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Feb 04, 2024

Coming Apart

Passage: Mark 1:35-45

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Gospel of Mark

Keywords: solitude, obedience, priorities, hearing from god, sensitivity


Jesus didn't follow the expectations of others. Instead, he knew that he needed to spend time with the Father in order to hear from Him and do what the Father was doing. This message address our need to be alone with God in order to know what, when and how we should be doing life in obedience to Christ.


Coming Apart

Mark 1: 35-45

February 4, 2024

Fellowship Question:  What’s your favorite place to go when you want some solitude? 


Allow for sharing of how God answered our prayers from last week asking for boldness, opportunities and the right words to share Christ.


Someone has said, “You must come apart or you will come apart.”  That has never been more true than for urban dwellers who find themselves surrounded by 24-7 noise, activity, movement and entertainment.  It has always been true for those who find themselves surrounded by other people, whether children or grown-ups, friends or fans.  Those of us who are more introverts than extroverts probably relish and need solitude more and more often. 

Just being alone isn’t what spiritual solitude is about.  Lots of people find themselves very lonely or alone much of their days.  But spiritual solitude is not about being alone.  But it is about being alone with God.  As we’re going to see in today’s text about Jesus, spiritual solitude has some profound gifts in store for us…if we know how to use solitude as God intended it.

When I first wrote this message, I intended to come at the text with a larger focus on what, I think, this whole chapter is about:  Jesus’ authority in action.  I intended to talk about “command and control”, a phrase that we often associate with the military.  Any military stands or falls on its ability to maintain command and control.  “Command and control” refers to a military’s ability to command both people and things in such a way as to achieve victory over an enemy when needed.

            Mark 1 is filled with a series of events in which Jesus demonstrates the fact that as God in human flesh, he can be in complete command and control of the forces around him.  And the really good news for us is that when anything in our lives feels out of control, everything placed in Jesus’ hands is under control—His.  When we are willing to cede control to Christ, what is out of control in our lives comes under control—His.

REVIEW:  We’ve already seen in the last four weeks in Mark 1 a variety of arenas in which Jesus’ authority was demonstrated publicly and powerfully: 

  • Authority over John the Baptist, the greatest revivalist of Israel at the time.
  • Authority over Satan in the wilderness. (vss 12-13)
  • Authority over His own physical needs for food, water and companionship in the wilderness.
  • Authority over men who said “yes” to becoming His disciples. (vss. 16-20)
  • Authority in his teaching in the synagogue. (vss. 22, 27)
  • Authority over the impure spirit in the man in the synagogue. (vss. 21-28)
  • Authority over sickness and the fever that afflicted Peter’s mother-in-law (vss. 29-31); “many who had various diseases…[and] many demons” (vs. 34)

In today’s text we’re introduced to Jesus’ authority in action over yet more things in life: both the power of deadly disease but more importantly, I think, the priorities of His life.  Let’s read it.

Mark 1:35-39

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.

            Jesus’ command and control over all the forces of heaven and earth began with exercising authority over His own priorities, both private and public.  All the authority in the world won’t do any good if the person with the authority doesn’t know where, when and how to use it…or not use it.  And we’ll never know that if we don’t learn how to direct both our private and public priorities under God’s will.  This is precisely what this passage is going to show us.

So, first let’s look at Jesus’ what I’ll call “private priorities.”  Most of our daily schedule is really up to us…unless you are incarcerated, right?  While most of us either have to go to school 6 hours a day or be at a job 8-10 hours a day, that still leaves a good 14-18 hours of our day that we get to control.  That’s 60-75% of your day.  And if you are not working or going to school, it’s 100%. 

            We throw around this phrase a lot, “I don’t have time.”  But the fact is, we all have the same amount of time every single day.  I don’t get one second more than you do!  The Governor doesn’t get one minute more than I do.  The President doesn’t get one hour more than we do. 

            The question is not, “Do I have the time?”  The question is, “What is getting my time?”  “Who is Lord of my time?”  “Where am I ‘spending’ my time?” 

If we were to speak completely honestly, we should be saying, “Well, right now I’m choosing to spend my time on these things.”  How we spend our time is a declaration of what I’ll call our “private priorities” in life.  By ‘private’ I mean that which we decide on daily when it comes to our non-obligated, publicly-consumed hours.  That includes how much time we sleep and how much we are awake.  It includes where we go on those non-public hours and what we choose to spend that time on.  “Private priorities” may take you into very public places and activities, but no law or boss or other person is requiring you to allocate those hours that way.  You are choosing.  In fact, depending on your job, many of us may be choosing to spend those hours working more rather than choosing another activity.  It’s all a matter of priorities.

            What did Jesus do to develop healthy private priorities that then spilled into a healthy public life and ministry? 

Vs. 35—He exercised authority over his schedule to shorten his sleep so that he could create time and space with the Father.  To do that he had to leave the house where he was staying.  Since it wasn’t his home, he knew that whatever space he was staying in really wasn’t his own.  It could be co-opted any moment by the homeowner or another guest or anyone wanting to see him.  So he skipped out before anyone else was up…in the dark hours of the morning…and “went off to a solitary place.” 

            This term “solitary” is one of Mark’s favorite words in this chapter.  He uses it 6 times in chapter 1:

  • 3—quoting Isaiah about a “voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord….”
  • 4—John the Baptist in the “wilderness”
  • 12—the Spirit sent Jesus into the “wilderness” to be tempted by the Devil.
  • 13—was in the “wilderness” 40 days and nights.
  • 35—here
  • 45—we will see that Jesus chose to stay outside of the cities in “lonely” or “desolate/wilderness/solitary/ uninhabited” places.

WHY were solitary places…places that didn’t have any or many people around…so valued by Jesus?  Because that’s where He and the Father could meet!  Jesus didn’t go to church/synagogue to fellowship with the Father.  He didn’t attend a conference or listen to a Podcast.  He found a solitary PLACE where he could get his marching orders for the day, talk with the Father about what was coming up, and listen to what His Father wanted him to hear, say and do. 

In order for Jesus to be in-command of his day, He knew he must be in communion with His Father.  John tells us in his Gospel that Jesus didn’t do anything or say anything he didn’t first hear His Father tell him to say or do (John 5:19; 8:26; 12:50). 

            It’s hard to hear the Father’s voice in busy, noisy places.  Jesus knew that.  That’s why he took control of His day, busy as it was, to find a solitary, alone space to be with the Father.  He wanted to be under the Father’s authority, so he made time and space for solitude with the Father.

APP:  Time with God is not a slot machine where we plug in minutes and get a “good day” as pay-out.  Time with God is where we connect our souls with him, get our heart and mind and schedules under His control and hear from Him about how to spend our lives and order our days.

  • Where is your “solitary space” where you meet with God daily? A quiet closet?  A park?  A corner chair away from everyone else?  If you don’t have a place, make one NOW.  If you do, use it…daily.  If you’ve been neglecting it, renew your commitment to frequent it.  If you need a little story to help you see why it’s so important, get a copy of My Heart Christ’s Home and read it…today! 

And just in case you don’t think you have time or your life is too busy, let me tell you about someone.

ILL: Susanna Wesley—my favorite story of finding solitude with God.

Susanna Annesley was the 25th of 25 children. (1669-1742)  Her father was a prominent, highly educated minister in cosmopolitan London.  While she had little formal education, she grew to be well-read and well-rounded intellectually. 

            She met her husband, Samuel Wesley, an aspiring Anglican minister, and married him in 1688, when she was 19.  She delivered 19 children.  However, 9—including 2 sets of twins—died in infancy.  Another was accidentally smothered in the night by a nurse while Susanna was recovering from labor and delivery. 

            Life obviously wasn’t easy for her.  Her husband, Samuel, was not particularly successful as pastor of the church at Epworth.  He was too academic and didn’t understand or identify with his rural parishioners.  He ended up being despised by a large portion of the town.  Twice their parsonage burned down, some believe likely due to arson on the part of embittered parishioners.  Her husband, a poor manager of money, spent several months in debtors’ prison while Susanna managed the parsonage and small farm attached to it.  She homeschooled all of their children, both the boys and the girls.  All of them were brought up with a classical and biblical education.  She schooled them from 9-noon and 2-5:00 p.m. 6 days a week. 

Susanna knew from personal experience that quality one-on-one time with a parent was hard to come by in a large family but vitally important.  So, she set a rotating schedule through which each of her children spent an hour with her alone before bedtime on a designated night each week. 

Early in her life, she vowed that she would never spend more time in leisure entertainment than she did in prayer and Bible study.  So, she scheduled 2 hours each day for fellowship with God and time in His Word.  But the challenge was finding a place of privacy/solitude in a house filled with children.

Susanna’s solution was to bring her Bible to her favorite chair and throw her long apron up over her head, forming a sort of tent.  It became her “tent of meeting” with God.  Every person in the household, from the smallest toddler to the oldest domestic helper, knew to respect this signal.  When Susanna was under the apron, she was with God and was not to be disturbed except in the case of direst emergency.  There she interceded for her husband and children as well as communed with God in His word and prayer.  (At one point she had over 200 people attending her Sunday afternoon Bible study in that little town.)

What was the result?  A life of meaning, difficulty, purpose, joy, struggle and…God’s priorities.  Two of her sons, John and Charles Wesley, shaped Christendom for decades to come.  Son John preached over 40,000 sermons in his lifetime to nearly a million people and was the dominant influence on Methodists world-over.  His younger brother, Charles, became his partner in ministry.  A brilliant musician and lyricist, he wrote more than 6,600 hymns, some of which we still sing today 300 years later.  (See “And Can it Be”, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, “Rejoice, the Lord is King.”)

APP:   I don’t know what speaks to you from Susanna’s private priorities in life.  What pricks my heart is her vow to spend more time in the Word and prayer than entertainments.  Imagine what would happen to any church that practiced just that for a solid year?  If every one of us spent more time every day communing with God in His word and prayer than watching movies or reading entertaining books or surfing the web or watching YouTube videos or listening to talk radio or…???  Imagine what God could do!

APP:   Have we made Jesus Lord of our ‘private priorities’?  If so, I’m pretty sure he’s going to call us into a frequent if not daily places of solitude of some kind. It is in that place where we get to not only unburden our souls for the people we love and the issues that are weighing us down; that is the place where God gets to speak with us.

Confession:  for too long in my Christian experience I have seen prayer as primarily the time I talk with God.  But as I’ve matured, that understanding has changed.  I’m trying to more and more experience it as a time when God talks with me.  Oh, I don’t hear an audible voice.  I don’t recall that I ever have heard God speak to me that way.  But when I now ask God a question, I assume that He’s going to answer.  Sometimes it’s the next thought that comes into my mind.  Sometimes it delays a minute or so.  Sometimes it comes later in the day.  But I’m beginning to realize that God wants to speak to me more often than I imagined.  I just haven’t been a very good listener. 

Challenge:  last week we were challenged to change our prayer life by asking God to give us both the opportunities to speak of Jesus with others and the words to speak.  This week my challenge to us in prayer is, take time to LISTEN to God in your praying this week.

            Jesus’ private priority of solitude with the Father resulted in a 2nd private-public priority:  preaching God’s word.  This was quite different from what those closest to him thought he should do.  It’s clear from Peter’s declaration in vs. 37 that “everyone” was looking for him that Jesus’ disciples wanted him to make the crowds and the miracles his priority. 

But because Jesus had heard from the Father about how to spend his days and life, He rejected the bigger, showier, more public displays of his authority.  More healings and more exorcisms and more miracles were not the Father’s primary agenda for Him.  He chose rather to place His priorities in the proclamation of the truth and Word of God. 

ILL:  That’s what happened with Susanna Wesley as she practice the private priority of solitude with God >> she made teaching God’s word to her children and village her priority…and the whole world was blessed as a result!

APP:  You might be thinking, “Sounds great!  You go preach, Pastor!”  Well, that is probably where I should be spending most of my time in preaching and teaching God’s word.  But I’m pretty sure that anyone who makes solitary time with God a priority will end up making “preaching and teaching” the truth of God a dominant trait of their private and public life. 

That doesn’t mean you do that up in front of dozens or hundreds of people.  But it does mean that the Word of God will dominate our interactions with others.  It will fill our conversation with our kids and our spouse.  It will spill out into our interactions with peers and coworkers and neighbors and fellow students.  Because when you hear God speak to you, it’s hard to stay quiet about that.  When God’s truth radically transforms our lives, it’s more natural that that permeates our interactions with others. 

How radically different might our interactions with others be if we only talked about, as Jesus did, what we had heard from the Father in our time with Him.  I’m not saying that Jesus never talked about transactional things like what the prices were for food in the market or where they were going to spend the night or who was going to do the disciples’ laundry.  But I’ll bet He asked the Father plenty of times, “So what should I talk about at dinner tonight?” Or, “How should I handle Peter today while we’re doing laundry?”  Or, “What should I say to Judas Iscariot when we look at our finances today?” 

Husbands, dads/Wives, moms: how different would be our words if we asked the Father, “What…and how…should I address this issue with my wife today?”  Or, “How do you want me to interact with my rebellious daughter right now, Father?”  ALL:  “What do you want me to say to my boss/friend/politician in this email right now?” 

We underestimate the power of our “preaching.”  We all preach/declare truth (or what we think is ‘truth’) all day long.  We just don’t see it as preaching.  But is is.  And as the concluding snapshot of Mark 1 is going to show us, obeying/speaking what we hear from Jesus and the Father is far more important than a bunch of stuff most everyone else thinks is more important.

40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

41 Jesus was indignant [had compassion]. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

The most obvious truth here is that Jesus has authority over the worst of diseases…and compassion to match.

The average life-span of a leaper was under a decade.  They were to live utterly ostracized from family, friends and even strangers.  The only people they could associate with were other lepers.  The disease was as terrible social and relationally as it was physically in creating grotesque ulcerated growths on the face, hands and feet.

Jesus did what few, if any, would have been willing to do with a leper—risk contagion. Leprosy is contagious and was incurable.  To touch a leper was to make oneself ‘unclean.’  But Jesus demonstrated that God is always more concerned with the sufferer than the disease.  He could have healed him simply by speaking.  But he chose to do so with a personal touch—something this man may not have experienced for years.   

APP:  Isn’t that what we long for in our times of suffering—a personal touch from God.  We know that if God would just reach out his all-powerful hand and touch us, no disease can triumph.  We know that about God…and it is true. 

            Yet even healings will not necessarily bring us closer to God. It apparently didn’t do that to even this man, radically changed by the healing. 

We can certainly understand how this man, overwhelmed by this astounding healing, would go out and tell everyone he could find what had happened to him at the hand of Jesus.  But Jesus had strictly charge him to do something else—to go to the priests, be inspected by them (ala Lev. 14) and then offer the sacrifices required by the Law so that the religious leaders might believe in Jesus.  Instead, this man missed the opportunity of a lifetime to witness to the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem.  And his disobedience meant Jesus had to change where he went so that he could still preach the Gospel of the Kingdom rather than be sidetracked into miracles-making. 

            This story has a clear message to us:  submission to Jesus is more important than even getting the miracles we are desperate for.  Clearly Jesus can heal ANY sickness or illness or disease.  But doing so does not guarantee that we will live the submitted lives to Him that he asks.  Jesus can prove to us his authority over the worst, most powerful forces at work in our lives.  But even joy over miracles is no substitute for submission to His call.  This former leaper chose his own priorities over those of Jesus.  In the process, what blessings and witness did he forfeit because he chose not to listen to Jesus’ voice that day???

            This truth confronts us every time there is something in our lives that we desperately want God to change.  God can change anything in our lives.  He does still do miracles.  And we should still pray, “If you so will, you can do _________ in my life.”  But the reality is, it is also often not God’s will to do a miracle.  His divine agenda is much bigger than ours.  His priorities are often very different from ours.  But His will is always that we would place ourselves in humble submission to His authority, no matter what that means. 

ILL:  This week, one of our members sent me a daily devotional from Streams in the Desert that had a very simple but profound truth that we could all benefit from when life challenges continue to persist.  Whether it’s sickness or financial stresses or relational isolation or family challenges that are assailing us, we all need to hear God’s voice, just as Jesus did.  And what He may want to say to us is this: “This thing is from ME.”  God doesn’t bring or create evil but he can always use it to draw us closer to Him and help us know Him more deeply.  Here is just a couple of sentences from that devotional:

Are you passing through a night of sorrow?  This thing is from Me.  I am the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.  I have let earthly comforters fail you, that by turning to Me you may obtain everlasting consolation (2 Thess. 2:16-17).  Have you longed to do some great work for Me and instead have been laid aside on a bed of pain and weakness?  This thing is from Me.  I could not get your attention in your busy days and I want to teach you some of my deepest lessons.  “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  Some of my greatest workers are those shut out from active service, that they may learn to wield the weapon of all-prayer.

Spiritual solitude is that place where we will hear the voice of God.  Every day of life holds the possibility of finding spiritual solitude.  But we will have to leave people and other priorities aside for a while in order to encounter it and God.  How about we do that this week…even today.  May we “come apart” with Him before life “comes apart” without Him.