This pericope serves as a transition from Jesus’ work in the city of Capernaum (Mark 1:21-34) to the broader region of Galilee and its towns. It is there he continues his preaching and exorcism ministry. Coming on the heels of 1:29-34 where the throngs came to him for healing and to have their demons cast out, Jesus seeks solitude in a “deserted place” (1:35) where he prays. The disciples, led by Simon, search for him to inform him that “[e]veryone is looking” for him. This prompts Jesus to suggest a preaching tour in the surrounding towns.
35 Having risen early in the morning while it was dark,a he went out and came to a deserted placeb and there he prayed. 36 Simon and those with him searched diligently for him 37 and found him and said to him, “Everyonec is lookingd for you!” 38 He said to them, “Let us go elsewhere – into the towns nearby – so that even there I may preach, for this is why I came.” 39 And he went preaching in the synagogues of all of Galilee and casting out demons.e
a Greek, prōi ennycha lian anastas. The awkwardness of this phrasing has been long noted and is smoothed out by the Lukan author (Luke 4:42) who chose to employ a genitive absolute: Genomenēs…hēmeras, “When day came” (NRSV, “At daybreak”). Translated literally, the Markan phrase would be something “having risen early at night very.”
b Greek, erēmon topon. The idea is that Jesus wanted to get away from everyone. This could be translated alternatively as “a remote place.”
c Greek, pantes. Markan exaggeration like what we find in 1:5. This is for dramatic effect, i.e. Jesus is so popular that when he goes missing everyone tries to find him.
d Greek, zētousin. In the Markan Gospel, the verb zēteō always carries negative connotations (i.e. 3:32, 8:11, 8:12, 11:18, 12:12, 14:1, 14:11, 14:55, 16:6).
e Jesus’ activity in Galilee is described using two present tense participles: kēryssōn (“preaching”) and ekballōn (“casting out”). In this verse, following the aorist verb ēlthen (“he went”) the construction begins with kēryssōn and ends with ekballōn, exhibiting some degree of symmetry. That is, it begins and ends with a present participle.