“Then each went to his own house.” (John 7:53)

The chief priests and Pharisees are stressed out. It’s the Feast of Tabernacles, and Jesus has been drawing crowds—captivating many people but agitating others. His opponents are buzzing like angry bees. But for now, they are in total disarray—divided, confused, and powerless to sting.

By the end of the day, these reli­gious leaders have been disobeyed by the Temple police (John 7:44-46), have argued over a basic point of law (7:51), and have asserted—in­correctly—that “no prophet arises from Galilee.” (7:52: They have overlooked 2 Kings 14:25 and its mention of “the prophet Jonah, son of Amittai, from Gath-hepher,” a vil­lage near Nazareth.) So, worn down, they retire, each “to his own house,” to recoup and relax in the comfort of their homes (John 7:53).

And Jesus? He is not scattered and confused; he’s not looking for a recess or a comfy place to rest his head. He’s on an urgent mission! So he goes instead “to the Mount of Olives” (John 8:1), his preferred place of prayer in the Jerusalem area. He will spend the night there, talk­ing with his Father—preparing for another day of teaching, healing, and confrontation.

What a contrast! St. Thomas More described the scene in this way: Jesus was “praying under the open sky while the hypocritical Pharisee was snoring away in his soft bed!” Jesus is focused on doing his Father’s will, even when his enemies have called it quits and fallen fast asleep.

Isn’t this the way God would like all of us to be? Watchful? Single-minded? Prepared to undergo any hardship for the sake of the gospel? Most of us aren’t there yet. But if we ponder this image of Jesus moving resolutely ahead, the Holy Spirit can set our own hearts afire with the love that “impels us” to give our all for God (2 Corinthians 5:14).

Thomas More suggested that we try to remember Jesus’ vigils when we turn over in our beds at night— and that we thank him and pray for grace. “Surely if we set out to make a habit of doing even the least little bit of good, I feel certain that God will soon set us forward a great way on the path of virtue.”

“Lead me forward, Lord Jesus! I want to follow you and be with you—now and forever.”

Jeremiah 11:18-20; Psalm 7:2-3,9-12