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Mark 1b

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Mark 1:21-22… And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

Commentary

Right after Jesus picked up Peter, Andrew, James, and John by the Sea of Galilee in vv. 16-20 they all made their way into a town called Capernaum located on the northwest end of the Sea of Galilee near the modern-day city of Safad in Israel. The town of Capernaum acted as a key trade and economic center in and around Galilee. It also became the focal point of operations for Jesus’ Galilean ministry. It was about ten miles from Nazareth where Jesus had grown up, so he likely knew the area very well. Now that he had begun his ministry of preaching the arrival of the kingdom of God, Mark says that he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day in Capernaum and taught those who had gathered. The Jewish synagogue was a gathering place that the Jews used for instruction in the Hebrew Scriptures (the OT). They did not gather there for worship per se, they gathered for religious instruction, and they did so regularly on the Sabbath day (Saturday) which was in keeping with the Jewish Law to keep the Sabbath day holy (Ex. 20:8-11). It was for this purpose that Jesus went into the synagogue in Capernaum to teach. Except his teaching would forever change them. The teacher would teach the law, then the prophets, then they would comment on the meaning of the texts. Jesus took the opportunity on to teach those gathered about who he was in relation to the OT prophecies concerning him.

In v. 22 Jesus’ teaching had an immediate effect on the hearers. The verse claims that those present were “astonished at his teaching.” The word “astonished” means to “strike with panic; to amaze.” His words and his teaching amazed the crowd not simply by the content of what he said but by the way he spoke them. For the text says that “he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” There was also a sense of panic and fear in the mere reality of his presence and the way he spoke. In other words, there was something strikingly different about Jesus’ ability to understand and teach the Scriptures. Mark speaks of the amazement of the crowds on numerous occasions in his Gospel (2:12; 5:20, 42; 6:2, 51; 7:37; 10:26; 11:18; 15:5). Christ’s authoritative teaching comes from a Greek word that denotes “power in decision-making.” It helps to understand that Jewish synagogue teachers of that day quoted many sources to prove their points. They were adept at citing lists of authorities to back their claims. But Jesus didn’t quote anyone except himself. He set himself up as the authority in his teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures. The scribes (the Jewish experts in the Law) had to quote other so-called “authorities.” Jesus, however, quoted no one. He was the Author and Creator of the universe, and it was He who gave the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai in the 15th century BC. He needed no authority except his own. This both frightened and amazed his audience. 

Food for Thought

            Sermons spoken today in the average church are a little more than a speech with no biblical foundation. Some are nothing short of a joke – literally! But true preaching is about setting forth a text of Scripture, teaching what it means, and showing how it applies. Anything less is something, but it’s not preaching. It has to come from the Bible – God’s Word – so that it can claim authority. When a man preaches God’s Word it is supposed to amaze and strike fear in those who hear simply because God’s Word is convicting. Today’s seeker-driven model is more about taking the Bible out or watering it down and teaching the contents of the preachers head. But there’s no more authority in that than there was in the “authority” of the scribes’ teachings.

Mark 1:23-27… And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; 24 and he cried out, “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.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 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.”

Commentary

            While Jesus spoke in the synagogue on the Sabbath day his authority was too much for a man possessed by an unclean spirit (i.e. a demon). Whoever this man was his personality had been overwhelmed by this demonic power which spoke through him to Jesus. Jesus’ authority had roused a real fear in this demon – a threat to his very existence. So it cried out to Jesus saying, “What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth?” This is a cry of defense and resistance against Jesus, his teaching, and his authority. Prior to Jesus teaching in the synagogue that day the demon-possessed man was apparently quite comfortable with religious teaching, but when an authoritative teacher stepped in the demon was struck with fear and trembling.

            The demon, which was speaking through the man he possessed, asked Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” The phrase could very well be taken as a statement, but either way the fear in the demon is clear. His fear is justified in that he knew exactly who Jesus of Nazareth was, namely, “the Holy One of God.” It’s likely that this demon knew this information directly from Satan himself who had tempted Jesus in the wilderness just a brief time prior to this. After spending forty days trying to tempt Jesus into sin and failing, it makes perfect sense that Satan gathered his armies for the battle he knew would ensue. The demon therefore knew exactly who Jesus was and was powerless against him. This is why he panicked and confronted Jesus.

            But Jesus “rebuked” the unclean spirit, told him to be silent, and commanded him to come out of the man. William Lane says, “In contrast to contemporary exorcists, who identified themselves by name or by relationship to some deity or power, who pronounced some spell or performed some magical action, Jesus utters only a few direct words, through which his absolute authority over the demonic power that had held the man captive was demonstrated.” After all, as Lane also has said, Jesus’ purpose for coming into the world at that time was to rebuke Satan and strip him of his power over God’s people (1 John 3:8) – to reverse the curse of Eden. To ignore the defensive words of the demon without rebuking it would have compromised his purpose.

In a magnificent display of Jesus’ power and authority, in v. 26 the demon submitted to Jesus’ rebuke and came out of the man with a loud cry. After convulsing violently the man was exorcised simply through the authority of Jesus’ words. And this of course led to the unified amazement of the crowd in the synagogue concerning the startling and frightful authority of Jesus’ words. The fact that a demon had obeyed him went great lengths to solidify his authority.

Food for Thought

            What is astounding is that the demon possessed man of Mark 1 was in the synagogue listening to religious instruction. But when One with authority arrived the demon became uncomfortable. There is no reason to think that demons don’t torment people today, and there is no reason to think that they’re not in our churches either. It’s amazing what they do, however, when God’s Word is spoken and taught with authority. The people they possess become very uncomfortable, defensive, and offended. Sooner or later they’ll leave because it’s too offensive.

Mark 1:28-34… And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. 29 And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. 32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together about the door. 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.

Commentary

            After casting out the unclean spirit in the synagogue Jesus’ fame spread throughout the region of Galilee. It was as uncommon a phenomenon in those days to cast out demons as it is in the modern-day. His authority as a teacher and his authority over demons was a hot topic in and around the area, so predictably his fame spread quickly in the community as v. 28 attests. It seems as if the whole countryside was gathering their sick to bring to Jesus for healing.

            In v. 29 Jesus left the synagogue right after the exorcism of the unclean spirit in the man. He entered the house of Simon (Peter) and Andrew who accompanied him along with James and John. It’s obvious that Simon and Andrew lived in close proximity to the synagogue in Capernaum. It was their hometown. The house is called the home of Simon and Andrew, and it is clear from v. 30 that Simon’s mother-in-law was there and was sick with a fever. This obviously points to the fact that Simon Peter was married. The fact that the two brothers lived together is noteworthy too. The Bible Background Commentary says, “A newly married couple normally lived with the husband’s family until they made enough money to move out on their own. Many parents died while their children were young adults, so it is possible that Simon and Andrew took over their parents’ home. Simon’s father-in-law had probably passed away, and Simon and his wife had taken her widowed mother into their home.”

            It is possible that Simon and Andrew, just like the rest of Galilee, became excited over Jesus’ ability to heal the sick. This is probably why they went immediately to Simon’s home where his mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. So, in v. 31, Jesus came over to her and did nothing more than take her hand and lift her up. The fever left her by the mere presence of Jesus. And she did what any thankful person would do: she served them!

            The time spent at Simon and Andrew’s home immediately after the events in the synagogue was a time spent for the residents of Galilee to gather their sick and bring them to the home where Jesus was. Verse 32 says that “at sundown” the whole city gathered around the door with their sick. They had to wait till sundown because the Sabbath ended at 6:00 p.m. Prior to that they weren’t permitted to work given that it was the Sabbath which was to be kept holy. But in v. 34 Jesus healed the sick that were brought to him and cast out the demons. The demons, however, were muted, for Jesus did not allow them to speak to the crowds about who he was.

Food for Thought

            The action of the crowds the day Jesus cast out the first demon and healed the sick attest to their self-centered view of Jesus. Though demonstrating great power and authoritative teaching, the crowd only viewed him as one who could give them something. So it is today with many who view God as a means to their selfish ends. It’s not “what can I do for God” – it’s “what can He do for me.” When it doesn’t always work out in accordance with our plans we tend to ditch Jesus. That’s what led to his death. He didn’t live up to the expectations of the people.

Mark 1:35-39… And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Commentary

            In v. 35 “in the morning” likely refers to the very next morning after the day at the synagogue and the healings at Simon and Andrew’s home in Capernaum. Jesus had had a long day of people tugging at him and using him to heal their sick and to cast out demons (notice the difference in the two). He was drained and tired. After a night’s sleep Jesus got up “a great while before day” to go to a place of solitude in order to pray. In other words, Jesus got up early and before anyone else, and he went to a quiet place to pray. Though sleep was needed, Jesus recognized his need for spiritual rejuvenation, so he communed with the Father through prayer.

            William Lane notes, “In Mark’s Gospel Jesus is seen in prayer only three times: at the beginning  of the account, when his ministry is being defined (1:35), in the middle after the feeding of the five thousand (6:46), and near the conclusion when Jesus is in Gethsemane (14:32-42). These three occasions have the character of a critical moment.” All three occasions occur when it is dark outside, and they are marked by solitude on the part of Jesus.

            In v. 36, the next morning, the hunt for Jesus was back on – beginning with his disciples. Simon “and those who were with him” (Andrew, James, and John) got up, looked in the place where Jesus went to sleep, and couldn’t find him. In v. 37 they found him, but from the context it appears that they found him much later on than they wanted to. Even though Jesus got up early to pray his prayer time wasn’t a short time spent with the Father. It was long enough for everyone to have gotten up at the house and to have made an unsuccessful search for him. When he finally appeared Simon said, “Everyone is searching for you.” What Simon was really saying was, “Where have you been? How can you go off by yourself when the multitudes are searching for you and in need of your services? You need to be out there with the people, not praying!”

            Jesus’ answer, in v. 38, is basically, “Let’s go!” He was rejuvenated, and he rounded up his entourage. They headed for the nearby towns so that he could do there what he had done in Capernaum, namely, preach Christ. Jesus himself says that preaching is what he came to do. So he set out on his Galilean ministry to preach throughout the region the message of the kingdom of heaven and the need for repentance. He went into the synagogues (the site in each town for religious instruction) preaching his message and casting out demons. The casting out of demons was simply a part of his preaching ministry. When he was in Capernaum the demon-possessed man became known simply while Jesus was preaching. So when Jesus preached, his authority brought out the demons and their rebellion. This is what God’s Word does to the demonic realm.

Food for Thought

            Pastoral ministry can be physically, mentally, and spiritually draining. But then again, so can any job. There are times when we need a break and/or a vacation from work, but of utmost importance we need spiritual rejuvenation through prayer and time alone with God. Jesus did it, and when we fail to seek it we do a disservice to ourselves and to the people we serve. This vital time isn’t simply about leisure, it’s about focus, and time with God brings focus to life. Far too many are simply too ashamed of themselves and their sin to face God in a time of prayer. But if you’re struggling today find some time for solitude, silence, and prayer. It will revamp your soul.

Mark 1:40-45… And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Commentary

            While in Galilee, while Jesus was preaching and casting out demons, a man with leprosy came to him. Leprosy in the first century was a general designation of an assortment of skin related diseases. Modern-day Hanson’s disease is not necessarily in view when the Bible mentions leprosy. Lepers in the first century, especially in Israel, were greatly ostracized. They were accustomed to a miserable life not only in their struggles with the disease but in how they were treated by the outside world. They were ritually unclean, and according to the Law of Moses they were to be excluded from society (Lev. 13-14). The pain lepers endured included physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. Worse yet, they were not allowed in religious assemblies. Leprosy truly served as an illustration of the ravages of sin in a person’s life.

            Though the Hebrew Bible only mentions two people who were cured of leprosy (Num. 12:10-15 & 2 Kings 5:1-14) the man in v. 40 humbly but boldly went before Jesus and asked to be cured of his leprosy. His request reveals his faith in Jesus’ ability without being over-presumptuous: “If you will, you can make me clean.” Verse 41 says that Jesus was “moved with pity” over the man’s request, so he cleansed him. He said, “I am willing; be clean!” As soon as he did the leprosy was no more, and the man was cured of his affliction in v. 42.

            In vv. 43-44 Jesus sternly charged the man to keep quiet about what had happened. “Sternly charged” is a strong word in Greek that denotes anger, but the context here shows that Jesus was simply very serious about his command. He didn’t want his true identity and miraculous powers proclaimed all over the region. He apparently wanted to avoid the problem of people misunderstanding who he was and what his God-ordained mission was. A false view of him by overzealous people who had been cured of their diseases would prompt the wrong response to his ministry. Thus Jesus withdrew on many occasions from the crowds until the time was right to openly declare his identity. When he did eventually do so, they killed him.

            Jesus commanded the man to not only remain silent as to what happened but to go and show himself to the priest in Jerusalem so as to offer the proper sacrifices for having been cured of leprosy. This ritual was done as a witness to everyone that the leper was clean and able to enter back into society and religious worship. But the man disobeyed Jesus’ simple command and began to announce to everyone what had happened to him. As a result, v. 45 says that Jesus could no longer go into the Galilean towns and preach there. He had to remain outside the cities.

Food for Thought

            The compassion Jesus felt for the man afflicted with leprosy reflects his hatred for sin. The disease had ravished the man’s body the same way sin ravishes our souls. But Jesus turns no one away who humbly asks for healing – for the forgiveness of sin. No matter what you’ve done, there are no unforgivable sins. Murder, adultery, lying, cheating, etc. are forgivable. All we must do is come humbly before God and confess. He always says, “I am willing; be clean!”

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