“However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.” Mark 1:45
Do we even dare enter into the personal experience of the Son of Man? Yes, for the fact that He is the Son of Man means we can, without irreverence, see something of our human experience in His. That’s why I believe that this is surely one of the saddest experiences in the earthly life of Jesus. The saddest hours in any human life are those which are spent, “in deserted places” for those hours spent in the deserted places are always spent “outside.”
The outside, deserted places always put a man in an unusual, uncomfortable and most uneasy place. They naturally divert, deter and discourage. There’s no pain quite like the pain of being put in such a position of desolation and isolation. To feel that you are not walking with the rest of world, that you’ve been left behind, that you are no longer in communication with those around you or pushing forward to accomplish what had been set before you is, for an active personality, a terribly fearful thing indeed.
I believe that for the man, Jesus, this time in the deserted places must have been a very trying time indeed. To seemingly be held back from officially beginning His earthly ministry by being baptized by John in the Jordan and then being forced to be alone by the sheer force of such an unlikely environment must have been discouraging.
Yet, in the middle of what would have seemed to be a discouraging time spent alone in a desert Jesus was thronged by people. Mark makes it clear, “They came to Him from every direction.” He was supposed to be alone, but he couldn’t get away from the people. His quiet, lonely desert all of a sudden turned into a hustling and bustling metropolis.
Can you look back and see similar times in your life? I certainly can. There were days when I didn’t feel that I had accomplished much at all. Nothing was conquered or completed, and yet in the rear-view mirror I now see that those were some of my most profitable and productive days for it was in those cool, calm, quiet hours I was most closely walking with Jesus.
Don’t you think that Philip must have argued with the Lord when he was transported to the desert to minister to one Ethiopian? After all, he was in the middle of a large revival and many were coming to know Christ. Why would such a great evangelist be plucked from the place where God was moving so mightily to go share with just one person? That’s not the most effective and efficient use of missionary muscle, is it? Yes, because that one man in that one chariot on that one lonely road was an entire people group in himself. Philip cast his net and caught in one pull more fish that had to that point been caught by all the other disciples working all day long – together.
In my walk with the Lord I have seen Him working in the city as well as in the desert. I have seen Him moving among the clamoring people with their praises and palm leaves and I have seen Him treading the wine press alone once the praises and palm leaves had withered and fallen away. It would seem that the most profitable place of ministry would be the crowded places, not the deserted places. Yet Jesus has shown me that it is in the desert that singing erupts and the blossoms burst forth. The city has become the country and the country has been turned into the city. That’s why I can no longer trust my judgment of earthly things. He has exalted the valley and made the mountain low. I can no longer look with distrust at my desert hour. Every manger has the possibility of a star. Every dark night has the potential for a song. Every hunger pain experienced in the desert can bring a ministering angel. Every bitter cup can become a gift from above. Every cross seen today can be tomorrow’s crown. The Son of man has shown us a new path for personal promotion because He entered into life by the straight and narrow gate.