14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
Jesus did not launch a publicity campaign the moment He healed the leper. On the contrary, he told the healed man to not speak to anyone but to go straight to the priest, so that according to the law of Moses, the man could be pronounced clean and resume his normal life. Jesus always steered clear of drama, rather being interested in restoring right relationship between people and with God. We also see hear another illustration why we are to obey all laws of the land we live in, whether we like it or not.
We understand the reasons Jesus dissuaded the man from telling anyone about the miracle in his life was because
(i) He valued the man receiving the confirmation of cleansing from the priest and resuming what was left of his life more than gaining any mileage from it
(ii) Jesus knew that some of His Jewish listeners were seeking to make Him King, and knew He was not sent to create a man-made Kingdom, but rather to do the will of God.
In Mk 1:45 we see that following this incident Jesus could no longer enter the city, but those who wanted to hear Him had to go find him in the wilderness. In Mk 6:31 Jesus invites us to the wilderness to hear him. Question is – are we willing to leave our comfort zones and go?
Despite Jesus warning, however - the word spread, and more and more people came to Jesus – not to make him King but to hear him and to be healed. That is how it always is when we make God’s will the central theme in our life, and when we can learn to yield to the Holy Spirit.
The focus of today’s study is v16: But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray
We saw a similar incident in Lk 4:42 where Jesus after a long day of ministering to others, Jesus still made it a priority to withdraw to a solitary place and pray. Why does Jesus need to pray? Being God, is it necessary?
Two things are apparent from above verse –
(i) Jesus withdrew regularly to places of solitude where there were no distractions and
(ii) He prayed
Now we may not all need to go physically to a deserted place to quieten down and commune with the Lord. We can practically achieve this through a dedicated time of silence and prayer. Here are some thoughts to help you appreciate the importance of seeking a place and time of solitude / wilderness:
§ Where was Abraham when he received the promise to become the Father of many nations?
§ Where was Jacob when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord and received a promise that he would inherit the land of Canaan and a new name (Israel)?
§ Where was Moses when he was set apart for ministry?
§ Where was David when Samuel came to anoint him King over Israel?
§ Where was Elijah fed by the angel when he had given up on life and recommissioned to go on?
§ Where was John the Baptist before he started his ministry?
§ Where did Paul go after being rejected by the apostles in Jerusalem?
§ Where did the apostle John receive the revelation?
§ Most importantly where was Jesus before he began his public ministry?
The answer to all these questions is “The wilderness”
In the wilderness, Jacob fought with the angel of the Lord and received a promise that he would inherit the land he was temporarily in that night. He prevailed with the Lord and his name was changed from Jacob to Israel that night after he had wrestled all night. The Lord is calling some of to set apart time for prayer.
It is in the wilderness that we see the fulfilment of Jer 31:33, where we hear the whisper of God speaking to us in a 2-way prayer.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31:33
1. You can’t hear the Lord over all the distractions around you! Is the noise of the world drowning out the voice of the Lord in your life? Maybe you need to get to the wilderness - a place in your life free of distractions.
The statistics shows the amount of time was spent on daily smartphone usage in 2017. As you can see almost half of the respondents spent five or more hours on their smartphones daily. Only 4% used it for less than an hour! I am not even including the other distractions and digital media we are surrounded by!
2. Intercession that we do in secret will result in great things. We may not receive thanks or recognition for these in this world, but the day is not far when the Lord will receive us unto him and testify to us the significance of those prayers. In that day, He will reward each man according to the intentions and fruit of his actions.
3. Prayer Precedes Victory
4. It is in the place of prayer that we understand the will of God (Jer 31:33 - But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
We learn to depend on Him completely and understand that it is a time of 2-way communication.
The importance of prayer in Jesus life is better explained in the Gospel of Luke, more than the other Gospels. The reason for Jesus miraculous ministry can be seen in that Jesus was connected to His Father in heaven constantly through prayer. When the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus during his baptism in the Jordan River, he was praying (Lk 3:21). This pattern continued all the days of Jesus days here on Earth. He also prayed before raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11:41-42) and during his last supper with his disciples as he instituted the Lord’s Supper (Jn 17).
Powerlessness causes powerlessness.The prayerful are the ones who become powerful for they obtain the promises of God through their persistent prayerfulness/ e.g.: Jacob who wrestled with God. If you want to be used by God, to see the sick healed and miracles you should allow nothing to have higher priority than your time with the Lord in a place free of distractions.
Question: Where do you find yourself after a hard day’s work or in your leisure time? Are you hanging around dead things or the one who breathed Life into you and has prepared many good works in advance for you to accomplish? If you hand around dead things, don’t be surprised when your faith dries up and you feel far from the Lord. Instead being in His presence will satisfy you like nothing else can.
May the Lord help give you the strength to choose to spend time at His feet rather than with the empty pressures and pleasures of this world!