But he always came back.
In his early thirties, he retired from carpentry, moved from Nazareth to Capernaum, and started “preaching the gospel.” Mark talks about it. He stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He invited four men, two sets of brothers, to follow him. They did. Right back into Capernaum. The next day they went to synagogue, because they were Jewish. Jesus was invited to teach. He did, very well. He drove a demon out of a man. And then the group of five went to Peter’s house. Peter’s mother-in-law was sick, so Jesus held her hand. And then helped her get up, fever gone, to serve supper.
It is not surprising that a crowd showed up outside Peter’s house. In a small town, news travels fast. Particularly news about a recent arrival doing amazing things. And after supper, in the dimness of twilight, Jesus walked through the crowd in front of the house, and healed people. Whatever they had.
It is the perfect beginning of a viral word-of-mouth marketing campaign. When you heal people and teach well, everyone talks about it.
And the following morning, when it was time to get back to the healing ministry, Jesus was gone. Just when the organization was starting to get attention, Jesus went away. He prayed. When people found him, he said that the Gospel, not the healing, was the important part.
What’s intriguing is that this didn’t just happen once. Luke talks about a time when Jesus healed a man and then told him not to tell anyone. Luke says,
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Even as his popularity grew, Jesus went away. And prayed.
And then came back.
(The picture is from Mount Arabel, in Israel. In the distance is Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee. And the stone is from the mount, brought back by friends who know I need to remember that Jesus went away. Maybe even to this mountain. Maybe even to look at the road from Nazareth, the cities where he taught, the lake where he walked. And to talk with his Dad about all of this.)