Mark 1:14–31comment (0)
December 3, 2009
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Mark 1:14–31
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
HOW CAN JESUS HELP ME?
First Preaching (14–15)
Jesus stayed in Judea until the arrest of John the Baptist. The Messiah’s public ministry did not begin until that of the “way-paver” ended. Details of John’s death do not appear until Chapter 6. Perhaps the text implies a considerable time between Jesus’ baptism and His Galilean ministry, thus leaving room for the early ministry in Judea reported in the fourth Gospel.
The “gospel of God” Jesus preached probably means “good news from God” about the kingdom of God. “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God (i.e., the rule of God) has come.” The Jews looked for God to establish His Kingdom at some future point, but Jesus preached that the Kingdom was “at hand.” This expression means not that the Kingdom was near, i.e., just around the corner and about to come, but that the Kingdom has arrived (Greek perfect tense). In a real, but limited, sense, the kingdom of God Israel expected at the last day had broken into the present in the person of Jesus, the King. The Kingdom will come in fullness and finality when the King comes back, but it really irrupted into history when He came the first time.
The proper response to the “gospel” is repentance and faith. Literally “to change one’s mind,” repentance meant something like total conversion, while faith indicated complete commitment.
First Disciples (16–20)
Following Jesus’ preaching with His call of the Galilean fishermen Simon, Andrew, James and John may suggest that the call to repent and believe the gospel is nothing other than the call to follow Jesus in the path of discipleship and to share His task of drawing men out of the waters of this world into the net of God’s Kingdom. Response to Jesus’ call must be immediate and unconditional, even to the point of sacrificing a legitimate livelihood and the closest natural ties. Being with Jesus is the most important thing in life.
Sabbath in Capernaum (21–31)
Instead of listing Jesus’ activities, Mark gave the events of a Sabbath in Capernaum as a sample of His whole ministry. Mark made no effort to describe the content of Jesus’ teaching on this day. All that interested him was the manner and effect of His teaching. Jesus spoke with authority higher than the highest human authority the people knew. Even the prophets prefaced their words with “Thus says the Lord.” First-century rabbis taught by precedent. They depended on the authoritative opinions of earlier rabbis. But Jesus spoke on the authority of His own person, declaring simply, “I say.” In light of what readers know about Jesus from the opening verses of this Gospel, however, it is clear Jesus spoke with the full divine authority of God’s Son.
In the synagogue, Jesus acted with authority in dealing with evil powers. A demonized man cried out, “What to us and to you?,” meaning “We have nothing to do with each other” or “Why bother us?” How striking that the evil spirit recognized who Jesus was and what He came to do. Jesus was the “Holy One of God.” In the only other place this title appears in the New Testament, it designates Jesus as a divine being from beyond this world (John 6:69). The unclean spirit called Jesus the divine Son of God and knew He had come to destroy the demonic in order to set up the divine Kingdom (Luke 10:18; Rev. 20:10). If someone takes the view that demon possession was the first century equivalent of mental illness or epilepsy, then the story loses its point because these words no longer come from a being with superior knowledge. Indeed, if someone takes that view, then he or she has to explain what was in mental malfunction that gave such clear insight into the character and mission of Jesus. At Jesus’ command, the demon had to be silent and come out of the man. Jesus used no magic paraphernalia. A single command was all it took.
The immediate and complete cure of Peter’s mother-in-law was a double miracle. Recovery from malaria or flu often took weeks, but she got up and served her guests at once with no trace of weakness.