As Jesus labored to accomplish the Father’s will, he didn’t do so randomly. He was strategic; as we’ve noted before, he understood the objective clearly, and he kept himself focused on it.
But he wasn’t just slashing his way wildly through the jungle of God’s will. He thought not only about what the objective was, but about how best to get there. He laid out tactics, among which was calculating the best ways to achieve the goal and prioritizing his time and resources to best effect.
We see evidence of that throughout his life.
- To begin with, even as a boy he calculated that “being about my Father’s business” was more important than getting back home to Nazareth right after the feast. It’s puzzling to us that he didn’t let his parents know what he was up to, but the Scripture doesn’t tell us everything, and we know that whatever he did was right. But regardless, his priorities were clear.
- He submitted himself to John’s “baptism of repentance”—a baptism he didn’t need—because it was “necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”
- He accepted the Spirit’s driving him into the wilderness for great difficulty—have you ever fasted for forty days and nights?—only to face the far greater difficulty of temptation by Satan when he was at his very weakest. Why was this important? Oddly, we’re not told, in so many words. He’s going to defeat Satan at the cross (Heb 2.14); why this bizarre confrontation? We can only speculate. Perhaps he benefits from the exercise of being tempted (Heb 5.8); perhaps he wants to provide an example for us; perhaps there are scores of other reasons. It’s a priority, that’s for sure.
- He prioritizes people. When he’s on the way to heal a dying son, and when the mob is pressing on him from every side, he feels—he notices—the believing touch of a frail woman on the hem of his robe (Mt 9.20). He’s paying attention in the midst of the chaos. He’s on mission.
- And speaking of chaos, after days of constant ministry, listening, touching, healing all who come, he prioritizes rest for himself and his weary disciples. ”Come on, men,” he says, “let’s get out of here and get some rest. Let’s get something to eat” (Mk 6.31). He has three years to save the world, without mass media or telecommunication technologies, and he takes time off, because rest matters. It speeds you toward accomplishing the objective.
- Sometimes he gets away not for rest, but for a different kind of labor. Sometimes he goes off by himself to pray—and some of those times, he prays all night (Lk 6.12). This is certainly not rest. But it’s just as important.
- And as the climax of the mission approaches, he
identifies and prioritizes the most important things even more aggressively.
- He sets his face like flint to go to Jerusalem (Lk 9.51).
- He takes a moment during the Passover meal to send his pseudo-disciple off on his deadly mission: “What you do, do quickly” (Jn 13.27). “Let’s roll,” indeed.
- He pauses to wash the disciples’ feet (Jn 13), leaving them a lesson and life pattern that they will never forget.
- He summons them from a safe room to the Garden, where he knows danger waits (Mt 26.46).
- On the way he pours out his heart to them regarding the things they’ll need when he leaves them—though he knows that they’ll understand none of this anytime soon (Jn 14-16).
- When Peter does Peter, Jesus rebukes and redirects his godless efforts, and even pauses, during his arrest, to reattach the servant’s ear (Lk 22.51).
- Throughout a star-chamber trial, conducted in direct violation of multiple Jewish and Roman laws, Jesus never objects, never defends himself, and in fact speaks only rarely and only in ways that incite the prosecution (Mt 26.64).
- On the way to the cross, he speaks wisdom to random weeping women (Lk 23.28).
- On the cross, he exercises the duties of the firstborn toward his mother (Jn 19.26).
This is a man not only focused on a difficult and costly mission, but constantly prioritizing every decision, every action, in light of that mission.
Sometimes I think like that. But much more often, I don’t.
That needs to change.