By Pastor Glenn Pease
Jean Paul Sartre in No Exit has three characters in the play who are one by one ushered into hell. To their surprise it is not a place of punishment. There are no demons torturing and inflicting pain. They are left in a moderate size room with a few articles. There are no widows or mirrors, but only each other to look at. They are, at first, quite pleased with their good fortune. But then it dawned on them, none of them had eyelids. They were condemned to live forever with their eyes open, and under the gaze of one another. "It is a life without a break." This endless lack of privacy was their hell.
The lack of privacy was part of the cost that Jesus paid to be the Messiah. He descended into hell in His death, but He also did so in great measure when He left heaven and descended to live the life of a man in a fallen world. Aristotle said, "The ideal man is his own best friend, and takes delight in privacy." Jesus was the ideal man and He loved privacy. But He had to fight for it, and live an unusual life style to get it. The only two ways that Jesus succeeded in getting some privacy was by getting up early and going off by Himself to pray, or by getting in a boat and going out into the sea of Galilee. But then He was still with His disciples, and so Jesus had a hard time being alone.
In Mark 6:32 Jesus departed into a desert place privately. He thought by going to a remote place He could be alone, but the people ran around the lake on foot, and when Jesus landed the crowd was there already waiting for Him. That is when He had compassion and fed the 5000. Imagine trying to get away from it all and ending up hosting 5000 for supper, and all of them unexpected guests!
In our study of Mark 3 we discover we are in Mark's crowd chapter. He uses two words to refer to the vast crowds around Jesus 5 times in this chapter. He no where again refers to the crowds so often, even though Jesus is in the midst of crowds all through this Gospel. The crowd here, however, is very specifically described as no where else. It is unique and impressive. The popularity of Jesus had spread across the land. Jesus was no local preacher, but had national and even international fame. The crowd from Galilee in the North was joined by many from Judea in the South. They were coming from Maine to Florida is what we would say using our geography. From one end of the country to the other people were flocking to Jesus. Mark adds, from Jerusalem, to show that though the leaders of Israel were out to kill Jesus, the people saw Jesus as a friend. Sometimes people know more than their leaders.
Mark adds that people came from Idumea and the region across the Jordan. It is surprising to note that this is the only place in the New Testament where Idumea is used. It is the land of the sons of Esau; the land of the Edomites, the traditional enemies of Israel. Yet the fame of Jesus had spread across the Jordan to those people, and they came over the Jordan to expand the massive crowd that followed Jesus. Finally, Mark records that the people also came from Tyre and Sidon, the two great cities of the Phonecians. The crowds were a mixed multitude of both Jews and Gentiles.
There was no discrimination in the ministry of Jesus. He healed people of all races and nations. He was a friend to all, and He died for all. Jesus is getting a taste of what He will experience in eternity. In Rev. 7:9 we read, "..there was before me a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne." John goes on to say they were shouting, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." Jesus will be popular forever among people's of all the world. We see it already in His life on earth in this crowd chapter of Mark. Jesus was the most popular person of His day, and He will be the most popular person for all eternity. There was a price to pay for this popularity, however, and that price was loss of privacy.
This is one of the costs involved in the motto, we will follow the Lord to win the lost at any cost. We tend to think in terms of time and money, but these are even easier to give up than to give up privacy. But this is what it takes to break down the walls between the Christian and the world in order to reach the world. Billy Graham learned this, and it is a major price he had to pay to be used of God. "Billy is often asked, "Does being a public figure bother you?" "Yes," replies the evangelist. "One of the most difficult things I have had to face was the loss of personal privacy. I did not seek the publicity, and how it all came about I truthfully don't know. I'd much rather be the minister of a small parish somewhere, but Ruth I and decided long ago that as it was this way, we'd go ahead with it. Years before I discovered that if your wife is behind what you are doing, the path becomes much smoother."
Graham often comes home after a long time away in crusades, and even though he lives in the mountains, tourists find him and he has to visit with them. But over the years he has led scores of individuals to Christ in his own study. In every eight hour period there are fifty long distance phone calls to his home. This, of course, is beyond human endurance, and so most of them are diverted to assistants. He has to eat alone because if he tries to eat in public he is recognized, and people want to express their gratitude and get his autograph. It may sound glamorous, and we all think we would love such attention, but the fact is, it gets old very fast, and is a burden rather than a blessing. When Graham tried to visit Disneyland he had to give up in half an hour, and when he took his son to the New York World's Fair they only got to three pavilions before the friendly mob made it impossible to go on.
The price Graham has paid to win the lost is his privacy, and that is no small price. Every once in awhile he says to his associate T. W. Wilson, "Wouldn't it be a tremendous relief just to have a little pastorate and preach three sermons on Sunday and visit a few people, and see lots of our families and play plenty of golf?" Envy is a two way street, and many who envy Graham are also envied by him. It is a heavy price to pay when you have to sacrifice your privacy to serve Christ. But that is the price Jesus paid to save us. Once He began His public ministry Jesus was seldom able to find privacy. His life was so hectic that His family seriously felt He was having mental problems from the stress of it. Verse 20 says the crowd so filled the house where He was that He and His disciples were not even able to eat. What a reverse of the feeding of the 5000. There He fed the crowd, and here the crowd is keeping them from being fed. Jesus did not feed every crowd, and here was a case where He was so busy He didn't even feed Himself.
The next verse tells us His family was fed up with the whole business of His perpetual business with the crowds. They came to restrain Him, for they said He was out of His mind. If your son or brother worked from morning to night day after day dealing with masses of people pushing and shouting, and trying to get near Him, and He was so dedicated He didn't even eat right, or get His rest, what would you think? I have a hunch most of us would say, "Son, you must be out of your mind." They didn't know that He only had a short time to live, and He just as well use His strength in service rather than conserve it for no good reason. Jesus was burning the candle at both ends, for there was no end to the human needs about Him, and He knew He was going to die in the prime of life. But for those who loved Him, He was running a 24 hour three ring circus, and they felt He was losing it and cracking up.
The fact is, Jesus did experience a lot of stress, and when His disciples were able to stay awake and keep going, He needed to sleep. He would send them into town for supplies, and He would stay by the well and rest. Jesus pushed Himself to the limit, but He did not demand the same from His disciples. He would rise and pray long before their day began, and He did not scold them for not rising with Him. His plan was not that they all die at 33, but live on to spread the Gospel to all the world. Jesus did not expect any of His followers to burn out in 3 years, so there are some things that Jesus did that are not for our example. If you know you are going to die in the prime of life, then it would be legitimate to be fanatical and burn the candle at both ends, but Jesus does not demand that of us.
Jesus is our example in the area of privacy. There are two things He did in relationship to privacy that are guidelines for all Christians. He searched for privacy, and He sacrificed privacy. This sounds paradoxical that He would both search for it and sacrifice it, but this is what the record shows. It is part of the whole battle for balance in the ideal life, and Jesus was able to keep that balance by both finding and giving up His privacy. We want to look at each side of this struggle, and start with-
I. HIS SEARCH FOR PRIVACY.
Jesus taught His disciples to enter into their closets to pray, and to not be like the hypocrites who love to pray in public and make it a matter of public display. God hears the private prayers of believers and rewards them. Public prayer is a high risk practice, for it leaves you open to pride. We never see Jesus praying in public except to give thanks for food, and for the raising of Lazarus. He only prayed very brief sentence prayers, and not once did He give a lengthy prayer in public. The only long prayer we have of Jesus is the one in John 17, which was given in the upper room with only His disciples present. This is a comforting fact for many Christians, for they do not feel comfortable in public prayer. There is no New Testament goal of trying to get Christians to learn to pray in public. The goal of Jesus is that we learn to pray privately, and this is what He practiced Himself.
I remember A. W. Tozer saying that he felt it was very unbiblical and wrong for any person to tell another person to lead us in public prayer. Prayer is a matter between an individual and God, and is not to be assigned at the whim of someone else. I have done it, as have many of you, but the point is, there is nothing Biblical about it. It is just a popular custom. Jesus always sought to be alone, and to pray in private. We do not even see Him calling for small group prayer with His disciples. Alfred North Whitehead said, "Religion is solitariness and if you are never solitary you are never religious." In other words, it is in privacy that you validate your religious faith. The person who only has a public faith has no faith at all, for it is mere show. If a person is only publicly religious, he is a hypocrite, for his religion has only the intent to please men and not God. The religious faith of such a person is nothing more than an act, and has nothing to do with a relationship to God. A relationship to God by its very nature has to be private.
Their is the social side to religious faith as well, but it is much ado about nothing if there is no private foundation. If you do not love God, loving your neighbor is of no value religiously, even though it has humanistic value. All that Jesus did for man grew out of his private and personal relationship to God, and commitment to do the Father's will. Mark tells us in vv. 13-19 of how Jesus went up into the hills to get away from the crowd to appoint his 12 Apostles. Dr. Luke tells us he spent the night in private prayer before he did this. The disciples came to Jesus privately on a number of occasions to ask him to clarify his teaching in his parables. Jesus had to spend a lot of time with his 12 disciples in private and closed sessions to keep them ahead of the masses of disciples who followed him.
The example of his life teaches us this: You have to develop your private relationship to God to be all you can be spiritually. There is no substitute for this private devotion. Now we do not know precisely what Jesus did in his private time because they were private and not open to even the Gospel writers. He prayed is about all we know. But the very secrecy and silence on this issue gives a loud message. Private devotion is to be private. It is personal and individual and does not have to conform to anyone else's practice or conviction. That which blesses many leaves me cold. I have never once been able to enjoy devotions by reading a chapter out of a devotional book. I gave that up in college and developed my own method for devotions. I share this because I know many feel guilty because they cannot seem to develop a devotional time that corresponds with what they have read and been told. My advice is to find a way to learn of God, and relate to Him that fits your personality and schedule. It is a private matter and will not be meaningful until it fits who you are. Now, let's look at the other side-
II. THE SACRIFICE OF HIS PRIVACY.
Jesus refused to become a religious loner who forsakes society to go off into the desert to pray and meditate, and to spend His life relating to God alone. The monk finds no example in our Lord. He was a social Savior, and He gave up a major portion of His private life to seek, save, and to serve the lost. He sometimes had to give up more than He wanted to, or even intended to. Once He became a public figure He often lost His choice, just as we have seen with Billy Graham. Jesus tried to get away and could not. He sought for privacy and did not find it.
In Gethsemane Jesus was involved with the intimate spiritual struggle of His life with His heavenly Father, and He wanted His disciples to watch and stand guard over His privacy. He was greatly disappointed that they fell asleep, and could not watch with Him even one hour to assure He would not be interrupted. Jesus gave up more even than what was necessary because of the impossibility of regulating human choices. The crowds, and even His disciples, did not always cooperate, and He could not leave them free and still control their choices. The result was that Jesus sacrificed His privacy, not only willingly, but also by the necessity of circumstances beyond His control. By so doing Jesus has fully identified with the stress filled life of the popular public figure. He sacrificed His private life for the sake of a public cause greater than His privacy.
It is not only Billy Graham that needs to see this, but all Christian workers who feel the pressure and wonder if the sacrifice of so much of their private life is worth it to serve the cause of Christ. Ledia Munsell shares the experience of five girls who were on their first vacation together two years after their graduation. They were all busy workers with people, and this is how their conversation developed.
"I dearly love my work," said one of them,
"But sometimes it seems to me I would give
anything to get away from people awhile. I
never have a quiet moment to myself. There
is always someone who wants to see me. Do
the rest of you ever feel that way?"
"Oh, yes," said one; and "Yes," sighed another,
"I feel as though I would like to go off to a desert
island where I would not see a soul." Then Mary
Vaine spoke. "I know just how you feel. I have
felt the same way. But when it seems to me I
can not stand it any longer I think of how the
throngs followed Jesus. He never turned any
away. He must have been very weary at times,
But He was never impatient with the crowd. That
thought has helped me so often." There was
silence for a moment, then the first speaker
said, "I had not thought of that, but it does
When you are giving up time in Christian service that you could be giving to achieve personal and family goals, remember, that is the price Jesus paid. He does not expect us to burn out in three years like He did, but He does expect that all who follow Him be willing to make some sacrifice of privacy. Nobody can do it all, and that is why Jesus chose the 12. They could not do it all either. Nobody and no group can meet the needs that are endless, but all can do a share of sacrificing to serve the cause of Christ.
It is a busy world, and life is full of more than any of us can do. We have to sacrifice every day out of necessity, just because we are not ten people. But the issue we need to focus on in the light of our Lord's example is this: How much do we search for privacy, and how much of the world do we give up to develop our relationship with God? How much do we sacrifice our privacy to give our life to the public causes of the kingdom of God? To love God with all our heart is to seek privacy. To love our neighbor as ourselves is to sacrifice privacy. I challenge you to evaluate your Christian life in the light of this truth, for to truly be a disciple of Christ involves the seeking and sacrificing of your privacy.