But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. Luke 5:16 (NASB)
We’re winding down our study of the wilderness in Scripture with this next-to-last post. We’ve seen a lot happens in the wilderness. Wandering. It is also a place of transition. The restoration of relationships can happen in the wilderness. Sometimes it is an opportunity for instruction. Last week it was a place of temptation. But if we look closely at the gospels, we’ll see that Jesus regularly spent time in the wilderness. Why? Communion. Not the bread and wine kind, but the sharing intimate fellowship kind.
Jesus is God, and He enjoyed a unity with the Father beyond our comprehension. To redeem us, Christ had to set aside His glory and take on humanity. It is no wonder that He needed, longed for, enjoyed His times of prayer and communion with the Father. Those times left Him focused and energized for the work before Him. Throughout the gospel of John especially, Jesus attests that He is on assignment from the Father and He only does as instructed. (See John 5:36 for example.)
Do we, like Jesus, need and long for those times of intimate fellowship with the Father? We certainly need them. God help us long for them. No doubt, those times would help us regain perspective that God is sovereign and His kingdom work is our highest priority and privilege.
Communing with the Father wasn’t the only reason Jesus headed for the desolate, wilderness places. Look at these verses from Mark.
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they went away in the boat by themselves to a remote place, Mark 6:30-32
Jesus was watching out for His guys. He knew they had just finished an emotionally and spiritually draining mission. Even though they had great results to report and were excited and energized, He knew they needed to decompress and recharge.
We would be wise to see the wisdom in Christ’s actions. He wanted them to take some time away with Him after the great success. Why is this wise? We would keep going as long as things are going well, wouldn’t we? Build on the momentum. Seize the opportunity. Jesus has a bigger picture in mind. He knows He is preparing them to be servant leaders after He returns to the Father. His disciples cannot shepherd His church without close
The other consideration is that this break helps inoculate the disciples against the idea that the success is all their doing. He reminds them in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.”
Pride is sneaky and regular communion with Jesus, after success as well as failure, can help keep it in check.
One more quick point– the crowds weren’t far behind the disciples during this break. They trekked around the Sea of Galilee, and once they caught up with Jesus and the disciples, it was back to work. Don’t put off those opportunities to get away with Jesus and tell Him everything.
(After teaching the crowds and it got toward dinnertime, the disciples suggested Jesus send them home. Jesus instead challenged the disciples to feed them. You can read more about the feeding of the 5,000 in each of the gospels.)
Next week, we’ll finish our time in the wilderness.