He was the headline news. It was his authority that put him on the front page. It astonished everyone. Demons cried. Disease disappeared. Damnation lifted. Being famous in 30 A.D. northern Israel wasn’t like making it in the Big Apple, but Jesus’ name was on every tongue. People hounded him wherever he went. ” . . . his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee” (Mark 1:28).
In our meandering through Mark’s Gospel, we’ve read reports about John the Baptist (1:1-8), Jesus’ baptism and temptation (1:9-13), the Gospel Jesus preached (1:14,15), and Jesus’ call to his first four disciples (1:16-20). Today we reach the report of Jesus’ power to act over mighty bad stuff. The whole text is too lengthy to quote. (But, if you can’t read both text and post, read text! God’s Word is more important than mine about it!)
HEADLINE: JESUS DRIVES OUT A DEMON (Mark 1:21-28)! In the Capernaum synagogue last Sabbath, a man suddenly interrupted the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and identified him as “the Holy One of God”. Jesus responded by commanding an unclean spirit to come out of the man. The man convulsed, cried out with a loud voice and the spirit came out. The people were all amazed at Jesus’ authority. One said, “He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him!”
HEADLINE: JESUS HEALS A TOWN (Mark 1:29-34)! The mother-in-law of Peter and Andrew of Capernaum was ill with fever. Eyewitnesses say that after synagogue Jesus “took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her.” News spread. By evening all the town’s sick and demon-oppressed were brought to Peter’s front door where—people claimed—Jesus “healed many who were sick . . . and cast out many demons.”
HEADLINE: JESUS CLEANS UP A LEPER (Mark 1:40-45)! Yesterday a man claiming to have had leprosy told how he had approached Jesus of Nazareth begging to be made clean. The leper said that Jesus, with a look of pity on his face, “stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.'” According to the leper, the leprosy immediately left him.
HEADLINE: JESUS HEALS & FORGIVES A PARALYTIC (Mark 2:1-12)! Late yesterday men carried a paralytic on his bed to a packed house where Jesus of Nazareth was teaching. When they couldn’t get through the crowd, they managed to pull the man up on the roof, break through, and lower their friend inside. Witnesses say Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Apparently to prove he had authority to forgive sins, Jesus then commanded the man, ‘ . . . rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ People present in the house all claim the man did pick up his bed and go home, leaving behind an amazed crowd glorifying God saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
Demons (Yes, those little devil are real. Who do you think inspires ISIS’ beheadings?). Disease. Damnation. All mighty bad stuff. But Jesus had authority over it all. With a word or a touch power to act was released and people rescued,
If we lived in a northern Israeli town (you’ve seen Middle East villages on TV news) and a man visited and worked miracles like this, what would we think? Mark doesn’t want us to write them off as scams or people’s pre-science ignorance. He wants us to connect them with Jesus’ preaching . . .
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14,15).
Connect healings with preaching and what do we get?
Those healings powerfully signified the kingdom of God was at hand. “Kingdom” (Greek basilaya) fundamentally means “reign” or “the power exercised by a king.” The hope the prophets had promised was no longer a circled date on a far-off future calendar. It was as near as the hand at the end of your arm. God’s reign was at hand. Healing miracles were the signs pointing to its closeness.
The kingdom of God was at hand in the person of Jesus. Jesus was (is) the king of God’s kingdom. Wherever Jesus was the reign of God was. The kingdom wasn’t a territory but the power exercised by the king. The kingdom was incarnated in Jesus. And his healing miracles localized God’s reign in him.
Those healings revealed what life is like in the kingdom of God. Demons exorcised and banned from coming back. Disease removed and kingdom-citizens restored to health. Damnation for sin lifted by a word of forgiveness. In Jesus the kingdom had already come, but not yet in its fulness. Here were tastes, glimpses, anticipations of what God’s consummated reign will be.
Therefore, repent. Stop thinking that this world-system is all there is. Stop banking on dreams fulfilled by “making it” here. Stop living as if you’re the king of your own little kingdom. Turn to give your allegiance to Jesus. If you don’t, demons or disease or damnation will get you. And any one of those is mighty bad stuff.
There, believe in the Gospel. All this sounds like an old Disney movie. Or as crazy as the idea that if you die killing an infidel 20 virgins await you in heaven. But it’s real. As real as the demon-free man. As real as the healed town. As real as the clean skin of the leper. As real as the paralytic walking on strong legs with a guiltless heart.
Because of Jesus—the man with the power to act over mighty bad stuff.