29 As soon as they[a] left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:29-39 NRSV)
Jesus began his ministry as he intended to go. He was a Jewish teacher, so it was natural that he went to the synagogues to teach and to heal. His message was refreshing to those who were sick and tired of living under Roman rule and Herod’s thumb. His words were as healing as his touch.
He made sense of scripture. He interpreted it in ways that many didn’t. He brought it home to those who felt themselves living outside the faith. People who tried to live by the rules, were set free from legalism. He showed them freedom in their Jewish faith where others saw only rules. He taught them the common sense behind the law so that the people could live in community with each other and in deeper relationship with God.
His healing made equal sense. He didn’t make a big deal of it. There was no hocus-pocus. He used words to forgive sins, rebuke evil spirits or to calm a broken soul. His touch lifted up, as in the case of Simon’s mother-in-law. He wasn’t afraid to touch. Not even the lepers. Often, a guided action on his part and healing took place.
Here was the heart and soul of Jesus’ ministry. Here was Jesus himself. Yet, Simon and the disciples had to go searching for him. What some saw as a man of God caring and healing and teaching, the disciples saw as opportunity. They would be Jesus’ advisers and public relations men. That’s why they came to that deserted place: to let him know that the next healing event was ready to begin. They were disturbed that he wasn’t up and dressed and ready to go at the crack of dawn.
Do we go searching for Jesus because of our need to be with him? Or because we have a to-do list for him to take care of? Are we honest enough to admit that we try to control Jesus?
That to-do list isn’t a bad thing. In quiet meditation we can sit with the Master and share our yearnings and worries and hurts. Jesus didn’t come to earth only to desert us to earthly worries. This is the One whom we can trust to understand and to help us with the demons. That to-do list for Jesus can often turn into a list of what to hand over to God and let go of; what we can do ourselves; and what we will wait on Jesus to handle when the time is right.
We all try to control Jesus. “If only X would happen, my life would be so much better.”
The disciples did quite a bit of searching for Jesus. Yet, there he was: walking beside them every day. Waking up near them every day. Eating and drinking with them every day. What about us? How do we miss seeing Jesus?
We miss Jesus when we fail to feel the power of a touch; or presence; or relationship.
I live near one of the busiest streets in town. It’s three lanes in either direction near a large medical complex. When we moved there we knew that we would have to work with our terrier, teaching her not to run out the door and head for that street. She chose to get out one early morning while I was trying to handle too much. An hour later, I gently lifted her dead body off the busy street and carried her home.
My neighbor, the dog rescuer, saw me and came out to meet me. “Would you like me to take her to the crematorium?” All I could do was nod my head as the tears fell. We laid her in the back of her SUV and then she turned to me and held me as I cried. She had never touched me before. And hasn’t since. But that touch spoke volumes. It said she understood about losing a pet; that she was a friend who cared.
The power of touch brings Jesus front and center.
When have you found yourself wanting to console the inconsolable, only to discover that your quiet presence seemed enough? As Job lay in sackcloth and ashes, having lost his home, his children and grandchildren, his livelihood and his health, his friends came and sat with him for seven days. For seven days they said nothing. It was only when they began speaking that they made things worse.
Jesus is present in the quiet moments when words can do nothing. Jesus is present to make inadequate words say so much more.
Relationships can become a time of presence with Jesus. A conversation with a stranger while waiting to check out can become a message of insight; a call to a friend out of the blue turns into a moment of peace and tranquility.
Touch, presence, relationship. Touch, intimacy, nearness. These have to power to make whole; to bring peace, God’s shalom.
Use these with care. Be prepared to restore yourself often. Jesus needed retreat, so do we.
Jesus retreated while it was still dark. Think about the previous day. He taught in the synagogue, healed Simon’s mother-in-law and spent the rest of the day healing. That’s tiring work. Each person we touch, each person we reach out to fills us and depletes us. We need quiet and meditation and prayer to nourish our souls. We need good food to nourish bodies. We need laughter and tears. We need to decompress. If we don’t find a way to do this, we’ll burn out.
In this particular text, Jesus retreats in the dark. He must have been worn out. Yet, he seemed to need time with God more than he needed sleep. Was he praying for direction? Trying to decide if he should remain in Capernaum or move on to other parts of Galilee? Was he looking to recharge his batteries? Whatever it was, it was a time to get away from everyone to do his own searching while his disciples were searching, even hunting, him out.
Preaching and healing. Healing and preaching. The saying goes, “Preach the Gospel. If necessary use words.” It’s a statement that reminds us that silence can be golden. Preaching without words is modeling Christian behavior. We are good at doing that. But, we don’t necessarily realize that silence and presence and touch can make huge impacts on the lives of others. You don’t have to know the Bible by heart. You don’t need cliches. Use real words, if you speak.
Searching for Jesus? Look for him in the solitude of the early morning; look for him in the conversation with a stranger; look for him in the touch of a friend; look for him in the news; look for him wherever you are. He’s as close to you now as he was to the disciples 2,000 years ago.
All glory and honor be to God.