Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Daily Devotional Time - Part Two

A Daily Devotional Time – Part Two
By Judy Vandiver
©copyright 2009

“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.” (Mark 1:35 NIV)

Jesus was a busy man. The verse quoted above shows us the actions of Jesus on a particular morning. Let me give you a glimpse of what had transpired the day before and what the upcoming day held for him.

Jesus and some men that He had asked to follow Him had traveled to the city of Capernaum earlier in the week. Their method of transportation was their own two feet. They had walked the dusty, uneven terrain, no doubt their feet hurt, and their legs ached. They may have even had a blister or two worn on the soles of their feet by the rough, primitive (at least to us) leather sandals.

We don’t know when they arrived in Capernaum, but when the Sabbath came, Jesus went to the synagogue. As was the custom, the visiting rabbi was asked to read the scripture and teach. He preached in such a manner that the people were amazed, because, they said, “he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22 NIV.) Can you picture the group of men gathered there, leaning towards one another, whispering, amazement etched into their expressions? As I read these words, I can almost hear the murmur as it travels over and through the crowd, until everyone sits up and takes notice.

I would love to know what his sermon topic was that morning. Whatever it was, Satan didn’t like it and he didn’t like that people were recognizing the authority of this person named Jesus.

Suddenly a man possessed by an evil spirit cried out, demanding to know what Jesus wanted to do with him and if Jesus was going to destroy him. He proclaimed the true identity of Christ as the Holy One of God. The man must have been shouting because Jesus told him to be quiet. I’m thinking that this evil spirit was scared that he had come face-to-face with Jesus. He probably wished he had not gone to the synagogue with the man that morning. He not only knew who Jesus was, but exactly what kind of authority Jesus has. And when Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the man, the evil spirit did the only thing he could. He obeyed. He could not resist the power of Jesus. Mind you, he shrieked and cried, but he obeyed.

The people who were still in the synagogue witnessed this event. People were abuzz with what this Jesus could do. Can’t you see them on their way home from the synagogue, stopping, talking, asking, “Did you see? I was up front, you know. I got a good look at what happened. Who is this man?” The Bible tells us that news soon spread to the surrounding area. Even with limited travel on the Sabbath, the word quickly spread through the region. (A little more on this later.)

Amid the chattering and amazed crowd, Jesus and his disciples leave “church.” They are probably hungry and it’s time for “Sunday afternoon lunch.” Simon and Andrew, who apparently shared one home with their combined families, said, “Hey, let’s go to our house to eat,” and off they trod.

But when they arrived at the home of the two brothers, it was discovered that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever. Jesus bent over her with concern, touched her, and healed her instantly. As the fever left her, she began to help get the “roast and potatoes” on the table, jumping right in with a grateful spirit.

Again, can you see the reaction of those in the house? The disciples, the women preparing the food, the combined households, any servants they might have had must have all talked about what had just happened. And now they hurry to serve this one who seems to have so much authority.

What I want you to see here is the activity around Jesus. Stop for a moment and think about a large gathering where one person has done something that has the whole group talking – good or bad – it doesn’t matter. With this large a crowd, Jesus could not help but be aware of the commotion within the house. And somehow, word leaked from that house to the surrounding community. I picture the news traveling from house to house to house, until it reached a distance beyond what the people were allowed to travel. The law may have banned the people from traveling a certain distance, but the law could not stop the word and the news about Jesus.

Let’s move forward a few hours. It’s now nearing sunset and perhaps the household is quieting down. Maybe Jesus will have time to catch his breath from all the day’s activities and the hustle and bustle that has brewed around Him since arriving at the Synagogue that morning. But no. Just as the sun dipped below the horizon, people began bringing the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus.

Remember earlier when we discovered the people were talking as they left “church” that morning? They had talked about the authority that came with the words spoken about Jesus and about the casting out of an evil spirit. Word had spread farther than the people were able to travel on the Sabbath. But as soon as the law would allow, they hurried to see this man who could heal the sick and cast out demons. Notice that they knew both of these things had happened earlier that day. This is how we know that the group from the synagogue as well as the households of Simon and Andrew had been spreading the word.

Scripture tells us that the whole town gathered at the door. While scholars are unsure of the population of Capernaum at that time, it was a small fishing village, and estimates are that there were anywhere from 600 to 1700 people living there at the time. Let’s go with a conservative number somewhere in the middle. I’ll choose 1,000. Suppose you did something at church this morning and word got around that you had spoke some amazing words. It’s later in the day, you are tired, and maybe you are thinking of retiring for the day. There’s a knock at the door. Someone else answers it and yells to you, “Hey, you better come here. Something’s going on outside.” You look out the door and there are 1,000 people lined up. A thousand….

This is no small number. I can only imagine this kind of scene in front of my house, the line extending down the street, wrapping around the corner, the head of the homeowner’s association wanting to know what is going on. But then I remember he would have known. Everyone knew what was going on. The entire village had come to see Jesus.

John Mark continues in the scripture telling us that Jesus healed many who had various diseases and drove out many demons. I wonder what time He eventually got to bed that evening. Maybe not at all.

And that brings me to the point of today’s blog. We (and I include myself in that) so often use the excuse that we are too busy or too tired for a daily time with the Father. I know that I’ve never been as busy as Jesus was that particular night. I’ve never had 600 to 1,000 or more people standing at my door waiting to be healed. I’ve never had a whole town turn out to see what I was doing, press in around me to see what was happening, or perhaps just want to touch me.

Do you realize that if Jesus had only spent 30 seconds with each of the more than 1,000 people it would have taken Him over 8 hours to see each one? Therefore I doubt He slept at all that night. The last one was finally healed. The last demon had been cast out. The disciples, no doubt, had nodded off hours ago. The last villager hobbled down the dusty road. The sun would be up soon and Jesus knew that another busy day stretched before Him.

He didn’t lie down and try to grab a quick nap. He didn’t complain about how tired He was. He slipped off into the darkness, found a solitary place—away from distractions—and talked with His Father.

Christ’s example shows us the importance of prayer and devotions over everything else, including bodily rest. I believe the next time I whine to the Lord that I am too tired for devotions and will catch up later, I’ll try to remember just how busy Jesus was this particular morning.

I have been so tired before that I have fallen asleep in the middle of my devotional time. I believe God understands. Our Lord certainly knows what it feels like to be “bone-tired.” However, He honors our efforts and comforts us in our humanness. And He doesn’t say how long our time of devotion to Him should be. The important thing is that we choose some moments from our day that are just for Him.

Tomorrow we’ll look at what happened as the tired and exhausted Jesus tried to catch a few moments of solitude.

Personal Bible Study:

1. How important to you is a daily devotional time? Is it important enough to make it a priority?
2. What excuses do you find yourself giving the Lord for not setting aside moments from your day just for Him?
3. Think of a time when you have been very tired or others demanded a good deal of your time. How might that compare to what Jesus felt on this particular morning?
4. Why do you think Jesus didn’t tell some of the people to come back at another time?
5. Memorize Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

© Copyright 2009 by Judy Vandiver

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