Providence Church (CREC)
February, 8th, the year of our Lord, 2009.
Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
Fifth Official Sermon
Prayer: May the kings of the earth give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth. May your holy nation of priests prepared to hear the spoken word rejoice in the message of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The gospel of Mark stresses the kingship of Messiah. The great King is coming to inspect His house and we read last week from verses 21-28 of Mark 1, Jesus finds his house unclean. The synagogue, which is the very center of worship and adoration, is now the house of Satanism. Jesus performs His first exorcism. It is a dramatic exorcism. It takes place in the middle of the synagogue in Capernaum. It is a public miracle that leads the religious leaders of the day to be astonished and amazed at the authority of Jesus not only to teach, but also to cast out the unclean spirit. The king is bringing His kingdom with great power and authority and the satanic forces attempt a massive attack.
In our narrative this morning we see the growing nature of these manifestations. The authority of Jesus is displayed in public, as we saw in the synagogue, but it is also displayed in private. In verse 29, Jesus enters the house of Simon and Andrew. We find that Simon Peter’s mother in law is sick with a fever. The text does not tell us what disease has caused the illness. In fact, in the ancient world a fever was described as a fire in the bones. Her body is exceedingly warm. Jesus the public exorcist now comes as the private healer. Jesus’ confrontation with the unclean spirit is dramatic, but his encounter with Peter’s mother-in-law carries a domestic simplicity. Note the sequence of Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother in law: a) First, He comes to her. She is incapacitated. Unlike the blind that can still walk, this woman cannot stand. B) Secondly, He takes her by the hand. Jesus wants to comfort this woman by touching her hand. C) Thirdly, He lifts her up. Her fever kept her down, but Jesus lifts her up, and then d) the fever left her. Mark is very fond of using the word “immediately.” Here we have an immediate healing. It might have taken a matter of seconds to heal this woman. But also note that this process of healing is similar to the resurrection God grants His people. We were once dead in sin and Christ came to us, we did not go to Him. He touched our spiritually dead corpses, lifted us out of the grave and immediately took away the sin, which made us captive to death. This is one of the many pictures of our resurrection. This is the newness of life we have in Messiah our Lord.
What is her response? She begins to serve them. The cure is complete and instant. She does not need to recover from the weakness brought by the fever. She is restored fully to service. This is response of resurrection. Anyone who is given new life in Christ is restored to serve Christ in His Kingdom. It is impossible for someone to be resurrected from the dead and remain uninvolved in the affairs of the kingdom. The response of Peter’s Mother in law is the response of the Christian.
In verses 32-34 we have the use of a time statement. If we are to understand Biblical revelation, we have to understand that God’s word does not speak in vain to us. Every Biblical detail is significant. For instance, in verse 32 we read: “That evening at sundown…” This is placed in the text to teach us a greater truth about the nature of the night. What does the Bible teach us about the night? The Bible teaches that weeping is part of the night, Peter denied Jesus at night; the apostle John tells us “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles,” and that people love darkness rather than light. We see that the general perception of the evening is that it represents wickedness. The Bible indicates that the spiritually dead walk in the night pursuing unrighteousness. This is exactly the point of verses 32-34. As the evening comes, we see a greater manifestation of evil.
Look at verses 32 and 33: “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.”
In verses 21-28, Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit. In verses 29-31, Jesus heals a woman with a fever. Now in verses 32-34, both the physically sick and the spiritually possessed come to Jesus. Those single examples in the previous narrative now become a multitude of people. We see this when the Bible says that the “whole city” was gathered together at the door of the house where Jesus was. It is fascinating how Mark’s language makes Jesus the center of everything. The people come to the door for healing. Jesus says in John chapter 10 that He is the door. Only through Him will anyone find new life. In the narrative, the people come to Jesus in the night. Can you imagine hundreds of sick and demon possessed people showing up at your door at night? Imagine the groaning, the cries, the agony, the pain of the sick and the oppression by those demon possessed. They are coming to be healed, but there is a deeper meaning to these words, as I have alluded before. The sick and the possessed are a picture of the spiritual sickness of the land. Their spiritual leaders, the ones who are to lead them to right worship and godly living have become the very incarnation of demons. They teach the theology of demons. They act like the Old Testament priests Hophni and Phinehas who disregarded the Word of the Lord.
“The people are sick in the kingdom. The people are deaf, lamed, and paralyzed.
They are leprous, unclean from their sin. They are demon possessed.”
But Jesus heals them and casts out the demons, but He would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Here in this verse we see the final episode of this evening/night/darkness scenario. Jesus has authority over what the demons can say. Not only does he cast the demons out, but He also prohibits them from talking.
Remember that the demons have an excellent knowledge of the Scriptures. In verse 24, they refer to Jesus as the Holy One of God. While the scribes are debating who this man is, the demons know that He is the Messiah. At this point in the ministry of Messiah, it is important that His works remain somewhat discrete. In verse 34 we see the clearest example of what may be called “The Messianic Secret.” Messiah wants His works to be kept a secret for the time being.
Why does Jesus want His message to be kept secret at this time? The best answer to this question is that the kingdom of Christ is coming in stages. As we continue to read the gospels, we find that the more the Scribes know about this Jesus, the more they want to kill Him. So if the demons could speak openly about Jesus, it is very possible that His ministry would not have been as effective.
Remember also that by shutting the mouths of the demons, He is also shutting the mouths of the religious leaders. They are in a sense teaching a satanic message. Later on in the gospels, Jesus will again shut the mouths of these religious leaders by answering their questions. And they will be so furious with the Holy One of God that they will ultimately cry out: Crucify Him!
The final verses of our narrative from verses 35 through 39 introduce the beginning of a new day in the life of Jesus. The evening gives way to a new morning, a very early morning. This marks a transition from demon possession to gospel preaching. It marks a transition from despair to hope. In these next few verses we will see that the ministry of Jesus cannot be localized. It has to spread beyond Capernaum. This is exactly the picture of Epiphany. The gospel of the kingdom is going out into the world.
The beginning of this new day marks the beginning of the Lord’s Day. In the previous narrative all those healings occurred on the Sabbath. The Sabbath in the gospel account is still Saturday. We will see that after the resurrection of Messiah, the Lord’s Day, which is Sunday becomes the day of celebration, worship and proclamation.
Verse 35 tells us that Jesus prepares Himself for His preaching ministry by praying in a desolate place. The translation of “desolate place” can also be “wilderness place.” He does not go back to the wilderness, but He goes to a wilderness-like place to pray. Jesus undergoes another trial before preaching the message of the Kingdom. Jesus knows that He will be confronted with evil forces greater than He has seen thus far in his earthly ministry; so He prays. If you go back to the Garden of Eden, Eve did not pray to seek guidance from God when she was tempted by Satan. On the other hand, Christ seeks guidance before He is tempted once more by the Evil One.
Mark’s gospel gives three examples of Jesus praying. The first one is given to us in our passage (1:35). The second time He prays (6:46) it is in middle of Mark’s gospel after He feeds the five thousand, and the third time He prays it is in the end of Mark’s gospel when Jesus is in Gethsemane (14:32-42). Mark shows the Messiah as One who submits to the will of the Father in all that He does. Jesus is praying for strength against the evils, which will inevitably attack Him throughout His ministry.
In the following verses we find that Peter and the other disciples are looking for Jesus. The idea is that they are trying to track him down. The disciples are simple fishermen and since following Jesus their reputation has grown in their community. They may very well be in love with this idea of fame. The disciples want to see the power of miracles. When they finally find our Lord, they say: “Everyone is looking for you.” In other words, “what are you doing here?” The people are asking about you; they want to see you working wonders again. The disciples are sort of missing the boat. They are already overlooking the purpose of Messiah’s coming. It is true that introducing the kingdom will bring healing and casting out of demons, but the central purpose of Jesus’ coming is to proclaim the kingdom of God. The disciples, led by Peter, will again and again miss this point, but through various lessons they will eventually grasp the work of their Lord on earth.
How Shall We Then Live? What does this narrative teach us about the Christian life viewed through a Christo-centric paradigm?
a) Christ has come to do good to the sick and demon-possessed. He has come to set the captives free. How much more will He do good to us? If He cares about those possessed by a demon, how much more does He care about those possessed by the Spirit? There may be some here this morning that sees everyone around them being blessed, except themselves. Before you continue to contemplate this erroneous idea, remember the goodness of God in your life. Remember how He has sustained you in the past despite your sins and how He continues to sustain you in the present. Are we of little faith that we forget that He will preserve and prosper us in the future? As St. Paul has said, “All things are working together for our good.”
b) Remember the example of our Lord in our narrative. He rose early to pray. The idea is that Christ prayed before He prepared Himself for His earthly task; the task given to Him by the Father. You too have an earthly task given by the Father. As a father or mother, your task is to pray for yourself and your family. I encourage you husbands, to pray with your wives in the beginning of the day or in the end of the day. God has made you shepherds of your household. Pray for your children that they may not fall into temptation. Pray together as the Lord taught us to pray: Our Father who art in Heaven…
c) Finally, pray as Christ did throughout the gospels that the proclamation of the kingdom of God may reach the four corners of the earth.
This is the Epiphany Prayer; a prayer for salvation of the sick; deliverance for the demon-possessed, and a prayer for the exaltation of Christ in all the earth.
In The name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Lane, William. The Gospel of Mark. NICNT, pg.77.
 Psalm 30:5.
 Matthew 26:34.
 John 11:10.
 John 3:19.
 Quote taken from a sermon preached by Chris Wilson from RCC, Oregon 2005.
 Verse 34.
 Lane, William. The Gospel of Mark. Pg. 81.
 Lane, 81.