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. (Luke 5:15-16)
For the past few weeks, we have been studying when and why Jesus said “no,” while drawing out applications for our own lives today. In this final entry in this series, we’re looking at the most common thing Jesus said “no” to during his time on earth: the relentless human demands for more.
All throughout the New Testament, we see people clamoring for more of Jesus: more of his healing, more of his miracles, more of his teaching, and most of all, more of his time. But over and over again, Jesus said “no,” choosing instead to withdraw to “lonely places” to pray and to rest. Today’s passage is just one of dozens of nearly identical moments in the gospels in which Jesus turned his back on the demands for more. When you view these verses in their entirety, you see that Jesus had a staggering amount of margin in his work and very little sense of urgency. This insight becomes even more compelling when you consider the fact that Jesus knew in his early thirties that his death was imminent.
So, given his limited time on earth, why wasn’t Jesus in more of a hurry? Why was he so consistent in saying “no” to demands on his time and energy? I think there are three reasons. First, Jesus needed communion with the Father. Many times, when the gospel writers tell us Jesus went away to a solitary place, it also tells us that he went away to pray. Secondly, being both fully God and fully man, Jesus needed rest (see Mark 6:31-32). But I think there’s a third reason why Jesus said “no” so frequently. I think Jesus wanted to model what healthy work looks like for us, whose lives look so very different from the One we say we follow.
Unlike Jesus, our lives have such little margin today. We are addicted to the idea of more. We have fallen for one of the enemy’s greatest lies: that more activity, more roles, more commitments, and more responsibility equals more impact. Here, Jesus offers a better way. In order to do our most exceptional work and live our most engaged lives, we need to get in the habit of creating boundaries around our time, saying “no” to the relentless demands that we do more faster. We need to more closely align our lives with the example of Jesus, whose model encourages us to say “no” far more often for our own good, for the glory of God, and for the good of others.