The One Where Jesus Walks Away


This is the second Sunday in the season called Epiphany.

It’s the time of year where we remind ourselves
that God hasn’t left us in darkness.

The heart of the message entrusted to the church
is that God himself has come into this world
and has given us some kind of clue about this world.

That’s the heart of our message—
that’s the center of the gospel.

The beautiful, sacred mystery
behind the universe
has become one of us.

God has chosen to become a human life…
the person named of Jesus of Nazareth.

And by doing this—by actually, literally becoming a human life—
God gives us some kind of clue about who God is
and also some kind of clue about human life ought to be.

We said last week that Jesus defines two words for us:

Jesus defines the word “God” for us,
and Jesus also defines the word “human.”

We said Jesus is what it means to be God
AND Jesus is what it means to be human.

If we want to know who God is—
what the beautiful sacred mystery behind the universe is like—
then we look at Jesus, we watch Jesus.

Listen to the life of Jesus
you’ll find God’s Word made flesh—
God’s describing himself perfectly.

It’s a little ironic but also totally fitting
that God himself became the most human human being.

But then we said last week
that Jesus doesn’t just reveal God to us…
Jesus reveals true humanity to us.

What it means to be
a whole, complete
human being.

According to the wisdom of Scripture,
human beings were made to bear the image of God
to reflect who God is and what God is like into the world.

That’s the meaning of life, by the way—
to love—to reflect the love of God.

To love God and other people,
to drink the delight of Love more and more deeply,
and to become more and more a Lover like Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And the most whole, the most complete,
the most human human being to ever live
is Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus is the person
who embodied the image of God
for the world.

If we ever want to know
what it means to be alive,
what it means to be human
what the meaning of life is,
we look at Jesus.

We listen to his life,
and discover the song
we were made sing.

The life of Jesus is a spotlight
a bright, piercing, clarifying spotlight
illuminating every deepest question we could ever ask.

So for the next few weeks during Epiphany
I want us to look at the life of Jesus
with something like bifocal glasses.

You guys know bifocals, right?

(One half of the lens helps you see close up,
and the other half helps you see far away?)

That’s the way I want us to approach the life of Jesus the next few weeks.

What news does the life of Jesus give us about God?
What kind of life does the life of Jesus invite us into?

Sound like a plan?

So we’re going to be in Luke 4 and Luke 5 today…

we’ll read the text, we’ll make those two observations,
and then we’ll come to the table.

(4.31-41) Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.

Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.

(v40) At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

That just gives us some context—
Jesus is doing a lot.

Jesus shows up on the scene,
announcing the rule and reign of God—the kingdom of God.

And (because talk is cheap)
Jesus is also enacting and establishing
this kingdom through
his actions.

If you couldn’t tell,
Jesus is DOING a lot of stuff.

He’s casting out evil spirits (v35), he’s breaking fevers (v39),
he’s got mobs of people (v40) coming to him
so that he can help them, so he can heal them,
so he can banish evil from their lives.

Swarms of people are coming
and then people are texting friends—sending for friends—
“You gotta come to Capernaum, you won’t believe what this guy can do!”

Jesus is DOING a lot.
Jesus is WORKING really hard.

I mean, we blow past this, but
Jesus just pulled an all-nighter.

He’s working really hard
and getting a lot of REALLY GOOD things done.

The people walking away from that house are saying to each other:
“Man, that Jesus and his ministry are firing on all cylinders!”

There are all these obvious, pressing needs swarming him,
and he is taking care of crisis after crisis after crisis.

But then notice what Luke says in verse 42:

(4.42-44) At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

So… Jesus pulls an all-nighter
doing all kinds of incredible work,

and then he goes off to a solitary place—
to a lonely place.

And then evidently it’s time to leave.

And how do people react?

“No, Jesus—We want you to stay!
There are things you can teach us!
My friend with hearing loss will be here in a few hours!”

We’ve still got crises you can help with!
There’s all kinds of pressing stuff

“Jesus! Do these really good things!
Jesus don’t go… not yet!”

We don’t know exactly what
people are saying to Jesus in Luke 4:42,
but that’s a fair guess, right?

“Jesus, don’t go.”
“Jesus, you’ve got to stay.”
“Jesus, we know what you need to do.”

And what does Jesus do?

After retreating,
after re-centering,
after praying,
Jesus acts.

And it’s not what Capernaum expected or wanted.

Jesus says (v43):
“I can’t stay—I’ve got to keep going.

I know there are still pressing issues,
I know there are still crises that need solving,
but I’ve got keep going.”

“I’ve got to keep proclaiming God’s kingdom throughout the region”

And so Jesus disappoints a lot of people… Jesus leaves.

At some point between verse 43 and verse 44
Jesus walked away from people begging him to stay.

At some point between those two verses
Jesus turned his back to these people
and walked away.

“Wait—Jesus… where are you going?
Why are you leaving us?”

[slide #1]
But Jesus is committed to
something deeper and better than
the demands being put on him.

And central to the real human being
Jesus of Nazareth—finding this clarity for his life:

was getting alone,
was taking time to re-center,
was finding silence away from all that’s swarming him,
was learning to listen in prayer.

It was therein silence, in solitude—
away from the pressures and the demands and the crises—
that Jesus finds clearly what his life is about.

It was in stillness and prayer,

that the Son learned to listen
to the Father and the Spirit.

This becomes a pattern.

Around 15 verses (in the middle of chapter 5)
we read hear about Jesus:

(5.15-16) Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Once again we see people mobbing Jesus again—
swarms of people with demands and opinions
and you-know-what-you-should-really-be-doing-with-your-time-Jesus?

And what do we see Jesus doing?

Jesus retreats, Jesus re-centers, Jesus prays, and then Jesus acts.

And then eventually—
just over a third of the way through Luke’s gospel—
we see Jesus deciding the direction he’s going go:

In chapter 9, we read:

(9.51) As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

And then whenever we see Jesus—

(13.22) Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

(17.11) Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee…

(18.31) “We are going up to Jerusalem…”

(19.28) After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

At one point Jesus is explaining to someone

(13.33) I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

That’s what Jesus is committed to.
That’s what Jesus is aimed at.

There’s a lot of good things
that Jesus could be doing with his time,

but Jesus is committed to something better than good things.

He’s committed
to something so deeply
that he can say no to good things.

Jesus sees the best thing—
and it’s not what anyone expected.

Jesus is going to Jerusalem
to absorb creation’s curse, to atone for humanity’s sins,
to display God’s unchanging, unwavering love
for the world.

Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die
and to implode death from the inside.

Jesus is going to Jerusalem
to save the world.

But If he just kept responding to the crises popping up around him,
if he only listened the demands being put on him,
he would never have done it.

He would never have gone to the cross.

“Jesus, stay here, Jesus do this,
Jesus, spend your time and energy this way,
Jesus, we know how your life should play out.”

But no.

Jesus is committed to
something deeper and better than
the demands being put on him.

And a glance at this through our bifocal lens,
helps us make sense of a lot.

[slide #2]
The truly human life means committing to
something deeper and better than
the demands being put on us.

That’s a way
that the life of Jesus sheds light
on our lives and on this world.

Jesus gets swarmed with demands,
inundated with invitations,
confronted with crisis after crisis,

because Jesus had something
that those around him wanted.

His healing, his power, his energy.

The same is true
for any human life.

We find ourselves
swarmed with demands,
inundated with invitations,
addressed by advertising,
every day of our lives.

Practically every hour of lives.

All of us are constantly being reached out to
by people who want something from us.

Social media clamors our time.
Clever marketing wants our money.
Wonderful causes want our energy.

Friends and family and needy personalities
want our attention.

Does any one else feel this?

The places and people to which we could give
our time, our money, our energy, our attention—
the possibilities are endless.

And everyday of our lives, we can only say “yes”
to only a scarce handful of these possibilities.

Saying “yes” to chicken,
means saying “no” to beef—at least for dinner.

Saying “yes” to investing my time with this person,
means saying “no” to being with any other person—at least for today.

Saying “yes” to spending my resources this way,
means I’ve said “no” to using them any other way—at least for now.

We quietly say “no” to almost every possibility in life
as we choose what we’re going to say “yes” to.

If you’ve ever felt like there isn’t enough time, energy, resources, money—
there isn’t enough of “you” to go around
you’re absolutely right.

The life of Jesus
invites us to consider
what we’re saying “yes” to.

Jesus—the most truly human human—
was guided by something deeper and better
than every invitation or demand or suggestion or crisis
that came his way.

He spent time alone—
away from demands and noise—
listening to the quiet voice of Love,
the voice of his Father.

And after the patient, painful work of prayer,
Jesus knew what he had said “yes” to.

He had said “yes” to the cross—
“yes” to something better deeper and better—
and that it easier to say “no” to other things.

Even good things.
Even great opportunities and important work and noble causes.

I can’t do it—I’m already committed to this.
I’ve said “yes” to love this way.

Someone else can do that.

Even the most loving, the most giving, the most sacrificial life
said “no” to certain things
and disappointed certain people.

Do we know what we’ve said “yes” to?

What’s guiding us? What’s driving us?

I almost always say “no” to activities in the evenings
because I’m committed to the deeper, better “yes”
of spending time with my wife and daughter.

Giving them my time and energy and attention
is the way I’ve said “yes” to love.

That’s what guides me.
That’s what drives me.

It almost always requires
the patient work of prayer and reflection
to discover.

But that’s the truly human life—
saying “yes” to something deep and better
than the unending demands around us.

That’s spotlight for our lives—
that’s the challenge.

That’s the kind of life
we’re invited into.

But here’s the news
here’s the other lens of the bifocal
here’s the gospel.

[slide #3]
God is committed to
something deeper and better than
the demands we put on him.

The life of Jesus reveals a God
who loves and serves us in deeper, better ways
than we could ever imagine.

In fact, God’s commitment
to loving us and serving us
frequently winds up disappointing us.

He doesn’t do what we want him to.
He guides our lives a different direction than we want.

Despite our begging and pleading,
there are times when it feels like he’s turned his back on us…

But it’s his love for Capernaum
that leads Jesus to disappoint Capernaum.

He’s got a bigger picture in view
than everything that feels so pressing to them.

If God is disappointing us, it’s his love causing it.
That’s impossibly hard for many of us to believe.

It’s hard to believe Jesus is serving you
when you watch Jesus walk away.

We can’t box him in. We can’t control him.
We can’t get him to serve us always serve the way we want.

But it’s also really good news.

Because God is committed
to loving us in ways deeper and better
than we can imagine.

That frequently means not giving us we’re begging for.

That’s what God is like.

May we believe the good news revealed in Jesus—
that God himself loves us and died for us
and is absolutely committed to making us truly and forever life;

may we hear and believe his gentle whisper of love
and in reflecting his image with our lives;

and may the Spirit show us how to say “Yes” in deep, better ways,
so we can live free and generous
enslaved only to the delightful demand of God’s self-giving Love.