Many Bible students miss the importance of Jesus’ solitude and silence. Every pastor, ministry leader, and caregiver — any disciple of Jesus! — needs to learn from Jesus’ example of intimacy with God. I don’t want to miss this! So I went back to the Gospel of Mark and did a Bible study on Jesus’ solitude and silence.
Continually Jesus withdrew from people, daily life activities, and the demands of his ministry to be alone with the Father and pray. Jesus’ solitude and silence is a major theme in the Gospels. His ongoing, intimate relationship with his Abba was the source of his compassion, wisdom, and power that we see on every page of the Gospels. (See my book Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke.)
The priority of Jesus’ solitude and silence is everywhere in the Gospels. It’s how he began his ministry. It’s how he made important decisions. It’s how he dealt with troubling emotions like grief. It’s how he dealt with the constant demands of his ministry and cared for his soul. It’s how he taught his disciples. It’s how he prepared for important ministry events. It’s how he prepared for his death on the cross.
Jesus invites us to join him in his solitude so we can know God as Abba too and share his love with others.
Even Mark Can Be Unhurried with Jesus
How could we miss the significance of Jesus’ solitude and silence with the Father? How could we think that we can live well or love well without following Jesus’ example? Mark doesn’t miss it!
Many Bible scholars say that Mark tell his gospel in a hurry. Indeed his favorite expression is “immediately” (or “at once”) which he uses 39 times (NASB). He is so excited to tell us about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus! He even skips the story of Jesus’ birth. He gets out the Gospel of Jesus much faster than any of the other Gospel writers. (It takes only about an hour and fifteen minutes to read the Gospel of Mark straight through.)
But, like Jesus, Mark is not really in a hurry — except to get to the cross! (See Mark 10:32 when Jesus was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem where his cross waited.) Mark may be breathless with enthusiasm to share the Good News that Jesus has made the Kingdom of God available to us, but repeatedly he pauses to give us glimpses into Jesus’ solitude and silence with the Father.
In this way Mark invites us to join him and be unhurried with Jesus. Imagine if your way of life were to be unhurried with Jesus–you’d feel peace, hear God’s voice better, and experience more of God’s grace and wisdom in your relationships and work.
Bible Verses on Jesus’ Solitude and Silence
Here is a chronological survey of Bible verses from Mark that highlight Jesus’ solitude and silence. (I’ve added a few verses from the other Gospels. All verses are NIV84 unless indicated otherwise.)
“At once the Spirit sent [Jesus] out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” (Mark 1:12)
“Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee… ‘Come, follow me,’ he said.” (Mark 1:16)
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) [Everyone was looking for Jesus, but after his time in prayer he told his disciples that it was time for them to move on to another village.]
“[Despite Jesus’ plea that his miracles be kept secret] the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16; see also Mark 1:45)
“Once again Jesus went out beside the lake.” (Mark 2:13)
“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples walked along.” (Mark 2:23)
“Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.” (Mark 3:7)
“Jesus went out to a mountain side to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him.” (Luke 6:12-13. See also Mark 3:13)
“Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables.” (Matthew 13:1-3. See also Mark 4;1.)
“When Jesus heard [that John the Baptist had been beheaded], he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13)
“Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32)
“After [Jesus] had dismissed [the crowds], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was [still] there alone.” (Matthew 14:23; see also Mark 6:46)
“[Jesus] entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.” (Mark 7:24)
“Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?'” (Luke 9:18. See also Mark 8:27)
“Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.” (Matthew 15:29, ESV)
“Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.” (Mark 9:2)
“After his brothers had gone up to the feast, then [Jesus] also went up, not publicly but in private.” (John 7:10, ESV). [Jesus walked 90 miles from Galilee to Jerusalem, which gave him about five days in solitude.]
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.'” (Luke 11:1)
“Again [the religious leaders in Jerusalem] sought to arrest [Jesus], but he escaped from their hands. He went away again [walking about five miles] across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him.” (John 10:39-41, ESV)
“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.” (Mark 10:32.) [Apparently Jesus kept silent for most of the 22-mile hike. Luke says Jesus was “resolute” (9:51). He told them that he’d be tortured and killed in Jerusalem.]
“When [Jesus and his disciples] had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26). This was Jesus’ “usual place” to pray when he was in Jerusalem. (Luke 22:39)
“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.'” (Mark 14:32)
“They crucified [Jesus]… Darkness came over the whole land… Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.'” (Mark 15:25, 33; Luke 23:46)
In Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke I feature Bible studies on how to join Jesus’ intimacy with his Father to have his peace and power in all we do. Each teach us about the effective practice of solitude and silence so that we can implement Jesus’ promise: “Abide in me as I abide in the Father and you too will bear much fruit” (my paraphrase from John 15:1-17).