Chapter 3: His Ministry

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Mark 1:21-3821And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. 22And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. 23And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 25And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. 28And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee. 29And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. 31And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. 32And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. 33And all the city was gathered together at the door. 34And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him. 35And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. 36And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. 37And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. 38And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. (Mark 1:21‑38)
We have arrived, beloved friends, this evening, by God’s help, at the actual ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. We were considering together the last two evenings His preparation for service—not only how He was greeted from heaven and sealed as Jehovah’s servant in relation to His service, but how also He specially met Satan at the commencement of it, in the wilderness, with the wild beasts, in all that made the scene itself weird and desolate to Him; further we thought of the contrast to the manner and way in which we find Adam the first man presented to us in Genesis in the garden of Eden. And more than all, we dwelt on the contrast in Jesus the victorious Man, and the ministry of angels to Him, which did not go beyond His body, as soon as ever the temptation was ended. And then we had last week as well how He associated others with Him, and how His call (and I love to dwell upon it again for a moment) charmed them; “Come ye after me” was enough.
And I would again repeat, beloved friends, to you, a point I think of the very greatest moment, and specially for us to remember, and that is that not one of those whom the Lord calls ministerially here were idle men. I tried to show you that this is the ministerial call, not the personal call. The personal call of course must precede the ministerial call. Does that sound strange? Is there then such a thing as a call to the ministry? Assuredly there is. There is such a thing as being sent on the service of the Lord, “How shall they preach except they be sent?” Sometimes, I think, beloved friends, that is in danger of being a little forgotten. However genuine and however true a desire may be—and God fosters it and may He foster it more in every heart—yet a true desire does not of necessity suppose a divine call. I quite admit that there would be, along with the divine call, a genuine and truly spiritually fostered desire, but there must be a distinct call, there must be a distinct mission.
And more (and may God help us to remember it in these days) this mission is a mission distinctly from heaven. And if you want to find the great type of it, and the one in whom it was first of all, so to speak, exhibited, take the history of Saul of Tarsus, and see what was said to him, and how he recounts it in the first moments of his conversion, when God said to him, “Taking thee out,” that is the force of the word “delivering,” “taking thee out from the people,” that is, from the Jews, “and from the Gentiles, to whom now I send thee.” So that he was positively cut off from all nationality upon earth, and from all connection, so to speak, with the scene here, before he was regularly sent back into it. But he came back into it from heaven, and in all the endowments of heaven; and that is what true ministry according to God is now. True ministry according to God’s mind is a ministry from heaven for people down here in this world.
Now I am led to that, you see, in this way, in speaking of the Lord’s call of these disciples here. He called them to follow Him in ministry, so that He associates them with Himself in the service that He came to perform for God, whose servant He was, Jehovah’s servant specially, though the servant to all in this world as well.
Now we had that last Wednesday evening, how they went, how they followed, how they left. But let us dwell upon this one point still further for a moment, for I would like to reiterate it as earnestly as I can—that all those persons who were thus called and sent by Him were every one of them occupied with something or another previously; they were not idle men that had nothing to do. One was casting the net, another was mending nets, others were, in filial respect and reverence, ministering to their father Zebedee; but whatever it was, they were all found at some occupation, and they were called in the charm of that blessed word of Christ, “Come ye after me.” That indeed loosed all ties, and, thank God, it does so now. And, beloved friends, we do not for one moment question the claims of Christ; we know the word is a familiar word, and a favorite word in people’s mouths; but let us love to proclaim His charms; there are charms. No doubt there are claims; but charms—O how blessed! “Come ye after me” was that charm; and they left everything, they forsook all, nets, fish, father, everything.
Now let us look for a little to-night at what we may call in these verses the ministry proper; we have reached the ministry proper now. And the first thing you find here is the directness, the rapidity, the quickness, the absence of all delay, that characterized Him as the great servant of Jehovah. And hence you find that word that we have seen is continually used all through this gospel of Mark; that is to say, “straightway,” “directly,” “immediately,” “quickly”—there is only one word in the original, but it is translated in many ways; but it all points to no lingering, no hesitation, no procrastination, but to the quickness, the rapidity, so to speak, the directness of the true servant, whose whole thought, and mind, and heart is bent upon the service to be performed. And so we are told here that immediately He enters into the synagogue and teaches.
And look at the place spoken of, because it is not a little important to find this very place, Capernaum, coming before us in connection with the ministry of the Lord. It casts a very interesting light on the woes pronounced by the Lord on some of these cities, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin; woe unto thee, Bethsaida,” “and thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven.” Now it is a very remarkable thing to find, in connection directly with His service, that the very place that witnessed, so to speak, the first goings forth of His wonder- working power, and also His words, the teaching, of the great servant-prophet in this world, was this very place Capernaum. And it was that which peculiarly constituted Capernaum’s great exaltation; it was exalted to heaven—how? Because it witnessed His mightiest works, it was permitted to see the divine manifestation of power that was in the words as well as in the works of our Lord Jesus Christ. And hence it was privileged. But Matt. 11, where this very verse I have quoted occurs, shows you how little they profited by it, and shows how it was all, so to speak bestowed upon them in vain. And it was at that intensely interesting moment of His blessed history here in this world, when, as it were, everything had failed around Him, when the cities where His mightiest works were done, did not repent, when John doubted Him as to whether He was really the Messiah or not, when there was not anything to minister to Him—it was, I say, at that moment, which brings Capernaum before His mind, that Jesus says, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father.” You can see at once what a place of responsibility that puts Capernaum into, what exaltation it received from the very fact of this privilege. And, beloved friends, so it is now. Increase the grace, multiply the privileges, afford the opportunities, and you correspondingly lay those on whom such favors are bestowed under immense responsibility. It is always so; it is privilege that really creates responsibility. You must ever keep the two together. Let privilege be bestowed, then responsibility is created. Increase divine opportunities, and favors, and blessings, and you correspondingly must look for all that which would naturally be expected to come forth from them. So it was here with Capernaum; and I only mention it because I think it is striking to find this city con- fronting us at the very first in connection with the great service of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now mark what is said directly about His ministry there. It says, “they were astonished at his doctrine.” Why? What was there peculiar to the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ as the great servant-prophet? This—that He taught with authority. Now I believe, beloved friends, that is peculiar to Christ. I do not question for a moment that every servant of Christ to-day is bound to speak according to the written word of God; and if there be any power or any force in the utterances of any of God’s messengers, that force and that power are all derived from the fact that they are giving utterance to what God Himself has propounded in His own word. This is the true force of the testimony and witness of every faithful servant of Christ to-day. It is very different with the words of the prophets in olden times, though I could not say they spoke with authority as our Lord Jesus Christ did. For instance, how interesting it is to remember that prophet after prophet gave forth their utterances in this way, “Thus saith the Lord,” “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” They begin and they end the whole roll of their prophecy with utterances of that kind. You never find that in our Lord Jesus Christ’s words. “Verily, verily, I say unto you”—is very different, that is what I mean by authority; and that I believe is the true signification of authority here, namely, that He spoke, not merely as the servant of Jehovah in this world—because He is the servant-prophet in this gospel—but albeit that He was the true servant-prophet and maintained that place distinctly all through, and never left the place of subjection and dependence as man or as servant, yet, at the same time, He was “very God of very God.” And even in the lowly place He was pleased to take in the grace that marked the humiliation of the position and the servant’s form that He was pleased to assume there was this grand and blessed contrast between His utterances and those of every other servant before and since, that Jesus spoke with authority, because He was God. And that is what amazed them and aroused inquiry here in their synagogue. Mark what they say, “What new doctrine is this?” Now it would not have been a new doctrine to them, to hear a person saying, “Thus saith the Lord God,” or saying, “This shall come to pass, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” But to hear One speaking as the Great I Am, as God, commanding as God, announcing as God, revealing as God, uttering as God, that was what was new. And oh! it is well we should cherish in our souls these contrasts between Christ and all else. I long that we should be equally balanced, for I confess to you I am afraid lest we should lose it on one side or the other. Let us always hold fast—and we cannot hold it too tenaciously fast—what I am pressing upon you now; but let us equally hold fast the other, that although He was the mighty God, and spoke as God, and revealed His mind, yet still He did take the place and position of servant as Man, and that whilst He was never less in the glory of His divine nature as God, He was equally never less than the perfect subject Man.
Beloved brethren, our place by His grace is, neither to confound the person, nor divide the substance, but reverently to hold fast both. Now what we find is, that there are those who are ready to part with either the one or the other. And I believe that, where the spiritual mind, the mind of the Spirit of God in the child of God, shows itself is, in being able to see where He is presented in the glory of His person either as God or man. I believe true spirituality consists in the adoring discernment by the Holy Ghost of the mind of God, specially in relation to the presentation of the truths that lie around the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now let me call your attention to another word for a moment. It is said that He “taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” You will bear with me in saying it, but to my mind the most contemptible kind of people that were ever in this world were the scribes. And I am prepared to tell you why. I was reading not very long since, and the passage struck me greatly, the account of the blessed One’s coming down here into this world, His having been pleased to become man, and reading it in the gospel that presents Him in Jewish connections too. And I do not know any passage that gives us the true character of these men, and shows them exactly as they are, like that passage which tells us of the conversation that took place between Herod the king and those scribes. They could tell accurately everything about the birth of Jesus, they were conversant with all the facts of the Old Testament prophecies, they were the keepers of the law, the copyists of the law, and they read and expounded the law (I believe they are the same persons that are called “doctors of the law”), there was not a recondite mystery connected with the law, that these scribes could not unravel before men; but, with all that, they had not the smallest personal interest in the things themselves. That is what they were. May God keep us from being scribes! They could descant upon the prophecies, could tell the place where Christ was to be born—they did—they could quote the very words of scripture, they were as clear, as it is said, as the moon, but as cold; their hearts were not on fire. What did they care about Jesus of Nazareth, what concern had they about the truths that connected themselves with Him? They were simply there as the formal, cold exponents of the law and the prophets. That is why I affirm that the scribes were a despicable class of men. And therefore you see the contrast in a moment. He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” The scribes had no authority; they were merely copyists, they only repeated the thing. And not only this, but what characterized the scribes was their perverse rendering of the law, their fanciful inventions oftentimes, their perverted notions, the manner in which they twisted things and manufactured things according to the sentiments and working of their own minds. They could argue, but they could not reveal; Jesus revealed; He “taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
So far in connection with what I call His words of authority. That is the first thing that marked His ministry, though I believe, as I have already stated, that the ministry of the great prophet was more in works of mercy than even in words of mercy, though, thank God, there were both.
Now let us look for a moment at these works of authority here, because that is what comes next. Just read the verses again, and mark the way it is presented. “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, Let us alone.” It is not a little remarkable that immediately upon the impression which His authority produces in word, Satan confronts Him through one of his emissaries. No sooner is there amazement at His word of power than the demoniac comes at once upon the scene. How striking! This man was a possession of Satan, an agent of Satan, and was under the thralldom of Satan. And you will observe how that all that characterized a man under the possession and power of Satan, is presented in a very solemn way here: he cried out.” O the awful despair of devils and of the devil! I believe there are many demoniacs, but there is only one devil. Therefore this man is spoken of as a demoniac, he is an emissary of the devil, an emissary of the great opposer and slanderer of God and men: as I was saying to you last week, Satan is all that. And so here you find all the elements of misery and of wretchedness about this poor demoniac, a poor devil-possessed man. Look at the words of misery for a moment. “He cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” Dear friends, it is very solemn to think that it was only man that did not own Him. Devils owned Him, disease owned Him, sickness fled, misery gave way; man alone would not own Him. Winds and waves obeyed Him, all the whole power and course of nature bowed to Him; but not man. Is there not something very solemn in that? There is to me something unearthly and weird in that cry of the devil here, “Art thou come to destroy us?” Oh! think of that lament. The destroyer even to the utmost of his power resents interference with his domain, “Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God”—a recognition which the Lord does not accept. He will not accept such homage, the acknowledgment of the devil. I believe it was the very same spirit that was produced in His servant in after years, when Paul would not accept the patronage of the Pythoness. I believe it was the spirit of Jesus Christ in His servant that refused to be announced about the place by the girl possessed with a spirit of divination. “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation”; and the blessed servant, following the example of his Master, acts there just as Jesus does here. Jesus says, and it is a very strong word, an important word, Hold thy peace,” literally, “Be muzzled.” You will find the same word in Mark 4, used in another connection, in reference to the Lord Jesus Christ stilling the tempest. He binds the winds, as it were; precisely the same word in the original. “He arose and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still,” be silent. And so here, just as if it were a wild beast that was being subdued and overmastered by a superior power, He who was ever tender and gracious in all His ways and works and words in the midst of men, speaks with a stern coldness here to Satan, “Be muzzled [N4:f20J4], and come out of him.” (See 1 Cor. 9:99For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? (1 Corinthians 9:9) and 1 Tim. 5:1818For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward. (1 Timothy 5:18); the citation is from the LXX. of Deut. 25:44Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. (Deuteronomy 25:4).) And so you have in act and fact the display not merely of the word of authority, but of the work of power. The word of authority called attention to Him, and now the outstretched arm is as mighty to deliver from Satan’s power as the lips of grace were ready to proclaim grace on every side, “Hold thy peace and come out of him.”
Satan, the devil, bowed before that authority, but yet exhibited the frenzy that is peculiar to him, whilst owning the defeat that he suffered at the hand of the God Man. We read that when he had torn him, he came out; that is to say, he exhibited the hatred of his nature, the terrible violence of his will, both against God and man. Satan always does that, and yet at the same time was overpowered and bound. Because the obedience of the perfect Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, binds the strong man, and then his goods are spoiled. The strong man owns the power of the binder, and is obliged to let free the captives of his hands, and to loose the chains that he had tied around them in this world, though at the same time exhibiting all the malignity of his nature: he tore him.
Now observe one thing more. “And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.” Oh how blessed, beloved friends, it is to think of Him! How blessed to dwell upon these wonder-working powers of mercy in our Lord Jesus Christ to poor things afflicted by Satan.
There is one little point that suggests itself to my mind just at this stage of our meditations, namely—that in the Epistle to the Ephesians you see the very principle brought out afterwards by the servant that was exhibited here by the blessed Master Himself. Here He first of all confronts Satan—though we have not the details of it in Mark, yet we have the fact of the temptation—and having confronted Satan, having been victorious over him, having bound him by obedience, then He becomes the deliverer of those who were under his power. Now it is a very interesting point for our hearts to remember that that is exactly the way in which the gifts of ministry in Ephesians are presented to us, that the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ in the world to-day is presented exactly in that connection. For what has He done? “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men, that is to say, He takes out from under the power of the devil poor things like you and me that were once his slaves, held in captivity and in chains by him, and then is pleased to use us against the very power that previously held us. Now it is most blessed and most interesting to see ministry in that connection. He breaks the thraldom and the chains of Satan’s power over the poor slaves and vessels of his will and malignity, and having broken that power and delivered them from it, He takes them up to use them for Himself, according to His own love and heart against the very power that formerly held them in captivity. And we can see the forecast, the announcement of it as it were, in the ministry of the great servant-prophet Himself in this very first instance.
But there was not only the subjection of Satan and of demons to Him, but we find even more in connection with His works of mercy. After this, we see sickness coming before Him, and sickness in an individual case, and then a number of cases of disease brought together, what we might call a considerable company of impotent folk. Now why is this special peculiar case presented here? It is the very scrip- ture which lets us into the understanding of the mind of God—that Peter, who was supposed to have been the founder of the Papacy, and to have been at Rome for that very purpose, was really an apostle who was a married man: That is the object, I believe, of its being brought in here specially. It is an instance of the mercy and power of our Lord Jesus Christ; but it so happens that it was Peter’s wife’s mother who was sick of a fever. It is not said what the nature of the fever was; Luke 4:3838And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. (Luke 4:38), with the exact diagnosis of one who was a physician, still guided by the Holy Ghost, calls it a great (:,(V8å) fever. It is enough for us that it was a severe sickness, and that all sickness and feebleness of disease are part of the fruit and misery of sin in this world. But this I do know—and that is what I think is so blessed, however grievous the case might be, and however difficult, or as men would say hard, there was no case that was not all easy to Him. And therefore we find what might be called the most extreme cases, the most severe cases presented where His works of mercy and of power are before us, to show the blessedness and the might, as well as the grace, and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But there are two little touches here that are peculiar to Mark, which I should like to dwell upon for a little. “Anon they tell him of her.” O how sweet that is! I know nothing more precious than the holy familiarity that existed between the Lord Jesus and poor things like ourselves in this world; and not only that, beloved friends, but His precious accessibility. A man has a sick mother-in-law, or a sick child, or a daughter dying, and they are all welcomed to the most accessible of men here. They can all go to Him; there was nothing about Him that repelled, I say it with all holy reverence, there was no cold distance or reserve about our precious Lord Jesus Christ. Truly He was, even in His human nature here, in its perfection, very man amongst men, a solitary man as well, yet was He the most accessible of all who were by this, as it were, attracted to Him, all were made to realize how welcome they were to Him; there was that confidence which I am convinced was impressed upon them by the perfection of His own nature and love, so that they could go and pour out their plaint into His gracious ear: “Anon they tell him of her.” Now I would ask our hearts here to-night, if we are practiced in that holy confidence in Him now? Do we know what it is to tell Him of our sickness and our weakness, of our sorrows and our trials, of our pains and pressures? Do we bring them to Him, as far more interested in them than even we are. It may be that we might think, who could be so interested in a dying wife, or a sick child, or an aged father, as a husband, or a father, or a son, or a daughter? Ah! there is One more interested, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. “Anon they tell him of her.” O the beauty of those words! Do they not remind the heart of another portion of this blessed book, which has been such a prop and stay to many an anxious and sorrowing heart, namely, that precious passage in the Epistle to the Philippians, where the apostle by the Spirit says, Be careful for nothing”; difficult words we often think, as many a time we have looked at them, “Be careful for nothing.” Now, perhaps, I may be speaking to some poor afflicted heart here to-night. There may be just such a pressure as I have described hanging upon your poor heart, or you may have a greater sorrow than that pressing you down perhaps, God only knows. But I am conscious of this, that there are numbers of people in this great city to-night whose circumstances are such as at any rate humanly speaking to cause them abundant anxiety, and yet if they belong to Him, here is His word, “Be careful for nothing” Then, do you ask, how can that ever be brought about? What panacea is there that can discharge that load of care from my heart? Here it is, beloved friends, “In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” I think “made known” there is exactly like “anon they tell him of her” here. There is a heart up there in heaven to whom you can communicate it all, and all you need is, in the confidence of the love that is there, just go and tell Him of it. Remember this, He knows it long before. Do not be under any deception as to that. You are not informing Him as to anything; He knows it. But yet tell Him of it, He loves to hear, make it known to Him, pour it out to Him. O, beloved friends, we would encourage one another a little more in those holy exercises. O, that we knew what it was in our distress, and wants, and needs, just to turn to Jesus in the first place! How often we think of human aids, and human helps, and human arms. Alas! these are the first things that come into our mind oftentimes. If we are in distress, and difficulty, and sorrow, we think of what we can do, and how we can get help, and we run here and there and everywhere else; but how blessed: “Anon they tell him of her.” Now that is peculiar to Mark, and I earnestly call your attention to it.
The other word that is found here is also peculiar to Mark, and is one that shows the beautiful perfection of the servant—the man, and yet the servant. It says, “He took her by the hand.” Oh! that is so exquisitely tender; and yet there is a power too—there is also a skill about it. Did not He know how to grasp that hand? Do not you think that that touch was the tenderest touch that could be conceived to that poor, sick, fever-stricken woman there? I have often thought when I have been speaking about the good Samaritan—the Lord Jesus Christ in figure, the unknown stranger, out of sight and out of mind—a certain Samaritan, “as he journeyed”—from heaven to earth, “came where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine”—I have often thought there was only one hand that could touch those wounds, the hand of our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore I believe that little word is brought out here, and it is exceedingly precious, “He took her by the hand.”
And then we read of her, that “immediately the fever left her.” Now man is pretty well up in the healing art, but he cannot do what we have here. There is an immensity of skill in healing just now, but there is nothing like this “immediately.” That is peculiar to divine power, though it was divine power ministered by and witnessed in the servant-man.
One word more before we leave that—“she ministered to them.” I do not believe she went about the place as a great preacher. I do not believe there was anything of that kind. The words have not got that on their surface or in their sub- stance; but I believe that she arose in all the beautiful simplicity, but in all the beautiful reality, and in all the beautiful retirement that marked her position, to minister to them, and now she that was fever-stricken is relieved and raised, and, instead of being ministered to, she is ministering.
And then we read of the other cases. There were numbers brought when the sun was down; and there is one point in the verses I desire to dwell upon. “And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.” So that you find what I have just referred to, namely, how perfect all His works of power were—just as perfect as His words of authority. Works of power and words of power marked His ministry.
Now the last point I will bring before you to-night is this. In the middle of that activity, and with all that pressing, surging need of men upon Him, we come to one of the most beautiful of touches, one of the most beautiful of scenes, “Rising up a great while before day”—ah! what a rebuke to many of us that is. I know all are not able, beloved friends, I do not want to be extreme, I know all cannot do it—happy the man that can, that is all I say. “Rising up a great while before day”—“a great while”—do you see the way Mark puts it before you? Distinctness of narrative is one of the peculiarities of Mark, he lets you into the scene, as it were, he makes the thing living before you. Hence you get “rising up a great while before day,” going into a desert place, there alone, and praying. You see how he draws attention to all the important points in this great retirement of Jesus Christ here! And how suitable that the one who depicts for us His activity should also show His retirement, His solitude. How blessed to dwell upon the solitude of Jesus! God in His infinite grace and mercy help us to tread softly here. Let no rude step intrude here, and no speculation. But what I do say to you—and to myself—is this; and I believe it is the lesson God would have us learn from it—If He who was very God as well as very man, but who ever kept the place of perfect man in this world, and perfect subjection as servant as well—if He, in the midst of His activities of mercy, in the midst of His wonder working powers of grace here in this world, sought the solitude of the mountain side, and the lonely place, and the desert, and prevented the dawning of the day if He, who possessed all things, bent His knee and prayed, how much more you and I! To me it is a wonderful thing to think of the possessor of everything, bowing His knee in prayer. I go no further than that. I confess to you honestly, it is a subject where one takes one’s shoe from off the foot, and worships. But this I do say, and I feel certain, that this is its voice to us. I see His perfection in it, I see the perfection of the place He took in this, I see the glory of His dependent manhood, and I see the glory of His perfect subjection as servant in it; but speaking now of ourselves, and speaking especially of those who serve the Lord in any way, but speaking to all, I say, O, dear friends, how is the river of life in us to be supplied, what springs are to feed it, if we neglect this? Where is the supply to come from if we do not have it first given us? That is what I think is so solemn, and particularly in this busy day, when everything is at high pressure speed, and when there is no time almost to draw one’s breath. Ah! and that too gets into the church of God just as much as it pervades the world. O, what a thing it is to “prevent,” if we can, the dawning of the day. I love that word in the Psalms. “Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.” And here we find the great prophet, “a great while before day,” seeking the solitudes of the desert and there praying—how blessed! May God give us to lay that to heart and think of it, and to adore Him for the perfection of the grace that is presented in such a scene.
One word more on this point. Not only do we find this here in the progress of His ministry, and in the midst of His activity, but you remember the very same thing in the garden of Gethsemane, “He kneeled down and prayed.” Would to God that we kneeled down a little more in our public meetings and prayed. It is not without reason that that is presented. “He kneeled down.” “Oh!” you say, but you are making a great deal of the attitude.” Am I? Is there nothing in it? Could I make too much of it when He did it? Is it for no reason that it is said, “He kneeled down”?—are not subjection and dependence expressed in attitude as much as in fact.
And then I call your attention to one other point for a moment—He is here intruded upon. And there was always that rude want of spiritual refinement which constantly broke in on the blessed Lord and Master in the course of His ministry here. And so here a very strong word is used. Simon and others pursued Him, for that is the meaning of the word. The word that is used here only occurs in this place in Mark in the whole of the New Testament. It is, generally speaking, used in a bad sense. The only place that I know of where it is used in a good sense is in the Septuagint version of Psa. 23, “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me.” It is the same word here that the Septuagint translates “pursue.” They broke in on His retirement. And do you notice what they say to Him? “All seek thee.” There is a sort of sadness about that, just as if—though He was in retirement, and solitude, and prayer—just as if He could forget any one, just as if He could neglect any one. There is something peculiarly sad to me in that word of Peter’s to Him, “All seek thee” And mark, beloved friends, His reply, I think it is very significant. He says, “Let us go into the next towns.” How different that is from what pervades so-called Christendom today! O, how different! He would not be made the center of admiring multitudes. He would not be, as it were, placed upon a pinnacle by men for fame in that way. I feel that I have His authority from His word for saying this, that nothing repelled the Lord Jesus Christ more than mere sensationalism. Misery attracted Him, wretchedness drew Him, but sensationalism, and all that spirit that works in so-called religion today, repelled Him. And is it not well for us to remember that word in these days of demonstrations, and conventions, and missions, and armies, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, for therefore came I forth”?
May God, by His grace and Spirit, just give our hearts to ponder and weigh these beautiful ways of the great servant- prophet, for His name’s sake!