Did you ever wonder why Jesus spent so much time doing so many innocuous things?
You would imagine that, for such an important task and an incredibly urgent one at that, Jesus wouldn’t take his time. His whole ministry, Resurrection and all, took place only in a period of three years. Much of his life looked like ours: normal, rout, and as busy as a carpenter’s life. He did not go on grand adventures or, at least our knowledge, experience a wistful array of teenage rebellions. He did the work in front of him, and enjoyed human life like a human being.
This comes in contrast to the Christian’s constant emphasis on missions. The Great Comission tells us to go out and baptize disciples from all nation. The language remain unerringly precise: do not make converts, make disciples. Jesus says, “Teach them to observe all that I commanded you.” Discipleship does not happen overnight; that sort of commitment, knowledge, and adherence to an ideology takes time. Jesus shows us this in his ministry when he takes the disciples around Judea, slowly teaching them exactly what He wanted them to learn so that they could retain and commit this into the written Word. Jesus took His time.
In our busy “modern” world, we constantly talk of how busy we are. We need life hacks, quite frankly, to deal with the upcoming mess of information beamed right into your brain. Heck, we can barely categorize it, let alone comprehend it. There’s too much to know, and I will most likely die before I understand any of it as a whole. Add to this our sense of Christian obligation, and things get ugly. Life’s too busy, yet we must also dedicate time to God, Jesus, and our religious commitments. How do I fit all of these tasks into one life? It’s no wonder I procrastinate more than I should. I want to do things, but then I don’t because there’s too much stuff to do. It’s a vicious cycle.
The individual moments sometimes trump the overall picture of life, and that turns problematic very fast. Jesus did not have this particular problem. He spent time working, but also resting. Lots of resting, and far more enjoyment than you would expect from the savior of the world. In Mark 6, Jesus sends the disciples (including the Twelve) out to work:
7 And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; 8 and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— 9 but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” 10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust [j]off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.
Jesus commands them in direct simplicity with imperative commands. So they do that. Yet, we see later that this isn’t all they do. Jesus does not run them ragged, as you’d suspect for such an important mission, but He tells them to do something strange to our hustle and bustle:
30 The apostles *gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He *said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
Right after this, Jesus feeds the five thousand, gives thanks to the bread and fish as if it were Thanksgiving, and then goes about His business of performing miracles. Still, what in the blue blazes just happened in the verses beforehand? Jesus Christ, Son of God, told the disciples to take off into a secluded place to have some leisure time to eat and relax? The mind boggles! The Scripture messes with our head here; Jesus acts, surprisingly, like a person who needs time alone, both to relax and to pray (subsequent verses, at least, say this). We cannot just stress and do work. Like most things, moderation equals the best policy in approach.
Not that this isn’t hard! I should know that this remains extraordinarily difficult; my previous time in academia taught me how to delay doing things that I should do all too well. I wonder whether procrastination is a new thing or not? I imagine with all the games people have played through the generations, I’m not alone in playing games in deference to work. God cannot work with haggard individuals who work themselves to death; the Kingdom needs healthy workers, and healthy workers can make a difference.
In Philippians, Paul tell his audience that he faced many circumstances and challenges, found himself both rich and poor, within plenty and destitution, yet he still could rejoice in every place.
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
And this was a guy who seemingly ran around the entire Mediterranean, preaching the Gospel and planting churches everywhere. If he can find time to relax and see the good in everything even under high duress, why not us? Relaxation requires shutting off your brain and just thanking God for what you’ve got. After all, He rested on the Sabbath to observe His creation. He saw it was good; how much more do we need time to see the big picture and observe all that we can thank God for having? Paul does not have want; he is content. He does not need life hacks; he does what he knows he can do, and nothing more.
Lessons from antiquity? Maybe. But Thanksgiving is coming up, and I’ve got much for which to thank God. I bet you do too. And giving thanks seems to me to be the greatest leisure time of all.