As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah.
At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:40-44 NRSV)
It is so understandable why the crowds wanted to prevent Jesus from leaving them.
He healed their sick;
He drove out all manner of evil;
He not only spoke to them about the Kingdom of God but demonstrated that the power of that Kingdom was available through Himself;
He was a direct conduit to God.
But Jesus does not allow His ministry to be contained by those who want to take hold of Him and keep Him to themselves. Jesus’ own self understanding is that He came to take His message to ‘others.’ Where He goes people want to take hold of Him and keep them for themselves. Jesus has no interest in letting this happen. He did not come to this world just for the Jews, or for the Christian, or for the righteous, or for the healthy, or for the prosperous. Any of those groups might want to claim Him for themselves and keep all others away from Him. Jesus says His very purpose in this world is to proclaim the Kingdom of God to others.
We can think about Mary Magdalene in John 20:17-18 who encounters Jesus returned from the dead:
Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Mary didn’t want to lose Jesus again, yet Jesus does not allow her to take any comfort in grabbing hold of Him. Instead He turns her seeking consolation in to mission: “go to my brothers and say to them…” Mary in her grief suddenly turned into dismay becomes the first evangelist. Mary Magdalene thus becomes the model of each Christian.
We live in a world in which we too are often dismayed by events. We are often suffering serious grief because of death in this world: of loved ones, of innocent ones, of victims, of the defenseless. Yet our Lord’s words to us are the same as His words to Mary Magdelene: Go tell others about His kingdom. Go tell others His teachings and word. God tell others what you have seen, heard and experienced in and from Christ (1 John 1:1-3). St. Peter in his First Epistle expresses the same thought in a different way:
“In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9 (NRSV).
There is a temptation for each Christian to grab hold of Christ and never let Him go. Yet our Lord Himself told Mary Magdalene not to take hold of Him but rather to go and tell the others about Him. In that strange way the New Testament tells us that the way to embrace Christ is not be clutching onto Him and turning away from the world, but rather by going into the world to tell others about Him.
In our prayer lives we may want to grab onto to Jesus and hold onto Him as if He is the only important thing in the world. But Jesus tells us to embrace those who are important to Him – those for whom He died and rose again: the sinners, His brothers and sisters, the sick, the least of His brothers and sisters, the meek, the sorrowful, the poor, the weak, the needy, the children. We are to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel – this is the only true way for us to embrace Christ, risen from the dead and enthroned with the Father in heaven.