David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Mark 1:1-45 - THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL
A. Introduction to the Gospel of Mark: What makes this Gospel unique?
1. Revelation 4:7 describes the cherubim around God’s throne as beings with four faces: the face of a lion, of a calf, of a man, and of an eagle. By long tradition, the church has associated one of these “faces” with each one of the Gospels, according to the character and message of the particular Gospel. In the cathedrals of Europe, you will find the motif repeated again and again, of each one of these creatures, typically with a book. By tradition, the creature that represents the Gospel of Mark is the calf or the ox - a creature of work and service. The Gospel of Mark shows Jesus as the Servant of God, as a Workman of God.
a. For this reason, the Gospel of Mark is a “busy” book. In this Gospel, Jesus seems the busiest, moving from one event to another quickly. One of the key words in the Gospel is immediately, occurring more than 40 times in Mark. We see Jesus as a servant busy meeting needs and busy being God’s Messiah.
b. In the Gospel of Mark, the emphasis is on the deeds of Jesus more than on the words of Jesus. “The Gospel of Mark pictures Christ in action. There is a minimum of discourse and a maximum of deed.” (Robertson)
2. Strong church tradition makes the Apostle Peter the main source of Mark’s gospel. Some think of Mark as “The Gospel According to Peter.”
a. One indication of Peter’s influence is that Peter speaks very affectionately of Mark: Mark my son (1 Peter 5:13), and he says that Mark was with him.
i. Mark (who is also called John-Mark in passages like Acts 12:25) was a “failure” in ministry as pictured in the book of Acts with Paul (Acts 15:36-41). His relationship with Paul was restored in the end (2 Timothy 4:11).
ii. Like Mark, Peter knew what it was like to be a “failure” in following Jesus when he denied Him three times, but he was also restored in the end.
b. Another indication of Peter’s influence is the vivid, eyewitness detail of this Gospel. It is “fullest of striking details that apparently came from Peter’s discourses which Mark heard, such as green grass, flower beds (Mark 6:38), two thousand hogs (Mark 5:13), looking round about (Mark 3:5; Mark 3:34).” (Robertson)
i. “Mark’s Gospel throbs with life and bristles with vivid details. We see with Peter’s eyes and catch almost the very look and gesture of Jesus as he moved among men in his work of healing men’s bodies and saving men’s souls.” (Robertson)
c. A third indication of Peter’s influence is that “Peter usually spoke in Aramaic and Mark has more Aramaic phrases than the other, like Boanerges (Mark 3:17), Talitha cumi (Mark 5:41), Korban (Mark 7:11), Ephphatha (Mark 7:34), Abba (Mark 14:36).” (Roberston)
3. Many believe Mark to be the first of the four Gospels written, and that it was written in Rome.
a. Most scholars agree that the Gospel of Mark was the first of the four written, though some believe that Matthew may have been Gospels is the early date of Mark’s Gospel. Precisely how early is not definitely known, but there are leading scholars who hold that A.D. 50 is quite probable.” (Robertson)
b. Mark was not one of the twelve disciples. Perhaps the only mention of him in the gospel is a shadowy one in Mark 14:51-52. As a youth, he may have been part of the larger group that followed Jesus.
c. The early church met at the home of Mark’s mother, Mary, in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).
d. To the hard working and accomplishment oriented Romans, Mark wrote a gospel that emphasizes Jesus as God’s Servant. Because no one cares about the pedigree of a servant, the gospel of Mark has no genealogy of Jesus.
i. Another indication that Mark wrote his Gospel for the Roman mind is that he uses more Latin words than any of the other Gospels. “There are also more Latin phrases and idioms like centurio (Mark 15:39), quadrans (Mark 12:42), flagellare (Mark 15:15), speculator (Mark 6:27), census (Mark 12:14), sextarius (Mark 7:4), praetorium (Mark 15:6), than in the other Gospels.” (Robertson)
ii. When Bible translators go to a people who have never had the Scriptures in their own language, they usually begin by translating the Gospel of Mark. Mark is the most translated book in all the world. One reason is because it is the shortest Gospel; but the other reason is because this Gospel was written for people unfamiliar with first century Judaism. Mark wrote it for the Romans.
B. John the Baptist and preparation for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.
1. (Mark 1:1-5) The place and ministry of John the Baptist.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD make His paths straight.’” John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
a. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God: Every great story has a beginning, and Mark takes us to his beginning of the gospel. The ancient Greek word for gospel means “good news,” so this book is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the good news concerning Jesus.
i. Every word in Mark’s description of Jesus is important. First, this is the good news of Jesus, a genuine, historical person who walked this earth like other men. It is the good news of the Christ (which simply means “Messiah”), the promised, anointed Savior of men. And it is the good news of the Son of God, and a Son in more than a sense that we think of all men coming from God. Jesus is the unique Son of God, who is also God the Son.
ii. Bruce, on this first verse: “This verse may be taken as the superscription of the whole Gospel, and as meaning: Here begins the Gospel concerning Jesus Christ the Son of God . . . This title takes the place of the opening chapters in these Gospels [Matthew and Luke]. It is all that Mark offers to gratify the curiosity to which these chapters owe their origin. Who is this remarkable Personage of whom you write? He is ‘the Son of God.’”
iii. Lane on the word gospel: “Among the Romans it meant ‘joyful tidings’ and was associated with the cult of the emperor, whose birthday, attainment to majority and accession to power were celebrated as festival occasions for the whole world. The reports of such festivals were called ‘evangels’ in the inscriptions and papyri of the Imperial Age. A calendar inscription from about 9 B.C., found in Priene in Asia Minor, says of the emperor Octavian (Augustus): ‘the birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of joyful tidings which have been proclaimed on this account.’ This inscription is remarkably similar to Mark’s initial line and it clarifies the essential content of an evangel in the ancient world: an historical event which introduces a new situation for the world. In this perspective the Roman would understand Mark’s proclamation of Jesus the Messiah.”
b. As it is written in the Old Testament: The first thing Mark will say about the ministry of John the Baptist is that it was prophesied in the Old Testament (Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3). Those passages predict this forerunner who would prepare the way of the LORD, this forerunner whom God would call My messenger.
i. My messenger is important, because this is the first authentically prophetic voice to Israel (with the slight exceptions of Anna and Simeon in Luke 2:1-52) for 300 years. Some thought that God stopped sending prophets because He had nothing more to say, but John shows this wasn’t the case at all.
ii. If we wondered what Mark meant when he called Jesus the Son of God, here he clarifies it. Mark says the ministry of John the Baptist was to prepare the way of the LORD, and he prepared the way of Jesus. In Mark’s mind, Jesus is LORD.
c. Prepare the way of the LORD make His paths straight: The passage Mark quotes from (Isaiah 40:3) has in mind building up a great road for the arrival of a majestic king. The idea is to fill in the holes, and knock down the hills that are in the way.
i. The idea of preparing the way of the LORD is a word picture, because the real preparation must take place in our hearts. Building a road is very much like the preparation God must do in our hearts. They are both expensive, they both must deal with many different problems and environments, and they both take an expert engineer.
ii. Jesus was the coming Messiah and King, and John the Baptist’s was the one crying in the wilderness, and through his message of repentance, he worked to prepare the way of the LORD. We often fail to appreciate how important the preparing work of the LORD is. Any great work of God begins with great preparation. John wonderfully fulfilled this important ministry. “John was God’s bulldozer to build that highway.” (Steadman)
d. John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins: This describes how John prepared the way. He came baptizing, offering a ceremonial washing that confessed sin and did something to demonstrate repentance.
i. Baptism simply means to “immerse or overwhelm.” John didn’t sprinkle when he came baptizing. As was the custom in some other Jewish ceremonial washings, John completely immersed those he baptized. “Naturally, therefore, the baptism was not a mere sprinkling with water, but a bath in which his whole body was bathed.” (Barclay)
ii. Baptism was practiced in the Jewish community already in the form of ceremonial immersions; but typically, it was only among Gentiles who wished to become Jews. For a Jew in John’s day to submit to baptism was essentially to say, “I confess that I am as far away from God as a Gentile and I need to get right with Him.” This was a real work of the Holy Spirit.
iii. John’s baptism might have been related to the Jewish practice of baptizing Gentile converts, or to some of the ceremonial washings practiced by the Jews of that day. Though it may have some links, at the same time is was unique - so unique that John simply became known as “the Baptizer.” If there were a lot of people doing that, it wouldn’t be a unique title.
iv. Is Christian baptism - the baptism we do today - just like John’s? Christian baptism is like John’s in the sense that it demonstrates repentance, but it is also more. It is being baptized into Christ, that is, into His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3).
e. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem: John’s ministry met with wonderful response. There were many people who recognized their sinfulness, their need to get ready for the Messiah, and were willing to do something about it.
i. John’s main message wasn’t “You’re a sinner, you need to repent.” John’s main message was “The Messiah is coming.” The call to repentance was the response to the news that the Messiah was coming.
2. (Mark 1:6-8) John the Baptist: the man and his message.
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
a. Clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt: In his personality and ministry, John the Baptist was patterned after the bold Elijah (2 Kings 1:8), who fearlessly called Israel to repentance.
i. In the spirit of today’s age, John’s ministry would have been very different. He wouldn’t start in the wilderness. He wouldn’t dress funny. He wouldn’t preach such a straightforward message. He would use marketing surveys and focus groups to hone his message and presentation. John wasn’t motivated by the spirit of today’s age, but by the Spirit of God.
b. There comes One after me who is mightier than I: The message of John the Baptist was simple. John preached Jesus, not himself. John pointed to Jesus, not to himself.
c. Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose: This might sound like spiritual exaggeration on John’s part - a “I’m not worthy to lick his boots” kind of thing. But John says this because in his day, the rabbis taught that a teacher might require just about anything of his followers, except to make them take off his sandals. That was going too far! But John says that he is not even worthy to do this for Jesus.
i. Babylonian Talmud, Ketuboth 96a: “All services which a slave does for his master a pupil should do for his teacher, with the exception of undoing his shoes.” (Cited in Lane)
d. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit: John recognized his baptism was only a prelude to what Jesus would bring. The Messiah would bring an immersion in the Holy Spirit that was greater than the immersion in water as a demonstration of repentance.
i. John’s baptism could demonstrate repentance, but it could not truly cleanse one from sin, nor could it impart the Holy Spirit in the way Jesus could after His work on the cross was completed for us.
3. (Mark 1:9-11) The baptism of Jesus.
It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
a. Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan: Why was Jesus baptized? It was not because He needed cleansing from sin, because Jesus was sinless, as John himself understood (Matthew 3:14). Instead, Jesus was baptized in keeping with His entire mission on earth: to identify with sinful man.
i. Jesus didn’t have to be baptized. He also didn’t have to die on a cross in our place. He did both things to express His solidarity with fallen man.
b. Immediately: The ancient Greek word is euthus, and this is the first of more than 40 times this word is used in the Gospel of Mark.
c. You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: When this voice of God the Father spoke from heaven, everyone knew that Jesus was not just another man being baptized. They knew Jesus was the perfect (in whom I am well pleased) Son of God, identifying with sinful man. By this, everyone knew that Jesus was different. Jesus was baptized to be identified with sinful man, but He was also baptized to be identified to sinful man.
i. What a strange scene! You have the humble beginnings:
ii. Then you have the great glory:
iii. God loves to display His glory in the midst of humble surroundings.
d. And the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove: This wasn’t just a fluttering cloud hovering above Jesus, but it had the actual appearance of a dove. Luke 3:22 says, the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him. It doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit was a dove, but appeared like a dove. We also know that John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit coming down on Jesus (John 1:32).
i. Why is the Holy Spirit associated with a dove? First, because of Genesis 1:2, where the brooding of the Spirit over the waters at creation suggested to some ancient rabbis the action of a dove. Also, doves are gentle, non-threatening birds, they do not resist, they do not fight back. It represents the gentle, faithful work of the Holy Spirit.
e. This is one of the familiar passages of the New Testament that show us the entire Trinity in action. God the Son is baptized, God the Father speaks from heaven, and God the Holy Spirit descends like a dove.
f. So far in the Gospel of Mark we see four witnesses, each testifying to the identity of Jesus. What more evidence do we need?
4. (Mark 1:12-13) Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, among the wild beasts.
Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
a. Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness: The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus in a dramatic way at His baptism. The work of the Spirit in Jesus was to lead Him - rather, to drive Him, and the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. It wasn’t an easy thing, or a comfortable thing for Jesus to be in the wilderness, but it was a good thing, because the Spirit only does good things.
i. “Mark has used a strange word. ‘The Spirit driveth Him forth’; quite literally, ‘the Spirit casteth Him forth.’ It is the very work afterward employed of the casting out of demons by Christ.” (Morgan)
b. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan: Jesus was identified with sinners in His baptism. Here, He is also identified with sinners in their temptations. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
i. Forty - as in the forty days of Jesus in the wilderness - is a number that often shows a time of testing or judgment. In Noah’s flood, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Israel was in the wilderness 40 years. Moses kept sheep in the wilderness for 40 years. This is Jesus’ time of testing.
c. Forty days, tempted by Satan: Matthew and Luke detail three specific temptations Jesus suffered in these days, and how Jesus resisted Satan each time by standing on the Word of God. Mark tells us that Jesus faced more than the three dramatic temptations described by Matthew and Luke. This entire period was a time of testing.
d. Was with the wild beasts: Matthew and Luke make no mention of this, but it is significant. In the ancient Greek grammar, the emphasis is on with. In other words, Jesus was at peace with the wild beasts. This shows two things:
i. “These fell creatures saw in Christ the perfect image of God; and therefore reverenced his as their Lord, as they did Adam before his fall.” (Trapp)
e. And the angels ministered to Him: The sense in Mark is that the angels ministered to Him at the end of this time of intense temptation. This shows Jesus’ authority, not only over the wild beasts, but also over the angels. They are His servants.
i. “Morally victorious, He was Master of the creation beneath Him, and the angels ran upon His errands, for such is the real suggestiveness of the word. Thus He is seen as God’s Man, perfect in spite of the temptation!” (Morgan)
C. Four disciples are called.
1. (Mark 1:14 a) The Galilean ministry of Jesus begins.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee,
a. After John was put in prison: There is a detailed description of this, and John’s fate in prison, in Mark 6:17-28.
b. Jesus came to Galilee: Jesus spent most of His time in the region of Galilee, usually only going up to Jerusalem for the appointed feasts. Galilee was a large, populated area north of Judea and Jerusalem, where Jews and Gentiles lived together, though usually in their own distinct cities.
c. Galilee was not a small, backwater region. According to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, Galilee was an area of about 60 by 30 miles and had 204 villages, with none less than 15,000 people. This means there were more than 3 million people in the extended region.
2. (Mark 1:14-15) What Jesus did in His ministry.
Preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
a. Preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God: Jesus was a preacher, and He brought the message of God’s rule on earth, though not in the manner that was popularly expected or desired. Most people wanted a kingdom, but a political kingdom that would replace the oppressive occupation of the Romans.
i. Contrary to the expectations of most people in His day, Jesus brought a kingdom of love, not subjugation; of grace, not law; of humility, not pride; for all men, not only the Jews; to be received voluntarily by man, not imposed by force.
ii. The Gospel of Mark - and the rest of this chapter - will stress the work of Jesus, and His wonderful miracles. But with this opening statement, Mark reminds us that the focus of Jesus’ ministry was preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. Jesus was a preacher who did wonderful miracles, not a miracle worker who sometimes preached.
b. Saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand”: When Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, He wanted people to know that it was near - as close as your hand. It wasn’t as distant or as dreamy as they had imagined. Now was the time for them to encounter the kingdom of God.
i. The time is fulfilled: There are two ancient Greek words that can be translated time. One is chronos, meaning simple chronological time. The other is kairos, which means “the strategic opportunity, the decisive time.” Jesus used this second word when He said, “the time is fulfilled.” His idea was, “The strategic time for the kingdom of God is now. Now is your time of opportunity. Don’t let it pass you by.”
c. Saying . . . “Repent”: When Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, He wanted people to know what entering that kingdom was like. They could not enter the kingdom going the same way they had been going. They had to change their direction to experience the kingdom of God.
i. Some people think that repentance is mostly about feelings, especially feeling sorry for your sin. It is wonderful to feel sorry about your sin, but repent isn’t a “feelings” word. It is an action word. Jesus told us to make a change of the mind, not merely to feel sorry for what we have done. Repentance speaks of a change of direction, not a sorrow in the heart.
ii. Is repentance something we must do before we can come to God? Yes and no; repentance does not describe something we must do before we come to God, it describes what coming to God is like. If you are in New York, and I tell you to come to Los Angeles, I don’t really need to say “Leave New York and come to Los Angeles.” To come to Los Angeles is to leave New York, and if I haven’t left New York, I certainly haven’t come to Los Angeles. We can’t come to the kingdom of God unless we leave our sin and the self-life.
d. Saying . . . “Believe”: When Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, He wanted people to know what it was like to live in the kingdom. The kingdom Jesus preached was not just about a moral renewal. It was about trusting God, taking Him at His word, and living a relationship of dependence on Him.
i. The ancient Greek word Jesus used for believe (pisteuo) means much more than knowledge or agreement in the mind. It speaks of a relationship of trust and dependence.
ii. “There are many people who believe the Gospel, but they do not believe in it. It was an appeal not only to accept it as an intellectually accurate statement; but to rest in it, to repose in it. It was a call to let the heart find ease in it.” (Morgan)
3. (Mark 1:16-20) Four disciples are called.
And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.
a. He saw Simon and Andrew: This was not the first time Jesus had met this group of men. John 1:35 to John 4:54 describes their previous meeting.
b. For they were fishermen: What kind of men were they? They were common men, without theological credentials or status in the world. Jesus met them as they labored like any common man. These disciples were chosen by Jesus not for who they were, but for what Jesus could do through them.
i. “Surely the good qualities of successful fishermen would make for success in the difficult ministry of winning lost souls: courage, the ability to work together, patience, energy, stamina, faith, and tenacity. Professional fishermen simply could not afford to be quitters or complainers!” (Wiersbe)
ii. Many great men look down on the “common” people, but Jesus never did. He was not like British playwright George Bernard Shaw, who said: “I have never had any feeling for the working classes, except a desire to abolish them, and replace them with sensible people.”
c. Follow Me: With this invitation, Jesus shows what Christianity is all about: following Jesus. At its root, Christianity is not about theological systems, rules, or even helping people - it is about following Jesus.
i. “Nevertheless it is true, by New Testament times, the phrase ‘to follow’ had added to itself an ethical aspect, for it is always the superior who walks ahead, and the inferior who follows: therefore, at the least, a rabbi-disciple relationship was implied.” (Cole)
d. I will make you become fishers of men: Jesus said He would make them fishers of men. If these men received something wonderful in following Jesus, it was only right - only good manners - for them to give it to others, and to “catch” men into the same kingdom of God. Jesus said, “I will make you become fishers of men.”
i. When Jesus called them to be fishers of men, He called them to do what He did. Was there ever a greater fisher of men than Jesus? But He wanted others to do the work He did. First these four, then twelve, then hundreds, then thousands and thousands upon thousands through the centuries.
ii. I will make you become: “Implying a gradual process of training.” (Bruce)
e. Mending their nets: “Mark’s term means properly to put in order, or to make ready, and so includes cleansing, mending and folding the nets in preparation for the next evening’s fishing.” (Lane) Significantly, a derivative of this same word is used in Ephesians 4:12 where Paul describes the work of equipping the saints. As Strong’s definition relates, to equip therefore means to complete thoroughly, to repair or adjust, to fit, frame, mend, to make perfect, to perfectly join together, to prepare, or restore.
D. A busy day in Galilee.
1. (Mark 1:21-22) Jesus teaches in the synagogue.
Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
a. They went into Capernaum: You can go to Capernaum today and see the remains of an ancient Jewish synagogue, which still has the foundation of this same building Jesus taught in.
b. Immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught: Typically, the synagogue had no set teachers; the custom of “the freedom of the synagogue,” where learned guests were invited to speak on the Scripture reading for that day gave Jesus the opportunity to preach.
c. They were astonished at his teaching: We are not told what Jesus taught, but we are told of the effect the teaching had on His audience. They were astonished. They had never heard anyone teach quite like this before.
d. For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes: The scribes of Jesus’ day rarely taught boldly. They would often simply quote a variety of Rabbis as interpreters. Jesus taught with boldness.
i. Jesus taught with authority because He really had authority. He brought a divine message, and was confident that it was from God. He wasn’t quoting from man, but from God.
ii. Jesus taught with authority because He knew what He was talking about. You can’t teach with authority if you aren’t familiar with your material.
iii. Jesus taught with authority because He believed what He taught. When you really believe what you teach, it comes through to your audience with authority.
e. We see first the submitted Jesus - submitted to His Father in baptism, submitted to the Holy Spirit in going out to the wilderness. Now we will see the authority of Jesus. Authority flows from submission. We aren’t safe with real authority from God unless we are also submitted to God.
2. (Mark 1:23-24) An outburst from an unclean spirit.
Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are; the Holy One of God!”
a. A man . . . with an unclean spirit: In describing the man who is demon possessed, Mark uses the same grammar Paul used to describe the Christian’s being “in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:30). This unclean spirit was the evil “lord” of this poor man’s life.
i. The similarity in the wording between the Christian having Jesus and this man having a demon demonstrates that He is in us, we are in Him. We are “Jesus possessed” in the right sense, because His filling and influence is only for good.
ii. Even as Jesus can live in us, so one uninhabited by Jesus can be inhabited by a demon if the invitation is extended, either consciously or unconsciously. Exposure to things such as spiritism, astrology, occult practices and drugs are dangerous. They open doors to the demonic which are better left closed.
iii. It was an unclean spirit: “The ruling spirit in the man was not only a devil, but an unclean devil. Satan sometimes cleans himself up, and comes out quite bright and shining, like an angel of light; but do not mistake him; he is still a devil, for all his pretended purity. There are glittering sins, and respectable sins, and these will ruin souls, but this poor man had a disreputable demon in him, a spirit of the foulest, coarsest, and most abominable order.” (Spurgeon)
b. I know who You are; the Holy One of God! The demon himself testifies that Jesus is holy and pure. The demons admit that their wilderness temptations failed to corrupt Jesus.
3. (Mark 1:25-28) Jesus rebukes the spirit and gains great acclaim.
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.
a. Jesus rebuked him: Jesus didn’t need to rely on hocus-pocus or ceremonies. He simply demonstrated the authority of God.
b. Be quiet: Jesus often told demons to shut up. Today, many self-styled deliverers from demon possession encourage the demons to speak, or even believe what the demons say. Jesus avoided such theatrics and merely delivered the afflicted man.
c. There were other exorcists in Jesus’ day. He was not the only one who tried to cast out demons. But there was a huge difference between Jesus and other exorcists. They used long, fancy, elaborate, superstitious ceremonies. They often failed. Jesus never failed to cast out a demon, and He never used an elaborate ceremony. Here was Jesus’ ceremony: “Be quiet, and come out of him!”
i. Lane describes an ancient account from Josephus about the work of an ancient exorcist named Eleazar, around the time of Jesus: “He put to the nose of the possessed man a ring which had under its seal one of the roots prescribed by Solomon, and then, as the man smelled it, drew out the demon through his nostrils, and, when the man at once fell down, adjured the demon never to come back into him, speaking Solomon’s name and reciting the incantations which he had composed. Then, wishing to convince the bystanders and prove to them that he had this power, Eleazar placed a cup or foot-basin full of water a little way off and commanded the demon, as it went out of the man, to overturn it and make known to the spectators that he had left the man.”
ii. “The people were accustomed to the use of magical formulae by the Jewish exorcists (Matthew 12:27; Acts 19:13), but here was something utterly different.” (Robertson)
4. (Mark 1:29-31) Peter’s mother-in-law is healed.
Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.
a. They entered the house of Simon and Andrew: Jesus came into this humble house in Capernaum, and met a sick woman there. Jesus didn’t only “perform for the crowds.” Here, He ministers to one person in a private home. Jesus’ interest was in meeting the needs of individuals not in promoting Himself, and He didn’t need to power of crowd dynamics to help His ministry.
b. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her: In this healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus shows both simplicity and power. Jesus healed with the same authority that He cast out demons.
i. “Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering from what the Talmud called ‘a burning fever.’ It was, and still is, very prevalent in that particular part of Galilee. The Talmud actually lays down the methods of dealing with it. A knife made wholly of iron was tied by a braid of hair to a thorn bush. On successive days there was repeated, first, Exodus 3:2-3; second Exodus 3:4; and finally Exodus 3:5. Then a certain magical formula was pronounced, and thus the cure was supposed to be achieved. Jesus completely disregarded all the paraphernalia of popular magic, and with a gesture and a word of unique authority and power, he healed the woman.” (Barclay)
c. And she served them: Peter’s mother-in-law responds the way we should when Jesus blesses us. She immediately served Jesus out of gratitude.
5. (Mark 1:32-34) Healing among a multitude.
At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.
a. When the sun had set: Jesus is ministering after sundown, ending the Sabbath day (Mark 1:21). Freed from the Sabbath restrictions on travel and activity, the people come to Him freely to be healed.
b. Then He healed many: It had been a busy day, and now Jesus ministers after nightfall to the whole city that had gathered together at the door. Jesus worked very hard to serve the needs of others, and always put their needs before His.
E. Preaching and healing in Galilee.
1. (Mark 1:35) Jesus’ prays in a solitary place.
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
a. Now in the morning: After such a long day as the day before, would we not excuse Jesus for “sleeping in”? Yet He, having risen a long while before daylight, made less time for sleep and more time for prayer.
i. “Look no man in the face till thou hast seen the face of God. Speak thou with none till thou hast had speech with the Most High.” (Spurgeon)
b. He prayed: Jesus did not need to pray because He was weak, but because He was strong, and the source of His strength was His relationship with God His Father. Jesus knew that pressure and busyness should drive us towards prayer, not from prayer.
i. What did Jesus pray for? As much as anything, Jesus used this time of prayer for that close, intimate communion with God the Father that He longed for, which nourished and strengthened His soul. We can also surmise that Jesus prayed for Himself. He prayed for His disciples. He prayed for those He met and ministered to the previous night. He prayed for those He would meet and minister to that coming day.
c. A solitary place: Jesus knew the importance of solitary time with God. While it is good and important for us to join with others in the presence of God, there is much in our Christian life that can only be learned and experienced in a solitary place with God.
i. This is more than “I pray all the time” kind of prayer. It is a wonderful thing to commune with God all through the day, and to constantly shoot up prayers to heaven. But don’t you think Jesus did that also? Yet He still thought it was vital to take time out for prayer in a solitary place.
ii. “Woe unto that man whose devotion is observed by everybody, and who never offers a secret supplication. Secret prayer is the secret of prayer, the soul of prayer, the seal of prayer, the strength of prayer. If you do not pray alone, you do not pray at all. I care not whether you pray in the street, or in the church, or in the barrack-room, or in the cathedral; but your heart must speak with God in secret, or you have not prayed.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “There is in public and private prayer a more united strength and interest, but in secret prayer an advantage for more free and full communication of our souls unto God. Christ for this chooseth the morning, as the time freest from distractions and company; and a solitary place, as fittest for a secret duty.” (Poole)
d. This passage shows us many things about the prayer life of Jesus.
2. (Mark 1:36-39) The tour through the Galilee region.
And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons.
a. Searched for Him: This is early in Jesus’ relationship with His disciples. As they got to know Him, they learned that whenever they could not find Him, He was probably off in solitary prayer.
b. Everyone is looking for You: The disciples probably thought Jesus would be pleased at His popularity, and would want to spend more time with the crowd He had just gathered and impressed the day before.
c. Let us go into the next towns: Jesus did not stay in that town and “ride” the crest of His popularity there. He knew His ministry was to preach all across Galilee, His ministry was not being famous or enjoying the fame.
i. The clear emphasis on Jesus’ ministry is preaching: for this purpose I have come forth. Though the healing and miraculous ministry of Jesus was impressive and a glorious blessing, it was never His emphasis.
ii. “We do not say that preaching is a greater work than prayer, or that it is not a ministers’ duty to pray; nor yet that it is greater than administering the sacrament: but this we say, we read of Christ’s preaching often in the synagogues, on the mountain, in a ship; of his public praying we read not, though of his private and secret prayer often. We read expressly that he baptized none.” (Poole)
3. (Mark 1:40) A leper comes to Jesus.
Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”
a. A leper came to Him: Leprosy was one of the horrific diseases of the ancient world. Today, leprosy afflicts 15 million across the world, mostly in third world nations.
i. It begins as small, red spots on the skin. Before too long the spots get bigger, and start to turn white, with sort of a shiny, or scaly appearance. Pretty soon the spots spread over your whole body and your hair begins to fall out - first from your head, then even from your eyebrows. As things get worse, your finger nails and toenails get sort of loose; they start to rot and eventually fall off. Then the joints of your fingers and toes begin to rot, and they start to fall off, piece by piece. Your gums start shrinking, and they can’t hold your teeth anymore, so you lose each of them. It keeps eating away at your face until literally your nose, your palate, and even your eyes rot - and you waste away until you die.
ii. As horrible as the physical suffering was, the worst part of having leprosy might have been the way people treated you. In the Old Testament, God said that when there were lepers among the people of Israel, they should be carefully quarantined and examined (Leviticus 13:1-59; Leviticus 14:1-57). Lepers had to dress like people who were in mourning for the dead, because they were considered to be the living dead. They had to warn the people around them by crying out, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever people were near them. This really wasn’t because leprosy is highly contagious; it isn’t. It is because God used this disease as a striking example of sin and its effects on us.
iii. But the people of Jesus day went further than the Old Testament told them to. Back then, they thought two things about a leper: you are the walking dead and you deserve this because this is the punishment of God against you. Jewish custom said that you should not even greet a leper. Custom said you had to stay six feet from a leper. One Rabbi bragged that he would not even buy an egg on a street where he saw a leper, and another boasted that he threw rocks at lepers to keep them far from him. Rabbis didn’t even allow a leper to wash his face.
b. Imploring Him, kneeling down to Him: Knowing how terrible the disease was, it does not surprise us that the leper was so desperate before Jesus.
c. You can make me clean: The leper really believed in the power of Jesus, and had confidence that Jesus could heal him.
i. The leper had no doubt about Jesus’ power. This shows great faith and great awareness because as far as we know, Jesus hadn’t healed a leper yet in His ministry.
ii. In that day, everyone knew only God could heal a leper. There was no cure, and no one “just got better.” A leper would never get better without a direct healing from God.
d. You can make me clean: The leper knew what he needed from Jesus. He didn’t ask to be healed, but cleansed; the man needed much more than healing.
i. Whatever you think you need from God, what you most need from Jesus is cleansing - to be cleansed from sin and the life lived for one’s self.
4. (Mark 1:41-45) Jesus cleanses the leper.
Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.
a. Jesus, moved with compassion: We are often moved with compassion when we meet sick people, but lepers usually did not arouse compassion. Their whole appearance was too repulsive, and they usually made people feel disgust instead of compassion.
i. Luke says this man was full of leprosy (Luke 5:12), meaning that the disease was in the advanced stages. This man’s whole body and life was rotting, and Jesus changed him.
b. Put out His hand and touched him: Jesus healed many people many different ways, but here He chose to heal this man with a touch. He could have spoken a word or even just thought a thought and the man would have been healed, but Jesus used a touch.
i. Why was a touch so important? Because people were forbidden to touch this man on account of his leprosy. Since his disease was in the advanced stages, he had been a leper a long time, it was a long time since he had felt a loving touch.
ii. “In the antiseptic cleanliness of modern hospitals we lose sight of the wonder of the pure Christ stooping to touch the odiosus peccator, the ‘stinking sinner’, to use the strong term beloved by our forefathers.” (Cole)
iii. It was against Jewish ceremonial law to touch a leper. Yet Jesus did not break that law, because as soon as He touched the man, he was no longer a leper!
c. Show yourself to the priest: Jesus told the former leper go to the priests to carry out the ceremony the law required when a leper was cleansed. Jesus did this first to honor the law of God, but also as a testimony to the priests that an incurable disease had been cured.
i. The elements used in the Levitical ceremony for the cleansing of a leper (cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet) are the same elements used in cleansing someone who has been defiled by a dead body (Numbers 19:6; Numbers 19:13; Numbers 19:18 and Leviticus 14:4-7).
ii. This also shows why David said purge me with hyssop in his great Psalm of repentance (Psalms 51:1-19); he saw himself as a spiritual leper, needing cleansing.
iii. Since lepers were never healed, these priests had never conducted this ceremony. When they had to look up in Leviticus the procedure for this ceremony, and had to carry it out for the first time, it would be a strong witness that the Messiah was among them.
d. Say nothing to anyone . . . But he went out and began to proclaim it freely: The former leper shows a “well-intentioned disobedience” to Jesus. “Yes, I know Jesus told me not to tell anyone, but what could be wrong with doing it?”
i. The man may have meant well, and might have thought he was helping Jesus, but his disobedience hindered the ministry of Jesus: Jesus could no longer openly enter the city. It’s best to always just obey Jesus, and we should never think that we have a better plan than He does.
Saturday, April 22nd, 2017
Saturday in Easter Week
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