Why Did Jesus Often Withdraw to Lonely Places By Himself – Was He an Introvert? #204
Hello friends and happy Lord’s Day to you. If you are listening to this early enough, come on over and join us on Facebook at VBC Salinas for a livestream of our church gathering. We ‘meet’ at 11am and are kicking off a brand new series on the Holy Spirit and how we MUST turn to Him now during this pandemic. The message is entitled: “Sit Down, Church.” And that title probably doesn’t mean what you think it does. Look for an episode later this week with some great listener comments, questions and feedback. I’ve saved some of the recent feedback up and hope to share with you soon, but since Saturdays are often very pressed for me, today is not that day. Our Bible readings for the day include Judges 2, Acts 6, Jeremiah 15 and Mark 1. Our focus passage comes from this small section of Mark 1:
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying. 36 Simon and his companions searched for him, 37 and when they found him they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
We find out later, in Luke 5:15-16 that this was not a one time thing for Jesus, but a frequent habit:
15 But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed
Jesus, in the midst of the single most important mission in the history of the world, often went to deserted places by Himself. Fascinating…but why did He does this? Let’s read Mark 1 and see if we can find answers.
Okay, great passage, but no definite answers to our question. I have a reputation among my family and those who know me best. Whenever there is a large gathering with lots of people – or even a small gathering with a few people, at some point, I am going to slip away on my own for a little while. Today on a family trip to a swimming hole on the Carmel river in beautiful Carmel Valley wine country, I slipped away for about 20 minutes to solo explore the surrounding area. If we have a large church covered dish, I guarantee at some point that I’ll disappear without a trace for a few moments and come back. For me, this is because I have some introvert blood running through my veins. I’m primarily an extrovert, but only barely – I’m sort of an introverted extrovert. Unfortunately, I just wasted a few seconds of your time there, because I don’t think my personal experience and character quirks have anything to do with why Jesus went to lonely places. Rather than mostly needing to ‘recharge away from people,’ to use some modern parlance, I believe Jesus usually had a much deeper purpose. Let’s consider some Scripture:
23 After dismissing the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Well into the night, he was there alone. Matthew 14:23
39 Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, (Matthew 26:39)
12 During those days he went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God Luke 6:12
15 But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed (Luke 5:15-16)
28 About eight days after this conversation, he took along Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. Luke 9:28
So, I think we can say that the primary reason Jesus went to be alone (from other humans) was to focus on His heavenly Father and linger in prayer, undisturbed. If the son of God – God Himself – lived a life of intense, intentional and extended prayer, than I believe that is a great model for us also. That said, I do find a few places where prayer isn’t mentioned:
31 He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32 So they went away in the boat by themselves to a remote place, (Mark 6:31-32)
13 When Jesus heard about it, he withdrew from there by boat to a remote place to be alone. – Matthew 14:13
10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus all that they had done. He took them along and withdrew privately to a town called Bethsaida Luke 9:10
Introverts, rejoice! Jesus also seemed to live a life of regular times of withdrawal – either by Himself, or with His closest friends. Most of the time, it would appear that His focus was on prayer, but it could be said that He also withdrew sometimes for rest purposes. If we would emulate Jesus, then we should do these things too – majoring on withdrawing for prayer, minoring on withdrawing for rest.
I’ll close with a couple of thoughts from Spurgeon on withdrawing to lonely places:
Just when there were such grand opportunities of doing good, just when everybody sought him, does he get right away from them into the wilderness to pray? Yes, because he felt what we ought to feel but often do not, that he needed fresh power, that as the servant of God he must wait upon God for fresh power for his great life-work: “He withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.” No doubt it was the constant habit of Christ to pray, but there were certain special times when he retired into lonely places, and his prayer was peculiarly fervent and prolonged.
C. H. Spurgeon, “First Forgiveness, Then Healing,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 41 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1895), 286–287.
The Sun of Righteousness was up before the sun. How much must our Lord have loved prayer to renounce his needed rest in sleep, in order to hold converse with his heavenly Father. He was sinless, and yet needed prayer: far be it from us to dream that we can do without it. In private we must, like our Lord, equip ourselves for the public battle of life.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1964), 509.