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TEXT: Mark 1:29-45
What did Jesus come for? You’d be right to say that he came to give his life for the sins of the world. But if we miss his focus on proclaiming the Kingdom of God, we’ve missed the main part of his teaching and active ministry. In fact, in today’s verses from Mark chapter 1, Jesus says of preaching to the towns around Galilee, “That is what I came for.” (v.38)
That’s the reason for this series. We don’t want to miss understanding Jesus teaching and earthly ministry, especially because he calls us to join in that same activity. He prayed to God the Father in John 17, “As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” (v.18) To be a Christian we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior. But is not enough to believe; Jesus invites us to follow. He is also Lord and King. So we are looking at his ministry in the Gospel of Mark to understand how we are to follow.
Last week we were introduced to the Kingdom as he declared, “The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Good News.” (Mark 1:15) He also demonstrated His authority through his teaching in the synagogue (vv.21-22) and then by casting out an unclean spirit troubling a man (vv.23-26). The spirit acknowledged him as the “Holy One of God” and obeyed his command to leave the man alone. He also called the four fisherman to follow him. Our text today picks up right after that, with Mark’s typical language of “immediately after” that. Today we’ll focus on Jesus words and actions as we look at more signs of the Kingdom, the importance of prayer, and Jesus understanding of his earthly ministry.
Signs of the Kingdom (vv.29-34)
29 And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they *spoke to Jesus about her. 31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.32 When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city had gathered at the door. 34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.
Next stop after synagogue in Capernaum was the house of Simon (Peter) and Andrew. James and John, the fisherman brothers who were called to follow the same day, were also there. And here’s a tidbit in v. 30 that many folks don’t realize: Peter was married! His mother-in-law was sick with a fever and they ask Jesus to see her. Not only did Jesus heal her of the fever, but she got up and started waiting on them – as in offering them food and drink. Though this healing was done in private, word apparently got out about the man at the synagogue, because by evening “the whole city had gathered at the door” to bring him those were ill and demon-possessed. (vv.32-33) He healed many and cast out many demons, though interestingly he did not allow the demons to speak because they knew who he was. (v. 34) The demon at the synagogue had identified him, but Jesus seems to have a reason to not over-broadcast his identity just yet. Best we can tell, he knew that his ministry would end in arrest and death and he had work he wanted to accomplish first before getting to that point. As he gets closer and closer to the arrest and crucifixion he will allow more and more for people to share about him and will even begin to identify himself more publicly. For now, though, at the beginning of his earthly ministry, he seemed to want to focus on the Kingdom of God rather than on himself.
We are going to read about a lot of healing and casting out of demons in the coming weeks. What I want to highlight is that these healings demonstrated three things: the nature of the Kingdom of God, the authority and power of Jesus, and the character of Jesus. What I mean by the nature of the Kingdom of God is that it brings healing and wholeness, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. And Jesus was announcing that it is “breaking through” into the sickness and brokenness of this world. We are not yet to the point of “no more tears, no more sickness” but we see signs of God’s Kingdom and our future in the midst of the darkness. Secondly, the healings demonstrated the authority and power of Jesus. He had the power to heal. And he healed many! Yet he did not heal everyone. He did not come to announce the final arrival of the Kingdom and the rule of God, but to announce the coming of the Kingdom – the front guard as it were. He has the authority of the King, but it’s not everything at once. And that gets at one of our deep questions to God, right? If you can heal my loved one, why don’t you do it now? Why don’t you end all war and sickness and suffering now? I think that’s the kind of question God has to answer for each person individually. I do believe that God is compassionate and just and powerful; but I also recognize the frustration of not understanding the suffering and evil of this world. Yet it doesn’t make me not believe in God; it simply makes me long for God to set all things right, and to be a part of that if I can. If that’s a question you’ve struggled with, my best advice is to ask the Lord for answers or for peace, realizing that it is at some level beyond our understanding. Finally Jesus’ healing reveals something about the character of Jesus. As we read the stories of healing, it is not simply the work of a messenger who is demonstrating the coming Kingdom randomly. Jesus is moved by compassion; he weeps tears over suffering and death (even though he knows God’s final outcome!). He knows what it is to grieve and to lose. We’ll see this described in a few more verses when he meets a leper.
The Importance of Prayer (v.35-37)
35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. 36 Simon and his companions searched for Him; 37 they found Him, and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”
But first, a time out as it were. In verse 35 we read that in the early morning (the next morning?) Jesus got up while it was dark and went away to a secluded place to pray. It’s just one verse tucked into a bunch of verses about public ministry. But I don’t want to skip over it or give it less attention. This is something Jesus is known for. He took time away from ministry to pray and to have time alone. As important as his preaching and healing ministry were, they were not more important than his prayer life. Prayer and time away to recharge are not selfish or less-important acts. On the contrary, they are essential! And they are included in what it means to follow Jesus and to be sent into the world as he was sent into the world. We also need time to worship, to pray, to recharge, and to rest. In fact, the more we are doing the work-in-the-world, the more we will probably need those things to restore our souls and re-connect us with God.
What was he praying about? I don’t know in this case, but if his lengthy prayer recorded in John 17 is any indication, he was praying for his own work and for the work of his new followers. He was probably also giving thanks for what God had done the previous day as the four fisherman followed him and numerous people were healed and restored.
I’ve mentioned recently how important it is and thankful I am for the various prayer ministries of our church. The Friday morning in-person prayer group, in particular, started just a few years ago when a few people sensed a need to pray for the staff and leaders of our church. We often pray for sick friends and relatives, which is absolutely good and important to do. But this group realized that if we were going to have God’s protection and blessing in our ministry as a church, we needed to be more intentional about praying. So they reach out to a different staff member and elder each week to see how they can pray for us. And I have been so thankful for that!
“That is what I came for” (vv.38-45)
38 He *said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” 39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. 40 And a leper *came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and *said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43 And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, 44 and He *said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.
Having been found by Simon and friends and told “Everyone is looking for you” (v.37), Jesus responds by saying “Let’s go somewhere else to the towns nearby.” (v.38) Don’t miss that; more people in Capernaum were looking for him after the huge crowd at Simon’s house the night before. Again, early in his ministry Jesus seems more intent on moving around and speaking and showing the Kingdom of God to lots of different people. Perhaps he knows that if he lingers it will attract the wrong kind of attention. All along the three-year ministry he seems to have a sense of the timing and how much to move and say. Not unlike God’s timing, we don’t always understand it, but Jesus seemed to have a reason for it.
Then he says the part I mentioned before, “Let’s go somewhere else… so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” (v.38) That’s pretty straightforward! He came to speak and show the Kingdom of God, and not just in one place. Mark goes on to describe Jesus going into synagogues “throughout all Galilee.” (v.39) And he continues to preach, heal, and cast out demons. What follows is a description of healing a leper. If you don’t remember, leprosy was more than just a disease. It numbs the nerves and causes a person not to realize when they have been cut or hurt. The result, over time, is infection and loss of skin and extremities. It could be very disfiguring and was considered contagious and ‘unclean’. Lepers had to live away from others and were literally outcasts from their communities. So along with the disease there would have been a profound sense of exclusion, loneliness, and hopelessness. The person comes to Jesus and begs him saying, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” (v.40) Not just healed, but CLEAN… restored, reconnected. What faith! Even if the word has spread about Jesus, this seems extraordinary to me. And then in verse 41 is the part I referenced before. Jesus wasn’t just setting up signposts about the kingdom; he was “moved with compassion” over the man’s predicament. Jesus also healed out of compassion; it is that hesed, one of the chief characteristics of God.
As he had with the demons, he tells the man not to say anything. He gives him instructions to follow the Law to see a priest and be declared clean. But the man couldn’t keep the news to himself. He spreads the news around so much that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city. He stayed outside of towns and people came out to see him.
That’s a lot of details and different points in just a few verses. That’s how Mark does. He doesn’t waste words and likes to move from one thing to the next. But that also gives us a wider view of following Jesus than if there was a whole long passage just on the man with leprosy or the prayer time. This is like a day in the life of Jesus… it included teaching in the synagogue, healing various kinds of afflictions, resting and eating at a friend’s house, spending some time in solitude and prayer, and traveling on to the next place. We get to see some of the character of Jesus as well as the qualities of the Kingdom of God.
In some ways it sounds like one of our days. We can’t spend 24 hours in a church service or at work or in active evangelism or service. Our days are full of work, rest, meals, people, and – hopefully – following Jesus. Jesus did all those things, too! So following him looks like that. It can happen everywhere we go and with anyone we meet. It can and should be punctuated with rest, food, prayer, and relationships. And a follower’s life should also reflect the character of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. That includes compassion, love, justice, mercy, obedience, and joy, just to name a few. We are to be holy people: that’s not holier-than-thou, but distinct as belonging to God. Would someone know you belong to God by your words and actions?
I also realize that we can’t heal our cast out demons. But we can speak words of healing and hope; we can perform acts of compassion, mercy, and love. We can live in the world as Jesus lived in the world.
That’s our calling. That’s our purpose. And God goes with you.
Lord, open our eyes and hearts to the opportunities all around us every day to live and love like Jesus. Help us notice these good opportunities and respond in obedience, faith, and love. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Some Music Used
- Hosanna (Ligertwood)
- Be Unto Your Name
- Prepare the Way
- We are One in the Spirit (arr. Bean) – Rick Bean, jazz piano
- Jesus Shall Reign
- For the Cause (Getty)
- Let Us Be Known
- CHOIR: More Love, O Christ, To Thee (Prentiss/Phelps; arr. Lanford)