Jesus is Our Model
Ordinary 5 Year B
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Mark 1: 29 — 39
This text allows us to observe Our Lord early in His Galilean ministry. We are privileged to catch a glimpse of Him surrounded by the needy as well as alone at prayer. We will see how intensive service to others is paired with withdrawal for concentrated prayer with God His Father. In this Gospel it is the first key occasion when we see Him choose a special time and a special place for prayer. We will also begin a long series of observations which demonstrate the relationship in His ministry between preaching and healing and the priorities which must be upheld.
All of these points above help us understand the key ideas about prayer and its centrality in the life of every follower of the Lord. Week by week we will add new perceptions gained from our reflections on the Gospel accounts.
Some notes on our text
On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and
Andrew with James and John.
Note how the previous miracle (healing a man of an unclean spirit) and this one are our Lord’s first miracles and they occur on the Sabbath. He could have chosen any day of the week. Why choose the Sabbath when it was bound to cause conflict? Might there be some connection between restoration of mind and body which they represent and restoration of the true meaning and role of the Sabbath?
Peter’s house appears to be the Lord’s headquarters during his public ministry in Galilee. Here are the beginnings of the “house-church” (see 1 Corinthians 16:19) as they evolved in the early Church. In Jewish custom this meant it would have been a place of daily prayer, meal blessings and Sabbath family worship.
Verses 30 — 31
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately
told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the
fever left her and she waited on them.
The fever would have been a sickness in its own right and not the result of some other sickness.
Jesus, on the group’s request, went to the sick woman. He took her hand very firmly and raised her to a sitting position. Touching is important to Jesus — it reveals His tenderness, sympathy and nearness.
She is cured immediately and, having had her need attended to, she now serves the needs of those present. The house was the woman’s realm, and this flowed over into the practices and duties of those within house-churches. Women played key roles in these. (Augustine Stock, O.S.B.)
Verses 32 — 34
When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who
were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he
drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because
they knew him.
We should note a few points in this straightforward narrative:
• Out of respect for Sabbath, the people waited till the sun had set.
• A clear distinction is made between general sickness, and
• “Many” here does not refer to some, but to all present.
• Jesus wanted His words and actions to show what sort of person
He was rather than mere declarations, especially from demons.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a
deserted place, where he prayed.
There is great emphasis on the time: very early — morning — dark (literally “very much at night”). This is to indicate something special is happening here. It is followed by a similar three-fold action. Jesus got up — left home — went off. Again a major build up. Where did Jesus go? To a “wilderness place,” literally. Not a desert, as all the surrounding countryside was fertile and heavily populated. He found a place of solitude. St. Mark shows Jesus withdrawing from people to return to a wilderness place which typifies the place where he encountered Satan and sustained temptation. We shall discover that it is only in such wilderness spots that Jesus reveals glimpses of his hidden glory.
In the Gospel according to St. Mark, Jesus is seen praying only three times. In this way the crucial role of prayer is emphasised. He prays at the beginning (1: 35), middle (6: 46) and near the conclusion (14: 32 — 42) of His ministry. They are all critical moments, at night, and in solitude. So Jesus finds His help in prayer through which He affirms His intention to carry out God’s will. (Augustine Stock, O.S.B. and William Lane).
Verses 36 — 37
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
Simon literally “tracked down” or hunted for Jesus and reprimanded him implying: “What on earth are you doing here? You should be where people can find you!” Before we criticise Peter let’s recall how we too can be inclined sometimes to dump our prejudices and bias on others without any consideration of their needs.
This is one of the examples St. Mark records where even the closest followers of Jesus can fail in their calling. They are meant to convey to the people an understanding of the life and teaching of Jesus. Here they act in the reverse. Peter and those with him “act not as disciples but as interpreters of the wishes of the crowd”. (Lightfoot, quoted by Augustine Stock, O.S.B.). Again St. Mark records early in his account another great challenge which will always confront the Church, and noticeably in our own day,: not to affirm and endorse human, worldly values, but to lead the world to encounter the person and teaching of Jesus. This is a core teaching of this passage. As usual, the context not only presents the problem, but also offers the antidote, the answer: solitary prayer in a solitary, wilderness place! Jesus is our model!
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may
preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”
Jesus ignores the scolding and gently suggests they interrupt the miracles so that they can go to other villages to preach. The word St. Mark used for villages indicates Jesus spoke in the main centres or clusters of villages, covering several synagogue congregations at once. In this way, our Lord demonstrates the need never to deviate from God’s chosen plan — to spread the message of His love and salvation to every soul within reach.
The crowds in Capernaum were all enthusiastic about following Jesus as a performer of great miracles. But, this was unacceptable to Jesus because it was attraction without any desire to repent of sin. This is why our Lord drew attention to remaining true to the purposes for which He had come.
“The disciples apparently wanted Jesus to make the most of the
opportunity to become a popular miracle worker; but Jesus
rejected it, regarding preaching more highly than miracles.
Miracles were “appendages” to the Word (Calvin): the relation
was not to be reversed.”
(C. Cranfield, quoted by Augustine Stock, O.S.B.).
So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out
demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
Preaching was to have precedence. Miracles were to point to the Word — not the reverse. Jesus emphasised this principle on many occasions, as we shall see as we progress through this Gospel.
Two brief quotations sum up the above ideas.
Our Lord calls for us to open our hearts to the renewing power of the Word. This brings healing which we all need.”
“His coming into the world was more to Proclaim God’s Good News and all that was involved in discipleship and suffering than to be a popular miracle-worker.”
We have taken these two quotations from modern sources to underpin the supreme teaching contained in this beautiful Gospel passage. It is absolutely clear in the teaching of Jesus that His disciples down through the ages are to listen intently to what He proclaims, observe how He lives out what He proclaims, and follow closely His model in their own lives. Consistently throughout His life Jesus gives us the supreme example of taking part in the public, solemn liturgical, formal worship of God in the places consecrated for this, and also retiring to solitary places for prayer in solitude. These pursuits are to have our sustained commitment.
Meditation on the Holy Gospels is to be a priority for all true Christians. Failure to observe this element of the Lord’s service will have the most dire consequences. Witness the popular appeal today among so-called Christians who clamour for miracle sessions and inspiring messages which contain little reference to the life and personal teaching of Jesus based on the speaker’s sustained meditation of the Gospel. How easy it is for a body of people to be subverted when they have allowed themselves to be diverted. Here is a loud warning to Christians. Our lesson this week gives us the answer: Jesus is our model! He said, “Follow me”. All other models are false idols.
See Further Reading J.C. Ryle (below)
Note: This set of notes is an edited form of the original posted in 2000.
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Jesus is our Model
Mark 1: 35 — 39
Every fact in our Lord’s life on earth, and every word which fell from His lips, ought to be deeply interesting to a true Christian. We see a fact and a saying in the passage we have just read, which deserve close attention.
We see, for one thing, an example of our Lord Jesus Christ’s habits about private prayer. We are told, that “in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”
We shall find the same thing often recorded of our Lord in the Gospel history. When He was baptized, we are told that He was “praying.” (Luke 3: 21.) When He was transfigured, we are told that “as He prayed, the fashion of His face was altered.” (Luke 9: 29.) Before He chose the twelve Apostles, we are told that “He continued all night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6: 12.) When all men spoke well of Him, and would fain have made him a King, we are told that “He went up into a mountain apart to pray.” (Matt. 14: 23.) When tempted in the garden of Gethsemane, He said, “Sit ye here, while I shall pray.” (Mark 14: 32.) In short, our Lord “prayed always, and did not faint.” Sinless as He was, He set us an example of diligent communion with His Father. His Godhead did not render Him independent of the use of all means as a man. His very perfection was a perfection kept up through the exercise of prayer
What shall we say to those who never pray at all, in the face of such a passage as this? There are many such, it may be feared, in the list of baptized people, — many who rise up in the morning without prayer, and without prayer lie down at night, — many who never speak one word to God. Are they Christians? It is impossible to say so. A praying master, like Jesus, can have no prayerless servants. The Spirit of Adoption will always make a man call upon God. To be prayerless is to be Christ-less, Godless, and in the high road to destruction.
What shall we say to those who pray, yet give but little time to their prayers? We are obliged to say that they show at present very little of the mind of Christ. Asking little, they must expect to have little. Seeking little, they cannot be surprised if they possess little. It will always be found that when prayers are few, grace, strength, peace, and hope are small.
We shall do well to watch our habits of prayer with a holy watchfulness. Here is the pulse of our Christianity. Here is the true test of our state before God. Here true religion begins in the soul, when it does begin. Here it decays and goes backward, when a man backslides from God. Let us walk in the steps of our blessed Master in this respect as well as in every other. Like Him, let us be diligent in our private devotion. Let us know what it is to “depart into solitary places and pray.” J. C. Ryle.
“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”
(Mark 16: 15)
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so, remain
Jesus Is Our Model
Ordinary 5 Year B Mark 1: 29 — 39
1. Jesus was not some kind of solitary mystic who loved to get away from people and problems, just to find His pleasure in peaceful prayer. He loved being with people and being involved with them. He found ways to create moments of silence, stillness and solitude. No one suffered neglect because of His attention to religious practice. We can learn to do the same. It is not a case of “either …..
See our article “Return to the Desert“.
2. There has always been, as we have seen in this Gospel reading, a tendency for a great number of people to be attracted by miracles than to the simple beauty of teaching about the things of God. All through the history of the Church, false movements have arisen which detracted from the pure and simple teaching of Jesus. We see such movements today, raging through the Church. One wonders, how can people be so easily “conned”. Yet it happens even to the elite. The lesson is clear. We all need to keep a disciplined (i.e. a disciple’s) focus on our Blessed Lord, who is the very Word of God. He, Himself, is the message from God the Father. Without humble, regular attention being given to Him and His message, we too could be enticed to join the crowds flocking to the miracles but avoiding the disciplines of:
Listening to Christ, Word of God,
3. Even the Lord’s Apostles fell into serious error by trying to convince Jesus He should be living up to the expectations of the crowds: giving them what they were clamouring for. But our Lord gently steers their understanding so that they see their mission, like His, is quite the opposite. They are to reflect to the people what they need to know about Jesus and how to live according to the Divine Word. This may not be the popular approach, but it is what Jesus demands. All else is foreign to what He came to be and to do.
Mark 1: 29 ― 39
Ordinary 5 Year B
29 On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and
30 Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately
31 He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the
32 When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who
33 The whole town was gathered at the door.
34 He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he
35 Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted
36 Simon and those who were with him pursued him
37 and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
38 He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may
39 So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised