Jesus was not one to be rushed. Though he is eternal, he came to us wrapped in flesh, and therefore bound by earthly limitations. He got hungry and thirsty (Mark 11:12; John 4:7; 19:28), he got sleepy (Matt. 8:24), and even had to have someone help him carry really heavy things (Mark 15:21).
Jesus knew his limits. He didn’t try to be in three places at once or cram 30 hours’ worth of activity into 12 hours of daylight. Consider that Jesus didn’t start his ministry till he was 30, and he didn’t kick it into high gear even when a little girl and a good friend would have avoided death had he picked up the pace a bit (Luke 8:40–56; John 11). Even when he used a form of transportation other than his feet, Jesus chose a colt not a thoroughbred (Mark 11:7). He accepted his limitations and lived life at a godly pace.
But one time Jesus hurried.
Jesus the Pacesetter
The scene is found in Mark 10 and, ironically, the reference to Jesus’s atypical burst of speed is easy to fly right by. Jesus has just taught on divorce, spent some time hanging out with children, and spoken with a wealthy young man who was trying to figure out his life. Then, it happens. Jesus, known for his easy pace, becomes the pacesetter:
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:32–34, emphasis mine)
I grant that Mark doesn’t describe Jesus sprinting ahead of the disciples, nor does he indicate Jesus is frenetic in any way. If anything, the image is one of hard and fast resolve, like the Servant of the Lord from Isaiah 50 who “set [his] face like a flint” in the face of mockery and even danger.
Still, I cannot help but take note of the details included, striking in themselves given that Mark is the least annotative of the Gospel writers. It was important to him to note that Jesus is out ahead of the disciples, and that the disciples are amazed at Jesus’s resoluteness and, I believe, his pace—which frightened them. It amazed and frightened the disciples that Jesus was determined to give himself to those who would condemn, mock, beat, and kill him. Whereas a stormy sea had scared them once before (Mark 4:35–41), now they feared the storm of sin-twisted religious politics that awaited their Master in Jerusalem.
But this time Jesus was not asleep in the boat. This time he was fully awake, eyes wide open, moving quickly toward his cross.
Repenting of Hurrying and Failing to Hurry
As I reflect on this passage, I am struck by how different Jesus’s hurrying is from my hurrying. I often live as if my limits don’t exist, trying to do too much, trying to be too much. The signs appear not only in my worn and wearied body, but in my anxious and weighed-down heart (Prov. 12:25). I repent often of hurrying and worrying, something Jesus never had to do.
What’s more, this snapshot from Mark’s Gospel reminds me it’s not enough to repent only of my foolish rushing around; I must repent even of failing to hurry.
- When faced with an opportunity to own up to shortcomings, I often hurry toward self-justification rather than repentance.
- When faced with potential criticism from others, I’m tempted to hurry away from words that might sting rather than move confidently and even quickly toward them with hope that the result might actually shape me more into the image of Christ.
- When faced with situations and conversations where my Spirit-empowered absorption of pain and discomfort might serve the redemptive purposes of the gospel, I often move at a snail’s pace in order to avoid anything that looks like suffering.
Imitating Jesus’s Hurrying and Slowing Down
When faced with the cross, Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). The good news is that because he faced sin (not his, but mine), because he faced criticism and suffering, I am now free to slow down and live within my limits. Jesus finished the work so I don’t have to. At the same time, I am free to speed up my cooperation with the Holy Spirit, hurrying toward repentance, criticism, and even suffering because these things are good for me (Rom. 8:28).
After all, Christ crucified and resurrected is my justification, so I don’t have to justify myself before God. In addition, the cross tells me that God has given me the ultimate criticism—I am a worse sinner than even I know—so I don’t have to run away from those who may offer a fraction of the judgment I deserve. And I don’t have to avoid pain, failure, or humiliation, because those things are mere shadows cast by the suffering of Christ as he bore my curse on the cross.
No doubt I often need to slow down and relax in view of God’s sovereignty. But when it comes to the way of the cross, I want to learn, like Jesus, to hurry forward.