I just finished teaching a series on the gospel of Mark. As a review, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of some of the things we learn about Jesus from Mark. Some are more obvious than others, but I hope we can appreciate them all.
1. Jesus lived a simple life where less was more. When the rich man who came to Jesus was unwilling to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor, Jesus told His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God” (10:24). Peter speaks of the disciples as having left everything to follow Jesus (v. 28). Clearly, Jesus lived a simple life in terms of material wealth and possessions.
But it’s also true Jesus didn’t have a family to provide for, He wasn’t married, and when we meet Him in the gospels, He no longer has a 9 to 5 job. All of this means that we have to put some thought into what it means to live a simple life.
The simple life that Jesus lived allowed Him to live a streamlined life with minimal distractions and maximum focus on His central passion—the kingdom of God. That’s what we should be after.
Clutter is the big enemy of focused living and we have a lot of it. There is the clutter of technology. We touch our phones an average of 2,617 times a day, have 76 sessions, and spend 145 minutes on it. What did we do with all of that time before phones? There is also the clutter of busyness. We allow ourselves to be overscheduled and under-resourced and we wonder why we feel so fatigued and stressed out. Finally, there is the clutter of things. Most of us have a lot of stuff and much of it has no other function than collecting dust.
Add it all up and the combined effect is distraction—we have difficulty keeping the main thing the main thing. We get easily sidetracked because there is a world of diversions waiting to suck us into their gravitational fields. Jesus lived simply because He made the choice to resist the distractions around Him. This allowed Him to be free to love and serve others and He did so powerfully.
2. He spent a lot of time in prayer.
Early on Mark tells us that Jesus got up while it was still dark, left the house, and went to a solitary place where He prayed (1:35). Prayer was a priority with Him. It was vital to who He was and what He did. In 6:46 we’re told He went up on a mountainside to pray. Later the disciples asked him why they hadn’t been able to cast out an evil spirit and Jesus told them, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (9:29). He spoke of the temple as being “a house of prayer for all nations” (11:17). And right before he goes to the cross, we find Him praying in Gethsemane. Prayer was not something Jesus did—it was who He was! It reflected His complete dependency upon God.
3. He loved people and invested Himself in them.
One of the things Mark tracks in his gospel is Jesus’ difficulty getting away from crowds in order to spend time alone with His disciples or to have time with God. In 1:45 we’re told that “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to Him from everywhere.” In 7:24 Mark writes, “He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet He could not keep His presence secret.” In 3:20, and again in 6:31, He and His disciples are unable to even eat because of the crowd that gathers. In 6:32 they get in a boat to head to a “solitary place,” but the crowd follows them. In v. 34 we’re told,
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.
I think it would be fair to say that one of the reasons Jesus treasured sending special time with His Father in prayer was because it helped Him to be able to spend time ministering to people. He not only cared enough about them to die for them, but also to live for them.