Knowing Jesus: Jesus put spiritual things first


*Note: This is the 14th in a series, entitled “Knowing Jesus.” For 52 (or more) weeks, we’ll look at an aspect of Jesus and how we can find application to our own lives.

Typically, people in the world — and I include many Christians in this statement — have the same reaction when they see someone that’s considered more excited about serving God than is considered “normal.”

They think they’re nuts.

Based on scripture, I suspect that’s how a lot of people saw Jesus most of the time. Granted, they lived in a time when traveling prophets and teachers weren’t quite as far out of the mainstream, but all the same, a man whose sole focus in life was trying to serve God still stood out. And Jesus’ zeal for service to the Father was unrivaled.

Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” — Mark 3:20-21

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.— John 4:31-35

It’s interesting to read so many of the articles that invariably appear as Easter weekend approaches, and in many cases, those articles are designed to craft a vision of Jesus that supports whatever vision of the Christ fits the writer’s viewpoint. Sometimes it’s Jesus the rebel, or Jesus the social justice warrior, or Jesus the glutton/drunkard. (Only when twisting the scriptures would anyone use the accusations of Jesus’ worst enemies as an accurate depiction of Jesus’ character.)

The point that seems to be lost on so many is that Jesus’ zeal was focused on his mission of teaching the Gospel to those who needed to hear it. He reached out to the broken, he pushed the mediocre followers to do better, he challenged the entrenched theologians to re-examine the law, and in everything he did, he looked for ways to glorify the Father.

When his disciples were wondering where the next meal would come from, Jesus was thinking about the next soul he could influence toward God.

Jesus demanded spiritual priorities

It’s no wonder that Jesus’ most animated moments seemed to occur when others’ service to God fell short — when their priorities shifted toward their own worldly interests and away from the task of seeking a deeper relationship with God. Jesus didn’t protest all the social and economic injustices of the day. Instead, he turned over the money-changer tables in the temple because they had made it “a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17), a “house of merchandise” (John 2:16). He railed against the scribes and Pharisees — religious leaders of the day — because their hypocritical actions were not only keeping them from entering the kingdom, but hindering those around them as well (Matthew 23:13).

For Jesus, everything seemed to come down to a choice. Who are you going to serve: God, or yourself?

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” — Luke 9:57-62

Spiritual priorities: worrying about many things

Jesus had a focus on doing the Father’s will, and he tried continuously to instill that priority in his followers. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus is shown teaching in the home of Mary and Martha in Galilee, and while Mary sat and listened, Martha attempted to play the host to what was undoubtedly a house full of people. She is described as “distracted with much serving,” and the reality is that she probably wasn’t acting any differently than most people would with a home full of people in the midst of what must have been a monumental discussion in her eyes.

There was nothing wrong with being a good host, but Jesus told her, “you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”

Do we get so sidetracked with the daily tasks and responsibilities that we start seeing them as our primary duty? If we’re serving a role in the Sunday worship, are we so absorbed in getting everything right that we forget that we’re worshiping God? Do we think to ourselves that we ought to be doing more for the Lord, if only we could get all our other chores and errands out of the way first? We would never see them as more important; we just see them as more pressing.

Jesus’ implicit point to Martha was that she wasn’t going to have many more chances to listen to the Master teach. I suspect at the end of her life, her regret might have been that she didn’t spend more time at the feet of Jesus, and less time worrying about things that no longer seemed that important in looking back on her life.

As we try to follow Jesus, we’re called to go where he goes, whenever the need calls. We’re called to actively seek him, and do works worthy of the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 2:10). That calling will require us to choose every day: what is our one “necessary thing?”

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