Luke reminds us that when Jesus was human, he was not available 24/7. In these verses, Jesus pursues a pattern that he repeats in other parts of Scripture: At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place to pray (v. 42; 11:1). The crowds search for him, but when they find him, he refuses to let them set his agenda. Jesus is not easily manipulated, and Jesus says no.
Those of us who instinctively respond to every text, email, or Facebook alert when it pings on our phones try to imagine the immense pressure Jesus must have felt from the crowd’s constant demands. We fear disappointing others if we don’t immediately respond to every request we receive. Worse than that, we fear that not being constantly available will make us irrelevant and left out.
What Jesus understands is that his time apart from the crowd equips him to care for those who need him. Jesus’ willingness to say a periodic no is necessary for him to say a vital yes to the work he is committed to do. Every no that we hear from Jesus in the Gospels is a deeper yes to the voice within. What attracts others to Jesus is not his ability to say what the masses want to hear, but to speak what he could only hear when he was alone with God in quiet places.
As much as we may long to escape a noisy crowd pushing us in all directions, we may also fear leaving them. It helps to remember that when we withdraw to renew our spirit, like Jesus does, we are never truly alone.
What good news might you hear if you withdrew to the deserted places of your life?
God who calls out to Israel—and to Jesus—in the wilderness, give me the courage to say no to the crowd and yes to the wilds within. Amen.