Short daily devotionals for the socially distanced. These are thoughts from my daily time in the word. I use a bible reading plan that will have me in a different section of Scripture every day.
I hope they serve to give you courage and hope. You can subscribe to receive them as a daily email at the bottom of the page.
Friday, April 10th
Reading: Mark 1-3
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
— Mk 1:35 (ESV)
The Gospel of Mark has a real pace to it. Mark (likely writing to a gentile audience) doesn’t spend a lot of time on Jesus’ prophetic fulfillment, Messianic qualification, or the customs and traditions of Judaism of the day. Mark gets straight to the action and keeps going at a pace, with the linking word “immediately” featuring prominently and providing some insight into the relentless pace of Jesus’ earthly ministry season.
Jesus, it seems, was really busy. Mark 1 outlines that in detail by describing what must have been one of the most exhausting ministry days in history. Jesus taught, healed, refuted opposition and cast out demons, and He did it so well that whole city gathered where He was staying at the end of the day and He tended to all of them. I have had some draining ministry days, with multiple services, lots of teaching, some refuting, the occasional demon and plenty prayers for healing, but I have never had an entire town follow me home!
Jesus must have been exhausted at the end of that day, and yet, the next morning, He was nowhere to be found, because He got up before the sun to go and spend time in prayer, with His Father. I can remember reading this text as a young man and just feeling totally defeated. Gosh, Jesus is so unlike me. When I am tired I want to sleep in, not run to an early morning prayer session.
But, what if this story of Jesus’ remarkable prayer life isn’t supposed to crush His followers with how unlike us He is, but rather to encourage His followers with how like us the incarnated Son actually is?
Jesus prays not because He is superhuman, but because He is human. It isn’t a sign of His strength that He rubs our nose in, it is evidence of His dependence on the Father that He invites us into. His early morning prayer session isn’t the separated hours of spiritual practice reserved for an unhurried monk, but rather it is the life giving retreat of a very busy shepherd, who knows He has no way to meet the demands of His life unless He gets times away with His Father.
Jesus had endless demands on Him and so He headed out to spend time with the one who carries the burdens of the world. In this, He models for us what it looks like to run to the Father for comfort, guidance, wisdom and strength, not in a season of retreat or Sabbath but right in the middle of demanding busyness. If Jesus needed to center His life on time away with the Father in the midst of busyness and demand, then how much more do we need to do that?
I love the focus that Jesus emerges with from that prayer session. Peter was focused on the urgency of what was in front of him, “Everyone is looking for you.” But, Jesus emerged with a refreshed focus on God’s mission for His life, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” (Mark 1:38)
In this season, we get to have a bit of a reset on our daily rhythms and routines. Will we be drawn by the demands and expectations of everyone else, or will we be people who withdraw often to hear the voice of the Father, so that we can be reminded of His call and refreshed by His presence?
Courage, dear friends.