In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling[p] he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
There are several times throughout the gospels where Jesus goes alone to a deserted place in order to pray. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been drawn to those stories. Possibly because I am so bad at praying in a solitary way, and I want to be better at it. But I think whenever Jesus prays it’s very important for us to pay close attention, because He is our best role model for prayer. Now, He doesn’t always pray in solitude, but He does so often enough that I think we should take note.
Just like it’s important to spend one-on-one time with your spouse, children, parents, best friend, or anyone else important to you, it’s vital to your relationship with God to spend some time with just you and Him. Notice Jesus doesn’t only pray alone, but in a deserted place. Prayer should, at least sometimes, be completely distraction free. No computers, phone notifications, distracting pets or children. Just you and God. That’s the best kind of quality time you can spend with Him. And I know that’s hard to do in this day and age. Goodness knows I hardly ever do anything without some kind of background music, and my computer is essentially on 24/7. But I think all of us, especially me, need to set aside some time for God, the way Jesus did. And maybe early morning, before the distracting hustle and bustle of the day, would be a good time.
The Messianic Secret, when Jesus tells both people and demons (but mostly people) not to tell anyone of His deeds throughout the book of Mark, shows up for the first time in the leper-cleansing story. Now, one of my goals for going through Mark is to finally come to an understanding about why on earth Jesus felt the need to keep His identity a secret. There are several theories from scholars, but I like to come to my own conclusions. In this particular passage, Jesus seems to want to keep the secret in order to keep some freedom of movement. When everyone knows who Jesus is and what He can do, people swarm Him and He can’t get anywhere. He gets bogged down where He is with healing, and teaching, and just plain wading through a sea of people. This would be especially true in a crowded city. Or, possibly, Jesus couldn’t go in to cities for fear of persecution. Galilee is Gentile-country, and maybe the governments didn’t like the Jews. Jesus might have been unwelcome in the cities. Or possibly the Priests and Pharisees were already on to Him. We know John the Baptist has already been arrested by the Roman government. Maybe they were looking for Jesus too. Whatever the specific reason, in this passage the Messianic Secret seems to function as a way for Jesus to be able to minister to and reach a greater number of people, and move more easily from place to place. At least, it would have been if the leper had actually done what Jesus asked.