We are in an interesting place in the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. The structure of this gospel is interesting to observe. The first fifteen verses showed us that this is the beginning of the good news that Isaiah prophesied about. Jesus is the successful servant in whom God delights who succeeds against Satan, bringing his kingdom with him as he arrives as the King. In our last lesson we noticed the authoritative call of Jesus to follow him. We see Simon, Andrew, James, and John immediately leave their jobs and their families to follow Jesus. Who is this Jesus that people drop everything to follow and why should we do the same? This is what is taken up for us in the rest of chapter 1 of Mark’s gospel. There are five segments of this picture in this section that show us Jesus. We will only be able to look at the first four in this lesson and the fifth picture in another lesson.
Teaching With Authority (1:21-22)
The first picture of Jesus is very simple and it is found in Mark 1:21-22. Jesus is in Capernaum and enters into the synagogue because it is the Sabbath, a time when the Jews gather for worship and teaching. Jesus enters the synagogue and teaches. But his teaching is different. His teaching is so different that the people in the synagogue are astonished and amazed by his teaching. Now it was not because Jesus taught something unusual. Nor was the amazement because Jesus was a fancy speaker. They are astonished because Jesus “taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” The teachers would quote the elders and the prior teachings of the rabbis. Originality was not valued by the Jewish religious experts in Jesus’ day. They passed down the authoritative “tradition of the elders.” What is shocking is that Jesus did not repeat the tradition of others, but is speaking with the authority of God. If the Sermon on the Mount is any clue, we know that one way Jesus taught was to say, “You have heard that it was said of old, but I say to you.” Jesus is teaching with personal authority. Jesus was the only person who could teach about God and do so “because I said so.” As a teacher of God’s word I do not possess any authority. The authority is in the scriptures and all I am doing is expressing to you what the scriptures say. But when Jesus spoke, his words were God’s words. His words were the scriptures. His words were authoritative. He did not have to quote a scripture for authority. He did not have to appeal for authority outside of himself. Jesus was able to teach like no other person ever who lived on the earth could ever teach. The people are right to see Jesus as the one who possesses great authority. His words are like none other’s words.
Casting Out With Authority (1:23-28)
The synagogue is full of people because it is the Sabbath. Now notice what happens next in this synagogue as Jesus is teaching by looking at Mark 1:23-28. There is a man in the synagogue with an unclean spirit who starts yelling, “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 phrase, “What have you to do with us” is a Hebrew idiom that means something to effect of, “Mind your own business,” “Why bother us?,” or “Why are you trying to involve me?”
Notice that the unclean spirit recognizes and confesses who Jesus is: the Holy One of God. The unclean spirit confesses the power of Jesus who has come to destroy unclean spirits. It is particularly interesting what the unclean spirit calls Jesus. “The Holy One of God” does not appear to be a messianic title in Jewish literature. The Holy One is a term that used to refer to God in Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 40:25; 57:15; 1:4). Jesus is acting with the authority and the power of God.
But look at what Jesus does. Jesus simply calls for the unclean spirit’s silence and commands the unclean spirit to come out. Jesus does not use spells, rituals, or incantations to coerce submission. His own authority is enough. His own words are enough. Jesus speaks and unclean spirits obey.
This brings about the amazement of the people again. But please carefully notice what the people are amazed at. They are amazed at Jesus’ authority (1:27). The people first refer to Jesus’ authority in teaching and the exorcism revealed his teaching authority. The casting out of the unclean spirit was evidence that the power of the kingdom of God was breaking into human history through Jesus’ words and actions. We are to understand from this scene what other gospel accounts express: if Jesus casts out unclean spirit, then the kingdom of God has arrived (Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20). Satan’s authority is no match for the awesome power and presence of the kingdom of God. The authority and power of Jesus is amazing, not as a display of grandeur, but as the power of redemption for captives. Jesus is setting people free! In this gospel we will see that Jesus casting out demons was an undeniable sign that the kingdom of God had come and Satan’s realm and power was being derailed. These miracles represent the submission of all worlds and powers to the power of Jesus. Jesus is not just claiming authority. Jesus is not just showing authority. Jesus is showing his authority in the lives of individuals through his miracles. The miracles prove Jesus’ teaching authority.
Healing With Authority (1:29-34)
The third picture of Jesus is seen in healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. It is easy for us to miss the picture because we just simply look at the miracle and do not consider what the miracle means. The healing has the same message. What did Isaiah say that the Christ was going to do when he came?
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases (Isaiah 53:4 NRSV)
The kingdom of God has come and it is seen because Jesus is healing Israel. Jesus is the one who has come to heal the people. But do not misunderstand this. Jesus did not come to heal people physically. The miracle of healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law shows that he has come to heal Israel spiritually. Isaiah again speaks of the punishment Israel received because of their sins. But then listen to the hope that is expressed afterward.
“For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made. Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him.” (Isaiah 57:16–19 ESV)
The healing of people shows that Jesus has come to heal Israel, lead them, and restore comfort. Peace has come and God is healing. This is what the people were to see and what we are to see. Jesus is God healing the people who has authority over all diseases and sicknesses. We see this further in verses 32 and 34 of Mark 1. People are bringing all who were sick and all who had unclean spirits to Jesus. Jesus healed them from their various diseases and cast out many demons. Jesus is so powerful that he does not even permit these unclean spirits to speak.
Jesus’ Mission (1:35-39)
Let’s look at the fourth picture portrayed concerning Jesus. Early in the morning Jesus is praying. In next week’s lesson we are going to come back and look at this in more detail. But for now I want us to see that Jesus is praying in a desolate place (wilderness) and people are looking for him. Rather than going to the masses who are looking for him, Jesus wants to go on to the next towns. Why? Why not go to the people who are looking for him? The answer is that Jesus’ purpose is not to do miracles. Jesus states his purpose, “That I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Jesus has revealed himself so that he can preach. This is exactly what Jesus does, going to synagogues in other cities preaching and casting out demons.
What does Jesus preach? We were told earlier in Mark 1:15. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is near; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus came to announce the arrival of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ ultimate purpose was not to deliver people from their physical ailments but to save them from sin and eternal judgment. Meeting people’s physical needs was a demonstration of his divine compassion and power. But he came to redeem sinners. The miracles were the announcement of the arrival of the kingdom and the need to repent and believe in the gospel. Understanding this, it was time to go preach the good news in other towns. Jesus defines the mission. We cannot paint Jesus with another mission. He did not come to feed the hungry. He did not come to care for the poor. He did not come to heal all the sick. Jesus did these things to show who he was, not to set up a kitchen, or a welfare handout system, or a hospital. His purpose was not even to be popular or give people what they want. Jesus must continue to preach and he will not stop proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.
So what are we seeing in Jesus? First, Jesus’ words are authoritative over our lives. Authority does reside within Jesus. He is the king and we must do what he says. Proof of this is seen in the casting out of the unclean spirits. They do not want to be cast out and they do not want to be destroyed. But they do not have a choice because Jesus is the Holy One of God. They cannot resist the power of the Lord Jesus. In the same way, we must not resist the power of Jesus. In fact, we cannot resist the power of Jesus. He is the Lord and he is the King and he will judge all those who try to resist him. Our resistance is for nothing for he is greater than us. Our rebellion is nonsense before Lord. He has power over us. We must allow Jesus and his words to be the authority over our lives.
Second, Jesus has power over Satan’s realm and exerts his rule over it. Jesus has won the battle against Satan. He is greater and has displayed his greatness. The unclean spirit asks what business Jesus has with them. Jesus has made it his business to conquer Satan and his kingdom. This is another reason for us to be in awe of Jesus. Jesus decisively will break the power of Satan in the cross. But this is a preview that complete victory is coming. Casting out demons with just a word showed that Satan did not stand a chance.
Third, Jesus came to heal us. I want to take us back to Isaiah 53 as we conclude.
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4–5 ESV)
Jesus came for our healing. But look at what we do according to Isaiah 53. We value his as nothing. We consider him struck down by God and afflicted. The one with all authority was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities only for us to rebel against his authority. Oh, how we need the grace and mercy of God! But then we see there were masses of people who wanted to come to Jesus. But they were coming for selfish purposes. They were coming for what they can get out Jesus. Jesus’ authority is not for us to ask, “What can Jesus do for me?” This is the sad story of the gospels and the book of Acts. Listen to how the book of Acts ends as Paul is trying to convince people about Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets.
The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: “Go to this people, and say, ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.’ For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” (Acts 28:25–27 ESV)
Jesus has the power to heal. The people could be healed if their heart had not become dull. If they would use their ears to hear and their eyes to see, they would understand with their heart and turn. If they would only do this then God would heal them. Jesus heals with his words. All history was waiting for this moment for God to come and bring healing. Jesus has the power to rescue you. Will you hear his words, letting them come into your heart, and turn for healing from Jesus?