Mark 1:12-2:12 (part one)
Jesus’s opening scene in the book of Mark begins with a bang and doesn’t let up. So much story is packed into these beginning verses. The narrative reads like a modern-day movie, jumping from scene to scene to communicate a sense of urgency. Jesus calling his disciples, Jesus teaching, Jesus traveling, Jesus healing. Notice that Mark often uses the word “immediately” which could also be translated “straight away” or “in a flash.”
What an abrupt change Jesus must have experienced during those early days of his ministry. He had spent most of his life as a carpenter’s apprentice, learning under his father’s instruction. He had recently been baptized, but then spent over a month by himself in the woods. When he showed up in public and began his ministry, the news spread that a man was in town who taught with authority and healed diseases. Jesus went from being a quiet man nobody knew to a sought-after local celebrity. How would he handle that?
After a blockbuster first day of ministry, Jesus gets up really early the following day and goes off by himself to pray. He must have felt the pressure, the dramatic change that had occurred. He was accustomed to a simple life; now he had people following him and constantly making requests of his time. He knew what he needed– time with his father. Just as he apprenticed under his carpenter father, Joseph, now he needed to listen and learn from God, his heavenly father.
Even there, though, he is interrupted by his new friends who usually think they know best. “Everyone is looking for you,” they say to Jesus. I hear the impatience in their voices, the incredulity over the fact that Jesus is off in the woods again rather than meeting the expectations of his fans. “Come on!” they seem to say, “they’re waiting!”
This part of the story makes me sigh. I’m certainly not a local celebrity, but I feel the pressing demands of other people’s expectations. I know that there are people out there waiting for me to return their phone calls, get back with them about a ministry plan, or change their diaper. (OK, only one is waiting for me to change his diaper, thankfully.) I hear that same refrain in my head, “Come on! They’re waiting!”
If it had been me at that moment when the disciples came to interrupt, I probably would have stood up, brushed myself off, and grudgingly gone with them. I might have grumbled a little on the inside, but I would have gone. Because the truth is I hate to let other people down.
Surprising to this people-pleaser, Jesus did not do that. He simply responded, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” He had spent the early hours of the morning listening to God in the dark. He knew what God wanted him to do, and this time it was not to go back to the people waiting for him. He focused on the mission God had called him to. God wanted Jesus and his disciples to move on to other towns, so that is what they did.
I long for this clarity. I feel like the scenes of my life roll by with a sense of urgency, too. I feel like I go from one task to another “immediately” or “in a flash.” I often wake up and ask myself “What today?” There are only so many hours at my disposal; how should I best use them?
This is not a question for the crowds or the people screaming the loudest. This is a question for God, the one who has sent me on a mission, too. I have to ask God repeatedly to remind me of my mission, so that I will know why I came out, like Jesus did. Focusing on this mission might mean letting other people down, maybe disappointing them. But if I’m going to be effective, I must live like an apprentice. I must listen to my master and follow his directions. Then, no matter who is looking for me, I, too, can stay focused on the mission God has given me.