Early in the morning Jesus went out to a lonely place to pray. I don’t know what time that was. David Swartzendruber, my friend in Champaign, IL, told me it was about 4:30am. “That’s when I start hearing my chickens. So I think it had to have been 4:30am or even 4:15am,” Dave told me smiling.
Well, sounds reasonable to me. Here’s how the Gospel of Mark records it:
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. — Mark 1:35
We can only imagine what Jesus did from, say, 4:15-4:30am until about 6:30am. By 6:30am it would have been light and people would have been up and going. So I’m conjecturing that Jesus likely returned from his solitary place by then. We’re still talking about 2 hours of prayer, solitude and intimacy.
Now, I do have a pretty strong hunch about what Jesus heard most frequently from his father during his morning custom of Father/Son intimacy. And by the way, we don’t know when Jesus started this practice of early morning prayer and meditation. What do you think? 17 or 18 years old? Earlier than that, perhaps? Just for the sake of discussion, let’s say he was 18 years old when he started this regular pattern of heading out very early in the morning. If that’s right, that means he practiced this morning custom of going to the land of STILL for a good many years, maybe 15 years or so.
In my view, here are the words Jesus heard the most?
“You are my son. I love you so much. I am so pleased with you. I couldn’t be prouder of you.”
My reason for thinking this is based on the two times God’s voice came from heaven to earth. People around Jesus heard what sounded like thunder. Both times God spoke and said he loved Jesus and was pleased with him.
Once was at his baptism.
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” — Mark 1:9-11
The other was at the Transfiguration.
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” — Matthew 17:1-5
How would you like to have heard those words thunder from heaven at your baptism?
Sadly, many men and women I know — committed Christ followers, pastors among them — have told me they never heard their earthly father ever say to them, “I love you so much, my sweet daughter. I’m incredibly proud of you.” Or “My sweet boy, I sure love you buddy. Dad is so doggone proud of you. I cannot imagine having a better son.”
Many of us did hear them, at least some of the time. Some people didn’t grow up with a father, but they heard them from a tenacious, loving mother and from brothers and sisters who helped raise them. Still, not enough of us heard them. Fortunately, we came to understand the brokenness of our own parents, and that they likely never heard those words from their parents. You can break the cycle, you know. Still, our parents deserve our love and forgiveness for not being “perfect,” especially if we want to live at peace with them, and even more so be at peace in our hearts.
So today, just for fun, and maybe to make you smile, let me stand in for a moment as the father figure and say, “Friend, you are very lovable. God did real good making you, daughter. What a beauty! And son, he thinks you are just marvelous. He is so proud of you. So handsome, go out there and conquer the world.”
And now you know my contention about the words Jesus the Messiah most often heard from his Father during his early morning prayer times.
Of course it would be perfectly fine for you to practice going to the Land called STILL where you would could tell God that you’d love to hear him say to you the same words He so often spoke to Jesus.