John the Baptist Prepares the Way for Jesus / 1:1-8
Reading Mark’s first words, we can sense his excitement. His account doesn’t give background biographical information because he wanted his readers to see Jesus in action as quickly as possible. The power of Jesus’ ministry and character alone would impact the reader. Mark introduced his account as “the Good News.” For Mark, the purpose of writing was to convey a crucial message, the life-changing Good News about Jesus Christ.
With Mark’s help, we can picture ourselves in the crowd as Jesus healed and taught, imagine ourselves as one of the disciples, and respond to his words of love and encouragement. And we can remember that Jesus came for us who live today, as well as for those who lived two thousand years ago.
Before the curtain rises, already we can hear someone shouting. Words about a wilderness come from a man who would be called wild-looking in any age. He lived in a geographical wilderness, and he preached about a spiritual one. We meet John the Baptist as he sets the stage for Jesus’ entrance.
1:1 The first verse, here begins the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, acts as both a title to the book and a summary of its contents. No mention is made of the author, generally considered to be John Mark. Mark was not one of the twelve disciples of Jesus but probably knew Jesus personally. For further information about Mark, see the “Author” section in the Introduction. (in yesterday’s blog post)
While we generally call this book the Gospel of Mark, the title correctly penned by Mark was the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. The first name, “Jesus,” was a common name in Israel (Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:21) as the Old Testament form of the name Joshua (meaning “Yahweh saves”). The second name, “the Messiah,” is from the Greek word Christos meaning “the Anointed One.” The Anointed One, the Messiah, would fulfill the Old Testament prophecies (see, for example, Genesis 49:10; Psalms 2; 110; Isaiah 9:1-7; 11:1-9; Zechariah 9:9-10).
Mark gave no genealogy because he presented Jesus as the servant. A servant needs no pedigree, but demonstrates his validity by the worth of the service he provides. The book portrays Jesus as a man who backed up his words with actions that proved he was the Son of God. Because Mark wrote the Gospel for Christians in Rome, where many gods were worshiped, he wanted his readers to know that Jesus was the one true Son of God. He is coeternal with God—and is himself God. He alone was fully man (Jesus), God’s Anointed One (the Messiah), and fully divine (Son of God). Mark’s Gospel fully develops Jesus’ claims to be the Christ and the Son of God by showing how he was anointed by God’s Spirit to carry out the divine plan of salvation.
1:2-3 Verses 2 and 3 are a composite quotation, taken first from Malachi and then from Isaiah. Malachi was a prophet to the Jews in Jerusalem who had returned to rebuild their beloved city after the exile. Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament and one of the most quoted in the New. The second half of the book of Isaiah is devoted to the promise of salvation. Isaiah wrote about the coming of the Messiah and the man who would announce his coming, John the Baptist (Isaiah 40:3). Like Isaiah, John was a prophet who urged the people to confess their sins and live for God.
Although quoting from two prophets (Isaiah and Malachi), Mark simply applied the words to Isaiah. The theme in both references is the focus on a messenger who would prepare the way. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Mark understood the ministry of John the Baptist as fulfilling these promises. This messenger considered himself a voice shouting out to the people of Israel, “Prepare a pathway for the Lord’s coming! Make a straight road for him!” How were they to do this? The picture could come from the Oriental custom of sending servants ahead of a king to level and clear the roads to make them passable for his journey. The people in Israel needed to prepare their minds—clear away the spiritual debris and straighten any “crooked” moral paths—in eager anticipation of their King and Messiah.
1:4 This messenger was John the Baptist. There had not been a prophet in Israel for more than four hundred years. It was widely believed that when the Messiah came, prophecy would reappear (Joel 2:28-29; Malachi 3:1; 4:5). Some people thought John himself was the Messiah. John spoke like the prophets of old, saying that the people must turn from their sin to avoid punishment and turn to God to experience his mercy and approval. This is a message for all times and places, but John spoke it with particular urgency—he was preparing the people for the coming Messiah.
Important Roman officials of this day were always preceded by an announcer or herald. When the herald arrived in town, the people knew that someone of prominence would soon arrive and they would be called to assemble. Because Mark’s audience was comprised of primarily Roman Christians, he began his book with John the Baptist, whose mission was to announce the coming of Jesus, the most important man who ever lived.
John preached in the wilderness in the area near the Jordan River, but he did more than that. He urged his listeners to be baptized. Some scholars think that baptism by immersion (going down into the water) was a rite required by the Jews for Gentiles who wished to convert to Judaism. The ritual of immersion symbolized the death and burial of the old way of life; coming up out of the water symbolized the beginning of a new life. If so, then John took a known custom and gave it new meaning. While it was customary for Gentiles to be baptized in order to become Jews, John was demanding that Jews be baptized to show that they had turned from their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. John’s baptism was immersion, and it was a visible sign that a person had decided to change his or her life, giving up a sinful and selfish way of living and turning to God. It was a public action signifying that a person had been cleansed of sin through repentance and had chosen a new way of life.
After Christ’s death and resurrection, baptism became an outward sign for identifying with Christ and his resurrection and for signifying entrance into the Christian community. (See, for example, Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21.) Baptism did not give forgiveness; baptism was a visible sign that the person had repented and received God’s forgiveness for his or her sins. Matthew recorded that some of the Jewish religious leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees) came to be baptized and John angrily turned them away, for he knew there was no humble repentance in their hearts (Matthew 3:7-9).
1:5 From Jerusalem (the holy city of the Jews) and from all over Judea, a stream of people constantly flowed into the wilderness to hear John the Baptist preach. Why did John attract so many people? He was the first true prophet in four hundred years. He blasted both Herod and the religious leaders, a daring act that fascinated the common people. But John also had strong words for his audience—they too were sinners and needed to repent. When they confessed their sins, John baptized them in the Jordan River. Confession is more than simply acknowledging one’s own sinfulness; it is agreeing with God’s verdict on sin and expressing the desire to get rid of sin and live for God. Confessing means more than verbal response, affirmation, or praise; it means agreeing to change to a life of obedience and service.
1:6 John’s clothes were much like the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8) in order to distinguish him from the religious leaders, whose flowing robes reflected their great pride in their position (12:38-39). John’s striking appearance reinforced his striking message. Elijah had also been considered a messenger preparing the way for God (see Malachi 3:1). His diet, locusts and wild honey, was common for survival in wilderness regions.
1:7 Although John was the first genuine prophet in four hundred years, Jesus the Messiah would be far greater than he. John saw himself as even lower than that slave in comparison to the coming Messiah (see John 3:30). What John began, Jesus finished. What John prepared, Jesus fulfilled.
1:8 John’s baptism with water indicated immersion in the water of the Jordan River. John’s baptism demonstrated repentance, humility, and willingness to turn from sin. This was the beginning of the spiritual process. To be effective, it had to be accompanied by an inward change of attitude leading to a changed life. John’s baptism did not give salvation; it prepared a person to welcome the coming Messiah and receive his message and his baptism.
John’s statement, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit, revealed the identity of the “one” coming after John as the promised Messiah. The coming of the Spirit had been prophesied as part of the Messiah’s arrival (see Isaiah 44:3; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Joel 2:28-29). The Old Testament promised a time when God would demonstrate his power among people and give special relationship and blessings to his people. This looked ahead to Pentecost (Acts 2). All believers, those who would later come to Jesus Christ for salvation, would receive the Holy Spirit. When Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit, the entire person would be transformed by the Spirit’s power. Jesus would offer both forgiveness of sin and the power to live for him. We need more than repentance to save us; we need the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
The Baptism of Jesus / 1:9-11
Mark proceeded to describe Jesus’ baptism by John. The signs of the voice and dove from heaven affirmed Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and showed the uniqueness of Jesus’ baptism. But the words of God the Father’s declaration clearly signified who Jesus was. What Jesus was doing, including undergoing baptism by John, totally pleased God. Jesus was in no way “becoming” God’s Son; instead, his true nature was being revealed. Jesus’ baptism showed that he was identifying with sinful men and women without implying that he himself was a sinner.
1:9 The coming one was identified as Jesus. Although born in Bethlehem, Jesus moved to Nazareth when he was a young boy and grew up there (Matthew 2:22-23). Nazareth was a small town in Galilee, located about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. The city was despised and avoided by many Jews because it had a reputation for independence. Nazareth was an unlikely hometown for so great a king as Jesus. Yet even Jesus’ hometown demonstrated his humility and identification with ordinary people.
If John’s baptism was for repentance from sin, why was Jesus baptized? While even the greatest prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) had to confess their sinfulness and need for repentance, Jesus didn’t need to admit sin—he was sinless (John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5). Although Jesus didn’t need forgiveness, he was baptized for the following reasons: (1) to confess sin on behalf of the nation (see Isaiah 6:5; Nehemiah 1:6; 9:1ff.; Ezra 9:2); (2) to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15) in order to accomplish God’s mission and advance God’s work in the world; (3) to inaugurate his public ministry to bring the message of salvation to all people; (4) to show support for John’s ministry; (5) to identify with the penitent people of God, thus with humanness and sin; (6) to give us an example to follow.
Jesus, the perfect man, didn’t need baptism for sin, but he accepted baptism in obedient service to the Father, and God showed his approval. We need this same attitude of humility, submission to God, and dedication to servanthood.
1:10 Apparently the action of the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove was a sign for John that Jesus was the Messiah. The “splitting” of the heavens presents God’s intervention into humanity in the human presence of God in Jesus Christ. It was as if the heavens rolled back to reveal the invisible throne of God (Isaiah 63:19–64:2).
The dove is used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. However, it is not the bird itself that was important, but the descent of the Spirit like a dove to emphasize the way the Holy Spirit related to Jesus. The Spirit descending portrays a gentle, peaceful, but active presence coming to indwell Jesus. In the same way, since Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit, he is available to us as well.
1:11 The Spirit descended and a voice came from heaven proclaiming the Father’s approval of Jesus as his divine Son. That Jesus is God’s divine Son is the foundation for all we read about Jesus in the Gospels. This voice came from the heavenly realm that had been briefly “split open” (1:10).
The voice said, “You are my beloved Son.” Jesus Christ has a unique relationship with God because he is God’s one and only Son. The phrase “I am fully pleased with you,” means that the Father takes great delight, pleasure, and satisfaction in the Son. Jesus did not become the Son or the Messiah at this baptism. Jesus already had his divinity from eternity past. The opened heavens, the dove, and the voice revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus was God’s Son, come to earth as the promised Messiah to fulfill prophecy and bring salvation to those who believe.
In this event, we see all three members of the Trinity together—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity means that God is three persons and yet one in essence. In this passage, all three persons of the Trinity are present and active. This is one of God’s incomprehensible mysteries. Other Bible references that speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are Matthew 28:19; Luke 1:35; John 15:26; 1 Corinthians 12:4-13; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 2:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5; and 1 Peter 1:2.
Satan Tempts Jesus in the Wilderness / 1:12-13
This temptation by Satan shows us that though Jesus was human and subject to temptations such as we are, he was also divine because he overcame Satan and was ministered to by angels. Jesus’ temptation was an important demonstration of his sinlessness. He faced temptation and did not give in. As his servants, we will also be prepared for discipleship by testing.
1:12 Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, takes the offensive against the enemy, Satan, by going into the lonely and desolate wilderness to fight temptation (see 1:13). The word for compelled is very forceful in the Greek, conveying the meaning of “thrown out” or “cast out.” (Mark used the same word to describe Jesus driving out demons, as in 1:34, 39.) This does not imply that Jesus was reluctant, but rather that God’s Spirit was intensely motivating him to go. As with Jesus’ disciples, the Spirit may have in mind to test us in order to prepare us for greater service.
1:13 Jesus remained alone for forty days; Matthew and Luke add that Jesus fasted during that time (Matthew 4:2; Luke 4:2). The Gospels of Matthew and Luke describe in more detail the temptation endured by Jesus. Satan is an angel who rebelled against God. He is real, not symbolic, and he is constantly working against God and those who obey him. Satan tempted Eve in the Garden and persuaded her to sin; he tempted Jesus in the wilderness and did not persuade him to fall. The verb being tempted describes continuous action because Jesus was tempted constantly during the forty days. Jesus’ personal victory over Satan at the very outset of his ministry set the stage for his command over demons throughout his ministry, but it did not dissuade Satan from continuing to try to ruin Jesus’ mission.
The wilderness was a dangerous and desolate place, inhabited by wild animals. The wilderness regions of Palestine had animals such as boars, jackals, wolves, foxes, leopards, and hyenas. Mark is the only Gospel writer to mention this, pointing out the hostile nature of the wilderness where Jesus spent forty days being tempted. That angels took care of him in no way lessens the intensity of the temptations that Jesus faced. Angels, like these who waited on Jesus, have a significant role as God’s messengers. These spiritual beings were involved in Jesus’ life on earth by (1) announcing Jesus’ birth to Mary, (2) reassuring Joseph, (3) naming Jesus, (4) announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, (5) protecting Jesus by sending his family to Egypt, and (6) ministering to Jesus in Gethsemane.
From Jesus’ temptation we can learn that following our Lord could bring dangerous and intense spiritual battles. It warns us that we won’t always feel good; there will be times of deprivation, loneliness, and hostility. It also shows that our spiritual victories may not always be visible to the watching world. Above all, it shows that we must use the power of God to face temptation, and not try to withstand it in our own strength.
Jesus Preaches in Galilee / 1:14-15
Approximately one year elapsed between 1:13 and 1:14, which begins a new section. In this section Mark focuses on Jesus’ choosing of his disciples. This section also tells how Herod removed John the Baptist from ministry while Jesus’ public ministry was beginning (see John 3:30). Mark then includes a summary of Jesus’ message. Jesus echoed John’s call for repentance and added the challenge that each person must believe the Good News. From the beginning, Jesus did not allow himself to be only a topic for debate or even admiration. He expected those who approached him to believe or to reject him. He never allowed the middle ground of indecision.
1:14 Mark mentioned the arrest of John the Baptist as merely a signal for the ministry of Jesus into Galilee, his home region. Luke explained that John was arrested because he publicly rebuked King Herod for taking his brother’s wife. John’s public protests greatly angered Herod, so he put John in prison, presumably to silence him. The family of Herods were renowned for their cruelty and evil; it was Herod the Great who ordered the murder of the babies in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). The Herod who imprisoned John was Herod Antipas; his wife was Herodias, Herod Antipas’ niece and formerly his brother’s wife. The imprisonment of John the Baptist was only one evil act in a family filled with incest, deceit, and murder.
1:15 The Old Testament prophets often spoke of the future Kingdom, ruled by a descendant of King David, that would be established on earth and exist for eternity. Thus when Jesus spoke of the time and the presence of the Kingdom of God, the Jews understood him to mean that the Messiah had come to fulfill or inaugurate his long-awaited Kingdom. Jesus reassured them that God was in sovereign control. He had begun to act in a new and decisive way.
This caused great excitement among the people. The problem arose, however, in the misunderstanding of the nature of this Kingdom. The Kingdom of God began when God entered history as a human being. But the Kingdom of God will not be fully realized until all evil in the world has been judged and removed. Christ came to earth first as a Suffering Servant; he will come again as King and Judge to rule victoriously over all the earth. The Kingdom was as near as people’s willingness to make Jesus king over their lives. Jesus began his ministry with the very words people had heard John the Baptist say: Turn from your sins. The message is the same today.
Four Fishermen Follow Jesus / 1:16-20
Jesus confronted Simon and Andrew with a challenge beyond the one he presented in his public preaching. He called the crowds to repentance and belief. He invited Simon and the others to follow him. They had already repented and believed. Now they were being called into discipleship.
The Lord used their previous vocation as a metaphor of their new calling. The former fishermen would now be fishers of people. God finds a way to make good use of every past experience we have to help us serve him.
1:16 The Sea of Galilee is, in reality, a large lake—650 feet below sea level, 150 feet deep, and surrounded by hills. Fishing was the main industry for the approximately thirty fishing towns that surrounded the Sea of Galilee during Jesus’ day. Fishing with nets was the most common fishing method. A circular net (ten to fifteen feet in diameter) was cast into the sea. Then it was drawn up, and the catch was hoisted into the boat.
The first pair of men Jesus called to follow him were brothers, Simon and Andrew. This was not the first time Simon and Andrew had met Jesus. Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist who, when introduced to “the Lamb of God,” turned and followed Jesus (John 1:35-39). Andrew then brought his brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:42). These men understood and believed who Jesus was.
1:17 Jesus told Simon (Peter) and Andrew to leave their fishing business, come and be his disciples, and fish for people to also follow Jesus. These disciples were adept at catching fish, but they would need special training before they would become able to fish for people’s souls. Jesus was calling them away from their productive trades to be productive spiritually by helping others believe the Good News and carry on Jesus’ work after he was gone.
1:18 After their previous meeting with Jesus, Simon Peter and Andrew had returned to fishing. But when Jesus called them to follow him as disciples, they left their nets at once. Their lives had changed; their allegiance was now to their teacher. Mark taught radical discipleship; a person must leave all behind to follow Jesus.
1:19 Not far down the beach was another pair of brothers, James and John, Simon Peter’s partners (Luke 5:10). These men were sitting in their moored boat mending their nets. The weight of a good catch of fish and the constant strain on the nets meant that the fishermen had to spend a lot of time keeping their nets repaired and in good shape.
John had met Jesus previously. In his Gospel, John records his own and Andrew’s discipleship with John the Baptist and then their turning to follow Jesus (John 1:35-39). James probably knew about Jesus from his brother, John. These men were ready for Jesus’ call.
1:20 Both sets of brothers immediately left behind the lives they had known and embarked on an incredible adventure. Surely the impression Jesus made upon them must have been great, and the certainty of their call must have been strong for them to follow without hesitation.
Jesus Teaches with Great Authority / 1:21-28
Earlier in chapter 1, Satan attacked Jesus in the wilderness. Then Mark directed our attention to Jesus’ counterattack. He carried the spiritual warfare into the domain of Satan, to those controlled by evil spirits. As will be the case repeatedly, the battle took place in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Perhaps this shows that Satan can be active even in our houses of worship.
1:21 Capernaum, located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, was the largest of the many fishing towns surrounding the lake. Jesus had recently moved to Capernaum from Nazareth (Matthew 4:12-13). Capernaum was a thriving town with great wealth as well as great sin and decadence. Because it was the headquarters for many Roman troops, heathen influences from all over the Roman Empire were pervasive.
The Temple in Jerusalem was too far for many Jews to travel for regular worship, so many towns had synagogues serving both as places of worship and as schools. Beginning in the days of Ezra, about 450 b.c., a group of ten Jewish families could start a synagogue. There, during the week, Jewish boys were taught the Old Testament law and Jewish religion (girls could not attend). Each Saturday, the Sabbath, the Jewish men would gather to hear prayers, the Scriptures read, and an interpretation from a teacher. Because there was no permanent teacher, it was customary for the synagogue leader to ask visiting teachers to speak. This is why Jesus often spoke in the synagogues in the towns he visited.
1:22 The people were completely amazed by Jesus’ teaching. The Jewish teachers of religious law often quoted from well-known rabbis to give their words more authority. But Jesus didn’t have that need. Because Jesus was the Son of God, he knew exactly what the Scriptures said and meant. He was the ultimate authority. The people had never heard such teaching. The teachers of religious law were the legal specialists in Jesus’ day. They interpreted the law but were especially concerned about the halakah or “rules” for life that came to be as binding as God’s written law in the Torah. Their self-assured authority, in fact, became a stumbling block for them, for they denied Jesus’ authority to reinterpret the law, and they rejected Jesus as the Messiah because he did not agree with nor obey all of their traditions.
1:23-24 Evil spirits, or demons, are ruled by Satan. They work to tempt people to sin. They were not created by Satan, because God is the Creator of all. Rather, the evil spirits and demons are fallen angels who joined Satan in his rebellion and thus became perverted and evil. The evil spirit had entered the man’s body and possessed him. Though not all disease comes from Satan, sometimes demons can cause a person to become mute, deaf, blind, or insane. But in every case where demons confronted Jesus, they lost their power. Thus God limits what evil spirits can do; they can do nothing without his permission. During Jesus’ life on earth, demons were allowed to be very active to demonstrate once and for all Christ’s power and authority over them.
The evil spirit knew two facts—that Jesus had indeed come to destroy demonic power and that Jesus was the Holy One sent from God. While the people in the synagogue were astounded at Jesus’ teaching and wondered who this man could be, the demon knew. At this time, people believed that to know a person’s precise hidden name was to be able to gain control over the person. Thus the demon’s first attempt against Jesus was to state his divine identity in public. By including this event in his Gospel, Mark was establishing Jesus’ credentials, showing that even the spiritual underworld recognized Jesus as God’s Son.
1:25 Jesus simply and sternly commanded the demon to be silent. Two explanations may help us understand why Jesus asked this: (1) Jesus wanted to contain the enthusiasm for a political messiah. He did not wish to be the people’s king in the way they desired, nor did he want to be a military leader; (2) To confess Jesus’ deity without a proper understanding of his mission is partial and invalid. He did not want people to wildly proclaim him to be God’s Son unless they understood the meaning of his death for them on the cross. This would explain why even his disciples lacked understanding until his resurrection.
To silence the demon was not enough, for Jesus wanted to free the man possessed by the demon. So Jesus next commanded, “Come out of the man,” again demonstrating his power and authority over Satan and his demons.
1:26 Without any recourse except to submit to a higher authority, the evil spirit left the man. But first, to show its anger and protest, the evil spirit screamed and threw the man into a convulsion. This could have been a severe spasm or a blow that thrust the man to the ground. With a final shriek, the demon left.
Many psychologists dismiss all accounts of demon possession as a primitive way to describe mental illness. Although throughout history mental illness has often been wrongly diagnosed as demon possession, clearly a hostile outside force controlled the man described here. Mark emphasized Jesus’ conflict with evil powers to show his superiority over them, so he recorded many stories about Jesus driving out evil spirits. Jesus’ power over demons reveals his absolute power over Satan, even in a world that seems to be in Satan’s control. Satan is presently under God’s authority; when God chooses to command, Satan must obey. Satan’s workings are only within God’s prescribed limits; he can do no more evil than God allows. In the end, Satan and all his demons will be tormented in the lake of fire forever (Revelation 20:10).
1:27 Jesus’ display of his authority in the showdown with a demon caused amazement in the people. With a simple and stern command, the evil spirit obeyed and the possessed man was set free. The people called Jesus’ teaching new; his teaching challenged them. Jesus taught with authority; he spoke to the powerful underworld with authority. Surely this man was someone to watch closely.
1:28 The people who left the gathering in the large synagogue in Capernaum had witnessed an authoritative and captivating new teacher with unheard-of power. The news spread quickly across the region of Galilee. Jesus’ growing popularity becomes a major theme in chapter 1. This popularity among the common folk stands in glaring contrast to the religious leaders’ opposition expressed in 2:1–3:6.
Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law and Many Others / 1:29-34
After ending his clash with the demons in the synagogue, Jesus immediately healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. By the time evening arrived, there were many sick and demon-possessed crowding to Jesus for attention. Mark noted that Jesus was commanding the demons not to identify him. His goal was not to draw attention to himself, but to meet the real needs of others.
1:29 As the crowd hurriedly dispersed from the synagogue or continued talking among themselves, Jesus and the four disciples left for their own lodgings. They arrived at Simon and Andrew’s home. Jesus and the disciples probably stayed in this home during their visits to Capernaum (2:1; 3:20; 9:33; 10:10)
1:30-31 Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning with a high fever. Jesus went to the mother-in-law’s bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her to sit up. Jesus’ touch on the woman’s hand brought instant and complete healing—the fever suddenly left. She went and prepared a meal as she had probably planned.
1:32-33 The people came to Jesus on Saturday evening at sunset. The day had been the Sabbath (1:21), their day of worship and rest, lasting from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Jewish law prohibited traveling and carrying burdens on the Sabbath, so they waited until sunset. After the sun went down, Sabbath was over, and the people searched for Jesus. The Greek word for brought means “to carry.” Many of the sick and demon-possessed people were literally carried to Peter’s home so Jesus could heal them. The crowd was so huge that it appeared that people from all over Capernaum had gathered there. This was no unruly mob; the people had come on a mission and were there to stay until their mission was accomplished.
1:34 Jesus patiently healed all the sick people. No disease took Jesus by surprise, and no disease was beyond his ability to heal. Jesus’ authority over the demons continued to be revealed as he ordered many demons to come out from the victims brought to him. Again, Jesus simply had to command the demon to come out, and it obeyed. However, this time Jesus refused to allow the demons to speak because they knew who he was (see 1:25).
Jesus Preaches throughout Galilee / 1:35-39
Jesus had just spent a Sabbath in feverish activity. Early in the morning of the next day, he set aside a time of prayer by himself. By the time the disciples found him, he was ready to face the next challenge. We must follow Christ’s example by making time for personal prayer. Those who help and serve on Sunday especially need to set aside time with God to restore their strength. Our ability to serve will be hindered if we neglect times of spiritual replenishment.
1:35 Before the sun came up, Jesus went out alone into the wilderness to pray. During his ministry on earth, Jesus was in constant prayer with the Father. Mark recorded three of these times of prayer: (1) after the successful ministry in Capernaum with the healing of many sick and demon-possessed people; (2) after the miracle of feeding more than five thousand people (6:46); (3) in Gethsemane, just prior to his arrest, trial, and crucifixion (14:32-42).
What did Jesus pray about? After his great successes with the crowds in Capernaum and on the mountainside, his prayers may have focused on fulfilling his mission as the Suffering Servant, when it seemed (at least humanly) more strategic to be a conquering king. Popularity was a temptation in itself, for it threatened to turn Jesus away from his mission. Jesus had a mission to fulfill—and death on the cross was the key, for only Jesus’ death could accomplish salvation. Jesus, in his humanity, may have continued to face the temptation to turn away from the difficult path and take the easier one. He constantly needed strength from God. Going into the wilderness, alone with the Father, helped Jesus focus on his task and gain strength for what that task entailed.
1:36-38 Apparently the people in Capernaum continued to arrive at Simon Peter’s house the next morning hoping to hear more of Jesus’ teaching and see him perform more miracles. The disciples were surprised that Jesus would not follow up on his great success from the previous day’s ministry in Capernaum, but instead disappeared before anyone awoke. So they went out to find him and bring him back. But Jesus had a mission to fulfill and a very limited time to accomplish it. Not only was Jesus not going to capitalize on his great popularity in Capernaum, he was not even going back into the city. Instead, he was leaving on an extended trip throughout the region. Many people needed to hear Jesus preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God (1:14-15), as Jesus explained, “That is why I came.” Jesus would not be deterred from his mission to preach the Good News to as many people as possible. His primary mission was to bring people to a place of decision to have faith in God.
1:39 Jesus and the disciples left the early morning bustle of Capernaum behind and began a preaching and healing tour throughout the region of Galilee. The Romans had divided the land of Israel into three separate regions: Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. Galilee was the northernmost region, an area about sixty miles long and thirty miles wide. Jesus did much of his ministry in this area, an ideal place for him to teach because there were over 250 towns concentrated there, with many synagogues. Jesus’ action of expelling demons verified his authority and power and showed compassion to those who had been possessed and, by Jesus’ word, had been set free.
Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy / 1:40-45
Once the news was out that Jesus could heal diseases, people with serious needs converged from every direction. Perhaps the greatest handicap God accepted in coming to earth was to limit himself to space and time. He was a single individual with divine power in a sea of human needs. Even those he helped, like this man cured of leprosy, hampered Jesus by telling everyone of Jesus’ miraculous power. By so doing, he drew attention to the sensational and miraculous aspect of Jesus’ ministry and away from the need for repentance and faith that leads to a life of service.
1:40 Leprosy was a terrifying disease because of the social rejection and the devastating impact it had on its victims. In Jesus’ day, the Greek word for leprosy was used for a variety of similar diseases; some forms were contagious, disfiguring, and / or deadly; some were as innocuous as ringworm. In keeping with the law in Leviticus 13 and 14, Jewish leaders declared people with leprosy (lepers) unclean. This meant that lepers were unfit to participate in any religious or social activity. Because the law said that contact with any unclean person made that person unclean too, some people even threw rocks at lepers to keep them at a safe distance. Even the mention of the name of this disabling disease terrified people because they were afraid of catching it. Lepers lived together in colonies outside their community. Most would remain there until they died. Sometimes, however, leprosy would go away. Then the person could return to the priest and ask to be declared “clean” before returning to the community.
That this man with leprosy came to Jesus reveals the man’s great courage; that he knelt reveals his desperation and his humility; his words to Jesus reveal his faith. The priest would declare him clean, but only Jesus could make him clean. “If you want to” reveals the man’s faith in Jesus’ authority in this matter of healing. What this man wanted was to be made well, a huge request.
1:41 Jesus’ love and power go hand in hand. Mark revealed Jesus’ heart of compassion. While all people shunned lepers, Jesus touched this man covered with a dreaded, contagious disease. The fact that Jesus’ touch precedes his pronouncement of healing indicates that Jesus disregarded the Jewish law not to touch a leper (Leviticus 5:3; 13:1-46; Numbers 5:2). This shows Jesus’ compassion and his authority over the law. With the words, “I want to . . . Be healed!” the leprosy immediately disappeared. The words were simple but effective, revealing Jesus’ divine authority over sickness.
1:42 We are not told the stage of this man’s leprosy—he may already have lost portions of his body to the disease. But when Jesus spoke, the man’s health was restored completely. The disease did not go into a type of “remission”—it disappeared. The man’s becoming healed meant he had his life back. He could return to his community, to his family, and to worshiping in the synagogue.
1:43-44 When a leper was cured, he or she had to go to a priest to be examined. Then the leper was to give a thank offering at the Temple. Jesus adhered to these laws by sending the man to the priest. Jesus wanted this man to give his story firsthand to the priest to prove that his leprosy was completely gone so that he could be restored to his family and community. This would be done as proof of his healing.
Jesus also told the man: “Don’t talk to anyone along the way.” Why would Jesus ask this man not to tell anyone about his healing? Wouldn’t this have been great advertising for Jesus, bringing more people to hear his message? While we might think so, Jesus knew better (John 2:24-25). Jesus’ mission was to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God. If crowds descended on him to see miracles accomplished or to benefit from his power, they would not be coming with the heart attitude needed to hear and respond to the gospel. Jesus did not want to be a miracle worker in a sideshow; he wanted to be the Savior of their souls.
1:45 The man disobeyed Jesus’ strong warning. Perhaps the man thought he was helping Jesus’ ministry; perhaps he just couldn’t help himself. In any case, he spread the news. His disobedience to Jesus’ command, even if from good motives, hindered Jesus’ work because the publicity Jesus received severely hampered his ministry in the synagogue. Jesus had planned to go into towns throughout Galilee and preach in the synagogues. But his notoriety as a healer made this impossible. Mark recorded that Jesus couldn’t enter a town anywhere publicly—probably crowds of people pressed on him, all seeking special favors. So Jesus had to stay out in the secluded places. But that did not hinder people in need of healing or desiring to see this healer. They still came to him there.
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