Good morning church! We have been going through a series titled “The Gospel of Mark: the story of Jesus”. I’ve personally being encouraged by this study of the gospel. A couple of weeks back we read on the passage that spoke about the “Calling of the First disciples” (READ). We learnt how following Jesus meant more than just having new religious ideas. A heart transformation needs to take place. And the three signs of transformation are:
- Exchange of Affections: Greater affections for Christ rather than family, friends or things
- Exchange of Dreams: Greater dreams for Christ’s mission rather than our personal professional ambitions
- Exchange of Pursuits: Greater pursuits for Christ and His glory rather than pursuing our own goals.
And these are key to understanding what it means to be a believer. So even though we’ve already read through it last time, I’d encourage you to be reminded every single day, every week, every year of what it means to follow Jesus. When you believed and trusted in Christ’s work for you on the cross, you declared that you were exchanging your affections, dreams and pursuits for greater, glorious and life-giving purposes of Christ.
Today’s passage is the start of Jesus’ ministry along with his first 4 disciples. You can imagine what it must’ve been for them to start with their new life and their new mission! Think along with me what they would’ve thought and expected from Jesus. The context of the Gospel of Mark is that Israelites for hundreds of years have been waiting for the coming of the Messiah. All of them had expectations. Who is he going to be? What is he going to be like? What will he be wearing? Where is he going to stay? How many people will be around him? Let’s read Mark 1:21 on-wards to find out.
Mark 1:21-34:  And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.  And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.  And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,  “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.”  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”  And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.  And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”  And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.  And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.  That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.  And the whole city was gathered together at the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Wow! This is a powerful passage. The whole passage talks about Jesus revealing his identity. He does it in three ways:
1. Jesus’ authority in teaching
Mark 1:  And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.  And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
The very first thing that Jesus does is that he goes to a synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath and begins teaching. The synagogue was a Jewish assembly where Jews gathered to offer prayers and listen to the reading and expositions of OT Scriptures.
Jesus enters and he begins teaching the Scriptures! As Jesus shares about the fulfillment of the OT prophecies, as He preaches about the coming of the kingdom of God, as He talks about the good news and how they need to repent and believe in the good news – they are astonished and blown away. The reason for that is because they were able to recognize authority in His teaching. In contrast to this was the teaching of the scribes.
Now these scribes were the Scripture experts of that day. They were approached for difficult issues or decisions with respect to the Mosaic law. No doubt these were very smart people but there was no authority in their teaching. Do note that the writer didn’t focus on the style of teaching or on Jesus’ eloquence.
He focused on His authority. Jesus taught with authority not only because He knew what He was talking about but because He was the author of Life and truth! I always wonder what that might have looked like to have the Creator of the universe, the pre-existent God, the One who sustains the universe to teach people and explain the Scriptures to them! Wasn’t that an amazing privilege? At the same time I realize that all of written Scripture that we have with us is talking about Jesus and is communicating his words to us (John 5:39).
 You study[c] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.
Whenever we read the Bible or hear it being preached in its context and according to the original intent and apply it to our lives, we should realize that the Word is coming to us with the same weight and authority that it had when Jesus spoke these words. We have an amazing privilege!
2. Jesus’ power over demons
Mark 1:  And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,  “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.”  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”  And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.  And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”  And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
While Jesus was teaching, a man with a demonic spirit cries out. Obviously, this is disturbing and distracting people from what Jesus was teaching. Jesus rebukes the spirit and casts it out of the man! Just imagine if this were happening at the Gathering right now. Wouldn’t you be frightened to witness this happen in front of you? The people knew they couldn’t control the man with a demon spirit.
In fact this demonic spirit affected the man so violently that in v26 it says it “convulsed him” or it tore him apart. And Jesus commanded the spirit to come out of the man…and it did! They realize that Jesus isn’t an ordinary person. He not only teaches with authority but He commands the demonic spirits and they obey him. We aren’t just seeing authority in His teaching but also authority over the spiritual realm!
How great and powerful must He be?
3. Jesus’ cure for sicknesses
Mark 1:  And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.  That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.  And the whole city was gathered together at the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Just after the amazing story at the synagogue, the focus shifts to Peter and Andrews home where Peter’s mother in law is ill and is lying on the bed. Jesus comes to her, picks her hand and immediately the fever leaves her! She becomes physically fit instantly, so much so that she begins to serve them.
Probably prepare a meal for them. In the evening, all people who were sick with various diseases and oppressed by demons are brought to Jesus and He instantly and miraculously restores them. The whole city gathered outside at the door.
Imagine being one of the onlookers trying to look inside and see how lepers, blind, lame, deaf are being healed. Who is this man who has the power to renew our physical bodies? These miracles are definitely witnessing to the Messianic age but also reveal the identity of our Savior who has the power to heal us because He himself fashioned us in our mother’s womb!
But in this whole passage there is one thing that messes with my mind. It’s v34 where it says “Jesus would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” What? Why would Jesus do that? When we see the man with the demonic spirit in v24 – the demonic spirit actually utters the correct identity of Jesus – He is Jesus of Nazareth and He is the Holy One of God! And Jesus tells him to “be silent”. It doesn’t make sense! Why would Jesus miss on this opportunity to reveal who He was? In today’s marketing and PR strategy, this would’ve been a major mistake.
There is a phrase in media that says – any publicity is good publicity. Why can’t Jesus allow the demons to speak? Wouldn’t this help Jesus’ name to grow quicker and wider? The reason why Jesus didn’t want to reveal his identity yet is due to people’s wrong expectations from the Messiah.
They were experiencing oppression under the Roman rule and wanted a military king to come and remove the Roman emperor from his throne and have this descendant of David sit upon the throne! That’s why Jesus didn’t permit the demons to reveal His identity because that expectation was totally opposite to who He was and why He came into the world.
However, Jesus still revealed who was through His actions – his authority in teaching, his power over demons and his cure for sicknesses.
If we were totally honest, what would we say are our expectations from Jesus? Our expectations and perceptions about Jesus form an important part of our faith. It’s the lens through which we see Jesus, approach Him and even talk about Him.
Are we really prepared to receive Jesus for who He is? Most of the time Jesus’ identity doesn’t match our natural expectations. Why? Because our expectations from Him are self-centered and temporary. But Jesus’ desire is to reveal the glory of God for our complete joy in Christ.
- Sometimes we think – If God gave me this job, then I would be more devoted to him
- If God gives me this person to marry, then I will love Him more
- If God frees me from this sin struggle, then I will be more obedient to him
- If God gives me this role or position in the church, then I will be a stronger believer
- If God makes my life more comfortable and convenient, then I will spend more time with him
- If God reduces the troubles in my life, then I will be able to trust Him more
- Also, sometimes we end up being selective in our reading of Scripture also. We love reading the feel-good verses again and again: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But let me not read and obey the verses that say – If anyone wants to follow me, let him die to himself daily, pick up his cross and follow me.
Do you see the issues with this type of expectations from Christ?
- It’s not true of who Christ is. This resembles a god that looks more like us and not like our Savior Jesus. It’s deeply self-centered
- We see Christ as only the Gift-giver rather than the Gift Himself
- Jesus Christ wants to give us so much more, but we want to settle with the least. By more I’m not talking about prosperity but I’m talking about knowing, loving and becoming like our Savior and Master – Jesus.
So how does this passage, provide us with hope?
Even though we’ve got all our expectations misplaced due to our sin, the encouragement is that Christ came to us and revealed the true picture of himself. He possesses all authority and is full of power! He is way beyond what our minds can comprehend and yet He chooses to show Himself to us.
Most importantly, He opened our eyes to see who He is through His sacrifice on the cross in our place. And He invites us to know him more intimately as we fellowship with him through the Word, prayer and his church.
So let’s throw off every idea or belief or lifestyle that is based on wrong expectations of Christ. And let’s receive and embrace and treasure this Jesus as He reveals in Scripture. We embrace Jesus by loving, obeying and praising Him.