Morning dawns in Capernaum. It’s the Sabbath day. Devout Jews get ready for synagogue in their homes. The boys brush their hair while the girls put on their best clothing. The fathers trim their whiskers and the mothers prepare the afternoon meal. One mother, unable to rise, lies sick in bed with a fever. She won’t make it to the synagogue this morning, but she hopes her son-in-law will be able to fill her in on what she misses. As long as he stops fishing in time to make it there, that is.
Peter and Andrew, walk with extra pep in their step as they follow the Rabbi Jesus. They spent the night together under the stars just outside of Capernaum. The day before, this rabbi came walking along the sea shore while they were fishing. He called them to follow him. While they weren’t sure what would happen to their boat and nets if they just abandoned them, they immediately left everything and followed him since they had heard the news. People were saying that when he was baptized by John in the Jordan a voice spoke from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” That was enough for them to believe that this was the Messiah, the Deliverer their people were waiting for.
They entered the synagogue together and all became quiet as Jesus stood to teach. He taught with such authority and power! The people had never seen a man with such intensity and humility about him. Everyone feared his presence. He was just so holy. Suddenly, a man began yelling,
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
He sounded afraid and yet all the people were terrified of him. Except Jesus. He walked towards him and firmly rebuked him saying,
“Be silent, and come out of him!”
The man violently fell to the ground and shook about, still screaming. With one last yell, the man’s body stopped convulsing and lay still.
What just happened? Peter asked himself. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He had never seen anything like this.
“I think a demon just came out of him.” Andrew said in shock.
“That was insane! The other rabbis are usually too afraid to deal with those who are possessed. But not him. He is fearless,” Peter replied.
After helping the man up from the floor and saying some things to him, Jesus was ready to leave. His disciples followed him back to Peter and Andrew’s house. Still feeling achy and hot, Peter’s mother-in-law called to them from the bedroom.
“Is that you Peter?”
“Yeah mom. It’s me.” Peter said as he walked into the bedroom. “Oh! You look horrible!” Peter said as he noticed her flushed cheeks and sweaty forehead. “Let me get the Rabbi and see if he can maybe pray for you or something.”
“Rabbi!” Peter called out of the room.
“Yes,” Jesus answered.
“My mother-in-law is in here with a bad fever. Do you think you can pray for her?” Peter asked. Without saying anything, Jesus walked into the bedroom and took the woman’s hand in his. He gently lifted her hand and immediately, the redness in her cheeks was gone. She sat up and said,
“Wow, I feel better!”
“Really!” Peter exclaimed. “Rabbi, you healed her!”
While Peter’s mother-in-law began preparing a meal for them, Peter ran out of the house to go tell those still at the synagogue what he had just seen.
As soon as the sun dipped beneath the horizon that evening, people began coming from all sides to Peter’s house to see Jesus. Word had spread quickly. Not only had this rabbi cast a demon out of a man in the synagogue, but now he had healed a woman by simply touching her hand. A group of ten turned to a hundred and soon, there were too many people to count, all wanting Jesus’s attention. Peter and Andrew were trying to tell people to get in line and to stay out of the house, but it was to no avail. There were just too many desperate people.
Jesus wasn’t upset or bothered at all. He was kindly responding to each person in front of him. Many demons came convulsing out of people that night, and many sicknesses were cured with a gentle touch or a simple word. It was well into the night by the time the crowd diminished. Jesus, Peter, and Andrew went inside to try and get some sleep. Exhausted, Jesus passed out on a cushion in the front room next to them.
Peter and Andrew didn’t wake up before dawn to go fishing like usual since they had such a late night. The daylight streaming into the room finally woke Andrew. He rubbed his eyes and glanced over at Jesus’s cushion. But he wasn’t there.
“Hey Peter,” Andrew said as he nudged his brother awake. “The Rabbi is gone!”
“What?” Peter asked, squinting through tired eyes.
“I said Jesus is gone! He left!”
“Maybe he had to go use the bathroom,” Peter mumbled still half asleep.
“Yeah, I’ll go check.”
Not finding him outside the house, Andrew told Peter and they got dressed and went out to look for him. An hour later, they were starting to sweat and still hadn’t found him. None of their neighbors had seen him. There were already more sick people knocking on their door looking for Jesus. They wanted to be healed.
“We can’t find him,” Peter told them. The search party grew as more people joined in the hunt. Not finding him in the town, Peter and Andrew decided to hike up the nearest hill and look for him there.
Finally, they spotted him. He was kneeling in the shade of a large tree.
“We’ve been looking everywhere for you!” they said. “People are already lining up again waiting for you.”
“Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out,” Jesus responded.
Amazed that their rabbi had gotten very little sleep and was already ready to walk to the next town Peter and Andrew asked,
“Aren’t you tired after so little sleep? How come you woke up so early this morning?”
“My will is to do the will of him who sent me.”
This is a partly fictional retelling of a true story found in Mark 1:16-38.
Jesus prays while others are sleeping (Mark 1:35; Mark 14:39-40; Luke 6:12), and he sleeps while others are praying (Matthew 8:24-25). As his disciples, we should learn from him that sometimes we should pray while others slumber, and sometimes we should sleep while others toil (Psalm 127:1-2). Both peaceful sleep and tired prayer can be for the glory of God. May God’s Spirit help us choose when to pray and when to sleep, and may he give us the spiritual strength we need to stay awake and pray when that is our choice.