Last week’s section of Mark Chapter one finished with Jesus beginning his public ministry at the Capernaum Synagogue on the Sabbath with his four new disciples. Such was the power in the way that Jesus taught that people who had slumbered through the routine of their religiosity and faith suddenly found themselves awoke by one who had come from God as they were confronted with the truths of God like never before. Such was the aura around Jesus that Make describes his teaching as having authority. It was not just heard in a new way: it was heard in such a way that it demanded a response. One life lesson we have all learned is that when authority is demonstrated, it will always get an answer: either in obedience or challenge. For Jesus, that response to his Kingdom authority came from forces opposed to his rule and reign, as nowhere did a man possessed by a spirit appear before him to try and display a countering authority and power. A challenge was dismissed and merely used as a demonstration by Jesus to show his greater authority, his ultimate authority over all matters spiritual. The man was freed and the crowd marvelled at what they witnessed.
“Authority” is the key theme from last week’s reading and continues to be the key theme in our passage this week. As Jesus continues his ministry, we are to see synonymously that Jesus is also demonstrating his Sovereign authority as Lord of Lord and King of Kings. As he preaches, proclaims, heals and inaugurates his Kingdom, it is equally a demonstration of his Kingdom authority because one cannot go without the other. This theme of Authority that Mark begins to reveal to us in 1:21 continues to 3:5, as at the beginning of his ministry, people pondered who he was and was capable of doing what he said he would do; in each section of these three chapters, Jesus shows the extent of his goodness, rule and authority over every inch of both the Spiritual and the Physical realms. In 1:21-28, Jesus demonstrated his control over the spiritual, and as we continue into the next section of Mark chapter 1, we see Jesus show his head in the realms of the Physical.
Jesus Cares for All People (28-34)
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her, and she began to wait on them. 32 That evening after sunset, the people brought Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Our passage picks up in the aftermath of Jesus’ display of dazzlement in the temple courts. The man has been freed from his possession, and the authority of Jesus was demonstrated powerfully in word and deed as the people pondered that all-important question: “Who is this man?” Now, with James and John following him, Jesus heads from the Synagogue to the house of Simon-Peter and Andrew. It is not an after-worship cup of coffee for which Jesus, John, and James have been invited. Instead, Jesus seems to be there because there is an urgent need – he has moved from the synagogue to the home of Simon-Peter and Andrew because Peter’s mother-in-law is there, and they are apprehensive about her. Two sons are deeply concerned about family, and they know someone who can help her.
They might have left it all to follow Jesus and become his disciple, but they were still in contact with their family and concerned with what was happening in their everyday lives. The call to follow Jesus demands all of us and our lives in response to the unique gift of Grace, but it does not mean we forget those whom God has placed us and who God has called us to serve. The disciples are concerned for their family and bring those concerns to the one person they know who can hand them – Jesus. The NLT puts verses 30 as:
“Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away.”
Jesus is the one we must bring all of our concerns to; no matter how insignificant they seem, they are significant to Him, and he wants to hear them. Thus, when Jesus hears of his disciple’s concerns, what does he do? “He Goes to her” and when there he takes her hand and helps her up! It is not that he helped her out of bed with encouragement; no, he removed from her the very thing weighing her down; the curse of the fever on her body was gone in an instance. To say it, Jesus healed her, and she was freed to serve him. Why does Mark include this scene? To continue to teach and demonstrate the authority of Jesus: we have seen that he has control over the spiritual realm, and now we see another area under the Lordship of Jesus – sickness. Jesus controls the physical domain and all the curses of sin that affect us. It is that good authority that we see demonstrated here as with ease that which threatens the Life of Peters’s Mother-in-law is removed from her by the power of Jesus. There is nothing to which he does not control nor use for his purposes.
Concern for the Many
I often wonder what it must have been like to have lived around the time of Jesus, to have heard whispers of how he taught, the acts that he did and then to have plucked up the courage to move towards him for yourself. There is so much need in the world today that it can be hard to know where to begin or turn, especially these days as we are battered with the anxiety of rising costs and energy bills. The simple truth is until the return of Christ and removal of the curse of sin on the world, there will always be a human need, as it is today, so it was as Jesus ministered among the normality of Capernaum. Hence, when rumours of his power and authority spread so rose hope among the hopeless, everyone wanted a piece of it. The Sabbath has ended as the sun sets (32). Here the town’s people are free to walk, work and move wherever they want.
Where do they want to be? Near Jesus, Mark tells us, the whole town gathered at the door of the house (33). There they come, broken by the world and the weight of their worries, carrying their burdens, hurts and needs: looking for something to hope in and trust. Imagine what you would feel like at the end of such a busy day; when exhausted by teaching and ministry, healing, and travelling, suddenly, people turn up in their drolls looking more of you. However, we might have felt or responded to those needs at that moment is never how Jesus would. To the crowd, his movement is the same as it was to Peters’ Mother-in-Law compassion and help. He looks upon them in their need and moves to meet it as Mark tells us that he healed many who had various diseases, drove out many demons, and silenced them from testifying about who he was. Jesus cares about those who are close to him, and he cares about those who are not known to him. In our discipleship, Jesus models the movement of Kingdom compassion: that we are called to love one another as he has loved us and to love those outside the family of faith.
Additionally, as he models for us the ethic of being in his Kingdom, he continues to demonstrate to all who might yet not trust in him the reason they should – he has authority. Mark separates the Spiritual and the Physical, yet, Jesus has power and uses it for good. We can trust him with whatever it is we are going through as we bring all things to him in prayer, it does not mean that he will answer in the way we desire, but it does mean that we know and hold fast to the hope that because of his heart and rule that all things will work out to his Glorious purposes and our consequently our goodness in the end. We see how Jesus has compassion on those close and far off, yet as the passage continues, we also see that while his heart is heavy for the needs of the world, he does not let himself become distracted from his ultimate purpose and call.
Jesus Proclaims to All Who Will Hear: The Mission is Clear (35-39)
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. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Authority Displayed in Ethics
It is beautiful as Jesus continues to demonstrate and display his authority every of human life that its display looks nothing like the world would show rule. There is no military might here, no sword drawn – Jesus is like no King or leader the world has ever known! To display his Kingdom’s authority: he says his Kingdoms’ ethics. Thus, we have this beautiful duality where the power of Jesus has expressed the ethic of Jesus is incarnated indeed. The two go hand in hand! Therefore, as his disciples, we go in his authority as we seek to build the Kingdom; even here, we are reminded that doing something means living out his way. The power of the king in his Kingdom comes with the ethic (the way the King lived) of the King. The way of the Kingdom is the way of the Cross. Today as we gather each day as we pray about what God is doing in us and might seek to do through us as individuals, we see it even here that for those who are in Christ as his disciples, we display his love. We build his Kingdom by how we first love one another and then meet the needs of the world around us with love and compassion. To do so is to display the authority of Christ by living out the way of Christ.
A Priority Over Way
Yet, as we see that deeds done in the name of Jesus display the authority of Jesus and are the way of the Kingdom: we are bluntly reminded here that it is not the priority of the Kingdom. Jesus has great compassion for those around him and the world’s needs; he probably exhausted himself moving between people to heal and help them; however, the truth remains that as they left there with one need met, there would soon be another in their life. Jesus could have spent the rest of his ministry in Capernaum helping and healing, and the reality of the matter, he would still be there today without having dented the effects of sin on the world. No, we needed something far more significant then, and now that will deal with the evil that affects our hearts and our world once and for all. We required that: and that is what Jesus came to do regardless of the demand; that is what Jesus stayed focused on. In the first few verses, we have learned about the authority of the King and how it is synamolusly displayed via his ethic. Yet, more significant than this, as we have been reminded about the power of the King, we also see the purpose of his mission and Kingdom.
Verse 35 tells us that early in the morning, even before the sun’s breaking over the world, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Imagine, if you will, the scene that would have unfolded that next day after Jesus had healed every illness and cast out every demon that came his way the night before; people would have come from all over the place through the night to have their needs met – they had already Jesus day mapped out and complete, and while his heart was compassionate for the needs of those around him it was never his priority. As Jesus had authority over both the spiritual and the physical, we see that he had control over the person as he remained focused and committed to his main call and purpose. The needs of that moment might be significant, but nothing will keep Jesus from the message he must proclaim and its fulfilment on the Cross, his ultimate act of compassion and authority as he removed from all who turn to him the burden and weight of sin.
Jesus withdraws from the need to spend time with God in prayer to prepare himself for his purpose. Even the disciples do not know where he is, as Mark gives us a picture of them hunting him to minister to those waiting for him. Yet, Jesus knew what he came for and, at that moment, knew what he needed to move towards his ultimate purpose: he needed to prioritise time with God. There too, will be moments in our life and work for God when the demands on us are significant, and the world around us might expect us to act to meet them, yet, we must know ourselves and our limits and always be a people who priorities time with God. In the Kingdom, the focus of its citizens is always to know God first before making him known. Hence, now ready and renewed, Jesus displays to us what is always the priority of the Kingdom.
The disciples find him and remind him that everyone else is looking for him and what does Jesus do? He maintains focus on his purpose as he chooses to move on from Capernaum – not because he doe not care – and begin ministering elsewhere:
” Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (1:38)
The disciple’s goal at that moment was to bring Jesus back to Capernaum to continue the work he had done the night before. Yet, Jesus’ ministry and purpose were not to come and provide physical healing: The mission and work of Jesus were all about salvation! Hence, Jesus knows by his authority when it is time to move on, which is what he does as verse 39 tells us he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. The priority of the Kingdom and every act within and done in the King’s name is to make know the hope of the Gospel.
The Authority to Make People Clean (40-45)
In a deeply religious world that created a hierarchy of righteousness based on behaviour and conformity to the law, there was no worse position to be in than suffering from Leprosy. It was a debilitating disease in the personal sense as it slowly ate away at the body of its host. Yet, more severely, it was a debilitating disease in the social mind because to become ill with it was to be cut off from worship in the temple and everyone you ever loved. Leprosy was quite literally a living death sentence. Often, your family would have held your funeral when you were diagnosed as you were cast off into the shadows to live wearing bells with the others who suffered from it on the edge of society.
The fact that the Leper comes before Jesus is a bold move on his part. The disciples would have been terrified and anxious not to be made unclean; they would have readied themselves to remove him, yet, where others see fear, Jesus looks upon compassion. Furthermore, Jesus displays his heart in his authority as he reaches out to touch the untouchable and heals him. Radical healing in itself as the man is told to follow the Law of Moses and present this great work of God to the temple priests so that he can again enter back into society and the worshipping community and not to say by which hand the healing came. The man may have been asked to be silent about Jesus, but he can do nothing as he moves freely among God’s people and tells them about the one who healed them. An encounter with Jesus leaves you utterly transformed. Today, if we have encountered the risen Jesus, if we have received his healing touch and had the curse of sin (which effects are far more significant and more enteral than leprosy) removed, then we too should not be able to be silent but naturally, tell people about Jesus.
Conclusion: Resting in His Authority
There is so much that we could say as we conclude; there is so much in these verses that would spend a week in each section. However, as always, we trust that God will work in us and through us what is appropriate for us. He will plant deep in each of us the truths and tools necessary for our life and salvation. Yet, as always, some general themes can each consider and reflect on.
Delighting to be under Authority
Firstly, that great yet profoundly simple truth: How we live displays what we live for. In a passage demonstrating the authority of Jesus and how different it is to the world, we are challenged this morning to consider what it means to be a people under this authority. All the imagery is used to present the Gospel and what it means to live with Jesus and for him communicate to us in some way that we are a people under authority. Hence, we see we a glimpse of that authority lived out we must ask what it means for us: as we both live under it and are sent out with it in the power of the Holy Spirit. How we act as individuals displays the authority under which we live. Does our love of one another, the ethics of our daily ordinary, and our love of those unknown to us belong to us display the way of Jesus and his rule in our lives?
The Priority of His Presence
Secondly, as a people under authority, we have been reminded by the movement of Jesus to withdraw from the needs before him and seek the presence of God. It is a movement that reminds us of our most excellent instruction: to love the Lord our God with all of us before we We must be a people who prioritise our walk with the Lord, our spiritual growth, and our disciple above all the other needs and distractions of the world. We cannot fulfil the command to love others if we first do not love the Lord. To love someone is to desire to be in their presence above all other things in the world. Thus, if we genuinely love him, we will make a substantial effort to enjoy the presence of God. It is from there that everything else flows. What does that look like? Well, it’s different for everyone, but generally, it means that our life and discipleship are nourished and saturated by time in His presence through prayer, the scriptures, life in the community of faith and living out our lives as Worship of our Glorious God and his gift of Grace. Only when we renew ourselves before Him and in His Presence through the Work of the Holy Spirit can we bear fruit in our lives and see fruit in our mission. Our priority is his presence over everything else because everything flows from it.
The Priority of our Existence: Worship & Mission
Finally, the world’s needs are many, and we are called to meet them for the Glory of God and to extend his Kingdom. We don’t just do good things because we are good people; we do good things because we have received the greatest good. Every action is done to make know that which we have received. Knowing that as we meet them, we display something of Jesus, we must never lose sight of the priority of the Kingdom and every act: making see the hope of the Gospel and the beauty of the Cross. Everything we do must centre on teaching people about Jesus: knowing him ourselves and then making him known. Why he came and what that means for all who turn to him. This is our priority and our purpose. The gospel is good news for everyone everywhere, and we are delighted and duty to share it in word and deed. We see that in the movement in the movement of Jesus. Jesus came for those in the Shadows and brought them into the light with his healing touch. As children of God and the hands and feet of Jesus, today means we get the same healing touch as we go. Expect what we communicate and bring is not limited to a temporal problem: as we go in the power of the Holy Spirit, we get a solution to an eternal problem. The healing touch we carry is the Gospel of our Lord, the hope of the Cross. Only Jesus can deal with our most significant issue – sin. That keeps us from the courts of God’s presence, and when he does, we should naturally desire to tell people about what he has achieved on the Cross, his Grace and the beauty of his healing touch. Everything we do as individuals and as a church is to make this known! Is it narwhal to us then?