The problem with me is that I take Jesus for granted. I think I have somehow pigeon-holed Him and figured Him out. Instinctively, I make Him look, sound and believe like me. I miss the Man, Jesus. I miss His foibles, His mystery, His idiosyncrasies, His “otherness.”
When I look at Jesus, I see a Man who goes out of His way to perform miracles in secret only to turn around and heal the sick in front of the religious elite on the Sabbath, who flees from crowds who seek to make Him King and yet willingly walks into the arms of those who seek to kill Him, who makes God’s law MORE difficult to keep and then provides a way to keep it. I can’t figure Him out.
Then there are the uncomfortable parts of the Gospels I don’t like because I don’t understand them. Jesus’ miracles were blocked by people’s lack of faith, He doesn’t know the day or the hour of the Second Coming, He rarely makes claims about His DEITY to His disciples and yet openly admits it to a Samaritan woman and a Roman Prefect. He gets angry, He is passionate and easily moved to tears, He constantly seeks alone-time and yet He is often very lonely, He is “very God of very God” and yet asks God to change His mind if possible.
The biggest problem I have while reading the Gospels is that I know the FULL story while those in the story do not. I miss the wonder of the miracles, the joy and expectation of Jesus being the Messiah who would crush the Roman army and reinstate Israel, the anguish, terror, and gut-wrenching despair at His crucifixion. I know on Good Friday that He will rise on Easter Sunday. The disciples did not. I miss the emotions and lessons in the waiting, the unknown.
My goal in this series is to address the mystery of this Man. I want to feel the surprise, wonder, fear, expectation, impatience, worry, anxiety and doubt of His followers. Because I feel these emotions most days, and if I can read the Gospels and feel impatient, frustrated or sympathetic toward the disciples’ fear, anxiety, worry and doubt, then there is hope for me and you! There is something they don’t know that if they knew, they would not be so worried, fearful, or anxious. Join me as I study the God Man Jesus.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”
Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16
Jesus constantly amazes me. In this verse, He goes out into the wilderness (most likely the Galilee Mountains at the foothills of the Golan) and spends the night praying to God. Now this is God’s Son, the Messiah, the Savior. Jesus is Who we glorify, praise, adore, love, worship. He is the One who lived a perfect life that we could never live, died the death that you and I deserve (and should have died), His death made the way for us to God. He is part of the Trinity, He is God in the flesh, He is holy.
I know why I pray: I need help, I’m lost and need guidance, I’m financially struggling and need provision, I see barriers and hurdles to overcome and I am desperate for God’s common and special grace. I wake up worrying, I go to work with anxiety, I come home carrying fear. I am in a constant state of need. And once in a while, life hits me so hard that I snap. That is usually why I pray. Prayer is what I do when I’ve tried everything else. It’s what I know I should be doing all the time, but I don’t. How about you?
Is this why Jesus prays? It is true that Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, experiences fear and anxiety of separation with God when He sweats drops of blood. My prayers are mostly motivated by selfishness and sin, but Jesus never sins. He doesn’t distrust God. Jesus was never selfish. There must be some other motivation for Jesus praying.
Jesus needs guidance, provision and encouragement … just like you and me. Jesus has been healing multitudes of sick people on this mountain, and this is physically and emotionally draining. Mark 5:30 tells us that when Jesus healed the woman from bleeding, He felt power go out from Him. Jesus needs to be filled with the power of God. Also, He was healing these people all while fleeing from those who wanted to kill Him. He needs comfort and peace that only comes through communion with God.
Jesus also prays when He is about to face some big decision or test (before He begins His ministry, being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, choosing His disciples, before His transfiguration, before His crucifixion and death, before His last breath). The implication is that life’s biggest moments need God’s input, wisdom, guidance. That is obvious. Those are my best prayer times.
The thing that baffles me about Jesus is that most of His praying is done in the mundane, everyday moments. While teaching, while staying at a friend’s house, while healing, while blessing little children, In fact, there is a phrase that repeats throughout the Gospels that gives us insight into the “everydayness” of Jesus’ prayer life. Luke puts it this way: Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Mark says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, let the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” This seems to be a pattern. Jesus often goes out, leaves His followers, and talks to God.
It is in the mundane moments that I feel farthest from God. In the mundane and routine, I feel comfortable, capable, bored, apathetic. It’s difficult to pray when I’m apathetic. I don’t need God while I’m cooking dinner, filling out my budget, driving to work, cleaning the house … do I? I don’t think this way so transparently, but I do live like this. God is for the big stuff – death, health issues, financial disasters, food shortages, car wrecks.
However, if I’m not praying during the mundane moments, I’m not getting God’s help and counsel on the vast majority of my life. Paul Tripp says that our lives happen in the mundane moments. We may have 4-6 huge events in our lives (college acceptance, marriage, becoming parents), and if God is not involved in my mundane moments, He is not involved in my life.
Jesus, however, infused His mundane moments with communion with God. In Matthew 11:25-30, Jesus just bursts out into prayer while teaching a multitude of people. Right there. No “bow your heads and close your eyes.” Just one minute He was teaching, the next He is thanking God. Jesus talks with God like He talks with His followers – constantly, out loud, conversationally, moment by moment. There doesn’t seem to be a barrier there, a veil to open, a ceiling to break through. There is an openness, a commonness to Jesus when He talks to God that embarrasses me … like God is right there all the time.
Could it be that the real reason Jesus prayed so much was that Jesus simply wanted to talk to God … just because He loved Him? Is it possible that He loved spending time with God so much that He made it a point to pray as often as He could? I think so. If you love someone, you want to talk with them, you want to hear their voice, you want to express your feelings, fears, love … especially in the mundane moments. In fact, the mundane moments are made glorious when you are in love. Jesus loves God, and God loves Jesus.
In fact, Jesus had been in perfect, constant communion with God since before the creation of the world. Before He came to earth, Jesus was the Word of God that created the world in Genesis. John 1:1-2 says that Jesus was with God and was God. Verses 14-16 tell us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 8:58 tells the Pharisees and His disciples that “before Abraham was, I am.” In Luke 10:18, Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven.” And then He came to Earth – that perfect, triune unity was somehow altered when Jesus took on flesh. Imagine (and you can’t!) that you have perfect, uninterrupted communications with someone from ETERNITY past and then … it is no longer perfect or uninterrupted. Jesus was HUNGRY for time with God. He craved it. He was buoyed by God’s presence, sustained by God’s peace, filled with God’s Spirit, and comforted by God’s love.
So Jesus would regularly escape from His surroundings and go talk with God. I wish I were this desperate and hungry for God’s presence and voice, don’t you?
The other thing that astounds me about this passage are the guys Jesus chooses to be His apostles. They have been His disciples (His students who learn from Him and who follow Him physically from town to town) for a while. Jesus had hundreds, thousands of disciples. Now these 12 are designated as his “apostles”, which means these men are Jesus’ representatives, messengers, envoys. They are His ambassadors. When people see them, they will associate them with Jesus. When people hear them teach, they will associate their teaching with Jesus’ teaching. Amazing.
There is really nothing special about these guys. They were all fishermen (except Matthew, who was universally hated for being a tax collector), Judas was a Judean while the rest of the apostles were Galileans, some were brothers (Andrew and Peter, James the Elder and John the “Sons of Thunder, James the Younger and Jude, and some scholars say Matthew is also the brother of James and Jude), they were all poor (except John and James whose father had servants) and uneducated (except Matthew, who could read and write).
When starting the most prolific and impactful mission in the history of the world, I wouldn’t have chosen these men. Would you? This is what fascinates me about Jesus – most of the time, He does things that are totally counter intuitive and against the grain. He picked 12 poor, uneducated, rural men who were not particularly spiritual or religious, who were living under Roman occupation, who constantly struggled against one another for “first place,” who had issues with pride, idolatry, selfishness, stealing, lying, bribing, racism … to be His ambassadors, and 3 of whom were His “inner circle.” Incredible.
But Jesus saw what we could never have seen – these men (minus Judas) would one day become bold, courageous, articulate, passionate, Spirit-filled preachers of the Word of God. Their mundane moments were filled with Jesus, preaching Him, teaching others about Him, healing the sick and lame, spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Many would go on to horrible persecution and death while confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior. Often, it is the humble, the lowly, the last person you would expect who really surprises you.
This is a great segue into the Sermon on the Mount that we will be covering for the next few months. Blessed are the poor, the lowly, the “last placers.” Jesus not only preached it, but He lived it.
If you want more info on the 12 apostles, here are two interesting links to consider:
God bless you this week.