In Mark’s Gospel, events happen at a rapid-fire pace. There is no time for drawn-out stories. In today’s reading, Jesus is at work healing Simon’s mother-in-law. Before this, he was busy calling his disciples and casting out demons. Simply reading these first verses in Mark’s Gospel can overwhelm us with the busyness of Jesus’ ministry.
No wonder Jesus rises early, “well before sunrise” (CEB), to find a deserted place to be alone in prayer!
Whenever I feel a twinge of guilt for taking time to do yoga, to sit in silence, or to spend time in prayer during my day, I think about the example of Jesus in this text. This is not the only scripture passage where Jesus retreats to be alone. Strangely, I find that I rarely think of these texts when I am asked to identify biblical passages that inspire me. I suspect that has something to do with our society’s need to glorify busyness and use it as a measure of worth.
I am a college chaplain, which means I see so much of this busyness firsthand in the lives of young adults. Entering students come with a resume full of activities from their competitive race to get into the college of their choice. At our college, like most others, we boast that we have more than eighty clubs, which keep students well occupied beyond their course loads. Many of our students are already looking ahead to the next stop in their career journey and rarely slow down to revel in the present moment.
Jesus offers us a glimpse of what it means to slow down. Even after the crowd tracks him down, in an effort to get more down time with his small group of followers, Jesus asks them to move in the opposite direction.
What would it mean for us to slow down? What new insight could we gain about the direction of our lives?
What is the ultimate source of our strength? All the authors for this week come to the same conclusion: True strength comes from the Lord. Isaiah asks: “Who is like God?” God never grows weary and provides unfailing strength to those who wait for God. The psalmist praises God as the one who lifts up those who are beaten down. It is not those with human strength who are truly mighty but those empowered by God. In First Corinthians, Paul states that he has laid down any form of his own strength so that the gospel may advance. In Mark, Jesus heals many as a demonstration of his power over the physical world. Thus, God’s power is not just a metaphor but a reality.
Read Isaiah 40:21-31. In what ways do you call on God’s unfailing strength? How is that strength sustaining you?
Read Psalm 147:1-11, 20. How do you experience God’s provision in your life? What is your response to God?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:16-23. How are you living out God’s call to you? How has your call evolved over time?
Read Mark 1:29-39. Where is your “deserted place” where you spend time alone with God? What helps you maintain a discipline of spending time alone with God each day?
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