As followers of Jesus, we strive, as one of our main goals, to be more like him. And so as we explore the idea of biblical meditation, the question arises: Did Jesus meditate?
We know that Jesus prayed. Mark’s gospel speaks often of the times when Jesus was alone and communing with his father. Mark 1:35 says, “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.”
What does the Bible say about Jesus meditating?
You won’t find exact reference to the word “meditation” in the gospel stories. So what’s the difference between going out and praying and meditating? Let’s take a look at the references in the different gospel narratives to see if we can answer the question “Did Jesus meditate?”
Luke 5:15-16 tells us, “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Imagine Jesus being constantly surrounded by crowds as word of his teaching and miracles begins to spread. Instead of pushing himself, spreading himself thin, knowing he only had a short time to reach as many people as possible, he went to be alone with his Father.
Jesus gained strength and discernment in meditation
Before Jesus appointed the 12 who would be his apostles, Luke 6 tells us, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.”
Jesus knew that a big decision was needing to be made. Who would be the main group that would be entrusted with spreading the good news? And so he spent time alone with his Father, to hear his voice, to fully discern his will.
In Matthew 14, we read the story of the feeding of the 5,000. But right before that, Jesus had gotten the news that his cousin John the Baptizer had been killed by Herod. Verse 13 says, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”
Jesus, mourning the death of John, just needed to be alone with his Father. But the crowds still found him. And strengthened by the time he had spent alone with God the Father, he preached powerfully and then performed one of his most famous miracles–taking 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish and feeding more than 5,000 people.
Directly after that huge event, verse 23 tells us, “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” And then what did he do next? He walked on water to reach the disciples whom he had sent ahead in the boat.
We can see from the life of Jesus that time spent with his Father = renewed strength to continue the task set out for him. The difference between Jesus’ alone time with God and our meditation on God’s Word is what John 1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3, 14).
How was Jesus’ meditation different?
Jesus was the Word made flesh. Everything that was written in the Scriptures led to the moment Jesus was made incarnate on Earth. So Jesus embodied the Word of God. He also emphasized the importance of knowing Scripture. When Satan tempted him in the wilderness with food when he was starving, Matthew 4:4 tells us, “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’”
Jesus even prays for his followers, both those who were with him then and those who would follow in all the years to come. In John 17:17 we read Jesus praying, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” And then as he was talking to his disciples about that time when he would no longer be with them, Jesus said in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
In the rest of the New Testament, the letters written by the Apostle Paul, John, Jude and Peter, followers of Christ are directed to carefully consider the teachings of Jesus, to strive to be more like him, and to let the Holy Spirit produce good fruit in their life.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, in his final charge to his young protegé, he gives him this admonition: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
How meditation helps you be a doer of the Word
Knowing the Word of God, doing what it says, is topmost in our lives as followers of Jesus. James, the brother of Jesus wrote to the scattered Jews, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
So did Jesus meditate? It might look different than our meditation, but if our definition of the word means to ponder, to consider, to muse, and if our goal is to draw closer to God, to hear his voice more clearly, and to receive greater discernment, then I think we can say with surety that yes, Jesus did meditate when he spent time alone in quiet communion with God.