Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mark 1:35-39 - Jesus prays in a Solitary Place - Pete's Bible Commentary

Mark 1:35-39 (NIV) - 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. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!" Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else--to the nearby villages--so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Jesus was committed to being one with the Father. Well theologically speaking, he IS one with the Father, but during his time on earth, as the Incarnated Son of God, he needed to pray just like any Christian would today. Early in the morning, before the sun is even up, Jesus is off to pray. When you consider the busyness of ministry that Mark highlights in the previous verses (calling his disciples, healing the sick, casting out demons), you sense the importance of this time of prayer.

As we read Mark 1:35-39, while only a short paragraph, we note that Jesus has been praying for some time; hence the slight indignation that the disciples are expressing. 'Where have you been!?' How I wish, I would regularly be caught up in prayer to the point where people would say, 'Where's Pete gone? Is he off praying again?' I could only ask God for a greater sense of passion for prayer and seeking after the purposes of God.

Jesus responds to the disciples and encourages them to follow him to some nearby villages to continue to preach, because, 'that is why I have come' (Mark 1: 38). I find this verse captivating, and it bears some response here. Firstly, I want to look at the word, 'solitude'. Jesus went to a solitary place before he went and preached the gospel. What is solitude? This word 'solitude' or 'desolate place' (ερημον - eremon) is a place that is free from human activity, like a wilderness. Some secular dictionaries say it is a lonely place, but this would sure be theologically incorrect in this passage, because a time of prayer (which I guess is assumed from the passage) is not a time of loneliness as such, but a time of intimate connection with God. 

Some people live their lives with a strong comtemplative spirituality, which is admirable, and they have a great commitment to prayer, solitude, listening, etc. We all good learn something from this tradition. This being said though, the Jesus recorded in Mark's Gospel is one who intends to reach out to his community and spread the good news. I have met a small handful of people who embrace contemplative spirituality so strongly, that it lacks any kind of pragmatic expression of kingdom ministry. Let me put it like this - Jesus did not go up the mountain and stay there. He spent quality time with the Father and then he did up the shoe laces, so to speak, and got on with preaching the good news to 'nearby villages'.
Mark 1:35-39 are an important few verses. Mark shows his readers, that Jesus relied on the Father. While he does not unpack the benefits of the time of solitude, we can only assume, that through this time of prayer, Jesus was encouraged, felt empowered and was now more equipped and ready to fulfil his mission in the world.

Will you find a place of solitude and spend some quality time with Jesus?
Mark 1:35-39 - Jesus prays in a Solitary Place - is part of Pete's Bible Commentary and is written by Pete Brookshaw.
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