This is not new. This is the story we have seen played out since the first days of Jesus’ ministry. Let’s look at what happened in the hours just ahead of our focal passage for the morning. Mark tells us:
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. 32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Jesus steps into people’s desperation. Jesus steps into their brokenness. Jesus steps in and changes people’s lives forever. So, before I go forward, please hear me tell you that if you find yourself in a time of desperation and your life seems out of control, you are not alone. Many that sit beside you and around you face the same kind brokenness and season of life crisis. You are not alone. Jesus is in the restoration business and is ready to change your story; Jesus is ready to bring healing into your life.
I also want you to see that when people see something incredible occurring crowds of the curious come running. The word was out. Jesus was teaching with authority, casting our demons, and healing the sick. News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee and the whole town gathered at the door. This word probably does not surprise you. Almost every time we come to the Scripture from the Gospels, we find Jesus doing only what Jesus can do and the crowd reacting. We can only guess how many hours Jesus spend healing others. We can only guess how exhausting the day that began in the synagogue, carried him to Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, and ended with him surrounded by a clamoring crowd must have been. We can only imagine how spiritually fatiguing it must have been to care for so many. You might think that Jesus would seize the moment. The crowd was with him and with a few more miracles they would have been ready to rally behind him, ready to take on the Romans that possessed and dominated them.
But that is not the story unfold. Jesus does the unthinkable. Sarah read our passage earlier in our service, but hear it again as we seek to understand and embrace a call to crystal clear mission. 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him,37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Jesus was up well before the normal movements of the day. Before the people in the house stirred, before there was movement on the town’s dirt streets, before most had even thought about waking, Jesus was up and out headed to a secluded place. Jesus got way from everyone, finding a quiet place where he could talk with the Father. In the predawn hours Jesus looked for and found a place to pray in peace and quiet, without distractions.
Our story continues; 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” As surely as Jesus withdrawing to quiet places for prayer was a part of the gospel story, so are the disciples and others coming looking for Jesus. Jesus had escaped the demands of others for a little while, but they would not let him linger there too long. The crowds beckoned him. They brought their own wants, needs, and agendas. They had pain and brokenness they wanted Jesus to address. There were people they loved that they wanted healed. They wanted Jesus. The disciples brought the word, Everyone looking for him….at least everyone they knew. I imagine that they expected Jesus to come back to town with them. They had witnessed so many remarkable miracles. I image that Peter and Andrew we proud of their new found status in their hometown as disciples of the healer Jesus. The whole city was at their door. I would imagine that they would expect that Jesus would come back and build on his success and new found notoriety in Capernaum. They were in for a huge surprise.
38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” It is easy to get caught of meeting the demands of the others. It is easy to let the demands of the “immediate” get in the way of what is most important. It is easy to get so caught up doing what is good that we miss doing what is bigger, what is the will of God. The disciples came to get Jesus in response to the crowd, but after his time alone in prayer, Jesus was crystal clear that his mission was not just for the crowd in Capernaum; it was time to move on. He did not allow his ministry to be held hostage by the expectations of others, but rather moved boldly forward in the ministry set before him. When the disciples begged him to return to the crowd that awaited him, Jesus headed out and headed on to the other towns and villages of Galilee. Jesus headed out and head on to fulfill the His mission.
So what does this short story mean to us in this place this morning? Why do I bring this passage into a sermon series calling us on a journey to become authentic apprentices of Jesus? I believe it is an essential passage in embrace our call to be an apprentice of Jesus- of walking at his side so closely that his will and his way defines us. I believe that this is one of the three defining moments in Jesus’ early ministry. The first is the moment Jesus’ baptism – when his ministry begins; the second is the pronouncement in the synagogue in Nazareth that defined Jesus redemptive mission; and this one, where Jesus is confronted with the option of playing to the crowd and increasing his popularity and chooses instead to be faithful to the task given to him by the Father. In Jesus’ choice to embrace his mission regardless of the opinions of others he models for us the call to develop a crystal clear understand of the mission we are given
For us, there are three clear implications.
1. We can only be clear on our mission when we are in intimate communion/conversation with the Father. Our first task is to put ourselves alone and listening to God and to listen- and then respond.
2. We need to make sure we are not distracted by other voices. There are countless voices inviting – even compelling us – to pour ourselves out for this great cause or another. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment that we fail to focus on the things God has created us and shaped us to do.
3. Our mission is God given, born in our gifts and lived out where God has placed us. . The mission for each of us is difference because how we have been gifted and called is different. But, each one, each call, each mission, is essential for us to be the people God intends us to be. This is not just about what you are good at. It is equally about the visions and passions that God has stirred within you. It is responding to the inner yearnings and crystal clear mission that God has placed in our hearts. This is not about filling in the slots for volunteers needs – but aligning who we are and how we serve with what God uniquely intends for us.
As an apprentice of Jesus Christ, lean close. Listen and follow his lead. Live out of a crystal clear sense of mission for which you have been created and refuse to settle for less.