“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35, ESV).
Mark’s gospel is known for its clear and concise prose. He cuts to the chase. For this gospel writer, each word is important. The above quoted verse illustrates this point; however, it also sheds light on an important facet of Christ and his life. Mark shows us that Jesus carves out time in his day to spend it in prayer with the Father. Our Lord rises early in the morning to meet with God in a desolate place, a solitary place, a lonely place. This reveals the importance Jesus attaches to spending time with the Father in midst of a busy life of ministry.
In the first chapter of Mark, the writer leads us to the above, quoted verse after conveying the initial stages of Jesus’s ministry. He calls the first apostles, casts out a demon from a worshiper in a synagogue, and heals Peter’s mother-in-law. It is a nonstop start to our Lord’s ministry. In fact, Mark illustrates in verses 32-34 that Jesus heals many who are sick and demon-possessed into the night. It is conceivable that our Lord went to bed late, and then rose early the next morning to pray. When I read this section in Mark, exhaustion floods my soul. Why didn’t he sleep in? I would’ve after such a long day.
Jesus’s actions raise a few more questions for me. When did he get enough sleep? Was he ever completely rested and energized for a days’ worth of preaching, teaching, healing, confronting the religious leaders’ hypocrisy, performing miracles and casting out demons? Where did Christ’s strength come from in order to rise early after pouring himself out physically, emotionally and spiritually? The answer to all those questions lies in the reason for his rising early: to spend time with the Father, the source and sustainer of life. Jesus expresses this very fact during his temptation in the wilderness, which Mark’s gospel truncates down to two verses. In Matthew’s gospel, the Lord rebukes the enemy by saying that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father” (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3, ESV).
If Christ demonstrates the importance of relying on God’s word and his presence for sustenance in life and ministry, then it goes without saying that his people need to do the same. We are not exempt from feeding on the bread of life nor drinking up the living water. Everywhere Jesus minsters throughout 1st Century Israel, he encounters people starving for the bread of life and thirsting for the living water. The needs of the people are great, and the gospels convey this objective fact time and time again. This is precisely why I love the fact that Mark included the thirty-fifth verse in chapter one. Jesus carves out time to be with the Lord in order to demonstrate his dependency upon the Father in his human nature. In effect, Christ’s example serves as a model for his people to follow.
One other key tidbit deserves some mention at this point. I do not believe that Christ’s example in Mark 1:35 means that the early morning hours remain the only blessed time to hear and receive from the Father. Jesus chooses this time as an example to begin his day with the Lord first on his heart and mind. Do I begin my day with the Lord first on my heart and mind? Let me widen the scope out a little more. Do I set aside any part of the day as the best part of the day to be with the Father? Life is busy and just downright hectic at times. The foggy and dusty conditions make it difficult to see, walk, and breathe. I will need something more, something greater, and something truer in order to sustain me. Jesus demonstrates in his life that God’s word and his presence sustain the human life. Do you carve out time in your day to be with the Father?