A LONELY PLACE

Mark 1:35-39

BRIEF INTRO: According to Mark’s account, Jesus has been pretty busy after leaving the wilderness (v.13). He began gathering His disciples, a group of fishermen by the Sea of Galilee (vv. 16-17). He began preaching the gospel of the kingdom (v.15), teaching in the synagogue, healing people, and casting out demons (vv. 21-27, 30-34). It would appear that Jesus was not able to get “alone time” that often, if at all. No matter where He went, He was followed by His disciples and the people from the towns that He was visiting. We found that our Lord needed and desired quiet time to communicate with the Father in these verses.

35 “And in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and prayed there for a time. 36 Simon and his companions eagerly searched for Him; 37 and they found Him and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 He *said to them, “Let’s go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may also [a]preach there; for this is why I came.”

FOCUS ONE: JESUS LEAVES TO BE ALONE TO PRAY

When I read these words in verse 35, I get the sense of how busy Christ was when He came, and we have only begun to read the accounts of His ministry among men! He was so busy that the most important thing, the most desired thing, communication with His Father, was negatively impacted by the multitude of the physical and spiritual needs of the people. 

So many people were suffering in manifold ways that no matter where Christ went, He was followed by the people. People who needed physical healing from various diseases; people who needed demons dispelled and deliverance from their bondage to sin. And with great compassion, he healed them!

Luke records that when the multitudes found Him, they “tried to keep Him from going away from them” (Luke 4:42). But as both Mark and Luke record, He told them that He must leave them and go to other cities as well because His gospel was not only for them but many others as well!

It seems like the only time he could get away and spend time alone with His Father was in the early morning before the sun began to rise. I don’t know about you, but it has become apparent in my own life that the “early morning hours” would be the time to enjoy the most solitude with Him as well.

Seclusion, quiet, and no interruptions sound’s good, doesn’t it? Couple that with one-on-one time with our Heavenly Father put’s the icing on the cake! But we struggle with that, don’t we? Not being alone with our Father, but making the time for it! Maybe you currently wake up at 5 AM to get ready for work; the thought of 4 AM is distressing. After all, you NEED that sleep time; you EARNED that rest. But where else among the busy hours of your day may you be able to spend quality time with the Father? If not, then when? 

We need to give this serious thought; after all, “a servant is not above his master” (Matthew 10:24). We have a tremendous encouragement in this verse to evaluate our own prayer time with God. 

FOCUS TWO: A HUNTED MAN

Others can thwart even the best of efforts! 

The first to locate Jesus was Simon and his companions (Mark 1:36-37). But close behind them were the “multitudes.” Even leaving quietly in the dark of night was not enough to give Jesus His desired time alone in prayer! He was hunted down and found while in the middle of His praying. 

The “tyranny of the urgent” was thrust upon Him, at least in the eyes of the multitude. More people needed healing, needed demons removed, etc., so why did you sneak away? Most likely is what the disciples are thinking (v.37). 

I imagine that His response to that statement, to their interruption, surprised them. 

38 He *said to them, “Let’s go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may also [a]preach there; for this is why I came.”

FOCUS THREE: WHAT I CAME FOR

This reply reveals a potential lack of understanding on the disciple’s part regarding the purpose of Christ coming. He tells them that he came not just to be a “miracle worker” among men but to preach the gospel of the kingdom to many people in various places, not just Capernaum. 

Jesus was sent by the Father on a divine mission. *”His purpose was to proclaim the “good news of God” (v.14), and confront people with the demand to ‘repent and believe’ it (v.15). Since the Capernaum crowd sought Him as a miracle-worker, He deliberately  departed to preach elsewhere.”

And as verse 39 shows, that is what he did. Throughout ALL Galilee, he went into the synagogues, “preaching and casting out demons.”

*The Bible knowledge Commentary

COVID, MASK MANDATES AND COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

I know it is unnerving to most of us, but isn’t it kind of funny as well, that we as a society have taken on the roll of some form of a futuristic dystopian world amid Covid 19, and have now become a “masked” society. Everywhere we go and whatever we do, wearing masks is required for protecting each other from the novel virus. I can wager, if I was a gambling man, that mass retailers never imagined that the next big thing raising their profit margins would be masks. Hospital masks of all types and flavors. Plain ones, colorful ones, ones with pictures on them like: Santa Clause, a big pair of lips, or pictures of the stars. And then there are the ones with words written on them, such as: “add your text here,” or, “this mask is useless.” If I could write my own I think it would say, “sorry, I’m a lip reader.”

This is where it becomes aggravating for people like you and I. People who need to communicate with others on a daily basis. Whether it is serious conversations or just lighthearted babble between two friends or loved ones. We are not used to communicating with others without being able to read their facial expressions. Facial expressions are important and necessary in our being able to understand better what a person is seeking to communicate with us. Communication is hard enough as it is, most times we don’t hear correctly what someone is trying to tell us.

  I remember an example from a course I took in college on communication. The professor was showing how a simple conversation between two people can easily and rather quickly move far away from what the original point was. The visual showed a person talking and his words going through, what was called, “the noise box.” The other person then received these words, but with a totally different understanding. This second person interpreted what was said by what they perceived and responded. Their response, then going through the noise box back to the other person, was received with expressions of bewilderment!  

We often interpret things people say incorrectly because we do not listen well and the noise box often changes what a person actually said into what we “think” they said, and then we respond to that. This is already problematic, now add masks! We have this problem already without our faces being covered, how much more do masks hinder us from communicating well? I share this quote from one article I have read online:

“The expressions we see in the faces of others engage a number of different cognitive processes. Emotional expressions elicit rapid responses, which often imitate the emotion in the observed face. These effects can even occur for faces presented in such a way that the observer is not aware of them. We are also very good at explicitly recognizing and describing the emotion being expressed.” View article here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781887/

Some cultures have mask wearing instilled in their way of life and have found ways to communicate effectively regardless, but to us here in America and other parts of the world, this is brand new and radically different than anything we have ever experienced. Does the Bible have anything to add to our conversation? It sure does, let’s take a look.

In regards to our facial expressions and how they transmit intentions and emotions to others, we find many verses in scripture. Psalm 119:136; 31:19, express eyes shedding tears in sorrow or great grief. Proverbs 10:10 speaks of the winking eye causing trouble. Proverbs 23:29 of the redness of the eyes that one experiences from drunkenness, and Proverbs 6:25 of the prostitute leading a man astray with her “eyelids.”  

Our lips often tell a story as well, for instance Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:13, “was speaking with her heart, only her lips were moving.” Habakkuk 3:16 tells of “quivering lips.” Wearing a mask places a physical barrier between us and the person we are speaking to. There is no question that being able to see a persons facial expressions greatly enhances our ability to communicate quickly and effectively.

Observing mouth movement is more important than we might think, according to Sarah Gallant, Spoken-English Communications expert: “Speaker mouth movement is absolutely critical for helping the listener focus on an absorb the information. If the speaker mumbles or doesn’t enunciate clearly, the listener may either struggle to understand the speaker, or worse, begin to think about dinner. Is this efficient or effective communication?” Check out her article here: 

Try being a school bus driver and communicate effectively with kindergarten age children or any child for that matter. Take it from me, it can become burdensome quickly. Children, especially, need to be able to read our facial expressions to understand what we are saying and sometimes the mood we are expressing, i.e. joy or anger. Take this example of a normal conversation on any given day of the week by any school bus driver: “Bus driver.” “Yes.” “Bus driver.” “What’s up buddy?” “Bus driver, Joey. . . ” and everything gets muffled. “Bus driver.” “Yes, I hear you, can you speak louder and slower please?” “Bus driver. . . .” “What was that?”

Irregardless of our present circumstances, let me encourage you to pursue, with greater diligence, communication with others that reflects the character and purpose of our God. The Psalmist said it well: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Masks on or masks off, this should be our desire. So, let me share a few things that I have been reminded of from scripture, that I believe can help us orientate our thinking rightly so our speech is always gracious and edifying to those we are speaking to (Colossians 4:6).

Do not speak harshly. I admit that I struggle with this. After several attempts to get a person to clearly hear and understand what I am saying, I get agitated. I’m frustrated they “don’t get it.” I realize it’s not their fault, the problem is the mask. The uncomfortable, face concealing mask. Even so, we are “not to let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

Be patient and really listen. As I wrote earlier in regards to the noise box, we often filter what people are saying through the noise of preconceived ideas, expectations, or myriads of other things. Take the time to listen more intentionally and the conversation will go better. “He who answers before listening, that is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

Wisdom in silence. If we can get the idea of the above settled in our thinking and active in our practice, using words with more restraint might be a blessing! “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:27-28).

So, I leave you now to go back out into a world where masks have become the manner in which we recognize someone else. “Hey, that’s Tom.” “What was that?”

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