LET’S GO ELSEWHERE
Mark 1:35-39 NET
35 Then Jesus got up early in the morning when it was still very dark, departed, and went out to a deserted place, and there he spent time in prayer. 36 Simon and his companions searched for him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 He replied, “Let us go elsewhere, into the surrounding villages, so that I can preach there too. For that is what I came out here to do.” 39 So he went into all of Galilee preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Jesus has moved north from Judea and is now ministering in Galilee — the region he grew up in. He is gathering many disciples around him, including some who are being formally trained for a ministry similar to his own. They are in Capernaum, where Jesus has just finished preaching in a synagogue and has just commanded an unclean spirit to leave a man. The demon left, and everyone was amazed at Jesus’ power.
Next, Jesus goes to Peter’s home in the same city. Peter’s mother-in-law was there — bedridden with a high fever. When they told Jesus about her, he simply came to the bed where she lay, took her hand, and raised her up. The fever was gone, so she immediately began serving Jesus and the disciples.
It did not take long for the inhabitants of that village of Capernaum to get news that a healer was in town. By evening, the whole town had gathered at the door, so Jesus went about his work of healing the sick and delivering the demon-possessed.
Since he had such a busy day, you would expect Jesus to sleep in the next day. Instead, our text tells us that he got up before sunrise, went out into a deserted place, and prayed. When Peter and the others found him, he told them that he planned to go elsewhere. The question I want to address today is why did Jesus tell his disciples “let’s go elsewhere”?
Jesus did not need to go anywhere else to get close to his heavenly Father (35)
Jesus had made his relationship with his heavenly Father his priority. Prayer for him was not a chore that he tacked on to his daily life when he found time for it. No, he made time for prayer even when there was no time to spare. Since he knew that many throughout the city had learned of his presence and his healing and deliverance ministry, he had to get up early for his private devotional time first.
Glover writes “He needed to pray. Only in facing God did He find the sufficient refreshment of His Spirit. His eye grew sick and weary with the sight of sin and woe and only got back its brightness by looking upon God. Only there did He find rest. No one so enjoyed human love as He did. But He wanted a greater heart than man’s to rest on with His sorrows, cares, and toils, and He found it in the heart of God. He, as man, had to seek guidance for each day’s action, and light for each day’s teaching, and power for each day’s work; and only God could give these.”1
Sometimes our Christian lives get so busy that we have to organize retreats where we can go and rest and get back in touch with God. Sometimes in ministry, we need a rest — a sabbatical. Otherwise, our activities tend to crowd out our spiritual lives.
But Jesus did not need to go elsewhere to stay spiritually strong. He had found a way — even in the busy city of Capernaum to stay in touch with his heavenly Father — to keep himself in step with God’s will. His early morning talks with the man upstairs were all that he needed to keep the relationship strong and vital.
So, it was not for Jesus’ personal spiritual needs that he told his disciples that they were going to pack up and go elsewhere.
Also, Jesus did not need to go anywhere else to have a successful ministry (36-37)
The fact that crowds had gathered at the doorstep of Peter’s home was a good thing. It meant that news was getting out that if you have a need, there is somebody there who can fill it. Sick people want to go where they can get help. When the home remedies don’t help and the local doctors can’t help, people will go out of their way to find someone or something that will work. News had gotten out that the preacher was healing people at Peter’s house.
Our modern philosophy tells us that if we have something that is working, don’t try to change it. I can imagine Peter thinking that he was in really good shape here. He could be a part of a successful ministry without having to leave his home and family. Then he finds Jesus, and Jesus tells him that they have to go elsewhere. “Wait a minute,” Peter says. ” The crowds are here, our shelter is here, our boats and nets are nearby in case we need to eat. So, why should we leave?”
I don’t know if Peter said anything like that, but I can imagine he thought it. Logic dictated that if the crowds were still forming in Capernaum, you don’t need to pull up your tent stakes and go to the other towns and villages of Galilee.
But there is another aspect of God’s logic. That is the aspect of what God wants and when he wants it. God wants to save all people everywhere. He wants to demonstrate his love and offer his forgiveness to all people everywhere.
Goodwin writes “Note, again, that the extraordinary popularity which He had attained in Capernaum was no reason with Him why He should remain there. The question was, whether He had done the work of His Father as it required to be done; and if so, He would not remain for the purpose of basking in the sunshine of friendship and kindness.” 2
Human nature wants to build a tower and a city and settle down and make something of ourselves. God’s logic looks down on that and sees human pride. The tower of Babel was an example. God had told the descendants of Noah to scatter throughout the earth. They decided to settle at Shinar.
Later in Genesis, we encounter a man named Abram whom God had decided to bless. But God was not going to bless him unless he decided to go away from his homeland and be a blessing to others. Abram — later renamed Abraham — was successful in his ministry because he was obedient to God’s mission for his life.
And, just like Abraham, Jesus needed to go elsewhere to fulfill his God-given mission (38-39)
Jesus told his disciples that they had to keep moving because he came to Galilee to reach Galilee, not just Capernaum. He came to the world to share God’s love and healing and deliverance with the whole world, not just the easy places to be.
The church of Jesus Christ needs to take hold of that truth again. We have had periods in our history where we have made great strides in fulfilling the great commission. But we have also had periods where we have gotten sidetracked from that calling by other things. There are many good things that we can do by staying and investing in the home front. But our heavenly Father sent his only Son as a manifestation of his love to the whole world. He wants us to reach the whole world.
Remember what our Lord had told those self-righteous religious leaders who objected to his associating with Matthew’s fellow tax collectors and sinners? He said that a doctor’s place is among the sick. When doctors are everywhere, then people can go to them. But when the doctors are scarce, and the sick are scattered, then the doctors need to go to the sick. If those who are the neediest cannot find a doctor, then the doctors need to find them.
Jesus cannot “confine his labors to one town as others need him also.” He had to go throughout the whole region, “not necessarily every acre or every town, but there were hundreds of towns, and this circuit of Galilee — the first of several, apparently – must have involved weeks and months of toilsome journeying and many severe trials to his loving heart.” 3
Jesus had already shown his willingness to go where he needed to go. He had gone out into the desert to be tempted. He had gone to meet a Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar. In this very text, he had gone to the home of Peter — and healed his mother-in-law there. He would later go to a ruler’s house to raise his daughter from the dead. He’d go to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. He was God’s grace in the flesh, and he would go where he needed to go to manifest that grace.
He went where no one else could go. He went to the cross. Others have died on crosses for their sins, but he died on a cross for our sins. He had a mission, and he was willing to go wherever he needed to go to fulfill that mission.
It is for that reason that Jesus refuses to stay among all the friends and admirers in Capernaum who want to keep him for themselves. His hands are healing hands, not just for a few here or there, but all people everywhere. His voice drives out demons — not just in a Capernaum synagogue, but in the region of the Gerasenes, in Tyre where they were possessing the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman, and along the sea where they had made a young boy mute and gave him convulsions.
Johnny Cash sang a song about a man who had been everywhere. Jesus was like that. He traveled. He went from place to place because God has a message, and God wants his people to go into every nation and proclaim that message. Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Now, the same heavenly Father who sent his Son to proclaim his gospel has also sent his people — his church — to proclaim that same gospel to that same planet. His word to us today is “let’s go elsewhere.” There are still plenty of places where there are plenty of people who need to hear the good news. Nothing should hinder our mission of going with the gospel. Even if we cannot physically travel, we should find ways of getting the gospel to those who need it — and everybody needs it. If we cannot go, we need to send someone. If we send someone, then those who stay back should be praying for and paying for those we send.
1 Glover, Richard. A Teacher’s Commentary of the Gospel of St. Mark. London: Sunday School Union, 1884. p. 19.
2 Goodwin, Harvey. A Commentary on the Gospel of S. Mark. Cambridge [Eng.]: Deighton, Bell, 1860. p. 25.
3 Broadus, John Albert. Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1905. p. 18.