Scripture Reading: Mark 1:21-45
Before we dig into our reading from the second half of Mark 1 this morning, we should take a quick look at the very start of the gospel. What did we skip over as we move into a new book of the Bible we’ll be focusing on for the next few months.
The gospel of Mark lays out its underlying theme for the entirety of the book with the very first line, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
There’s no mystery, Mark gets right to the point. He states plainly who Jesus is, then he jumps into the story. Beginning with John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus. Then the calling of the first disciples.
All this happens in the first 20 verses of the gospel of Mark. This guy doesn’t waste any time, he gets right to the point, and he moves the story along without any delay!
In the 25 verses we read this morning, we have the stories of Jesus healing 3 people, not to mention what we read in verse 34, “And he cured 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.”
We’re not wasting any time when we read the gospel of Mark. If ever there was a “action movie” type book in the Bible, the gospel of Mark is it. We are hurried from scene to scene with lots of action at every turn. Sometimes it’s even hard to keep up with what is happening.
So, let’s try and slow it down a little bit, well as much as I can in the next 15 minutes or so.
Let’s take it back to the core message of this gospel.
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
We need to remember Mark has a goal in his rapid pace. Everything points back to his first statement. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Every story hinges on this statement. Mark is writing to people who know of the story of Jesus, but he is writing to them in a way which he hopes will cause them to encounter Jesus in a new light.
We begin our reading this morning with seeing Jesus and his disciples in Capernaum. Capernaum is on the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee, not far from the Jordan river where Jesus was baptized. It’s also a popular stopping point on a well traveled road through the region. It is also the home of the first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John.
As they all enter Capernaum, they head for the temple so Jesus can teach. We’re told people were astounded by his teaching and also the authority with which he taught.
There was also a man there who had an unclean spirit. This spirit recognized Jesus for who he is as it says, “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.”
The others around Jesus have not seen this side of Jesus, yet the evil spirits of the day pick up on this immediately. They easily recognize Jesus for who he is, while others around him do not.
When Jesus orders the unclean spirits to leave the man, those in the temple said, “What is this? A new teaching — with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
They are praising Jesus for the work he is doing. They praise what he has been teaching them, and they are in awe of his power over unclean spirits, something they are unable to do. This is an interesting contrast to the other gospels, especially in the gospel of John, where such teaching and healing, especially healing on the sabbath, caused the priests to work on their plans to kill Jesus.
Yet in the gospel of Mark, at least in this point of the book, people are in awe. They don’t seem to get who Jesus is, but they are asking serious questions about him and what he is doing.
Next Jesus was at the home of Peter and Andrew, and after healing Peter’s mother-in-law, word has spread of this great healer in the city. People then come from all over the city to be healed. And Jesus spends the evening healing and casting out unclean spirits.
When Jesus cast out the unclean spirit in the man in the temple he said, “Be silent!” When he’s at Peter’s house casting out the unclean spirits of people who come to the door, we read, “… he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”
And when Jesus encounters a man with leprosy, the man says, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” And Jesus does choose, and heals the man immediately. As the man prepares to leave, Jesus gives him these instructions, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded…”
Three times we read of Jesus telling unclean spirits, and a man to say nothing of what has happened. Why? Why the secrecy? It’s pretty evident word is getting around quickly about what is happening, so why is he demanding silence?
There are a number of theories about this. One could be that Jesus is already seeing enough people, and he is finding it hard to get around. Maybe he is trying to keep the crowd to a manageable level so he can still teach and travel about freely. Limiting the number of people hearing about him still allows him this space to find time alone, but also still help people by travelling about.
Another, and somewhat related theory is that with all the news of his healing ability, people are simply focused on this aspect of his ministry and nothing else. His overall message is being lost. People want to be healed and go back to their lives. They aren’t hearing his true message. They aren’t taking his teaching to heart. They aren’t understanding him as the Messiah, the Promised One of God.
And this helps lead us into a third theory. Jesus wants to be known for who he really is, not just a healer. Not just as one who commands unclean spirits. Jesus wants people to know him for who he really is. He wants people to know what? Well, how did the gospel of Mark begin?
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
This is what he wants people to know.
The unclean spirits get it. They know it right away. They can see it plainly. They see God in Jesus. By demanding their silence on the issue, Jesus wants people to take it to heart. He wants people to see it for themselves. He doesn’t want them to be told.
10 nights ago we stood together in this church, holding candles as symbols of the light of the world who has come in Jesus to shine in the darkness. 10 nights ago we rejoiced in the celebration of the birth of the Son of God, Emmanuel, God among us.
Do we know him?
In our reading today, we’ve seen evil, unclean spirits recognize Jesus as the Son of God. We have seen how Jesus has control over these spirits, not just in keeping them quiet, but in commanding their movement. We’ve seen Jesus have power over illness, like a fever and leprosy. He has the power to remove disease from people, and return them to health.
And the people were in awe.
Are we in awe of this incredible power?
Are you able to control evil spirits? Are you able to simply touch someone and cause them to be healed?
No we can’t. Very few people seem to have this gift of the healing power of God.
Jesus has power over things we cannot have power over. Even two thousand years later we can’t cure someone’s leprosy or fever with a simple touch of a hand. These are uncontrollable circumstances, even with our incredible advances in medicine. All this technology around us, and we still can’t do much about the problems people face.
Yet Jesus did it two thousand years ago.
Jesus speaks… and things happen. Things no one has ever seen before. Things no one has ever seen since.
Why? Because it’s true, he is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
It’s one thing to know the words; to read them off of a page or heard them read aloud…
But do we truly understand them?
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This is not just a statement like, “Nick is the son of Peter.”
This is earth shattering news! This is flipping the world upside-down news!
This is life changing news!
And when we begin to understand who Jesus is and how this knowledge impacts our lives, then we can begin to ask deeper questions.
When we read our Bible, like we did this morning, we saw Jesus has power and authority over things we will never be able to control. Jesus has control over demons and spirits. Jesus has control over illness and health. Jesus has control over all things. Things like evil and illness. But also things like addiction. Things like mental health. All things submit to him.
Which then requires us to ask ourselves the following question…
“What has authority over my life?”
Is it your job? Is it your financial stability? Is it drugs? Is it family? Is it health? Is it how others think of you? Is it awards, winning, eating, how you look, what car you drive…
What has authority over your life?
Is it anything but Jesus?
There are many things we can control in our lives, but there are an infinite number of other things out there we cannot control, and will never control.
So why not put our trust in Jesus, as one who has shown he has power and authority over all things. Not some things… ALL things!
Christmas is not a one time event, where we get to forget the feelings we had 10 nights ago, singing Silent Night as we celebrated the birth of our Saviour. Christmas is a reminder we need to celebrate this gift of love from God, his Father and our Father in heaven, each and every day.
Jesus came to show us the way. He came to show us what Mark states right at the very beginning, Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
He’s not a teacher. He’s not a healer. He’s not a nice guy to be around.
He’s all these things and much, much more.
Jesus is our Saviour. He is the one through whom we come to know God in a close personal way. And we can trust in him.
It’s a new year, a time of reflection and looking forward. It’s a time for resolutions and making changes. A time for something new.
Let’s make 2016 a year of fully committing ourselves to the saving work of Jesus Christ in this church, his church, and in our lives and homes.
This is no small task, but one we will never regret.
We can trust in him, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The one who rules over all the earth and everything within it.
So may he rule over us as well. May we turn to him to lead us, protect us, teach us and heal us as we remember he is a gift to us.
Sent by God, for you.