Mark V: Defeating Demons and Disease - Mark 1:21-45

The first two episodes of today’s text, the exorcism in 21-28, and the healing in 29-31, introduce two new aspects of Jesus’ ministry. We’ve already seen Him preach the good news of the kingdom of God and call disciples to follow him. Now we see that he’s an exorcist, who drives out evil spirits with a word of command; and he’s a healer who restores physical health to sick bodies. And as soon as those categories are set, Mark records a massive rush of sick and oppressed people crowding around Jesus, starting in v. 32, and continuing throughout the rest of the gospel.

On that Sabbath day in Capernaum, though, it all began with a sermon. Jesus went to worship in the synagogue, and took the opportunity to read and explain the Scriptures. As soon as he began to teach, the people were astonished, because Jesus taught from the Bible as if He wrote it. This was a very different kind of preaching than they were used to. The scribes very plainly taught with borrowed authority, but Jesus taught with His own authority.

Then an unclean spirit recognized Jesus: “I know who you are, the Holy One of God!” Not only that, but he also had a good idea of Jesus’ mission: “Have you come to destroy us?” Jesus responds by rebuking him and casting him out. Mark is showing you that Jesus has the authority to speak for God, and to cast out Satan. And like the crowd at the synagogue that day, we too should be in awe of Jesus and spread his fame far and wide. After the exorcism, Jesus went to Peter’s house with the disciples, and healed Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever. What He does for her is different, though: Jesus casts out demons with a word, but He heals through touch. And as soon as she was healed, she started serving them, which probably meant making dinner. And so if you’re looking for applications, here you go: when you encounter Jesus, spread His fame. When you encounter Jesus, serve Him. That’s discipleship 101. That evening, when the Sabbath came to an end, the whole city of Capernaum showed up to Peter’s house, bringing out all their sick and demon-oppressed. What started with one exorcism and one healing accelerated to healing many diseases and casting out many demons. And after this day of preaching and healing in Capernaum, before his next day of ministry began, Jesus rose early to pray in a desolate place. But when the disciples found Jesus and told him that everyone was looking for him, instead of staying on in Capernaum, Jesus went on to preach in the next towns. The healings and exorcisms that Jesus does are important, because they are evidences of the mercy and compassion of God, they establish the authority and power of Jesus, and they give people a foretaste of what the coming kingdom is like, but Jesus’ most important work was preaching the gospel.

This has huge implications for the life of the church: Good works and mercy ministry are absolutely essential to a healthy church, and necessary aspects of discipleship. But what the Church is called to do that no one else can do is preach the gospel, and so this must have priority in the life of the Church, just like it does here in the life of Jesus.

And as Jesus moves on through Galilee, we have one more story from Mark before Jesus goes back to Capernaum. A leper implores Jesus to cleanse Him, and Jesus does, once again healing through touch. Not only does Jesus heal one of the most fearsome diseases in the world, he does so in a way that puts him at risk of becoming unclean. But Jesus is no law-breaker. In fact, he urges the newly healed man to fulfill the law completely by showing himself to the priests.

Jesus also instructs the man to keep silent. He’s trying as hard as he can to keep people from getting the wrong idea about his ministry. Right now, his preaching is his most important work, leading up to his greatest work on the cross, but until then, Jesus cannot be distracted and pulled away by lesser things. But in v.45, this is exactly what starts to happen, because the former leper doesn’t keep silent; he talks freely, and pretty soon, Jesus can’t show His face in town without being mobbed.

But can you blame the guy? Nothing like this had happened since the days of Elisha and Naaman! Who is this man, who drives out demons with a word and overcomes the worst diseases in the world? This former leper doesn’t have to be persuaded to tell others; in fact, Jesus can’t persuade him not to tell others! If you know Jesus as the one who heals you, the one who delivers you from the oppression of the Evil One, the one who preaches the good news of the kingdom of God to you, then your zeal for telling others about Jesus won’t be stopped.

Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 by CJ Bowen