MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
Lord my God, I adore You and praise You. As I open my heart to You, do Your saving and healing work in me, and through me.
Read MARK 1:35–39
Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place
35 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. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.’1
Here is another story beautifully told. As so often in Mark, two narratives are at play. On the surface, Jesus goes out to pray early in the morning. Even Jesus, God himself, regularly takes time to be alone with the Father and pray. He does this, surely, not only to be an example to us, but to keep His human will attuned to the divine will of His Father and spend time drawing strength from the unbroken fellowship of the Trinity. There is no need to assume that He is driven again into the wilderness. He just goes out before anyone else is awake to somewhere where He could be alone. Simon, already the leader, takes the others and goes looking for Him and, on finding Him, declares (with some exaggeration?) that everybody is looking for Him. One cannot help sensing that Simon and the rest felt that Jesus’ responsibility is to be with them, preaching and healing, and not playing hooky on His own.
Underneath, however, lies a darker narrative. In Galilee with Herod Antipas watching, Jesus needs to keep on the move. Herod’s father has tried to assassinate ‘the one who has been born king of the Jews’, as a result of which Mary and Joseph have fled to Egypt to keep Him safe.2 Now Jesus is back in Antipas’ territory, attracting large crowds. Mark’s words are suggestive: ‘Very early’, ‘while it was still dark’, ‘Jesus … went off’, ‘solitary place’, ‘Everyone is looking for you!’
Yes, they are – and not only so that they can learn from His teaching and be healed by His miracles. Some have more sinister motives. Notice, however, how Jesus turns necessity into advantage as He travels around Galilee, outwitting Herod and fulfilling the Father’s purposes at the same time. In more than one sense, He is awake while Simon and his friends still sleep.
Father, keep us, like Jesus, ‘as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’.3
Heavenly Father, I need the gift of discernment, so, like Jesus, I can see what is actually going on around me.
1 Ps 145:18 2 Matt 2:1–15 3 Matt 10:16
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.