So Much to Do, So Little Time
Text: Mark 1:29-39
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
How many of you are list makers? I’m a list maker. Check out my desk on any given day and you’ll find a bunch of different lists. A list of things that must be done that day. A list of things that need to be done by the end of the week. A list of longer-term projects. And then there’s the list of books that I’d like to read at some point down the road. Sadly, that final list still has titles that were added to it years ago and just haven’t risen to the top of the list yet. That’s the trouble with lists, if the item on it doesn’t rise to a level of importance that it gets done, it can very easily stay right there, on the list, forever. Sometimes there will be that one thing that remains when everything else has been checked off, and then what do you do with it? Crumple up the piece of paper and add the unfinished item to the next list, I guess.
I’d love to hear what types of things are on your lists. Which do you get done and which ones just keep getting added to the next list? For me it’s about prioritizing. Determining which things are absolutely essential to be completed today, or this week, or this year. Using these lists can be a great way to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks, but it can also be extremely frustrating when the end of the day comes and there’s more list left than there is time. I think most of us would agree that we all have so much to do, and so little time. We schedule ourselves so tightly that there’s often no room for the things that pop up and get in the way of our best laid plans. I have to imagine that Jesus could have felt a little like this as well. Only three short years of ministry and so many things to accomplish.
SO MUCH TO DO, SO LITTLE TIME.
And yet, if Jesus were a list maker, I’m sure that He accomplished on every single day exactly what He set out to do on that particular day. Even if it doesn’t always seem like it. In our Gospel reading for today, Mark makes it seem as though everything is coming at Jesus so fast and in such an unexpected way that there’s no way He could possibly do everything. But Jesus does exactly the things He needs to do in in exactly the timing they need to be done. The text begins, “And immediately [Jesus] left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.” Mark uses the word immediately to describe the activity of Jesus forty-five times in his Gospel. We’re into the next event before we’ve even finished the last one. Everything Jesus does is leading to Calvary, and every box is being checked off along the way.
Even though Jesus’ ministry lasts three years, if we were only to read Mark, it would seem that everything in Jesus’ life would all happen in a single year. We’re not even to the end of the first chapter and He’s already been baptized, tempted in the wilderness, begins His ministry, calls the disciples, casts out an unclean spirit, and now immediately He’s on to the house of Simon and Andrew. And it’s here that He wastes no time taking care of the business at hand. The difficult business, at least in earthly terms, of healing Peter’s mother-in-law who is sick with a fever. “Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her.” Imagine if your list on a daily basis included things like casting out unclean spirits or healing a woman sick with a fever. I know what I tend to do with the items on my lists. I tend to knock out the easy tasks first. I like a list with lots of things crossed out. But to do that, what we’re inclined to do is to leave the hardest things to the end. Or to simply move them to the next day, where they may or may not get done either. And then maybe eventually they get shifted to that long-term list, like those books I may or may not ever get around to reading.
But Jesus doesn’t operate like that. He takes what’s right there in front of Him and deals with it. As only He can. A woman has a fever, he’ll heal her. A man is possessed, He’ll cast out the demon. A sermon needs to be preached, He’ll preach it. Need wine for the wedding banquet, He’ll provide it. And Jesus’ willingness to do what needs to be done has a profound affect on those who receive His blessings. Peter’s mother-in-law gets right up and begins to serve them.
Jesus operates this same way for you. You need comfort in your sorrow, He’ll carry your burden. You need someone to talk to, He’s listening. You need assurance that your sins are forgiven, He speaks forgiveness over you. You need strength for the days ahead, he provides His body and His blood. As recipients of the work of Christ, we too experience the same profound affect of His graciousness. And our response should be the same as those who have been healed, relieved, forgiven, and saved. We too should get up and serve Him. That’s one item that should be on our list every single day. One thing that we should seek to accomplish daily, even knowing that once it’s crossed off today, it will appear again tomorrow. Opportunities to serve are never lacking.
In that way, our lists may look a little like Jesus’ list. He was never finished with His serving. The text goes on to tell us, “That evening at sundown, they brought to Him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.” For Jesus there seemed to be no rest from the work to be done. “The whole city was gathered at the door.” Yet, He didn’t turn them away. He didn’t say come back tomorrow and maybe I’ll have something more to give. He kept on giving. Not just on this particular day, but all the way to the cross. Until He gave His very life for the whole world.
In addition to serving our Lord by serving our neighbors, there’s something else that was on Jesus’ list that should also be on ours. Jesus sought to find the time to get away. To rest and recharge. It was the first thing on His list for the day after He healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and seemingly everyone else in the town of Capernaum. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” The sabbath rest we long for and don’t always get. The day to focus on the worship of the Lord and the recharging of this earthly body. We don’t always get it because it rarely rises to the top of our list. “I’ll get to it someday.” But then someday never comes. And before long it’s as much a dream as those books to read someday. Jesus prioritizes this rest for Himself.
Of course, it’s not long before those who need what only He can provide seek Him out and interrupt His sabbath. “And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’” And just like that, Jesus’ sabbath rest is over. Which is how it can seem for us as well. Something always rises to the surface. For Jesus, what rose to the surface was the opportunity to continue serving. So much to do, so little time. “And He said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’ And He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” May the things that rise to the surface for you, the things that make it to the top of the list, be the opportunities to serve. To share the Gospel. To welcome a friend or stranger into your home. To share a meal. A word of comfort.
Jesus had three short years to complete His list. God has given us a lifetime. However long that might be for each of us. While our lists might seem overwhelming with so much to do and so little time, if we take a step back and do the next thing in front of us, faithfully following the Lord and serving our neighbor, how many items we check off will not be the means of evaluating a day, or a week, or a life well spent. That evaluation will come in the faith we maintain in the One who completed His list to perfection. The One who healed the sick, cast out demons, gave sight to the blind, took a sabbath rest, and then checked off that final to do as He humbly and willingly went to the cross for all of us. In the midst of so much to do and so little time, prioritize that faith. It’s the only thing on the list you’ll regret putting off until tomorrow, in case tomorrow never comes. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.