Reflection on Mark 1:35-39

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.

The patterns of regularly resting appear occasionally in the Gospels. Here and in Mark 6:45, Mark tells us that Jesus retreated to pray. When Mark tells the story of Jesus calming the furious storm, he explains that “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. Disciples Bible scholars Gene Boring and Fred Craddock write, “At the very beginning of the narrative, Mark presents Jesus both as one filled with divine power who does what only God can do, and also as one distinct from God, a needy human being who seeks communion with God in prayer.” (People NT Commentary, p. 111). Jesus as a person made of flesh and bones had the same needs for rest and prayer as anyone else.

Resting is also portrayed in scripture as a divine activity. The Creator rested on the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:11). The longest of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-21) is the one most neglected—the command to take one day a week and give yourself and everyone else a break.

The context preceding this little story narrates the way Jesus traveled throughout the land healing those who were hurting or sick. Many interpreters suggest that the tension between Simon Peter and Jesus—they “hunted” for him after all—was due to competing agendas.

ost interpreters see this as a tension between the Disciples who want Jesus to set up shop, enjoy his popularity and Jesus who wants to extend the message to others–all?

What does all this mean for us? One of the big questions of Christianity is the significance of Jesus for us today. Jesus lived and died. That is an historical fact. But that his living and dying have some on-going importance to us is a statement of faith. What then is the on-going significance of the life, ministry, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Ask the question in almost any church in the southern part of the United States and the answer you’ll get back is “Jesus died for our sins.” This is certainly true but is it sufficient? Consider this passage from Dallas Willard, former USC professor of philosophy and spiritual formation expert.

There is absolutely nothing in what Jesus himself or his early followers taught that suggests you can decide just to enjoy forgiveness at Jesus’ expense and have nothing more to do with him.

Some years ago A. W. Tozer expressed his “feeling that a notable heresy has come into being throughout evangelical Christian circles–the widely-accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need him as Savior and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to him as Lord as long as we want to!” (I Call It Heresy, Harrisburg, PA.: Christian Publications, 1974, p. 5f) He then goes on to state “that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures.”

This ‘heresy’ has created the impression that it is quite reasonable to be a “vampire Christian.” One in effect says to Jesus: “I’d like a little of your blood, please. But I don’t care to be your student or have your character. In fact, won’t you just excuse me while I get on with my life, and I’ll see you in heaven.” But can we really imagine that this is an approach that Jesus finds acceptable?

And when you stop to think of it, how could one actually trust him for forgiveness of sins while not trusting him for much more than that. You can’t trust him without believing that he was right about everything, and that he alone has the key to every aspect of our lives here on earth. But if you believe that, you will naturally want to stay just as close to him as you can, in every aspect of your life. (RENOVARE Perspective, Vol. V, No. 4, October 1995. First published in a Biola University bulletin. Available in The Great Omission, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2006. complete article at: http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=71)

Willard calls such disregard for Christian discipleship “Vampire Christianity”—it only wants the blood of Jesus. Jesus came not only be our Savior but also to be our Lord. The advocacy for Christian Discipleship—taking our daily commitment to living as Jesus would have us live—is not done so that we might earn our salvation. Salvation comes by grace—God’s free gift. But the one who made us and who loved us enough to die for us also knows us well enough to direct our path toward the most authentic life possible. Discipleship is our way to reach a truly joyful and authentic life.

Certainly obedience to Christ’s teaching is part of Christian discipleship. So also is following Jesus example. Jesus indicated that he had set an example for us in certain acts of service (John 13:14-17). And Paul emphasizes that the way Jesus died reveals how we should live (Philippians 2:5-11). The writer of Hebrews names Jesus as the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). First Peter also points to the example Jesus gave through his obedience in suffering as the path we also should follow. The line from Peter’s letter that we should following “in his steps” became the title for one of the most popular Christian novels ever written—Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps, who gave us the question “What Would Jesus Do?” So clearly, the New Testament suggests that parts of Jesus life—particularly the way he died on the cross—serve as examples for our own living. But can we claim that the whole of Jesus life serves as our example for godly living?

I believe the whole life of Jesus is exemplary. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Gene Boring writes, “The call to adopt Christ as example is not analogous to ‘a child’s placing foot after foot into the prints of his father in the snow,’ (a quotation drawn from another writer), but more like making our own creative adaptation of a pattern” (Abingdon Commentary on 1 Peter, p. 90 in personal manuscript). The most common call Jesus gives in the gospels is “Follow Me.”

This perspective that Jesus sets an example for our whole lives is the basis for our Advent theme. Jesus is fully human and Jesus shows us how to be fully human. Jesus rested and paused, he prayed and lived a life of dependence, not only to because he himself experienced weakness or fatigue but also to reveal to us our needs to rest and reflect. Jesus gives the example of what it means to be fully human. It means that he was aware of his humanity, his need for boundaries, his dependence on God, and took intentional steps of faithfulness in order to place his humanness in the hands of God. We are called to be fully human, not super human. The life in the spirit is not ignorant of one’s own human needs. We place our needs before God. In the busy season that lies ahead, we often forget to breathe, to take time to be in God’s presence and truly restore ourselves. Jesus also sets the example for us of resisting the agenda of others when that agenda is not in line with God’s will for our lives.

Discussion Questions:

1. What does the phrase “Pause to Breathe” mean to you?

2. What are the ways you like to “Pause to Breathe”? Think about this question in terms of time available to you:

–Pausing to Breathe for 5 minutes.

–Pausing to Breathe for 1 hour.

–Pausing to Breathe for a Day (Sabbath).

–Pausing to Breathe for several days.

3. What barriers present themselves in your life as you seek to find time to pause to breathe?

4. What are the expectations people have of you that tend to pull you in different directions?

5. Do you find that pausing to breathe or having a regular time of prayer and meditation enables you to focus more clearly on the agenda God has set for you? Does it enable you to avoid the trap of being sucked into other people’s agenda for your life?

What the Soul is in the body the Christian is to the world.

This week’s goal is to listen to a sermon a day. Today, I listened to a sermon by Jim White of Southwest Church of Christ in Omaha, NE. I didn’t know anything about the preacher or the church before I listened to the sermon. It’s the first I found that looked worth the time when I went trolling for sermons in iTunes. It was a good sermon. But what I found most interesting was the quotation from “The Epistle of Mathetes to Diogenetus.” He quoted a large portion from parts 5 and 6. It was an early defense of Christianity.

I appreciate the letter. At the same time, it reflects an anthropological dualism that sees the soul as good and the body or flesh as corrupt. But the bulk of the letter is poetic in its description of the ideal Christian. And well worth examination.