“Jesus Kept His Priorities Straight as Our Savior”

(Mark 1:35-39 – Epiphany 5 – February 4, 2018)

Mark 1:35-39 – Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.  And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him.  When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”  But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”  And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons.

Dear fellow Redeemed in Jesus Christ,

We all know the saying, “First things first!”  Why do you suppose that saying came into use?  Because people do not always put first things first.  From time to time, we all need a reminder to keep our priorities straight, to put important things before unnecessary things.

Have you ever had an important task ahead of you, like writing a report for school or work, doing a fix-it project around the house, or getting taxes done… but somehow that easy chair kept grabbing you and setting you in front of the TV, or that favorite book kept taking you by the hand and forcing you to read for a while, or the phone was calling your name with people to chat with, until the day was nearly gone?  How easily we are hijacked by what feels urgent at the moment, and what is important goes by the wayside.  When we do not keep our priorities straight, we may lose something valuable – time, money, good grades, peace of mind, etc.

In our text though, we see that “Jesus Kept His Priorities Straight as Our Savior”: 1) Of First Importance He Looked Up to God His Father, 2) Then He Spent His Day Doing His Father’s Will.  Jesus kept His priorities straight for our good, as we will see.

1) Of First Importance He Looked Up to God His Father.

First thing in the morning, what did Jesus do?  Our text tells us: Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”  Jesus showed what was most important to Him, by His actions.  The first thing in the morning, He communicated with His heavenly Father.

No doubt, at this time Jesus could have felt exhausted – physically and mentally.  The day before had been quite full.  He had taught the people of Capernaum in their synagogue.  He had treated those with afflictions – casting out demons, healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever.  By evening, His work had only begun.  After sunset, the whole town had gathered at the door of the house where He was staying.  They had brought to Him all the sick and the demon possessed.  Jesus had healed and healed, His work ending sometime in the darkness of night.

Yet, here in the darkness of early morning, when most people would still like to be sleeping, we find Jesus rising to begin His day with prayer.  Away from all distractions, He was alone with His Father.  Jesus put first things first.

Let us understand that Jesus prayed as a matter of necessity.  Though He was the Son of God, He was also truly human.  As a man, He subjected Himself to common weakness.  He was needy.  He relied on His Father’s guidance and provision for all things, just as you and I do.

So, before breaking bread, we find Jesus praying and giving thanks to His Father in heaven.  Then, too, He needed to pray for His Father’s daily help and strength, because He was tempted in every way, just as we are, though He never sinned.  Every day, Jesus walked a mission on earth that the devil opposed with all his might; for Jesus had come to free us from our bondage to the devil.  The path Jesus walked as our Savior was not easy.  So He prayed continually.

As Hebrews 5:7-8 says of Jesus: “In the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  Yes, all along the path to the cross, Jesus looked up to His heavenly Father, as of first importance.  It was out of perfect obedience and submission, yes; but it was also out of necessity, that He rose in the morning and prayed first thing.

Therefore, how much more do we need to pray!  We rely on our heavenly Father for every need – food, health, strength, and direction in life.  We, too, are tempted by the devil, the sinful world around us, and our own sinful nature.  How easily we are lulled by constant temptation, becoming drowsy and apathetic toward our spiritual life.  Therefore Jesus says to us what He said to His disciples in Matthew 26:41: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

In the morning, before we begin our tasks, do we rise for prayer with our Savior?  Through the day, do we look to the Lord in every need, as of first importance?  Or do we get caught up in that common trap of rushing headlong to fight the day’s battles, as if it all counted on our own wisdom and strength?

Long ago, the Israelites were about to fight an important battle.  Under the leadership of Joshua, they had crossed the Jordan River into Canaan.  They were about to conquer the land God had promised to give them.  As they approached the first enemy city of Jericho, Joshua looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a sword in his hand.  Joshua asked: “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” “No,” the man replied, “but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”  And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said: “What does my Lord say to His servant?”  Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua: “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.”  And Joshua did so (Joshua 5:13-15).  You see, the Lord was showing him where his priorities were.  If the Lord had not gone before, to fight for them, the Israelites could not have taken the Promised Land.

As we face each day’s battles, do we begin by acknowledging the Lord’s command?  How can we expect to do what is right if we do not look to Him, as of first importance, and ask Him to lead us?  Why should we begin our day like a meaningless chasing after the wind, stumbling along under our own strength?  Let us look up each day, and see that the Commander of the army of the LORD” stands before us.  He is here to help us.  Let us fall face down in worship before Him and say with Joshua: “What does my Lord say to His servant?” 

Communication goes two ways.  Jesus spoke with His Father in prayer; and then He listened to His Father’s response.  Let us too pray without ceasing, and then listen to His Word to take it to heart.  With the writer of the psalms, let us pray: My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up” (Psalm 5:3); “I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word” (Psalm 119:147).

2) Then He Spent His Day Doing His Father’s Will.

First things first!  Jesus looked up to God His Father in prayer.  Then, with His Father’s Word alive in His heart, He spent the day doing His Father’s will.

When Jesus’ disciples found where He was praying, they were caught up in their own urgent thoughts about what must be done that day.  They exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for You.”  What they meant was, “Jesus, you must come at once and continue where you left off yesterday with these people!  You can’t let them down in their expectations!”  How easily we are drawn, mindlessly, into what seems urgent each day, and perhaps what other people expect of us; before even asking, “What is the Lord’s will?  What is truly important in my life today, according to His Word?”

But Jesus had communicated with His heavenly Father, and His priorities were straight.  He would go where His Father sent Him.  He would spend His day doing His Father’s will, not what all the busy voices in the world around Him might dictate.  He replied: “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”

So we are told that He traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.  For it was His Father’s will that He go among those who had not yet heard the good news of the kingdom of God.  In every place where Jesus went, in every word and deed, He powerfully showed Himself to be the Savior, so that the people might receive salvation through faith in Him.

Day by day, Jesus kept His priorities straight: first looking up to His Father for strength and guidance, and then proceeding to do His Father’s will.  This was His daily pattern.  He followed it perfectly, right up to the day He gave His life on the cross, to pay for our sins and save us from eternal death.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, even as His soul was exceedingly sorrowful to the point of death, again He prayed in Matthew 26:39: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  And again, He proceeded to do His Father’s will, going to the cross to save us.

Jesus kept His priorities straight, not just as an example to us, but first and foremost to earn our salvation.  By obeying His Father’s will, day by day, step-by-step, all the way to Golgotha, He redeemed us from all our sins.  Because of His obedience, even unto death on the cross, we are forgiven all of the ways we have failed to put first things first in our lives.  Our heavenly Father counts the perfect life of Jesus to us.  He looks at us through the obedience of His Son, and regards us as if we have always called on Him in prayer, listened to His Word, and done His will.  Through faith in Jesus, we are counted as having always kept our priorities straight in life.

Now in Christ, we begin each day with a clean record before God, and we know what is most important in life.  We count all things in this world a loss compared to the excellence of knowing Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and being found in Him – not having a righteousness of our own, but that righteousness which is through faith in Him (Philippians 3:8-9).

Now we can begin each day with our Savior in peace.  Morning by morning, day by day, we can lift our eyes above all the urgency and noise of the world around us, and cast our cares upon Him, knowing that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  We can meditate on His Word of truth in Scripture, and listen to His words of eternal life.  It is not in any worldly conquests, but here in our Savior’s presence, that we find true victory and peace for our souls.

Then, we can go about our day in confidence, in His blessing and peace.  We can share His saving truth, His forgiveness and love, with those around us, wherever He would have us go.  Hearts at peace in their Savior find new ways to put Him first and glorify Him each day.   With the commander of the Lord’s army – Jesus our Savior – going before us, we do have first things first, and we can say in truth each day: “It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:32).

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  Amen.