The New Testament paints a picture of a very busy Jesus. In more than one passage in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is swamped by people coming to be healed by him. It’s fascinating that Mark’s Gospel, the Gospel that the Anglican Church is mainly reading from for our Sunday readings this year, describes the whole city being gathered around the door of Simon Peter’s house (eg. Mark 1: 29–39 and Mark 2: 1–12). Peter’s house was in Capernaum, which was a fishing village in Galilee. The archaeological remains of village are still there. In the 19th Century a Roman Catholic Franciscan order of monks bought the land, imported a whole lot of gum trees from Australia (because they grow well in harsh climates) and built a bit of a shrine around what they think was the site of Peter’s house. It’s become a bit of an oasis and a place of rest.
But in chapter one of Mark’s Gospel, the house is anything but a place of rest. Jesus is swamped by people demanding his powers of healing. The reason they come at sundown is because that day was a Sabbath (a Saturday of course in the Jewish tradition) so it was a holy day of rest. But once the sun went down, the Sabbath was over, and so the people were free to resume their normal activities. They all rush to find Jesus and demand to be healed.
What’s then fascinating is that early the next morning, before dawn, Jesus gets up and goes off to find a nice quiet place to pray. “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”
This simple verse in the Bible is the most important one in this section of Mark’s Gospel. The quiet time that Jesus had was more important than anything else. This was what gave him the strength to do all the activities that he undertook. His meditation time, his time alone with God, was critical.
The Church’s tradition is that Mark wrote down his Gospel based on Peter’s recollection of events. So Mark’s Gospel is a special one for those of us here at St Peter’s College, because it’s based on Peter’s memory of the events, which he witnessed. You can just imagine Peter in his family home, with hordes of people outside demanding to be healed. Finally, when they all go, Peter and the others collapse into bed. The next day they get up and there are more people outside, demanding to see Jesus and be healed of their ailments; and where is Jesus? Not to be found! So they all go out looking for him, eventually find him, and say, “Everyone is searching for you.” But Jesus doesn’t go back to Peter’s house to heal more people, because he has a message which is much greater: it’s not just about him healing people – he has a message about God’s love, which everyone needs to hear.
The message about God’s love would spread across the world eventually. This message, that all people were equally loved by God, and that we needed to love our neighbours in response to God’s love, was the most important and critical activity Jesus would undertake. But he would only have the energy to do that, if he had his quiet time: his time with God.
Last time I wrote about noticing the beauty around you. That’s really important. You will be more likely to do that, if you also have some quiet time. Quiet time, prayer time, meditation time, whatever you like to call it, will give you the strength to get through the busy times and do what God is calling you to do. It’s the foundation of everything else.
The Reverend Dr Theo McCall, School Chaplain