Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our early Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina.
These selected verses from Matthew 14 hi-light Jesus’ need to stay connected and be refreshed by his Father.
Matthew 14: 13-14; 22-23 (MSG)
13-14 When Jesus got the news [of John the Baptist’s death], he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully—someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.
22-23 As soon as the meal [the feeding of the 5,000] was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.
In these passages we see two reasons for Jesus to “get away” and be alone with God.
The first passage (v. 13-14) takes place after Jesus has been told by his disciples the horrific story of the beheading of John the Baptist. John was not only a fellow rabbi, but also Jesus’ cousin. And he was the one who had baptized Jesus, thus anointing him as the Son of God. Jesus must have been devastated! The friend who had come before him and prepared the people for his message had been brutally killed at an early age. Perhaps Jesus also saw this as a sign of what was to come in his own life. Jesus took his sadness, his anger, and his pain to an out-of-the-way way place to share it with his Father.
The second passage (v. 22-23) tells us that Jesus dismissed the crowds of people after fulfilling their need for physical food as well as spiritual food. Then he fled up the mountain to be alone and to pray.
Jesus needed to be refreshed, restored, renewed, and perhaps re-oriented. He chose solitude and communion with the Source of all life, the One who said that Jesus was his Son, in whom he was well pleased. We must do the same.
- In The Good and Beautiful Life, James Bryan Smith recommends the soul training exercise of living your day devotionally to help us stay connected with and refreshed by God. Here is the pattern he suggests for doing that. You might want to experiment with implementing this during this week.
♥ Get a good night’s sleep – a good day starts the night before
♥ Turn your thoughts to God as soon as you wake up
♥ Spend quiet time in the morning, reading or listening
♥ Set aside time during the day to read the Bible or devotional books
♥ End your day in a time of self-examination and prayer. What actions or thoughts were Christ-like and what were not?
♥ Count your blessings before you go to sleep
2. The word retreat is reminiscent of the war-time strategy of drawing back from the fig to re-group. All of our days are busy and active; some may seem like war zones. This week look ahead to the days most likely to cause stress and exhaustion. Plan ahead to retreat – even if it is just 30 minutes here and there – and restore your physical, emotion and spiritual strength.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“For me, the image of building and tending a fire is a perfect illustration of what it has been like to maintain a vibrant life with God. In days gone by the first duty of the father or mother of the house was to get up early and start the fire in the hearth. Throughout the day someone would stoke the fire, adding new logs to keep it burning strong. That is exactly how my own devotional life works. In the morning I try to set aside time, a half hour at least, for private prayer. This is how I start the fire each day . . . But this is not the end for me. Just like the fire in the fireplace, I need to stoke the fire throughout the day” (James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful Life).
image of fire by mtlfd.org