Aug 26, 2012
Mark 1:21-39

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Quick recap of Jesus’ ministry provided in Mark 1:

Verses 14-15 Summarizes the first year of Jesus’ ministry.... He was a preacher!

Verses 16-20 Documents Jesus calling His disciples to follow Him.... His A-team!

Verses 21-39 Presents a glimpse into a typical day with Jesus.... A day in the life of!

Mark 1:21-22 “Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.”

Scene of Activity

1. “They went into Capernaum....”

Jesus is traveling in the region of Galilee with His disciples (Mark only mentions Andrew, Peter, James, and John - but we can conclude He’s also called the other 8 disciples by this point) and He makes His way to the city of Capernaum. 

Capernaum (City of Nahum) was a town of approximately 15,000 people, but in many ways this didn’t matter because of the over population of the region.

Capernaum was located on the Sea of Galilee - below Mt. Arbell - at the base of what was called the “Valley of the Doves.” This valley created a strategic and important highway that connected the Sea of Galilee with the Mediterranean. (One of the towns along this route was Nazareth.) 

Because of it’s great location (all of Galilee would pass through Capernaum to head up to the Mediterranean - and it created easy access whereby He could return home), Jesus made Capernaum His Galilean headquarters. 

2. “On the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught....”

Immediately on the Sabbath.

Though God had commanded in the Law of Moses that every 7th day the people were to rest on the Sabbath Day, understand the precedent begins much earlier. In the creation process God took 6 days to create and then rested on the 7th.

Because God defined a day in the book of Genesis as “evening and morning were the first day,” the Sabbath day of rest (or what we might call Saturday) actually began Friday at 6 PM and would end Saturday at 6 PM.

In the “day in the life of” - Jesus’ morning begins with a trip to the synagogue. 

The synagogue was the local Jewish community’s place to congregate - worship God - and read from the Holy Scriptures on the Sabbath. 

Throughout the rest of the week the building was the central place of education and operated like a Jewish community center of sorts.

It’s interesting to note the O.T. never mentions or commissions the formation or operation of the local synagogue. The Jewish place of worship was wherever the presence of God rested (first the Tabernacle and the later the Temple).

Most scholars place the origin of the synagogue during the Babylonian captivity. Not only had the temple been destroyed, but the Jews had been scattered across the empire. In order to maintain their national and religious heritage while in exile, these small pockets of Jewish populations gathered together on the Sabbath for worship.

The term “synagogue” literally means “a bringing together” or “a gathering of people” and referred to these Jewish gatherings. The term would later evolve into a world used to describe the building these people gathered in (very similar to the general linguistic evolution of the term “church”).

Even after the Persians allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple, many of the Jews who made the choice to remain in exile used the synagogue as their place of worship, rather than the new temple.

The Talmud stipulated that if a town had a Jewish community containing more than 10 Hebrew males then it was required for a synagogue to exist. It’s interesting to note the Apostle Paul would note visiting synagogue’s located in Damascus, Salamis, Antioch, Iconium, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus.

Because you were only allowed to walk so far on the Sabbath, every town that surrounded the Sea of Galilee possessed a synagogue. 

We’re told in other Gospel accounts that Capernaum had one of the most elaborate synagogue’s in the entire region because it had been build by a wealthy Roman centurion. 

Upon arriving at the synagogue Jesus was asked to share from the Scriptures.

Most local synagogue’s didn’t possess what we might refer to as a “local pastor,” but instead had a “ruler of the synagogue.” It was his job to locked and unlock the building - sweep up the place - take out the trash - care for the grounds - etc. 

Most of the synagogue service itself was traditional, ritualistic, and automated. When the time came for the Scriptures to be read, one of the elders would be given the opportunity. This ritual would only be placated if a Rabbi happened to be in town. The Rabbi would be given the opportunity to read and then expound upon the text.

This is why Jesus was so radically different from the normal Rabbi.... we read.... Mark 1:22 “And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

The effect is that the people were astonished, because Jesus taught with authority.
The scribes and Rabbi’s only taught what the general beliefs were - they never made definitive statements of certainty, but.... Jesus told the people what the text actually said. He told them what God was communicating, not what another Rabbi thought.

Simple Observation: Jesus gained authority.

Jesus spoke with authority because He had authority, but He had authority because He gained authority. Sure Jesus had authority because He was the Son of God, but I think the basis of His authority goes much beyond this....

Though 100% God, Jesus had limitations as a man. His brain didn’t possess the full knowledge of all things as a toddler, and He wasn’t teaching in the synagogue as a teenager. Luke 2 gives us 2 important details about Jesus’ developmental years...

Jesus increased in wisdom and stature” - the word “increased” literally means “to beat forward” or “to lengthen out by hammering.” Jesus spent his time studying - asking questions - and growing in His knowledge of Scripture. And studying for Jesus was just as mentally tasking as it is for us.

A little earlier in the chapter Luke tells us that for three days Jesus was “sitting in the midst of the teacher (there in Jerusalem) both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard HIm were astonished at His understanding and answers.” Before Jesus was a teacher, it is clear He was a student.

Jesus spoke as one who had authority, not only because He was God, but as a man He knew His material because He took the time and invested the energy to learn. He faithfully attended church. He was dedicated in His studies of the Scriptures. And by His hard work, Jesus gained authority to teach God’s Word. 

This is why this is so important.... many people shy away from sharing their faith or teaching God’s Word through educated, casual conversations because they don’t see it as their gifting. “Zach, I’m not a teacher.” But this is the irony.... 

That same person could talk your ear off about fishing - or the car they’re remolding - the problems with the Braves - or the Dawgs upcoming season - I know people who can talk for hours about last seasons “Dancing with the Stars” - or the latest linux operating system. 

These people can rattle off stats and statistics to validate every point or position they hold. But.... when it comes to Scripture they aren’t able to share their faith because “they can’t communicate” or “they aren’t a teacher.”
The truth is that everyone can talk about the things you know.... the things you’re an expert in because you’ve invested in. Jesus had authority because He gained authority. If you want to share God’s Word with the people around you.... study - learn - become an expert on the Scriptures.... and then share!

While Jesus was teaching the people....

Mark 1:23-26 “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!”.... 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....

Scene of Activity

After Jesus was finished teaching, this man possessed by a demon approaches Jesus and causes a huge, disruptive, commotion. 

Jesus tells the demon in the man to “be quiet” or “be muzzled” - literally, Jesus looks through the man and commands the possessing demon to “shut up and get out.”

The demon reacts by violently convulsing the man - crying out - but ultimately exiting the man in obedience to the commands of Jesus.

The reaction to this was that.... Mark 1:27-28 “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.

First Observation: A demon possessed man attended the whole service!

A demon possessed man attended synagogue and sat through the whole service, before causing a stink. No one knew the man was possessed and it only became obvious once he created a huge, disruptive, commotion. 

Second Observation: The demon had no doubts who Jesus was in a room of skeptics.

In the midst of a synagogue full of people who were trying to figure out who Jesus actually was, the demon had no doubts! He declares, “You are the Holy One of God.” 

This is one of the reasons the common identification of a “Christian” as a “believer” is so misleading and confusing. Obviously, the Biblical understanding is that a “believer” is someone who “believes the right things” and then “acts upon their beliefs.” 

But.... without that context many people see themselves as “believers” or “Christians” because they “believe” intellectually many of the basic Biblical doctrines, but these beliefs spawn little to no real effect on their lives day to day. 

This demon was the only “believer” in the audience - he believed Jesus was the Son of God - and yet, he clearly wasn’t “saved.” James 2:19 reads, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble!

Third Observation: There is power in Jesus’ Words.

Though exorcisms weren’t unique in Jesus’ day (there were all kinds of various techniques and traditional rituals used to expel demons), the way in which Jesus dealt with evil spirit is what set Him apart from any contemporaries. Jesus needed no ritual or technique.... He spoke a command and the demon obeyed and left the man.

It’s interesting to me that this is the first miracle Mark records, because it illustrates the power of Jesus Word.... Jesus spoke and the demon obeyed.

Mark 1:29-31 “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.”

Scene of Activity

After speaking at the Sabbath service and then dealing with a post-church problem, Jesus heads over to Peter’s home for lunch.

When He arrives it is brought to His attention that Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever (Luke calls it a great fever and it was probably a form of malaria). 

Mark tells us that Jesus comes into the room she was sleeping in - grabs her by the hand - lifts her up - and immediately she was healed of the fever.

First Observation: There is power in Jesus’ touch.

Like exorcisms, “healings” also weren’t unique in Jesus’ day (there were all kinds of various techniques and traditional rituals used to heal people of fever), but.... the way Jesus healed people is what set Him apart. Jesus needed no ritual or technique.... He simply “took her by the hand and lifted her up” and she was healed.

If the first miracle Mark records illustrates the power of Jesus Word, then the second miracle of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law demonstrates the healing power of Jesus’ touch.

Mark 1:32-39 “At evening, when the sun had set (meaning it’s 6 PM and Sabbath had come to a close) 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.” (Matthew tells us Jesus actually healed everyone who came.) 

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. 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.

Scene of Activity

Don’t forget we’re still looking at the same day.... Upon hearing about the morning seen at the synagogue, word had spread throughout all of Capernaum as to what had taken place. Mark and Matthew are clear in their account of what occurs that as soon as the Sabbath was completed “the whole city was gathered....” everyone came to where Jesus was (at the home of Peter)! Don’t forget this crowd could have easily numbered 15,000.... 

And Jesus stayed up well into the night healing and ministering to everyone who’d come to be healed. Jesus was no doubt tired when He looked out to see a crowd forming: one sermon and two supernatural miracles would have been enough for the normal minister (I teach here at 316 in the morning - another service to a group of high school students in the evening and I’m ready to take a whole day off come Monday), but Jesus was not to be deterred! 

When things eventually wrapped up and everyone called it a night, Jesus does something unconventional. When the natural reaction to a long day and a late night would have been to sleep in and recoup, Jesus instead arises “a long while before daylight” (3:00 - 4:00 AM) - “departs to a solitary place” (He got alone by Himself) - and “He prayed.”

After frantically awaking to a missing Jesus, eventually the guys find Him and express to Jesus the excited atmosphere the night before had created in Capernaum. The whole town was a buzz over what had occurred.... but instead of returning to build off of this momentum, Jesus explains the need to push into new areas that hadn’t been reached.

First Observation: Consult God before making important decisions!

There are some who will say that after a long day Jesus found it more beneficial to spend time in prayer (communication and connection with His heavenly Father) than it was to grab a few extra hours of sleep. Though I can agree with the principle that prayer is important, I think these preachers overlook the context of the passage. 

The most important question concerning this story is.... why did Jesus wake up early to pray? Did He wake up early because He was dealing with the exhaustion experienced by the previous days events, or did He arise early to seek direction for the current days events? 

If the issue was exhaustion.... I’m sorry, but Jesus would have needed sleep! Medically, I can prove to you that sleep is a critical part of life and remaining healthy. 

But if the issue was guidance.... then spending time in prayer was a much wiser utilization of His time than sleeping in! 

When Peter and the boys interrupt Jesus’ time of prayer - their excitement expresses the issue and decision Jesus was facing: stay in Capernaum where there was an excitement and energy about His ministry? Or.... abandon traditional wisdom and move out into uncharted territories? Jesus needed to spend time with the Father to seek counsel on making this decision.

Second Observation: Jesus knew His purpose and never deviated from it!

After a night in prayer, Jesus kept the main thing the main thing! He could have been tempted to stay in Capernaum. A wonderful work had started the day before. The local church loved His preaching. 15,000 people had been ministered to and they immediately created a solid core for this new movement. The people were excited. His ministry team was enthusiastic. If Jesus had come to start a movement or create His own little kingdom on earth, Capernaum would have been ideal.... but this wasn’t His purpose. 

Jesus’ explains to Peter and the crew that they needed to leave Capernaum and move into other towns so He could “preach there also....” but listen to His explanation.... “because for this purpose I have come forth.

I think the situation in Capernaum was the most dangerous day of Jesus ministry. I think the decision Jesus faced that morning had much larger ramifications than any other decision He’d make till Gethsemane. Would Jesus allow incredible success to distract Him from His purpose and calling?

Third Observation: Jesus never misses a moment to change a life!

Whether it was the demoniac in the synagogue - a friend’s mother-in-law - or the entire town coming by after hours.... 

Jesus never “turns away” or “refuses to work” in the life of someone coming to Him for healing! He never “turns away the honest seeker” or “declines an opportunity” to change a life. Jesus is never “to tired” or “to busy” - “off the clock” or “inconvenienced” when it comes to ministry. 

As we learn in this one day of ministry, if Jesus sees someone coming to Him for healing - to be freed from affliction - or to have their lives transformed.... Jesus will drop what He’s doing to speak into your life words of life.... or to reach out His hand and heal. Jesus is never to busy for you!