There was a time when I habitually listened to ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning as I drove to work each day. On one of those morning commutes, I heard a rather humorous interview between Alabama head football coach, Nick Saban, and ESPN reporter Marty Smith.
Saben related a story from an early-career recruiting trip he made to Youngstown, Ohio, while he was a defensive coordinator with Michigan State. He and a gentleman named Bob were sitting in a local pub. While there, deep in a discussion of the game of football, the pub was held up by a shotgun-wielding thug. Here is how Saban related the story to Smith:
We were in this place in Youngstown called ‘The Talk of the Town.’ It’s a bar. We’re sittin’ at the bar and we’re talking football. We’re drawing plays – we’re talking about football. We’re arguing about stuff, and somebody came in with a shotgun, and held the bartender up, and left. We didn’t even know it happened. The police came, and the bartender says, ‘Well, don’t ask these two guys what happened because they didn’t even see it.’
It is difficult for me to imagine being so engrossed in what I am doing, whether alone, or with someone else, that I am oblivious to the fact that the place in which I am working is being held up by a man with a shotgun. I do not know that Jesus was ever that tuned-out to what was happening around him, but undoubtedly he was a man focused on his mission.
On November 18, I blogged about an incident wherein Jesus refused to go out to his blood relatives because doing so would draw his attention away from his primary purpose. He stayed true to his calling and even took advantage of the interruption to capitalize on a teachable moment. Let’s look at that again.
A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’ Answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers!’ – Mark 3:32-34, NASB
Imagine yourself sitting in the midst of a small crowd, sharing with them on some subject, a subject in which you have a certain level of expertise. Your venue is not a formal setting like an auditorium. It is a private home, and there is a small crowd gathered, perhaps packed in rather tightly because of your popularity. As you are interacting with those around you, someone interrupts the conversation and says, “Hey, your mom and your brothers are outside, and they want to talk to you.” It is difficult for me to imagine not graciously excusing myself from the gathering to go out to my mother and brothers to see what it is they want. After all, they are my family.
Jesus declined to excuse himself from the gathering, and in doing so redefined family as something other than bloodline. Rather, he stayed focused on the task that was before him. This is not unusual for Jesus.
In Luke chapter four, early in his ministry, we find Jesus in Capernaum, healing all night long. When the people of the city tried to persuade him to stay even longer, Jesus declined to do so, saying, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” Regardless of his circumstance, Jesus never lost sight of his purpose. So it is with the Christ-follower. Inherent to that truth is knowing what is our purpose and calling, just as clearly as Jesus knew his purpose and calling.
There are so many methods and opportunities for the evil one to pull our focus away from our true calling in Christ. Sometimes it is open antagonism and intimidation, as was the case with the scribes and Pharisees. It may be our vocation; a demanding job. Other times it is well-meaning friends and relatives.
You may recall how Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from going boldly to his crucifixion, even going so far as to rebuke Jesus, and earning a “Get behind me Satan!” for his trouble. With the best of intentions, Peter attempted to prevent Jesus harm, later trying to protect him again by wielding a sword in the garden when the officials came to arrest Jesus.
The focus of Jesus can be seen as far back as his youth when, at age twelve, he was in the temple listening to and questioning those who were teaching there. His parents did not know where he was, and when they found him, and scolded him for causing them anxiety, he responded, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”
I am not advocating intentional rudeness to parents, friends, or employers, and I do not believe Jesus is okay with those things either. But I see in his responses a way of prioritizing his activities that challenges the way I make my own decisions. Even in writing this paragraph, it would be so much easier and more relaxing to go watch football on television than to “be about my father’s business.” I see something admirable in the ability to stay focused on one’s task.