07-13-08 SS Powerful Healer
July 13, 2008
Printed Text: Mark 1:29–45
29 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 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 to 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.
Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place
35 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 traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
A Man With Leprosy
40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
After participating in this lesson, each student will be able to:
1. Describe Jesus’ early ministry in and around Capernaum.
2. Tell what Jesus’ healing ministry reveals to us today about who Jesus is.
Key Verse Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons. —Mark 1:34
Why Teach This Lesson?
Some people receive healing from their infirmities, and some die from them. I wish I knew why. I imagine you do too. It doesn’t make sense to us. When decent people suffer terribly, it seems so unfair. John the Baptist was left in prison where he was executed (Mark 6:14–29), but Peter was miraculously delivered from prison (Acts 12:1–19). Why did God allow them to be treated differently? Haven’t you asked yourself that kind of question?
Jesus healed many, but he didn’t heal everyone. This lesson is important partly because we all struggle with the question, “Why?” But we dare not lose focus on the fact that the healings that Jesus did perform prove his identity. Ultimately, that fact is more important than whatever physical healing we may or may not receive personally. The proof of Jesus’ identity should cause your learners to make a renewed commitment to glorify God. He is always worthy of our praise.
A. Are Miracles Credible?
There are many miracle episodes in Mark’s story. For some folks, miracles are impossible because they do not conform to known natural laws. Thus the skeptics discount the historical reliability of the Gospels. Skeptics cut away those portions of the story they find offensive to the “reasonable” secular mind. But the miraculous is so embedded in the story line of the gospel that a radically different picture emerges if the miraculous is removed!
(See 1 Corinthians 15:13–17 - If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.).
Jesus’ story is a continuation of Old Testament Israel’s story. That story looked forward to a time when a compassionate king would reign in righteousness and justice. His reign would result in the oppressed being set free, the eyes of the blind being opened, the ears of the deaf being healed, the lame leaping like a deer, and the mute tongue shouting for joy (see Isaiah 32:3, 4; 35:5, 6; 58:6; 61:1, 2). Jesus embodied that vision as his power and authority were manifested in acts of mercy and compassion to victims of various afflictions.
We caution ourselves that Jesus’ miracles must not be misinterpreted. The Jewish authorities admitted that Jesus had miraculous powers, but rather than repent they attributed the source of the miracles to the demonic (Mark 3:22). Cities where Jesus performed many mighty deeds of power were rebuked because his miracles did not result in repentance and recognition of his authoritative status (Matthew 11:20–24).
Jesus had no interest in being perceived as a mere wonder-worker. A theme dominant in Mark’s Gospel is Jesus’ repeated efforts to deter recipients of his healing powers from speaking publicly about healings (Mark 1:44; 5:43; 7:36). The message of the gospel is primarily “repent” (Mark 1:15), not “come and get your physical problems fixed.” Thus the miraculous healings are proof of a greater spiritual reality of the in-breaking kingdom of God. The miracles are to be understood as proof of this (John 14:11).
B. Lesson Background
Mark, the briefest of the four Gospels, is a book of action. After an introduction of only three verses, the record is that “John came, baptizing … and preaching” (Mark 1:4).
The action continues at a brisk pace when Mark records only five verses later that “Jesus came.” Next we see that “the Spirit sent him” (v. 12) and “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming” (v. 14). The other three Gospels give us more details at various points, but Mark likes to keep the action moving with his condensed style. After the call of the first disciples (1:16–20), Mark records a series of scenes in and around Capernaum (1:21–39). That’s where we pick up today’s lesson.
Before moving into the lesson proper, we should take note of first-century Judaism as the backdrop of Jesus’ healing ministry. Foundational for Judaism is the profound commitment to God as the healer and sustainer of all life (see Exodus 15:26
He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”
See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.
Isaiah 6:10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
Jeremiah 8:15 We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror.
IS SICKNESS USUALLY A SIGN OF GOD’S DISFAVOR OR ANGER?
John 9:2,3 - His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
Sickness and various infirmities are often viewed as signs of God’s disfavor resulting from one’s sinful condition, although Jesus does not necessarily endorse this view (see John 9:2, 3). The miracles demonstrate the advancement of the kingdom because they demonstrate God’s power to accomplish his will.
I. JESUS HEALS (Mark 1:29–34)
A. Peter’s Mother-in-law (vv. 29–31)
29, 30. As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.
WHERE ARE JESUS AND THE DISCIPLES AT THIS TIME? WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT THAT TOWN?
WHERE HAVE THE JUST COME FROM? – v.21
WHY DO THEY HAVE TO TELL JESUS ANYTHING? WHY DO WE?
WHY WOULD PETER’S MOM BE LIVING WITH PETER?
Mark gives some clues that the events between verses 29 and 38 take place over a 24-hour period of time. After going to the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath (v. 21), Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue. Events then move forward to the time of “that evening after sunset” (v. 32), then to “the morning” (v. 35). This movement of the scenes takes the reader from a public gathering in the synagogue (v. 21) to the privacy of a home (v. 29) and ultimately to a “solitary place” where Jesus seeks his Father in prayer (v. 35).
Thus it is clear that the movement from the synagogue (v. 21) to the home of Simon and Andrew is intended to continue a recount of events that take place on one particular Sabbath. It appears that Simon and Andrew have moved from Bethsaida (John 1:44) to take up residence in Capernaum. The presence of Simon, Andrew, James, and John reminds us of their earlier calling (see Mark 1:16–20). We also learn that Peter is married when he is called to follow Jesus (compare 1 Corinthians 9:5).
What Do You Think?
What limits do people place on their faith in what God can do? How do we go about helping them remove those limitations?
The fact that Peter’s mother-in-law resides with Peter implies that she is a widow with no living sons. In the ancient world, illness is often described in terms of the symptoms (compare John 4:52; Acts 28:8). Leviticus 26:16 and Deuteronomy 28:22 list divine punishment as one cause of fever, although there is no indication of such punishment here. The disciples have seen Jesus’ power exhibited in the synagogue, thus they do not hesitate to draw his attention to her condition.
What Do You Think?
Think of a time when you or a loved one prayed for physical healing. What motivated the request? How was the motivation like or unlike that of those who sought healing from Jesus?
31. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
DO YOU GET THE SENSE THAT THEY HAD ASKED JESUS TO INTERVENE – OR THAT HE DID IT ON HIS OWN?
HOW DO WE KNOW THE CURE IS INSTANTANEOUS?
In the previous scene, Jesus drove out the demon with an authoritative word (v. 25). Here the fever is expelled by Jesus’ authoritative touch. There is no need for convalescence, for her cure is instantaneous. Peter’s mother-in-law models a fundamental aspect of discipleship by responding to healing with grateful service.
B. Town’s Sick People (vv. 32–34)
32, 33. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door,
WHAT IS NOW HAPPENING TO JESUS’ REPUTATION?
“AFTER SUNSET” – THE SABBATH IS OVER AND NOW THE PEOPLE ARE FREE TO MOVE ABOUT AND BRING THEIR SICK TO JESUS.
Following the specific healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, Mark moves to the broader contours of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ reputation is growing. The interim summaries in Mark 1:39; 3:10–12; and 6:53–56 provide overviews of the scope and impact of Jesus’ messianic activity. The way these are told indicates that they are only samples of what is generally characteristic of Jesus’ ministry.
While Mark’s language that evening after sunset may sound redundant, it stresses that sunset marks the end of Sabbath and the restrictions associated with it. Thus the people can now bring to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.
Notice that Mark makes a distinction between those who are sick and those who are demon-possessed. Thus it is not accurate to conclude that ancient people confuse medical conditions such as schizophrenia with demon possession. While occasionally those possessed by demons do exhibit certain forms of physical afflictions (Mark 9:17, 18), it is simply not the case that all people of antiquity attribute every medical condition to demonic possession. See also Mark 6:13 for a clear distinction between the two.
Not only are the conditions distinguished, but also the methods used to remedy the situations are different. Exorcisms are performed with an authoritative command, while healings usually involve Jesus’ touch. The note that the whole town is gathered at the door underscores Jesus’ growing popularity. The word has gotten out!
Jesus’ healings have important restorative value, socially in addition to physically. The debilitating effects of unclean spirits and the contaminating results of various illnesses have shattered social networks and community involvement (compare Leviticus 13:45, 46). Jesus’ healing powers restore people to a valued state.
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.
WHAT NEW REALM OF AUTHORITY IS SEEN HERE? WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT THE EXTENT OF JESUS’ AUTHORITY?
Phil 2:9,10 - Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
THERE IS A CLEAR DISTINCTION BETWEEN “A FEVER” AND “DROVE OUT MANY DEMONS.” WERE THE ANCIENTS CONFUSED ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES?
JE SUS’ MINISTRY OF HEALING IS COMPREHENSIVE. THIS IS INDICATED BY THE TERMS TRANSLATED VARIOUS DISEASES. THERE ARE NO CONDITIONS THAT JESUS CANNOT REMEDY. COMPARE THIS TO THE SO-CALLED FAITH HEALERS OF TODAY.
WHY DOES JESUS SILENCE THE DEMONS?
The only incident where Jesus’ power was limited was back in Nazareth (Mark 6:5). But the limitation there was from a lack of faith on the part of the Nazarenes (Matthew 13:58).
We note that the demons are silenced once again (compare Mark 1:25). In this case the reason is given: because they knew who he was. The fact that Jesus is able to silence the demons demonstrates who is really in charge here. It appears that Jesus does not want the demons’ knowledge to be revealed, at least at this time. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ identity as God’s Son is understood only later. Confession by a human that Jesus is “the Son of God” in Mark’s Gospel doesn’t come until 15:39; a demon makes this confession much earlier (Mark 3:11).
Jesus’ sonship includes a sacrificial commitment to the will of his Father, and Jesus’ identity can be appreciated fully only in the light of his redemptive message. That’s a reality no demon can possibly understand.
II. JESUS PRAYS (Mark 1:35–37)
A. Alone (v. 35)
35. 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.
WHERE DO YOU GO WHEN YOU WANT TO BE ALONE?
WHY MIGHT JESUS FEEL THE NEED TO GET AWAY?
The reference to time (very early in the morning) indicates that the 24-hour period begun in verse 21 now comes to a close. The movement is away from the crowds and toward a place of solitude. Before the next phase of his ministry, Jesus needs a time of extended prayer. Mark, unlike Luke, does not record many scenes depicting Jesus’ prayer habits. Yet Mark does note often that Jesus retreats from the public arena and the pressure of the crowds (Mark 1:45; 3:13; 6:31, 32, 46; 7:24; 9:2, 30).
It is critical that Jesus remain focused on the will of his Father and not get caught up in the expectations of the crowds. How many popular Christian teachers and preachers today make a mistake in this area?
B. Found (vv. 36, 37)
36, 37. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
HE OBVIOUSLY WASN’T HIDING – JUST “AWAY” FOR A WHILE.
WHY DO YOU THINK THEY WENT LOOKING FOR JESUS? WERE THEY WORRIED ABOUT HIS SAFETY?
WHY DO YOU THINK JESUS PERIODICALLY AVOIDED THE CROWDS?
IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT: DOING OR BEING?
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS THAT PEOPLE TRY TO GAIN THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS? HOW ARE THOSE WAYS LIKE OR UNLIKE THE WAY JESUS DEALT WITH CROWDS?
The disciples, led by Simon, embark on an urgent mission in pursuit of Jesus. They are not content to wait until Jesus returns on his own. Apparently, they think that Jesus in his isolation is failing to take advantage of his growing popularity. They would have Jesus accommodate his surge of popularity by returning to Capernaum and building on his newfound fame.
But Jesus has no interest in pursuing the fleeting adulations of the crowds. He will not have the plans of other people thrust upon him. Simon’s statement to Jesus is certainly true: Everyone is looking for you! But it apparently is not Jesus’ teaching and preaching they want, but his miracles.
III. JESUS PREACHES (Mark 1:38, 39)
A. Desire (v. 38)
38. Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
DID JESUS COME TO SIMPLY PREACH? OR WAS IT SOMETHING ELSE?
JESUS IS ALWAYS GUIDED BY HIS SENSE OF PURPOSE. DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF PURPOSE THAT RULES YOUR LIFE?
Jesus will not be distracted from his divine mission to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom (Mark 1:14, 15). The disciples are invited to accompany him in his itinerant ministry (let us go) that will take him into the neighboring towns and villages. Evidently Jesus’ time in prayer has led him to conclude that it is now time to bring the message to other areas of Galilee. He has not been sent to be a mere local healer or folk hero.
Sent to Preach
John Knox (1513–1572) was the central figure in the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. Probably converted to Protestantism sometime in the 1540s, Knox moved into the castle of St. Andrews in Edinburgh in 1546. Protestant leaders there invited Knox to come among them to preach; he did so realizing that he was putting himself at serious risk.
Indeed, the castle was captured by Catholic forces in 1547, and Knox spent the next 19 months on a prison ship. He was released only at the request of the English government. He served churches in England over the next few years, and it was there that he uttered his famous prayer, “Lord, give me Scotland or I die.” His life’s interest was to convert the Scots to Protestantism.
Knox later went to the Continent, served in several churches there, and returned permanently to Scotland in 1559. His preaching of evangelical doctrines and his opposition to the Catholic practices of the queen often got him into trouble, but he never wavered from his commitment to preach the truth as he understood it. Preaching the gospel to his people was his life’s ambition. Do we have this kind of courage today? —J. B. N.
B. Action (v. 39)
39. So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
THIS IS A SUMMARY VERSE OF JESUS’ ACTIVITIES.
DESTROYING THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL. 1 Jn 3:8 - The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
What Jesus did in the Capernaum synagogue he now does in synagogues throughout all Galilee. Jesus both teaches the message of God’s kingdom and reinforces its reality by overthrowing the agents of Satan.
IV. JESUS HINDERED (Mark 1:40–45)
A. Request (v. 40)
40. A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
PEOPLE OBVIOUSLY FELT THAT JESUS WAS APPROACHABLE.
DOES THE CHURCH UNWITTINGLY SOMETIMES MAKE IT DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE TO APPROACH GOD? WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THIS?
Following the general description of Jesus’ itinerant ministry (v. 39), Mark now focuses on one particular man who makes a request. He has leprosy, a general term in the ancient world for someone who has some kind of skin disease (not necessarily leprosy in the modern sense). The priests are charged with determining the severity of such problems along with the necessary course of action (Leviticus 13:1–46; 14:1–32). If the condition is diagnosed as contagious, the afflicted person is excluded from social contact and forced to warn all who come near with the words “Unclean! Unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45, 46).
The banishment is not rooted in a medical concern of spreading infection, but rather in the religious impurity and uncleanness attached to such afflictions. Like touching a corpse, any contact with a leper means religious contamination.
The description of the leper’s approach to Jesus forms a positive picture of genuine faith and confidence in Jesus’ power to remedy the situation. Unlike the scene at Mt. Sinai, where the holiness of God called for the creation of distance between God and the people, God’s presence in Jesus does not call for the avoidance of those deemed untouchable.
B. Response (vv. 41, 42)
41, 42. Filled with COMPASSION, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I AM WILLING,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
The rules for ritual cleanness warn against touching that which is unclean (Leviticus 5:2, 3). Yet Jesus touches those whom others avoid (Mark 1:41; 5:41; 7:32, 33; 8:25). His touch results not in contamination of himself, but in the leper’s cleansing.
C. Sent (vv. 43, 44)
43, 44. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
WHY WOULD JESUS NOT WANT THE NEWS OF THIS TO SPREAD? It’s not his mission. He’s avoiding misplaced enthusiasm.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE PRIEST? Leviticus 14:2–31 (READ 2-4 - “These are the regulations for the diseased person at the time of his ceremonial cleansing, when he is brought to the priest: The priest is to go outside the camp and examine him. If the person has been healed of his infectious skin disease, the priest shall order that two live clean birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop be brought for the one to be cleansed.
WHAT KIND OF TESTIMONY WOULD IT BE? Jesus’ authority is REAL and VERIFIABLE. The leper was a witness to jesus’ power by the fact that he was known to have been sick, but was healed.
WHAT EVIDENCE HAVE YOU SEEN THAT JESUS’ POWER IS AT WORK IN YOUR LIFE?
After the healing, Jesus emphatically tells the man precisely what he is to do and not do. Three imperatives highlight Jesus’ request. The first imperative See that you don’t tell this to anyone is intended to counter a misplaced enthusiasm that would draw others to Jesus as a miracle worker.
The second and third imperatives are that the man is to present himself before a priest and comply with the Mosaic legislation. This indicates Jesus’ respect for the provisions of the law. The procedure also assures that the one formerly excluded from society can now be restored to full communal and spiritual life. We note that the man’s healing is not the same as his being declared clean. To be declared clean requires the action of a priest according to Leviticus 14:2–31.
The actions of the leper are also intended as a testimony to them. Probably the pronoun them refers to the priests before whom the man will present himself. The leper’s sacrifice and healed state are to become powerful witnesses to Jesus’ restorative powers. The word out of Galilee will be that God has drawn near in the form of Jesus.
Show a Testimony
The 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood was a milestone production. Costing two million dollars, it was the most expensive investment in a film that Warner Brothers had made to that point. The film tells the story of Robin Hood, the legendary nobleman-turned-outlaw, who was trying to save the Saxon peasants from oppression. In one episode, Robin has captured Maid Marian, who was repulsed by the outlaw with his disreputable ways. He tried to tell her that he was working for justice, but she did not believe him.
Then he introduced her to the peasants who were around his camp. For the first time she saw citizenry that was oppressed by Prince John’s taxation policies. In contrast, she also saw Robin’s kindness to the poor and the outcast. She heard their expressions of gratitude to him. As she returned to the castle, she became a convert to the justice of his cause and fell in love with him as well (after all, it was a Hollywood version).
Actions become a better explanation than words. When Jesus dismissed the healed leper, he told him to show himself to the priests and present the normal offerings required by the Law of Moses. Those were the actions that Jesus wanted to do the speaking and testifying. How do our actions witness for Christ today? —J. B. N.
D. Sought (v. 45)
45. Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD A GOOD DEED COME BACK TO HARM YOU?
WHY DID THE PEOPLE SEEK OUT JESUS?
Did the man ever go to the priest as Jesus instructed? We don’t know. What is clear, however, is that the man disobeyed Jesus’ instructions not to tell anyone. No doubt it would be extremely difficult to contain oneself after experiencing such a remarkable event. Nevertheless, the man’s disobedience means that Jesus is hindered from going freely to the towns throughout Galilee, which is his intent (v. 38). Now even lonely places offer no reprieve from the crush of the crowd.
Certainly Jesus wants the message and power of the kingdom to get out. But the frenzied excitement of the crowds only exalts him to celebrity status as a miracle worker. Jesus prefers to walk the path of unpretentious service and humility rather than fulfill the aspirations of the crowds.
The episode involving the leper also prepares us for the series of negative responses to Jesus’ ministry that we see in Mark 2:6, 7, 16, 18, 24; 3:2, 6. The leper should be a visible witness confronting Israel’s leadership with the unprecedented dimensions of Jesus’ ministry. But as the scenes comprising Mark 2:1–3:6 indicate, a growing antagonism results in their decision to seek Jesus’ destruction.
Jesus’ display of healing powers catapulted him to instant fame. Yet Jesus showed no interest in seeking the headlines or even remaining in the public eye. The adulation of the crowds rang hollow without their understanding and repentance. In the final analysis, complete physical healing plus no repentance equals nothing. This should cause us to reflect on how we approach Jesus today.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Jesus can heal your spirit, if you allow him to.
Father, please help us to counter the world’s definition of power by modeling Jesus’ merciful spirit. Empower your people that we might find the strength to be merciful in an age of brutality. Through Jesus we beseech you, amen.