He was resigned to continue with his miracles and healings knowing they were only temporary measures, signposts along the long and winding road to a hill outside of Jerusalem. Jesus had spent nearly thirty years of his life in the quiet of Nazareth taking many day trips through Israel, Judea, Samaria and other places, Sidon, Tyre, and the ten Roman cities East of the Jordan River. He devoted himself in his early years in wonder and discovery of his Father’s works of creation, sky, sea and landscapes, plant and animal life and man and his customs and accomplishments.
Many times I've been alone/ And many times I've cried. Anyway, you'll never know the many ways I've tried. But still they lead me back to the long and winding road.
(Paul McCartney, “Long and Winding Road”).
We can assume Jesus prayed to the Father early every morning, his one dependable consoler among the children of Abraham, Moses and David. Mark, Jesus’ young biographer, seems to have attached special meaning to Jesus prayer before daybreak after “he cured many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons” the evening before. (Mark 1:32-34). Mark thought it was important enough to say that on the next day Jesus rose “very early before dawn to pray” and then later recorded Jesus saying, “Let us go to neighboring towns that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come.” (Mark 1:35).
It was clear from all the gospels that the people were primarily drawn to Jesus for his healing powers which became his opportunities to teach the people. After Jesus ascent from this world to his Father his Apostle Peter acknowledged Jesus’ power to draw groups of people to himself when Cornelius, a Roman legionnaire, and his household invited Peter to their home and where Peter recounted Jesus’ “mighty works and healing powers.” These converts, however, were more interested in listening to what Peter had to say about Jesus’ teaching.
Peter explained that as “Jesus was anointed” to teach, his disciples were “commissioned to preach to the people and testify that he [Jesus] is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.” (cf. Acts 10). Cornelius then explained that he and his household, “are all here in the presence of God to listen to all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” And Peter replied, “To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Ibid.).
Jesus’ “mighty works and healings” happened in time past, and Cornelius and his household understood and believed in time present what Jesus had revealed through Peter, that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mark 13:31). Jesus, the Son of God, and his Father foreknew that the miraculous works of Jesus would continue through the “mighty works” of the Holy Spirit. “While Peter was still speaking these things, the holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God. (Acts 10:44-46).
The man Jesus, at the start of his journey prayed to the Father along a winding road “very early” before dawn. Jesus had returned from Jerusalem to Galilee and would later retrace his journey back to Judea, Samaria and the Roman Decapolis. Leaving Capernaum he knew that the road ahead inevitably led to a hill named Golgatha where he would lay down his life. Jesus knew how fickle the majority of his followers were, would not be surprised when they tried to make him king after he had miraculously fed five and then four thousand of them not counting women and children who followed him without food to eat. Much of this consumed his prayer that early morning before he set out for other towns. Would he be surprised in the evening of his last Thursday on this earth and his last meal before his execution that his trusted Apostles would prove to be fickle, too, and abandon him at the first sign of trouble? (Luke 22:31-32).
Every morning Jesus prayed as he had taught his disciples, “Our Father who are in heaven hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, but he knew that they would not pray in such earnest until Jesus was taken down from the cross and was buried. Jesus found just enough peace in his morning prayers with his Father to last him through every day for three years.It was no coincidence that “all who were ill or possessed by demons” were brought to Jesus the evening before he set out for other towns. “The entire town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.” (Italics mine) (Mark 1:32-35).
The unvarnished power of God’s intervention would be too much for them to handle. They went home and slept through the night when Jesus in the dead of night rose and “went to a deserted place to rest and pray.” (Ibid.) From there “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people. His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics,and paralytics, and he cured them.” (Matthew 4:23-24).
Few of us, very few of us, will have to face the inevitability of a cruel death while we energetically pursue our chosen life’s work as did Jesus. Those few who suffer such inevitable agony with grace and forbearance and with little to show for their efforts are the unknown saints among us. Whatever difficulty or suffering they bear each day they follow Jesus’ example and suffer the plights of others along with our own.
When Jesus asked his Father in the garden of Gethsemene before his arrest, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will,” he still bore up the weight of his agony without complaining as he did in each morning’s conversation with his Father. (Matthew 26:39). “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34) – Jesus taught and practiced to the very end. We were taught to pray along with Jesus everyday, “Father lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. Amen.
Spero columnist Rev. Tom Bartolomeo is a Catholic priest who serves the people of Illinois. He blogs at his website FamilyAndChild.net