As a child, did you ever have your intentions questioned by your parents? Did you spontaneously proclaim your love and appreciation for them only to have them look at you suspiciously and respond, “What do you want?” Despite your genuine intentions (that time), they misunderstood your purpose.
Jesus knew the purpose of his ministry, but the people around him often misunderstood it. Both the people of Capernaum and Jesus’ own disciples got caught up in Jesus’ rising fame and miraculous healings and were unable to see Jesus’ purpose behind it all (Mark 1:21-34).
But before we judge the disciples for missing the point, let us pause to consider our own lives. How often does our purpose of sharing Christ’s love through the gospel get lost in our longings and distractions?
Jesus’ miracles were not to be an end in and of themselves. Jesus performed miracles partially because of his genuine love for the individual who received the healing, but his miracles also served as a sign of God’s kingdom coming and driving back the power of Satan and death. Thus, miracles assisted Jesus in his purpose to preach good news to the nations that he is the Son of God and he came to bring salvation to humankind (Mark 1:35-38).
Jesus’ healings point to the fact that he is the One to heal our broken relationship with God—he is our Messiah, come to free us from our sin and heal us of our broken condition.
Jesus’ purpose was clear
If we stop on the road and stare at a road sign that says, “One mile to Chicago this way,” but never continue the journey, we will miss the greater beauty and joy of experiencing Chicago itself.
It is not bad to get excited about a road sign and what it means as long as we remember the point of the road sign is to direct us toward something much greater. Although we may long for and relish Jesus’ miracles, we must always long for Jesus and his real purpose more.
Jesus did not leave the world wondering what his purpose on earth was. He declared with clarity why he came—so we might know and follow him. Therefore, he gathered his disciples to move on—out of Capernaum, away from the fame and the crowds that sought after only his miracles—in order that he might preach elsewhere (Mark 1:35-38).
The Son of God came to preach the gospel to the world.
Time with the Father was essential to his purpose
It is worth noting that Jesus seemed to view retreating alone to be with the Father in prayer as essential. Jesus may have been tempted to enjoy his fame and continue to perform miracles for the crowds, but Jesus desired unity with the Father even more, so he prayed and obeyed.
Although it was not easy to leave behind the popularity and face the coming suffering of the cross, Jesus came to us from God for just this, and so in this purpose he remained.
As believers in Christ, we have access to the same abiding faithful love relationship with the Father that Jesus had. We are invited into the same race, and like Jesus, we can finish well by not giving into temptation and not yielding to the pressures of the world.
Part of finishing well requires deep dependence on God through abiding connection with Him in prayer.
Jesus didn’t get caught up in worldly passions and pleasures, in temptations to fame and the idolatry of works. He kept his heart, soul, mind, and strength fixed on his Father and his heavenly purpose. Even as fully God, Jesus chose to fulfill his purpose on earth in a manner fully dependent on Father God.
By communing with God through prayer, Jesus stayed focused on the mission set before him.
Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange Team contributed to this article.