Many years ago my dad gave me a book by Phillip Yancey titled The Jesus I Never Knew. Phillip Yancey, an outstanding Christian author and speaker, delves into the personality, characteristics, humanity and deity of Jesus while Jesus lived on Earth. He offers a perspective of Jesus that few of us have considered. I decided to pick up this book again and got a kick out of the sentences I underlined and highlighted the first time I read it. I couldn’t tell why I highlighted some of the sentences I chose. What was I thinking about back then? How was this significant to me? Some of my choices seem a bit humorous to me now, yet I’m willing to bet that there was a very valid reason for my underlining choices. Clearly, the things that stand out to me today are different. For instance, I read this particular sentence multiple times, because it resonated so strongly with me:
Living on a planet of free will and rebellion, Jesus often must have felt “Not at home.” At such times he went aside and prayed, as if to breathe pure air from a life-support system that would give him the strength to continue living on a polluted planet (Yancey, p.90).
Even Jesus, who willingly came to earth to live as a human, experienced the difficulties and challenges of life on earth. Even He felt burdened, tired and frustrated. After reading these sentences from Yancey’s book, I took a look at some Scriptures to see what was going on when Jesus decided to escape to a place of prayer. One that caught my attention was in Mark 1. On this evening “when the sun had set,” (Mark 1:32) many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. “And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mark 1:33-34). I can picture this scene. Imagine if you had the opportunity to receive healing for an ailment that has plagued you for years. When you walked up to the house where Jesus was, you may have seen a hundred people gathered at the door. Yet, if you knew you would be healed, wouldn’t you line up as well? I would. Even if it meant I was the 101st person. When it finally became my turn for Him to heal me, I likely would not have asked Jesus if He wanted to take a break.
Jesus turned no one away, even knowing He had full day ahead the next day. Considering the sun had gone down and the numbers of people hanging around at that time, I get the sense that Jesus was up until the wee hours of the morning. Even so, we are told, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35). This is an excellent way to start the day! God is our source; so why not go to the well early? I also appreciate the fact that Jesus got up and went somewhere, rather than praying a silent prayer from where He had been sleeping. Yancey refers to this prayer time as an opportunity for Jesus “to breathe pure air.” Reading through this passage in Mark, I tend to think this pure air was strengthening and re-energizing. After all, the demands on Jesus began quite early. I can’t help but wonder if the sun had even risen yet when “Simon (we know him better as Peter) and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ But He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth’” (Mark 1:36-38).
Life can be very tough. We aren’t meant to face those tough times alone. Even before you feel discouraged or too exhausted to move forward, go to the source of your strength. Follow Jesus’ example and breathe in the pure air that gives you the strength to thrive, even while living on this polluted plant.