Sunday, February 4, 2018
...they found Him and said to Him, "Everyone is looking for You."
Welcome to this special non liturgical holy day known as Super Bowl Sunday. No use fighting it. I know that some of you are focused almost completely on football today.
I heard about one guy who’s really in a difficult situation. He bought two tickets for today’s Super Bowl way in advance. He forgot that he and his fiancé had scheduled their wedding for this same day and time. Now he realizes he can’t go. It’s out of the question. So, if you’re interested and want to go instead of him, here’s the relevant information: it’s at St. Peter’s Church in New York City at 5 p.m. Her name’s Louise. She’ll be the one wearing a white dress.
Of course, even pastors can get caught up in Super Bowl fever. I heard about one Church, when it came time for the collection. The pastor, a true sports fan, reached into his pocket, took out a quarter, flipped it into the air, glanced at it as it landed, then in typical referee fashion joyfully announced: The ushers will receive! I don’t know if the church received a larger offering after that or not, but it’s worth a try. (reach for pocket). Maybe next Super Bowl Sunday. But enough about football.
In today’s story, Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. Did you even know Simon Peter was married? Obviously, he was. I wonder how his wife felt about his quitting his job, leaving everything and following Jesus? Maybe she was an understanding woman. I wonder, though, if it was a source of conflict.
Sometimes we may think we don’t have time to serve Christ. Too many family responsibilities. Christ has heard that excuse before. Anyway, Simon Peter had a mother-in-law, and that evening after sunset, after Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, the people brought all their sick and demon-possessed family and friends to Jesus. In fact, the whole town was gathered at the door.
Think of that, the whole town was gathered at the door. I guess this was the first century way of doing a flash mob. They didn’t communicate by Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat. They had to do it the old-fashioned way, person to person. But it worked. The whole town wanted to see Jesus.
The next morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where He prayed. That’s important, no matter how pressing His calendar, no matter how many people needed Him, Jesus took time to pray. I'm convinced that He was setting an example for us. Simon and his buddies went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they said: “Everyone is looking for you!”
To me that makes sense. I don’t know how to say this without it sounding like a cliché, but I really do believe that deep down inside, everyone, everywhere are looking for Christ. They may not know His name, and they might use religious symbols and terminology that are different from what you and I would use, but they’re looking for Christ all the same.
Everybody needs something to believe in, something to guide them. Otherwise they wake up one day and realize that life makes no sense. I’ve also determined that they think to themselves, that, like the other animals, they’re simply born, live out our time on earth, and then they die. There’s no meaning to love, no meaning to sorrow, no meaning to life itself.
Of course, that’s the thinking of quite a few people today. It’s like a man I heard about recently who filled his car with gas at a self-service gas station. After he’d paid and driven away, he realized that he had left the gas cap on top of his car. He stopped and looked and, sure enough, it was gone. He thought about it and realized that other people must have done the same thing, and that it was worth going back to look by the side of the road since, even if he couldn’t find his own gas cap, he might be able to find another one that fit. Sure enough, after searching, he found a gas cap. He carefully wiped it off and slipped it into place with a click.
As he climbed back into the car he told his wife, I may have lost my gas cap, but I found another one that fits and it’s even a better cap than the one I had. Then he added, THIS ONE LOCKS.
That’s great, until the next time he needs gas. The point is this: to many people think the secret to life is locked up and there’s no key. To them, nothing makes sense. Life is simply one thing after another and then you die!
In order to have a satisfying life we must have meaning in our lives. His disciples came to Jesus and said, everyone is looking for you! I believe that’s true whether we recognize it or not. Everyone is looking for Christ. He is the way, and the truth, and the life. After His disciples told Christ that everyone was looking for Him, He said, let’s go somewhere else, to the nearby villages, so I can preach there also. That’s why I have come.
Why did Christ come into our world? He came to share His message of love and forgiveness with the world. He came to give us the key to a very big secret. It’s the good news that life does have meaning. We’re not alone in this world with no key to its meaning.
He’s the light that shines in the darkness. He’s the hope that never fails. He’s the life that never ends. He’s the key to the secret of life. When we join our life with His, we find everything we need for a complete life.
Christ doesn’t give us an easy-to-follow multi-step plan to a more satisfying life. No, He gives us so much more. He gives us Himself. That’s why there’s meaning to life. He’s one who will never leave us no matter what the situation. And He calls us to share the same kind of love and compassion to everyone we meet. Don’t go through life believing that the secret to life is locked up somewhere with no key available for the us. There’s a key. His name is Jesus.
The second significant event in this passage says: And in the morning, a great while before day, Jesus, arose and went out to a lonely place, and there He prayed.
Most of the time when we read this passage and other passages such as Mark 7:24, or even Mark 6:31, where it says Jesus went to a lonely place to pray, we think of a quiet, peaceful time. A time to collect His thoughts and recharge His batteries.
However, I would like to suggest that this was far from the point. It was not a peaceful time, but a time a soul searching, a time of turmoil, a time of decision. It was a time for Jesus to focus in on the mission His Father called Him to do.
We have a miss understanding of this time, because the word which is translated "desolate place" is ἔρημον which is better translated as wilderness. The ἔρημον is a holy place, alive with the presence of God. The ἔρημον is a dangerous place, the atmosphere charged with the possibility of betrayal. The temptation to follow the will of the crowd instead of the will of the Father was present in the ἔρημον."
Peter told him, everyone is looking for you. Peter was saying: come back to Capernaum be the wonder worker, be their private priest. Jesus was in the ἔρημον, the lonely place, with two paths leading out. One path led back to Capernaum and a life of comfortable popularity. The other path led on to Golgotha and a costly sacrifice. One path led to a place where all were crying, Hosanna. The other path led to a place where all would cry, Crucify Him. The desolate place was no place of peaceful reflection; it was a place of momentous decision, the Kingdom of Self-interest versus the Kingdom of God. Facing the tempter again, Jesus decided, let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.
This struggle is seen throughout scripture. The struggle to please the crowd verses the struggle of what Jesus mission was all about. That same struggle we saw in the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. After Jesus had feed the 5000, He went up into the hills, to a lonely place to pray, because He knew the crowds would come after Him the next day and beg for more bread. He could’ve given them the bread that fills the stomach, but instead He gave them the "living bread" the bread of His wisdom, and the bread of His flesh as it says in John 6.
Over and over again in scripture, the lonely place was a place of struggle, a place of decision for Jesus. To do the will of the people, or to do the will of the Father. In our lonely places the same thing happens. We decide if we want not to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ allowing Him to bring His grace into our lives as He sees fit.
Or if we want to be in control, if we want to be in charge, if we want to be the boss. In our prayer life, it’s a constant struggle to allow Jesus to be in control and not us. Prayer is a time to surrender our will to the will of Christ. Prayer is the time to strengthen our relationship with Christ as we surrender our will and allow Him to bring a measure of His grace as He sees fit into our troubled lives.
A closing example speaks to all the lonely places, the broken places in each of our lives where we cry as Job did, about the unfairness of this world and we allow Christ to come and touch us with the Kingdom of God. This rebellious character has profoundly experienced the lonely place of human suffering and chose not to bear this in silence. He loudly cries and angrily says to God that his fate is unjust, indeed, that God is unjust. It would seem that he had fallen to the lowest place he could think of, but he confesses:
’I want to blaspheme, and I can’t quite manage it. I go up against [God], I shake my fist, I’m filled with rage, but it’s still a way of telling Him that he’s there, that denial, in and of itself is a submitting to His majesty. The shouting becomes a prayer in spite of myself.
Sometimes, when the lonely place is a place of great disturbance, it evokes our rage against God, clarifies how seriously we take God’s power and presence and, thereby, brings us ever closer to God. The shout becomes a prayer in spite of me.