eternal throne room. From the narrative in the book of Revelation, we see that the Lamb of God stands beside God in that heavenly throne room eternally. Did Jesus let his human mind wander to his heavenly memories that morning? He knew he had a battle on his hands. Did he ask for more strength and wisdom to combat his eternal enemy?
One part of the text from Isaiah would have comforted him. It comforts many people who read it and even inspired a great song. As he contemplated these words, he would surely have been refreshed and encouraged to move on with his message of hope and repentance to all the people.
those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
Jesus knew that his job was not to entertain the people. It was going to be very hard. People much preferred to receive some immediate benefit. They were not so eager to follow him in a life of repentance and service, going against the current of the people around them, maybe being rejected or persecuted themselves. He needed to lead them not only to repent and believe the good news, but also to be willing to turn to God for the strength and courage it would take to live that life.
Today, 2000 years later, the challenge is still the same. People prefer to get something out of their religion rather than give something. Today, Jesus still asks us to give ourselves to him in repentance and service. It isn’t easy to make ourselves do it. In fact, we cannot make ourselves do it. Like Jesus, we need to spend time in prayer in order to have the strength to live our lives as faithful followers. We all must be like Jesus and trust God for the strength to do his work. Isaiah promises us that if we remain connected with the Lord and wait faithfully for his guidance, we will receive the strength we need.