Reading: Mark 1
(Context: Mark is the first Gospel written, estimated to be written between 43-67 AD, and well-known to be the earliest Gospel written. The first New Testament book to be written may be Mark or James, perhaps even 1 Corinthians. The Gospel of Mark is written in a quick-fire sort of way, and it seems like the writer (a follower of Jesus, but not one of the twelve disciple), being influenced by Peter the Apostle, is in a hurry to get to the later ministry and final stages of Jesus’ ministry. Mark is also referred to as the “servant” Gospel, as it puts forth Jesus as the humble helper of humankind.)
Jesus, the workaholic. Jesus the tireless teacher. Jesus who slept on a stone four hours a night, and traveled around the countryside, insatiably looking for who to heal. Jesus who never stopped teaching, night and day, and was woken-up at midnight every night by someone for a theological discussion (see: Nicodemus in John 3).
Is this true? Or have we, perhaps, Westernized Jesus?
When in America, or when speaking to a European, I often come across the notion that to be “busy” is to fulfill one’s purpose in life. A good parent is one who works 60 hours a week, changes all the diapers, makes dinner, cuts the lawn, builds a tree-house on Saturdays, goes to church regularly, visits the Children’s Hospital, and weekly reads for kids at the local library. Sleep? Sleep when you are dead!
I disagree. If you want to make a case for Jesus being like this, then Mark is your best weapon. That said, it is also the flimsiest. Let me give you an example.
Every time I send-out an update email, about once a month, invariably I get a few responses asking me if I am resting enough. Am I sleeping enough? At first I scoffed: Of course I do! Then I realized that my readers would never know this. An ministry update is about what you did do, not what you didn’t do. To be truly honest in my update emails, maybe I should have included the following:
This past month I was able to sleep 7 to 9 hours every night. I usually watched one or two soccer games on the weekends. In fact I usually take part of Saturday and part of Sunday off in order to rest. If the weekend is too busy, sometimes I will take some time off on Monday. A couple times a week I watch a movie and I regularly go out to eat with my friends. If I get the chance, I love to play a soccer game or basketball game during the week. For part of the morning, I usually spend time reading my Bible, then various articles on the internet, foremost being my love for the Seahawks (NFL) and End Times events (see Joel Rosenberg’s blog). I also…
All you see in a ministry update is the “busy” side. It includes the amount of times one preaches, teaches, travels, gives advice, baptizes, etc. I do all those things, and they can be heavy and challenging, as they are time consuming. I spend many hours preparing messages, planning trips, taking trips, visiting with people late into the night, etc. Yet we that doesn’t give us “the rest of the story”.
You see, I think Mark does just this. He is giving the ministry update on Jesus. He didn’t see fit, just like I don’t, to include how many hours a night Jesus slept (probably upwards of 9 hours, by the way, because there would be no sustainable lighting), what he did on Sabbaths when not at the Synagogue (remember, God put in place the Sabbath, and Jesus only broke it for emergencies, and not even every Sabbath). Mark doesn’t include Jesus visiting his likely-widowed mother to fix the furniture, or mend a broken wall. It doesn’t mention Jesus using the bathroom, or taking a bath in a stream somewhere, nor does it mention Him taking a nap under a shady tree in between towns in the hot mid-day sun. It makes me wonder if Jesus and His disciples every played any sit-down games, something similar to card or board games we enjoy today. Am I going to far?
Here is the point: Jesus was entirely human. We camp-out on His Divinity, which is proper, but it must not be to the point where we downplay His perfect humanity. The doctrine of the Incarnation declares this: Christ has two natures (Divine and human) portrayed in one single person.
Maybe it is time to rethink the meaning and purpose of rest. Maybe it is time to plan to rest. I truly believe Jesus did. Sometimes the only time to be alone was in the darkness, sitting on a nearby hill. He needed to be alone, to pray like we do, and He needed to recharge. The fact that people didn’t let Him rest is another problem, and Jesus graciously blessed them and exhausted Himself to help them. Yet, perhaps, those where the exceptions to the rule. Maybe Mark brings out the truly exceptional instances, and leaves us to guess at the rest.
Jesus truly worked, He worked hard, He worked humbly, and He worked tirelessly when needed. Yet He also rested. Let us not lie to each other that to be like Jesus is to be a workaholic. I don’t think that is accurate.
Do you agree?