A Sunday with the Savior
“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.” Mark 1:35-39
Every event in our Lord’s earthly life, every word he spoke, every act he performed ought to be regarded by us as matters of immense importance and deep interest. In all that he said, in all that he did, in all that he refused to do our Savior is both our Example and our Teacher, showing us both what we are to believe and how we are to live in this world for the glory of God.
On Saturday, the sabbath day, the Lord Jesus crammed as much into the day as possible for the glory of God and the good of men. He taught in the synagogue at Capernaum, cast out devils, and healed Peter’s mother-in-law and many in the city who were sick. In this passage, after an exhausting sabbath day, we see our Savior rising early for prayer on Sunday morning. Mark records the events of that day for our learning. May God the Holy Spirit be our Teacher as we seek to learn from the things which transpired on that Sunday that Mark describes in these five verses.
Diligence in Prayer
First, I want us to take notice of and learn from our Savior’s diligence in prayer. — "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (v. 35).
Remember, Mark is telling us about the incarnate God. This is not a weak, sinful, fallen, and needy man. This man is God. Yet, as a man, he placed great importance upon the matter of prayer, especially private prayer. Throughout the days of his humiliation, we find our Master engaged in prayer. We do not often see him engaging in public prayer. He seems to have avoided, as much as possible, any public show or display of devotion; but private prayer, private worship was another matter. Most do just the opposite. Most people make a great show of devotion publicly, but greatly neglect private prayer, private worship, and private communion with God.
Our Savior seems never to have begun anything; he seems never to have made a decision without prayer. When he was baptized, Luke tells us he was “praying” (Luke 3:21). When he was transfigured upon the mount, we read that, “as he prayed, the fashion of his face was altered” (Luke 9:29). Before choosing his apostles, our Savior “continued all night in prayer” (Luke 6:12). When all men spoke well of him, and wanted to make him a king, Matthew tells us, “He went up into a mountain apart to pray” (Matthew 14:23). When he was assaulted by Satan in Gethsemane, our Lord Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit ye here, while I shall pray” (Mark 14:32).
Our Savior prayed always and did not faint. Though he was sinless, he prayed as sinner never prayed. He diligently sought to maintain communion with God his Father as a man, giving us an example. His eternal godhead did not cause him to live independent of God’s ordained means of ministering to men. Here is the God to whom we pray, as a man, showing us the necessity of prayer. The Son of God, as a man, never considered himself strong enough, wise enough, or spiritual enough to live in this world without private prayer and public worship.
"In the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews 5:7). “We ought to see in all this,” wrote J.C. Ryle, “the immense importance of private devotion.” If the Son of God felt it important to pray, how much more important it is for us to pray. If he who is holy, sinless, and always pleasing to God spent much time in private prayer, how much more important it is for us to do so. Our Savior never neglected the worship of God, neither the public worship of God nor private worship. Let us follow his example.
What does this tell us about men and women who do not pray, who willfully neglect the worship of God? There are multitudes who, while professing to be believers, exercise no diligence at all in the matter of worship. Their profession is a delusion. Prayerless men and women are not the servants of this praying Savior. Prayerless souls are Christless souls. The Spirit of adoption always causes adopted children to call upon their Father in prayer.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Let all who know, trust, and worship the Lord Jesus Christ always be watchful over their souls in this matter. Prayer is the pulse of spiritual life. With believers, this is not a duty. Yet, it must be dutifully maintained. Prayer is not an act of life, but a way of life. Those who do not pray are yet without life before God. Do we pray? The disciples knew Saul of Tarsus had experienced grace when they were told, “Behold, he prayeth.”
We are urged by God the Holy Spirit to diligently maintain the use of every means of grace. Our engagement in prayer and worship is not the cause of grace. Without doubt, many who carefully keep up the exercise of both private and public prayer are lost. Their religion is all form and formality. But anyone who altogether despises and neglects worship and prayer is altogether without life and grace before God (Hebrews 10:24-260.
Second, Mark sets before us an example of our Savior’s sovereignty.
"And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth" (vv. 36-38).
We are all far too much inclined to judge the blessings of God by the outward response of men to what we are doing. This is nowhere more common and nowhere more foolish than in the matter of preaching. Our Lord’s disciples were very excited because he was so popularly received in their hometown. They thought this was a sure evidence that he would give a repeat performance; but they were mistaken. Instead, our Lord gave a clear, unmistakable display of his total sovereignty in the exercise of his mercy, grace, and saving power. Though there were many in Capernaum who sought him, he turned from them.
The fact is there are many who seek the Lord today who never find him, who never obtain mercy from him, many who seek him from whom he hides himself. Without question, all who seek the Lord spiritually, all who truly seek him in faith, all who seek him because they need him and want him shall find him (Jeremiah 29:12-14). Yet, Mark here tells us of a great multitude who sought the Lord Jesus from whom he withdrew and hid himself. Why?
They sought him in the wrong way and for the wrong reason. These people of Capernaum sought him physically, not spiritually. They sought him with their words and deeds, but not with their hearts. And they sought him for the wrong reasons. They sought nothing from him but carnal things. They did not seek him. They sought what he could do for them! Many seek Christ, but not by faith. Like the Jews described by Paul, they seek him upon the merit and in the strength of the flesh (Romans 9:30-33; 10:1-4).
Not only did those at Capernaum seek the Lord Jesus carnally, they sought him too late. The Savior passed through Capernaum the day before. He would not go back now. They did not seek him when he was to be found. It is written, "Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Our Lord Jesus refused to go back to Capernaum, the larger, more populated city, and carried his grace to the smaller towns and villages surrounding it, because he has mercy on whom he will have mercy.
We need to learn this. No one dictates to God almighty. He does what he will. He is gracious to whom he will be gracious. The sooner we learn this, the better! God always displays his sovereignty in every aspect of grace. He chose to save fallen men, but not fallen angels. He chose some, and passed by others. He redeemed some, but not all. He sends the gospel to some, and hides it from others. He calls some who hear the gospel, and leaves others in darkness, death, and condemnation (Matthew 11:20-30).
Christ the Preacher
Third, Mark directs our attention to our Master’s chosen occupation. — "And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils" (vv. 38-39).
When the Son of God came into this world, he chose to be a gospel preacher. He came here to be a preacher of the gospel. He came to fulfill the Scriptures by coming as a prophet, the prophet greater than Moses, who had been foretold by Moses himself (Deuteronomy 13:15).
What a high, high honor the Son of God put upon the office and work of the gospel preacher. He might have chosen to come as a ceremonial priest, like Aaron. He could have worn a crown like David. But he chose to be a preacher. The Son of God left the glory which he had with the Father before the worlds were made to do the work of an evangelist, to be a street preacher. He came down here not only to establish peace, but to preach it, not only to bring in righteousness, but to preach it, not only to obtain eternal redemption by the shedding of his blood, but to peach it! Jesus Christ came preaching the gospel, proclaiming deliverance to the captive, the recovering of sight to the blind, and peace to them that were far off (Isaiah 61:1-3).
I stress this fact with very good reason. In our day men and women everywhere have decided that preaching is out-of-date. It is no longer accepted in intellectual circles for a man to stand in a pulpit and preach the gospel to men. Many have given up preaching because it is not popular. They have become spiritual counselors. Rather than preaching to sinners, they engage in dialogue. Instead of preaching, we have cantatas, plays, ceremonies, celebrations, and candlelight services!
What utter nonsense! The Son of God came here as a preacher. The church of Christ was originally gathered by preaching. Throughout history her health, strength, and prosperity have been promoted and maintained by preaching. It is by the preaching of the gospel that sinners are saved, saints are edified, and the kingdom of God is built up.
Take care that you never despise or lightly esteem this great, God honored, God ordained service. “Despise not prophesyings” (1 Thessalonians 5:20). The preacher may be very learned or very plain, very deep or very simple, very polished or very rough, but if he is the messenger of God to your soul, treat him as the angel of God, the messenger of God to your soul; and teach your children to do the same.
May God the Holy Spirit graciously enable us to remember the things set before us in this passage of Scripture and apply effectually them to our hearts. Nothing is more important than the worship of our God. We “ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1), “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy” (Luke 21:36).
Our God is always sovereign in the operations of his grace. Let us ever seek his will and bow to his will. He has mercy on whom he will. And, as he is sovereign in all his works of grace, he is effectual. He will save his people from their sins.
And the means by which he has chosen to do so is the preaching of the gospel. Gospel preaching is the one thing that is called “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth...For therein is the righteousness of God revealed” (Romans 1:16-17). It is God’s ordained instrument of spiritual blessing and benefit to the souls of men.
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth" (Isaiah 52:7).
"And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; (13) And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
"Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation…Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:7, 17).
Mark speaks of “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” in direct connection with the preaching of John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-4), because God makes known the good news of redemption and grace, salvation and eternal life in Christ by sending preachers to proclaim it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Yet, the means itself is of no benefit to our souls without the power and grace of God the Holy Spirit. It is only by the Spirit of God that the preached Word of God can make us wise unto salvation through the faith that is in Jesus Christ. To use the words of Robert Hawker, “May the Holy Three, which bear record in heaven, grant to us such sweet testimonies in our hearts and consciences of the truth as it is in Jesus, that we may enjoy that life eternal, to know the Lord Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, to be the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, which began before the worlds were made, has its beginning in the hearts of chosen sinners as it “is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God…For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21), “to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10).
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