I can think of a few ways to understand the phrase, “Held back.”
Describing a student who isn’t ready for the next grade level – needing more time to prepare.
“The student was held back in the 4th grade, but they excelled in school every grade after that.”
Describing a competitor keeping some energy in reserve for a late burst of speed.
“I think they really held back in the first three quarters of this race. Look at the energy they saved for this final burst of speed!”
Describing a person who seems to be restrained from achieving a goal.
“I don’t know what held them back, but it’s such a shame that they were never able to accomplish what they wanted to do.”
In this week’s reading from Mark 1:14-20, describing briefly Jesus’ call of the first disciples, there are a couple of instances of being held back.
Jesus was held back.
Jesus waited until John was arrested before starting his public ministry. Either he wasn’t quite ready to begin, or he held back on starting until John (who could have become a competitor rather than a herald) was out of the picture.
The first disciples were held back.
Simon, Andrew, James and John had taken up the family business. But when Jesus called them they immediately left and followed him. What held them back from leaving the family business and following a rabbi before?
They weren’t invited.
Simon, Andrew, James and John weren’t called by any rabbis when they were younger to become a follower – a disciple. They were held back from doing what they dreamed of doing because the opportunity seemed lost. But when Jesus invited them, they followed him immediately – held back no longer.
- In our lives, what is keeping us held back from really following Jesus?
- Is it something we’re still just not ready for, but will be soon?
- Are we saving something for the right opportunity to come along?
- Do we feel restrained from following Jesus because of fear or because of something else?