The Way Up is Down
Any time there's a "but" in a great story, I try to pay attention. Often the real point, or rest of the story, or the story behind the story, is found in the part after the "but".
"Yet despite Jesus's instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer." (emphasis added)
At the intersection of the contrast is the phrase "But Jesus..." Just before that phrase, I get the picture of someone with great influence, crowd appeal, who has become quite popular and is drawing huge crowds. A celebrity, if you will. But Jesus..... appears to not be the least impressed with all that attention, fame and recognition. The vast crowds are not the main thing for him. The popularity, the attention, the celebrity status... simply not it. But Jesus... withdrew to a quiet place and prayed. There's the main thing, the story behind the story. That's the real deal. The relationship that Jesus has with the Father. Its as if the vast crowds and all that came with it are really quite peripheral to the main thing that Jesus was about; his relationship with the Father.
In a present day culture that places a huge value on celebrity status, I am super challenged by what I see here. Believe me when I tell you that I can be prone to pursuing "the thing"... the thing that will gain status, recognition, leave my mark in the world. Isn't that the message we are bombarded with day in and day out? How quickly the main pursuit can become misguided. This scripture tugs at my heart and says, "here's the way it works". Yes, its counter cultural. The world says go after it, make it happen, make your mark! But Jesus's way models to me that whatever comes out my life, in God's way of things, it comes out of the correct center. And whether anything comes comes out of my life or not really isn't even my deal. My deal is to stay centered, keeping the main thing the main thing. From there is the way up into all that God has for our lives.
There is so much to do and to be about today. But today, like Jesus, may we each make time to get down on our knees.