But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. – Mark 1:45
A man identified only as Pastor Edward spoke at the National Press Club news conference, sponsored by Open Doors USA. He spoke about the necessity of extreme caution he and other believers need to exercise in his church in Damascus, Syria. He told about opening their church to displaced Muslim Sunni people in their small village. The next day the church and his house were targeted by artillery fire. Two people were killed. In Somalia no Christian churches are allowed to exist. Small groups of believers meet together in secret for fear of their lives.
I cannot imagine living as a believer under such oppression and intimidation. In a letter to his parents, Martin Luther spoke of being convinced by friends not to go to his father’s sick bed for fear of those who would do him in. He had become such a threat to the Roman Catholic Church and others whose power and position were threatened by the gospel message he proclaimed, that many people wanted to kill him. He was forced into hiding for a period of time, only later returning to public life.
Jesus’ actions, recorded here in Mark’s gospel, indicate a time when he could not go out in public as well. But the reason was a bit different. Jesus’ ultimate goal was the redemption of sinners through his death on the cross. When the time came, he faced it bravely. But the time had not yet come. His death at this point in his public ministry would not allow the message he proclaimed to be fully formed. His disciples were not yet gathered, sent, taught, and prepared for the work to which God would call them. The time was not yet.
Perhaps we can remember this when we face challenges that are not quickly resolved, or when difficulties do not magically evaporate before our eyes, or at the moment our prayers end. In the case of the leprous man his healing was immediate. But these happenings more often punctuate a ministry and manifestation of Jesus’ mission that was a long walk of obedience in the same direction – toward God’s rule and reign in people’s hearts and minds.
Some moments of life are of stellar importance and, like the now-healed man, we shout from the mountaintops of God’s grace in our lives. Other times we simply move forward in the day-to-day duties and experiences. In any case, our calling is to follow Jesus wherever he leads, and rejoice in his mercy, grace, faithfulness, love, and salvation.