“Simon and his companions searched for him. When they found him, they said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ He replied, ‘Let us go elsewhere, into the surrounding villages, so that I can preach there too. For that is what I came out here to do.’ So he went into all of Galilee preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” —Mark 1:36–39
Just as wealth can often be harder to handle than poverty, succumbing to popularity and notoriety over anonymity can be difficult. Extremes are never easy to live out properly in any life—whatever those extremes may be. Balance is key in the life of a believer! We would do well when we are successful to remind ourselves of Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
“For who concedes you any superiority? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as though you did not?” —1 Corinthians 4:7
The Old Testament tells us: “Two things I have asked from you; do not refuse me before I die: Remove falsehood and lies far from me; do not give me poverty or riches, feed me with my allotted portion of bread, lest I become satisfied and act deceptively and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or lest I become poor and steal and demean the name of my God.” —Proverbs 30:7–9
Jesus was riding the wave of popularity—people were seeking Him from every direction and instead of riding upon men’s shoulders, He spends the night in prayer. What an example! I don’t know about you, but when things are sweet in my life, my prayer life often starts to falter. But Jesus knows the risk of popular acclaim. Prayer is for all times—necessary to equip us when life is easy as well as difficult. It is not hard to remember to pray when times are hard! Our Lord was well aware it was not yet time for His earthly kingdom to be established. He eventually had a cross to bear. The temptation to shirk the pain would have certainly been appealing.
Look at the disciples in our verses for today. Crowds are gathering, people are seeking Jesus, and the disciples are enjoying every minute of it. All the while the Lord Jesus is praying for strength and protection and the ability to stand firm in the will of God. Remember, Jesus said He came to do His Father’s will. Yet Satan bites at the heels of all and particularly at the Lord Jesus.
I am reminded of his foiled temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world with all their splendor and notoriety and glitz if Jesus would simply bow down and worship him. A seemingly easy path to power and glory—and Jesus nipped it right in the bud:
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go away, Satan! For it is written: “You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”’” —Matthew 4:8–10
It was and is God’s design for Jesus Christ to rule the world, but that design involved the cross. Jesus knew this, yet the temptation to take the easy rather than the hard way remained. The writer of Hebrews tells us Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet He was without sin. As fully God, He never gave in to sin, yet as a man He could feel the hard reality of temptation and is therefore able to sympathize with us:
“For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.” —Hebrews 4:15
Jesus had a lot of work left to do. He came to preach Good News to all people, and present popularity was not going to prevent it. His mission was His Father’s mission and He remained focused on that mission. He was committed to carrying out the plan which would include going to the cross.
“Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work.” —John 4:34
“We must perform the deeds of the one who sent me as long as it is daytime. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” —John 9:4–5
While I haven’t had much firsthand experience with notoriety, fame, or acclaim, I know it is true that how one handles popularity is just as important as how one handles anonymity. Whatever God allows in the life of a believer, He gives each one of us the power to bring Him glory. It works wondrously when done in His way!
“Let God do with me whatever He will.” —William Mountford