Each Lenten season, my church puts together a Lent Devotional. I was asked this year to contribute. I hope you enjoy!
Crowds Follow Jesus
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the evil[a]spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.
The Appointing of the Twelve Apostles
13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve—designating them apostles[b]—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
After reflecting on this passage, it struck me how important nature and being secluded were to Jesus. Even he needed time alone with his closest friends. It was so difficult for him to find refuge away from the crowds. He found retreat in nature at the lake and on the mountainside. What comes to mind when I read this passage is being on a kayak on Moosehead Lake with my family during the summer. There is something special about being out on the water away from everything. I’m able to think and reflect on life. It’s a place that I feel very close to the Lord.
Reading this passage made me also realize how important it is for us as Christians to have community and to spend time in fellowship away from the distractions of life. Having completed almost a year of college, I have realized how precious time alone with my closest friends is. I have enormous amounts of homework, long hours in the athletic training room, and share a room with someone else. I am enjoying college, but I have discovered that it is nearly impossible to have time without any distractions. I have found community through Young Life, a non-denominational Christian ministry on campus. I have a small group Bible study every Monday and I find myself looking forward to that time with my closest girl friends on campus. It’s a time I can relax and truly be myself. I can share my deepest desires, fears, and hopes for my life. We love and encourage each other and for that hour or so a week, we can all unwind and enjoy community and fellowship.
Just as Jesus the crowds were pushing in on Jesus, we need to take time to be alone when the stresses of life push around us. Take some time during this Lenten season and rest in community. Whether it be in a service Sunday morning, on a mountaintop, or in a bible study, spend time encouraging one another away from the busy-ness of life. After all, we are called to spread the gospel just as much as the original apostles were. He gave them much responsibility and power in his name. Jesus personally chose you and me, just as he did the twelve. It is so easy to be consumed with life and moving from one task to the next, but it comes to a point when we need to separate ourselves and refuel and truly depend on the strength of the Lord to get through.
Dear Lord, thank you for sending your son so that we may enjoy eternity with you. I pray that during this time of Lent we make time to enjoy community with other believers. I pray that we encourage one another and build relationships built around you, just as your relationship was with your twelve apostles. Give us the courage to live boldly for you. Amen.
You are Beautifully and Wonderfully Made,