“But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.”
In this scripture, Jesus has just healed a man with leprosy. The man said, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hands to the man and said, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Jesus then ordered the man to go show himself to the priest and make an offering for his cleansing. He also told the man not to tell anyone.
Apparently, the man did tell people, because the word got out and the crowds increased in size! Everyone wanted to be cured of their disease and the crowds gathered around Jesus for that purpose. And what did Jesus do? He left the crowds and withdrew to a deserted and solitary place. Why? To be with God and to pray. In order to continue his ministry with the people, he knew that he had to get away from the people. He had to be refreshed, renewed, rejuvenated. He had to commune with God by himself.
It strikes me that we are being asked to leave the “crowds.” I can’t recall another time in my life when I have been asked to abide by “social distancing.” I’m not even sure I knew that term before last week. To not be with people?! That goes against my personal intuitive nature…I love to be with people! And I am being asked to not hug and to be no closer than six feet from another human being. That hurts…to not be with other people!
But then again, this is exactly what Jesus did. He gives us the pattern…to be in a solitary, deserted place, to pray, and to commune with God. He went away from the crowds.
Find a comfortable place to sit all alone. Be aware of the stillness, of the quiet. Take deep breaths, breathing in and out. Be aware of God’s Spirit surrounding you. Spend five minutes with this awareness. Be aware of God’s Spirit within you. Spend five minutes with this awareness. Pray…God is my center and my strength. Lift up a prayer of gratitude for this time to be away from the “crowds.”
-- Reverend Dr. Pam Rowley