Have you ever read something that Jesus does in scripture and think to yourself “Why in the world did he do that”? Even as a pastor who has served in ministry for over 20 years I still find myself asking that same question from time to time. There is a passage of scripture tucked between two very well known stories of Jesus found in chapter six of the Gospel of Mark that piqued my inquisitive nature. It comes right before Jesus walks on the water, and right after he feeds the 5,000. “Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away.” (Mark 6:45)
Five thousand people sit and hear Jesus message all day long, and then he performs a miracle to feed them and He just sends them away. Most of us would be gathering info and making sure we have a way of reaching out and contacting them so they can be a part of what we are doing. From a business perspective its 5,000 leads that he is missing out on.
But in studying this passage its very likely that something is going on with the crowds that we don’t understand in a different culture about 2,000 years later. The Expositors Bible Commentary gives us some insight. “The hurried departure of the disciples suggests that there was danger of a messianic uprising as a result of the miracle.” (EBC, Vol. 8, p. 675) The danger here in this moment is that there would’ve been an expectation of Jesus to do something, that for the time being, was outside of the purpose that the Father had determined. There was a time for the masses to recognize Jesus as Messiah, but this was not the time for that.
There may be all types of spiritual lessons one can learn from this short verse, but I find some encouragement in a very simple and practical principal that I’m sure everyone of us can adopt in our lives. Jesus knew it was necessary to stay focused on His priorities. In following Jesus example, I believe there are a few ways that we can focus on the priorities in our life.
Identifying our priorities has to be the first step. What is most important to you? Is it your family, or your faith, maybe your career or your health? It is important to take time to establish what our ultimate goals really are. As a Christian, I certainly believe the things that should really be of the highest concern in our lives should line up with what the Bible teaches. But the first step is knowing our priorities.
Then we have to learn to say “no.” There are times that other people’s expectation of us might not line up with our priorities. There may be times that we have to be willing to disappoint other people because we refuse to push aside our priorities.
Next we must become great at managing one of our greatest gifts: Time. Every one is given a 24 hour day. Will you invest it in what is most important, or will you spend it in ways that you never see a return?
Last, we have to be prepared to make sacrifices. Focusing on priorities will require us to make sacrifices. Sometimes we might have to sacrifice good things, so we can keep our eyes on what is best.
In a world full of distractions may you follow the lead of Jesus and be reminded to put first things first. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33)
The writer is the youth pastor at Sidney First Church of the Nazarene.