Prayer and Proclamation
“Prayer and Proclamation”
Jesus means different things to different people. In many cases people tend to invent Jesus to be who they want him to be. Others will overemphasize some traits over others. So, Jesus can be portrayed as the gentle shepherd who cuddles the Lamb and forget that he returns on a war horse prepared for battle. Some think he was merely a great teacher, or a moralist, or even a fictitious character.
So we are studying the Gospel of Mark in order that we may gain a better understanding of who this Jesus is and why he has come to earth. Of course, we understand that Jesus is more than a great teacher or even a great example. We see him as the Son of God. And so it is our desire that we gain a greater understanding of our Savior and our King. This investigation should cause us to love him more and worship him more and serve him more.
We continue in Mark chapter 1 today. So please turn there in your Bibles.
The first point this morning is “Authentication as Messiah.” This is what Mark is trying to get across particularly in the first chapter. He does not elaborate on details. He goes from event to event to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Mark begins by introducing Jesus as the Son of God and how he fulfills the prophecies in the Old Testament. He spoke of John the Baptizer preparing the way for the Lord. It was John’s proclamation of repentance and the coming of Jesus who is mightier than the greatest of prophets. In the baptism by John, Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit and declared to be approved by God the Father as his Son. It was the heavens being torn open that signaled a new event in history with the coming Son of God. Jesus overcomes Satan’s temptations in the wilderness and is approved for ministry. It is in Jesus’ proclamation that he introduces the kingdom of God as the times are fulfilled. It is the authority and the call of the Son of God who commands people everywhere to repent and believe in the gospel.
Last week, we saw that it is the authority and the call from the Son of God that causes fishermen to drop occupations and leave family to follow after him. It is the authority of this Jesus that causes those in the synagogue, including the experts, to marvel at his teaching. And it is the authority of the Holy One of God to cause the demon to shudder and to be expelled from a man in this synagogue.
This morning we will see more indication of Jesus and his miraculous works that seek to confirm that he is not a mere man – but that he is the very Son of God. He is the anticipated Messiah.
After amazing the crowds by exorcising the demon from the man, Jesus leaves the synagogue and he goes to the house of Simon’s mother-in-law. It seems as though he had known about her condition and that there was an implied request that he help her. The illness appears to be rather serious for them to ask for the Lord to assist and the fact that she is incapacitated by it. Notice what happens: Jesus comes takes her by the hand and lifts her up. The fever disappears and she feels well enough to serve them. Notice also that there was no need to take a couple of ibuprofen and call in the morning, no need to lie down to recuperate for a few days. Take a week off from work. Her healing was immediate and complete. Did Jesus need to take her hand to heal her?? Why did he? I’m not sure either. And without trying to speculate too much, maybe he wanted to personalize his ministry as well. He did not shy away from the sick and the hurting. He was personally involved. In addition, he did not have to say anything. He has the power and the authority to merely take someone by the hand for instant healing.
Word spreads quickly. Whether it was from the reports coming out of the synagogue or the reports from Simon Peter’s house, at sundown they received a few visitors. Apparently their doorbell was getting a workout for our text says the whole city was gathered at the door. Can you imagine getting the knock at the door on a Saturday evening, opening the door and seeing multitudes of sick and demon-oppressed people?? Let that image sink in a bit…
Perhaps you’re a little like me. After a long week, you settle down on a Saturday night. You sit down in your recliner with a good book or you’re probably memorizing the Scripture verse for the next morning or something! Then you hear the doorbell. And you sigh. Do you immediately think of the ministry potential that is knocking at your door?? Or do you see this as an interruption of your plans?? I’ll be honest. There are times that I struggle with this. On the one hand, there is certainly a time and a season for prayer and solitude and refreshment. And we will investigate this in a couple minutes. But I will admit that it is often in the times that I initially view things as an inconvenience that God richly blesses me and uses me for his glory.
Now it’s not very likely that we open the door to the same scene. But let’s look at Jesus reaction to this event. Our text indicates that it was evening at sundown which would have likely meant that the Sabbath was now concluded and so could pursue this meeting with Jesus. James Edwards notes, “The Sabbath extended from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, during which Jews were forbidden to work or travel. This explains why the crowds gather only after sunset on the Sabbath. The desperation of the sick and demon-possessed is expressed in simple Markan pathos: “The whole town gathered at the door.” The door of Jesus’ compassion and power is open to them.”
In this instance, Jesus does not see these people as a distraction or an inconvenience. And he heals them. Jesus demonstrates compassion to Simon’s mother-in-law in front of the few that were there. And he shows them here what it means to have compassion on the multitudes. When it says, “they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed,” it is actually an imperfect verb which could be understood as, “they kept on bringing.”
It has been suggested in academic circles that the concept of the demonic realm including demon possession and influence can be diagnosed as physical illness. Mark, however, is quite intentional about distinguishing between the two here.
So Jesus heals those with physical ailments and casts out the demons. One of the things that was a bit curious at first glance in this passage was that the text suggests that everyone was coming and many were being cured. It could be misunderstood to suggest that either Jesus was unwilling to heal ‘all’ or unable to heal all. As I investigated further, I learned that Mark uses “many” to indicate the whole community. So the emphasis falls on the great number of those who were healed.
Mark seems quite intentional to include demons and exorcisms in the first half of his gospel. This is because, as we mentioned, Mark has set out to clearly demonstrate who Jesus us. And by showing us his healing physical illnesses and exorcism of demons, he communicates that Jesus is the One who has the authority over physical illness and the spiritual and demonic realm. Keep this in mind because both of these areas are not the primary focus of Jesus himself.
Here Jesus casts out the demons and yet doesn’t permit them to speak. And the text says it was because they knew him. Alright. Let’s think this through a bit. At Jesus’ baptism, the heavenly voice announces that Jesus is God’s Son. As we continue throughout the first half of Mark’s gospel, we will notice a couple of things in particular. There are questions regarding the identity of Jesus. It is to be noted that they come from people, human beings. Recall that we just saw this in verse 27: And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” In Mark 2.7 it says, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 4.41 “And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 6:2 “And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?” Mark 6:14-16 “King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
Interesting… Many of the answers come from the demonic side: Mark 1:24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Our text here: Mark 1:34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. Mark 3:11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” Mark 5:7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” So it is readily apparent that human beings do not yet understand the identity of Jesus. The demons do, because they belong to the spiritual world.
But Jesus does not permit them to reveal his identity. Several suggestions are introduced as to why Jesus would want his identity to be concealed at this point. And any or all of them may be correct. It has been pointed out that these commands remain in effect until Jesus enters Jerusalem. In God’s sovereign plan, he is not to draw too much attention to himself and force the political rulers to pursue him until after he has fulfilled some other things. He still needs to train the disciples, heal the sick, preach the gospel, etc. To openly declare himself to be the Messiah at this point would certainly draw a lot of attention and perhaps cause those in authority to deal with him in a timely fashion.
Also, Jesus is identified as the Servant of the Lord. And as such, he does not draw attention to himself. In this gospel specifically, he is emphasized as servant. Regarding the “servant” theme, James Edwards notes, “The Servant motif is assuredly a key to the question why God’s Son channels his authority and power in hiddenness. That which truly changes the human heart and ultimately compels one to recognize and follow Jesus can never come from coercion or a display of miraculous power. Jesus will have no allegiance exacted by amazement and astonishment. The faith of his disciples must be evoked through humility and ultimately through suffering. If one will not receive Jesus in this form, one will not receive Jesus in all his power and majesty.”
And I think, also, that despite numerous attempts to be concealed, Jesus cannot remain hidden. Those who have been changed by Jesus cannot remain silent. Mark 7:24 “And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.” Mark 7:36 “And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.”
I can’t but to reflect on this. I know that I have brought this to our attention before. But until I get it right, I need to continue to reflect on this and allow it to change me. When you and I read through Scripture, do we really believe it? As we better grasp the message of the cross and its implications for our lives for eternity, how can we keep silent? Those who have been changed by Jesus cannot remain silent. If we are silent, this means one of two things. Either we do not believe the gospel, or we are ashamed of him. The gospel is too good to keep to ourselves. Let’s recount briefly what happens to people who are called by God. Scripture tells us explicitly that apart from Christ we are enemies of God and children of wrath. This means that when we are born, we all inherit a sinful nature that was brought about because of Adam and Eve’s first sin in the Garden of Eden. But as we also look through God’s Word we see that even immediately after mankind’s rebellion against God, He was providing a solution to our problem. The Old Testament prophesies regarding a Messiah who would suffer and die for this sinful and traitorous race. And to do so he would take the form of a man. This Messiah, Jesus Christ, would live a life that would include everything that we experience. He would experience temptation, suffering, and rejection that would ultimately lead him to a cross. This was a cross of judgment for sin. This was a cross that you and I deserved to hang from. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him. Why? Two reasons I can think of. He loved us that much. And this was a tremendous opportunity to make God glorious. Who else would go to such lengths to save traitors??
The Bible tells us that if we repent and believe in Jesus, our fate is changed dramatically. We go from being a child of wrath to an adopted child of God. We are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We have a different citizenship. We are now citizens of heaven… for eternity! How can we keep silent about that?? 2 Timothy 1:12 “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” 1 Peter 4:16 “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”
Jesus is the Messiah. He is the Holy One of God. He has authority over the physical and spiritual realm. And though Jesus here silences his revelation from the demons, he is Authenticated as the Messiah.
Next, we will see the Ministry of the Messiah. Here it begins before daybreak. The text reads, Mark 1:35 “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Here we see the source of all ministry. Before doing anything else that day, Jesus’ first priority was to commune with the Father in silence and solitude. This was his inward preparation. In many ways Jesus is our example. I cannot think of many of his examples that are more important than this one in particular. In the life of Jesus we see the tremendous balance that he maintains between his inward and outward work. One commentator puts it well when he writes, “The work of the Son of God is both an inward and an outward work. Jesus cannot extend himself outward in compassion without first attending to the source of his mission and purpose with the Father; and, conversely, his oneness with the Father compels him outward in mission.”
I know personally what it is like to have the responsibilities of the day crowd out my time with the Father. However, it becomes more difficult for this to occur when it is my priority to rise very early in the morning, while it was still dark. For Jesus, this seems to be a practice he performed quite regularly. Matthew 14:22 “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Luke 5:15-16 “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Luke 4:42-43 “And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
Did you notice any similarities in these passages? There was opportunity for him to do more. There was more ministry that he could have done. In fact, there was pressure for him to do so. He did not push himself harder or extend his hours here. He maintained a priority of time alone in prayer.
It seems as though it was necessary for him to leave in these instances. Jesus “went up on the mountain, he withdrew to desolate places, he departed and went to a desolate place.” There is a great intentionality in this. These times don’t just happen. Like Jesus, we need to remove ourselves from distractions and even “good” things to do the “best” things. James Edwards offers some insight when he indicates that “The significance of Jesus’ ministry consists not simply in what he does for humanity, but equally in who he is in relation to the Father. Jesus is, according to Mark’s narrative, neither contemplative ascetic nor social activist. He does not promote an agenda but derives a ministry from a relationship with the Father.”
Despite this leaving for this desolate place, Simon and others searched for him. Mark 1:36-37 “And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” Why was everyone looking for Jesus? I have a suspicion. People were being healed and freed from demon oppression. Is it possible that they were searching for Jesus solely for their own benefit?? Do you think that this still happens today? I think you know the answer to this one.
When the text says that “everyone is looking for you,” it implies this thought. Regarding the word “seeking,” Edwards again helps us by stating, it connotes an attempt to determine and control rather than to submit and follow. In this respect, seeking for Jesus is not a virtue in the Gospel of Mark. Nor are clamoring crowds a sign of success or aid to ministry. Here, as elsewhere in Mark, enthusiasm is not to be confused with faith; indeed, it can oppose faith.” What he is saying is that Jesus’ popularity here does not derive from their desire to be disciples but for their own advantage.
Do you remember something similar was going on in John’s gospel? In John chapter 6, there was a large crowd following after Jesus because, the text says, “they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.” There were five thousand people assembled and no food. You know the story. From five loaves of bread and two fish, all were fed with twelve baskets left over. When evening came Jesus and his disciples got into a boat and went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. When the crowds saw that he was not there, they got into boats and were “seeking” Jesus. Upon finding Jesus, some ask for signs from him so that they might believe. Jesus says that he is the bread of life that has come down from heaven and that if anyone eats his flesh and drinks his blood, he will live forever.” They do not understand this hard teaching. And what happens? They leave. The show is over! Time to go home. The text says after this many of his “disciples” turned back and no longer walked with him.
In our text, “Mark indicated the error of the disciples. They wanted Jesus to take advantage of his growing popularity and perform more miracles. However, Jesus’ primary mission was not to be a miracle-worker but a redeemer.” The people of Capernaum were more interested in the miracles rather than submitting to the reign of God.
Jesus responds to Simon and the others and says, ““Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” His miracles, his healings, his eradicating of demons were to demonstrate who this Jesus was and is. He is the promised Messiah who has all power and authority and has introduced the kingdom of God. The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus says here that he has come to preach. He has come to proclaim the gospel of God from verses 14 and 15. Jesus is calling people to repent of their sins and believe in the good news of salvation to mankind.
From the previous verses we concluded that those who came to Jesus were healed from their physical and demonic illnesses. But I would also conclude that there were still more in Capernaum who did not come or did not have the opportunity to see Jesus that day. And yet Jesus seems to move on throughout Galilee proclaiming the gospel in synagogues and working miracles elsewhere. Though there was more work to be done in Capernaum, Jesus was committed to following his mission. He had to continue the proclamation of the gospel.
The word “proclaim” or “preach” in our text is not limited to the activity of Jesus.. A commentator rightly notes that, in Mark, John the Baptizer also proclaims, a cleansed leper proclaims, a healed demoniac, the disciples, and even the crowds proclaim. “The gospel is proclaimed by unexpected and likely sources, but the subject of its varied messengers is consistently the good news of Jesus.” The gospel is meant to be preached. It is meant to be proclaimed. Listen to the impact and importance of preaching the gospel in the New Testament.
Romans 1:15 “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Romans 15:20 “and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” Romans 16:25 “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages.” 1 Corinthians 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 1 Corinthians 9:16 “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Corinthians 9:18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand.” 2 Corinthians 10:15-16 “But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 2 Timothy 2:8 “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel.” 1 Peter 4:6 :For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.”
These don’t even count the numerous times the gospel was preached in the book of Acts and elsewhere. This was the focus of Jesus ministry leading up to the cross. And it is the focus of those who have believed in Jesus. The gospel means good news and is meant to be declared by those who have been affected by Jesus. It is too good to contain. And Jesus is too glorious to be hidden.
If you have not yet met Jesus, consider this your invitation. Jesus has come to introduce the kingdom of God, to preach and to die on the cross for our sins. If you do what he has commanded, repent of your sins and believe on him, you will be saved. If you know Jesus as Lord, it is our joy to declare him to the nations. Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”