The early Church was forced to disperse after the stoning of Stephen, “for on that day a great persecution broke out against the Church at Jerusalem.” (Acts 8:1) Because they no longer had the support and encouragement of the Body of Believers around them they could of given up, gone into hiding, and denied their faith…but they didn’t. For it tells us in this verse that wherever they went they declared the Word of the Lord to those around them. They refused to allow persecution to silence them, and instead became Itinerant Evangelists sharing the Good News of Jesus.
All of mankind can agree….”I have strayed like a lost sheep.” (Psalm 119:176) But the wonderful thing about these verses in Ezekiel is how proactive the Lord is. It’s Him that is searching us out, looking after us, and rescuing us from the thick darkness of sin. Jesus is called the Good Shepherd who gathers and watches over His flock and tells us in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” And like the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus will leave the 99 on the hillside to go looking for the one that has wandered off. (Matthew 18:10-14) Have you strayed away from the Lord? Know that Jesus is actively looking for you today.
The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law had watched the disciples of Jesus eating without first washing their hands…a real defilement of tradition in their eyes! So they confronted Jesus in what they believed to be a breaking of the Law. To answer them, Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” For anytime the Good News of the Gospel is pushed aside for man-made rules, our focus changes from Jesus to religion. But remember, religion in and of itself will never save us. Nor will man-made traditions and teachings ever get us to heaven. It’s only by the blood of Jesus that we are saved…not any rule.
During His ministry here on earth, Jesus often sought out quiet places to pray. But why? It tells us in Mark 1:35, “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.” The answer to “why He did this” is in what happened the night before. The town of Capernaum had witnessed Jesus healing someone in the Synagogue…and so later that night the entire town converged at the house where Jesus was staying…bringing in tow every sick and demon-possessed person they could find. And it says Jesus healed them. When we give much, our emotional gas tanks gets low. And the only way to fill them is to find a place of quiet reflection so that God can renew us . Jesus was practicing the discipline of silence in order to replenish, restore, refresh, and revive His soul…and it’s something we could do well to imitate.