Have you ever watched that show, “It’s a Miracle”? It was a late 90‘s reality TV show before reality TV came out, except this was pretty cheesy, but I still watched it… a lot. It would amaze me, but I would always wonder, was it for real. It was hard to believe sometimes that these things would happen. Well, Jesus came and performed miracles, and people were amazed, but did those around Him really believe the reason why He did them? This is what I want to begin to unpack today.
So far in this sermon series, we’ve learned that Jesus’ coming was actually the coming of God’s kingdom that is bringing freedom, shalom, forgiveness, reconciliation, and justice. This means that the kingdom of God comes with power. Jesus came to bring a change to end all change. He came to make things right, even from the very beginning of His ministry. Let’s turn to Mark 1:21 and see where Jesus begins:
A Demon-Possessed Man
21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “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.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 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.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28)
Jesus casts out a demon and people were amazed and asked, “What is this? Who is this? A new teaching… with authority!” Jesus encountered an evil spirit and cast it out! The evil spirit was helpless in the presence of Jesus! People were astonished and amazed by Jesus! He told a demon to “Shut up!” and come out of a man, and the demon listened to Him!
A Sick Woman With No Health Insurance
29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 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. (Mark 1:29-34)
This fever was not equal to our fevers today. Today, when we hear someone has a fever, we tell them to take some Dimetap and get some sleep, but back then, people died from fevers. But when Jesus encountered sickness, He cured it. Sickness had no power or authority over a body in the presence of Jesus. And again, people were amazed at His power and authority over the demons and diseases (now skip over to v. 40, we’ll come back to vv. 35-39).
A Leperous Outcast
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. (Mark 1:40-45).
I hope you didn’t miss this one! When Jesus encountered culturally unclean people, they were made clean. In ancient times, the term “leprosy” was a term used to explain a wide-variety of deforming and often times, deadly skin diseases. In many societies, lepers were “quarantined” in to places where they could not contact others and spread their disease. This was true in Israel, but in addition, lepers were considered “ceremonially unclean”, which means even coming near a leper often made a person unfit for worship. We learn this in rabbinical literature:
“If a [leper] stands under a tree and a clean man passes by, the [clean man] becomes unclean. If a clean man stands under a tree and an unclean one… stands still under the tree, the [clean man] becomes unclean.” Rabbinical literature quoted in The Gospel According to Mark by W. Lane, p. 85.
So here in Mark, a leper approaches Jesus asking for healing, and Jesus doesn’t just say, “Be healed!” with His words. Look at what Jesus does: “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him…” (v. 41). Jesus heals him, but does so with a touch, meaning, not only are you healed of this disease, but you are clean, touchable, lovable, acceptable, able to worship Me… with the whole assembly!
From all corners of the region, people came to Jesus. What is filthy and shameful, Jesus makes clean and honorable! People were amazed at Jesus and crowds were flocking to Him.
A Glimpse Into the Kingdom Do you see what’s going on here? Jesus casts out demons, He heals diseases and sickness, He cleanses a leper and makes him clean and acceptable before others; all this is done at the beginning of His ministry, immediately after He chose disciples to follow Him. Jesus encountered all these things that we accept as part of this life, part of this world, and explain it away that this is just a normal or natural part of life.
But Jesus arrives on the scene and says: “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! The demonic world, it’s evil and despicable! Cancer, it’s bad! Filth, it was not what God created! Being a reject, that’s not a part of shalom! I came from heaven, there aren’t these things where I came from, this isn’t the way life was meant to be! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!”
We need to thank our Dr.’s, nurses, hospitals, police officers, lawyers, counselors, pastors, politicians, all of these professions are trying to restrain evil, illness and filth! But while we praise these people, there’s something different about what Jesus has. He has authority! Authority over all these things!
The authority of doctors is only temporary and limited.
Police officers only have so much ability to restrain evil.
Politicians, as hard as they try, can’t even put a dent in the justice system; they can’t even keep the government open.
We cannot get rid of sickness, filth, demons, and crime…
Jesus can! Jesus changes things, He really changes things, and we can’t get enough of Him, right? We run to Him every day because He has the change that we need, right? He’s the authority that we consult before all else, right? Or is he? Do we really believe Jesus is who He says He is? How can we begin to believe who He is? What could we do?
Prayer and Desperation! Let’s see what Jesus, God in the flesh, does when He was here on earth:
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:35-39)
Did you catch what just happened here in this passage? Jesus, who has the world at His feet, and look what does He does? Does He cash in and sign a big deal with the Pharisees or the Scribes? Does He beat His chest and say, “Look at me now?” Does He consult His disciples first about what He should do with this power?
No, He RUNS, to a desolate place, to go meet with the Father… to pray! His disciples find Him and say “Jesus, what are you doing, everybody loves you, let’s go make it big!” But Jesus says, “Let’s go to the next town.”
Why did Jesus run to the hills? He ran because God’s agenda for Him wasn’t to get rid of the world’s problems this time. He didn’t come to heal every one’s sickness, disease, filth right now. That wasn’t His idea, yet!
The picture we get here is one of need and desperation. We need to be with the Father. This power comes from the Father. It is the presence of God that is the big deal, not necessarily God’s power. Jesus knew this, and now He’s modeling this for us. Great things will happen! Blind will see. Deaf will hear. Lame will walk. Demons will flee. But that’s not what sustains us… God sustains us!
What Do We Do With this Jesus?
God’s kingdom has come in Christ Jesus, but it has not yet fully come as it will in the final days, because if it were to at this moment, those whom God is being patient with to enter His kingdom, will be left out. God doesn’t desire that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), but will surely give people over to the desires of their hearts (Rom.1:24-25) if they persist in unbelief.
So for now, we are left we these glimpses into the future, and questions to ask ourselves such as:
1) Who is this Jesus? He is the King, Christ and the Son of God. He is as powerful as John the Baptist said that He would be (Mark 1:7). He has supernatural authority, and He will claim what is rightfully His. He is the fullness of God (Col. 1:19). He is the last Adam who made right what the first Adam screwed up, and what we couldn’t make right (Rom. 5:12-21).
2) Why has Jesus come? He came to establish a new kingdom. He holds power over the spiritual and physical world. He came to make a way for all to enter into His kingdom, and to give us an invitation to be with Him. He has come to give freedom to the oppressed. Notice all of the people in these stories were oppressed. A man controlled by a demon. People like this get locked up in chains and put in isolation (Mark 5:2-4). A woman who was sick and had no money to hire a doctor. And a leper was was socially humiliated, emotionally distraught, physically withering away, and religiously ousted. Jesus came for the least of these (Matt. 25:40). Jesus went to those on the margins and healed them, sat with them, touched them.
3) How should I respond to Jesus? Many people in our day respond to Jesus with apathy (not even caring). Everyone who truly encountered Jesus in Mark’s gospel was “amazed” and the evil spirits were violently opposed to Him, and the unclean and social outcasts were no longer detestable or rejected. So today, if you hear the voice of Jesus in your heart, or see the works of Jesus and believe them, surrender to Jesus today.
Whatever it is that is holding you back or stealing your affections, tell Him, be honest with Him, let Him touch you and heal you as He did to those we encountered in these passages. He came to meet with you and restore you. Would you let Him?
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)