Picture it: Jesus arrives in your city with four of His disciples and heads straight to the most notable church to teach. You and the others in attendance are astonished by the authority of His words. He’s nothing like the myriad of other teachers that have spoken before.
There in the church, you’re startled by a man possessed by an evil spirit who begins heckling Jesus. Speaking sharply, Jesus silences him and commands the spirit to leave. It obeys, convulsing the afflicted man and letting out a loud scream.
The already astounded crowd now becomes euphoric. There’s a murmur of conversation, "What in the world’s going on? This teaching is powerful. This teacher orders evil spirits and they obey Him." It doesn’t take long for the news about what happened to spread throughout the city and surrounding counties.
Now suppose that as Jesus and His group are leaving for the home of disciples Simon and Andrew, they invite you to come along. When you arrive, you learn that Simon’s mother-in-law is in bed with a high fever. Jesus goes to her, takes her hand, and helps her to her feet. The fever leaves her and she begins preparing dinner.
As you’re all relaxing around the table after dinner, talking, there’s a knock at the door. It’s someone requesting that Jesus heal their child. You watch as He heals the child, so graciously. The door closes and conversation resumes. A little while later, another more desperate knock and a request to cast out an evil spirit. Again, you see Him drive out a spirit.
This continues and before long, the whole city is gathered at the doorway. Well into the night, you watch as He heals and expels spirits from numerous people. Catching yourself nodding off, you try to stay awake; but He’s still at it when sleep finally takes you.
You’re awakened the next morning by Simon frantically shaking you. "Have you seen Jesus? People are back, and they’re waiting at the front door, but we don’t know where He is." Answering no, you jump to your feet and join the search.
The sun is coming up as you, Simon, and the other disciples canvas the open space behind the house. You guess Jesus must’ve gotten up and slipped away while it was still dark. There’s a shout, "He’s over here." You rush over and find Him near a small beautiful secluded lake. From what you gather, He’s been in prayer.
Jesus is told that everyone is looking for Him. There are many who still need to be healed and to have evil spirits driven out. He listens patiently as the disciples excitedly talk over one another.
When they finish, Jesus replies, "Let’s go somewhere else, to some neighboring city, so that I may give my message there too—that is why I have come."
There’s stunned silence as the group of you stand there staring at Jesus, your mouths agape.
Sometimes, imagining that we are with Jesus in the bible stories helps us see them in a fresh way. The above story is my retelling of part of the first chapter of Mark’s gospel. As I put myself in the story, I find myself being shocked when Jesus decides to leave all of the people who are waiting for His help and instead go to another town. He has the opportunity to do so much good right where He is! Why does He decide to leave? Could it be that He saw things from a eternal perspective rather than a temporal one?
Jesus had slipped away that morning and talked with His Father. He meant it when He said repeatedly, "I do as My Father tells Me." As best we can tell from Mark, the Father’s eternal view and directive had something bigger in mind than that which the overwhelming temporal need dictated. And Jesus, knowing His Father, listened to His will and followed His direction, even though those around Him might have disapproved.
I think that we can fall into the trap of assuming that what is right in front of us is always the most important thing—that whenever we see an opportunity for good, it must be of God. But we need to remember that God’s eternal perspective might be different from our temporal perspective. We need to listen to Him and be open to looking beyond what we can see. And we need to be willing to follow the call of God, even when those around us might disapprove.
If there is any way I can encourage you, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Also, the ELM web site (elmco.org) is always a good resource for further encouragement.
Fix your gaze on Him who gives eternal perspective! (2 Corinthians 4:18, Colossians 3:1-4)
Mike Roncaglia, Executive Director