When Jesus Left at Daybreak

Jesus healed a leper

I sometimes wonder: How zealous am I supposed to be in turning to the Lord for help? Am I supposed to implore the aid of the Almighty at every turn? Or did He create me with a certain amount of autonomy to take care of myself? Are there some matters I’m just supposed to accept, without asking for intervention? Is it okay to ask halfheartedly, accepting the outcome if my prayers aren’t answered in the way I wanted?

This flood of thoughts came to mind as I considered today’s readings. I spent a lot of time looking in the cracks of the selection from the Gospel of Luke, which tells of some of the miraculous healing performed by Jesus:

“At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.” (Luke 4:40)

That certainly makes sense. But shortly thereafter, the story tells about what happened the next day:

“At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Luke 4:42-43)

Unpacking that, we see that – in the first line – everyone had their illnesses cured. In the second line, though, Jesus was trying to slip away to go elsewhere, and the people were trying to stop him! We understand that Jesus had to go to other towns, but what can we read into his unwillingness to stay? Maybe you have your own ideas (which I’d welcome you to share), but here’s where my contemplation took me.

Maybe the Son of Man had better places to be. There are no instances in the Gospels where Jesus used his full divinity to satisfy every whim of those who encountered him. Maybe – being fully human – he was still limited in only being in one place at one time, and he knew that God’s plan required him to visit many places.

Maybe the people there didn’t “really” need him. We know from Luke 4:40 that everyone who had someone suffering from illness had their loved ones’ ailments cured. Perhaps Christ knew that – their most pressing needs resolved – it was a good time to depart and do the Father’s work elsewhere.

Maybe Jesus could sense their non-medical needs, but felt it did the Father’s will to have them remain unmet. Remember that Christ is not primarily concerned with comforts of this world; he is most concerned with the Kingdom of God and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to hear the good news and prepare their hearts and minds for the coming Kingdom. Perhaps Jesus knows that many of us (and I would include myself) would have a harder time focusing on the life hereafter if I were experiencing an idyllic existence in this world.

Maybe Christ left their needs unmet because he expects us to do it. Jesus notes elsewhere how what we do for the least of each other we do for him (Matthew 25:40). Perhaps, at a certain point, we’re expected to take care of our own needs – or, more correctly, take care of each others’ needs – as a way of doing the will of God here on Earth.  The Bible makes clear that love is an active thing (see, for example, the discussion of the unified nature of faith and works, from Chapter 2 of the Letter of James). By loving each other in a Christlike way, those early Christians were feeding, healing, and comforting each other, as Jesus did.

Maybe we just can’t know. While Christ was fully human, he was also God; our mortal minds cannot fathom why certain things happen or fail to happen in accordance with God’s plan. This was the entire point of the Book of Job, where terrible calamities befall the righteous Job for no reason he can discern.

Speaking solely for myself, I’ve long been easier with prayers of gratitude for the many blessings I have, rather than prayers for what I wished to have happen. When I do pray for the latter, it’s usually for others and with a vague, “I hope so-and-so feels better,” or “I hope such-and-such can find peace.” Outside of Simon’s mother-in-law (who “got up immediately and waited on them”), there’s no mention of gratitude from those healed in today’s Luke selection . . . just a mildly tense scene of the crowds looking to keep Jesus from leaving – wanting something else, something more. Perhaps I fear that if I could directly encounter Christ and have my earthly wishes granted, I would also want more – be drawn more closely to this fleeting world, away from the real goal of this life.

Or perhaps I’m doing it wrong; Christ teaches us time and time again that whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.  (Matthew 21:22, John 14:13-14, Mark 11:24). Perhaps I use my fear of being part of the crowd – trying to keep Jesus from leaving so he can do the Father’s will elsewhere – to keep my heart hard enough to even ask. I honestly don’t know.

But while I still try to work on this issue, I continue to love both my fellow Christians and those who’ve yet to come to know Christ.  And, I do what I can to do for those in need, as I hope I would have served Christ himself were I fortunate enough to haven see him during his time here on Earth.

About the Author

Despite being a professional writer and editor for over 15 years, Steven Marsh is more-or-less winging it when it comes to writing about matters of faith. Steven entered the church in 2005, and since then he's been involved with various ministries, including Pre-Cana marriage prep for engaged couples, religious education for kindergarteners, and Stephen Ministry's one-on-one caregiving. Steven lives in Indiana with his wife and son. Despite having read the entirety of the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he's still surprised at elements he rediscovers or reflects upon in new ways. The more Steven learns about the faith, the less he feels he knows; he's keen to emphasize that any mistakes are his own.

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  1. Thanks for this wonderful Reflection. Like the today’s meditation I read from Word Among Us (wau.org), I will not lose hope but continually pray and be open to His Holy Will

  2. Great reflection Steve … and hey, welcome home (:) I do wonder though (this to older Catholics) why it is only people like Steve (converts or reverts to the catholic Church) who have read the whole Bible and the CCC. I just wonder!

  3. Thank you for a great reflection. I think of your last line often and feel that I see Christ Himself often and in many ways here on earth. But in as many ways and opportunities as I see Him, there are probably more where I miss Him or ignore Him in others. Time is a gift from God, how we choose to use it is our gift back to Him. He knew where His time was best utilized and knew when and where to be, up to and including the hour of His death.

  4. Steven,
    I love your essay and answers! There are many to choose from; or all could be true too, we’ll likely never know. What IS important is that we reflect and give thought and then keep moving forward, praying and trying to help others each and every day. Wasn’t that REALLY what Jesus was doing, and was saying by trying to leave the town? So many needed him, and had he wanted he could have stayed in one town for months probably. As you said, He knew what we can’t know as humans, and in the end we trust that He was going ‘about doing His Father’s business.’ There is SO much within the Gospels, and yet as you pointed out there is so much MORE there left unsaid that can be found too!! For me, it’s all just wonderful and the more I read the less I know but the more blessed I feel!! Thank you for the thoughts and words for today!!

  5. I really like the questions you pose! The rest of us humans would pose those questions eventually but you allowed us to read it along with you. Thank you very much!

  6. Hey Steven,

    Well, the way look at your reflection is in two parts.

    The first is a question of when. In your case, you’re asking when should I pray. I suppose you could look at it in many ways. When should you leave a party? When should you go out on your own and leave the family? As an marathon runner, when should you push the pace or hold back? Each of us would have different answers to those questions. But I would say, each of us would instinctively know when to do it. I don’t recall reading that we will be punished or praised for the amount of praying the we do. Faith is a different story.

    The second is a question of why. Jesus states why he must go, He “…must proclaim the good news…”. Seems like a pretty good reason to me. As for why the people want Him to stay, well, why wouldn’t they? A great teacher and He heals the sick, what’s not to like about Him? Human nature being what it is, we tend to try to hold on to something that is valuable. What could be more valuable?


  7. I think we should seek healing. “By his stripes ye were healed.” Jesus brought healing at the cross and in a sense he can do no more than he has done…we must receive it by faith. We thank God for the promises he has given us already and then they are manifested. “Believe ye receive it and ye shall have it.” As for him leaving, he sent out 70 to heal. So there was a chance for others to receive. How many do not receive because they don’t have “the one” they want pray for them. Humble ourselves and receive it however God sends it.

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