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Mark 1:21-45: Why Heal and Cast Out Demons? Print E-mail
Sunday, 15 July 2007

There is much of Jesus’ ministry that involves the miraculous or supernatural.  We see Jesus healing sickness and disease.  We see Him casting out demons and silencing evil spirits.  We see Him walking on water, feeding thousands, turning water to wine, calming storms, even raising people from the dead.  Needless to say, the Gospel writers all agree that the ministry of Jesus involved the miraculous.  Of course, this is why many have such a difficult time believing in Christ and believing in the Bible in general.  If the universe is all there is, then if an event cannot be explained by natural causes, then it must be fake.  So goes the argument against the miracles of Jesus.

Yet, for those of us who affirm that the Bible is the Word of God, then by definition we are not limited to believing that the universe is all there is.  We affirm from the beginning that we believe in the supernatural.  We believe in God.  We believe in angels and demons.  We believe in miracles.  We do not deny science or scientific causes, we just recognize that God is not limited by it.  We expect the Bible to tell us miraculous stories about supernatural events.  We do not read our text this morning and balk in unbelief.  Thus, we can all affirm together: much of Jesus’ ministry involves the miraculous and supernatural.

The question I want us to spend some time on this morning from our test is this: why does Jesus’ ministry involve the miraculous?  We said last week that the focus of Jesus’ ministry was the proclamation of the gospel and we see that affirmed again in our text.  Look at verse 38.  Jesus came to preach, to proclaim the gospel of God and to call men to repent and believe in His work.  Yet, if that is the focus, why spend time healing and casting out demons and performing other miracles?  Now, we cannot get into the mind of Jesus and we want to be careful that we do not merely speculate about the reasons.  Yet, we can look at the text and what it identifies as the reason.  So, let me offer two reasons from our text for healing and casting-out demons.

First, Jesus heals and casts-out demons to demonstrate His authority (v. 21-39).

We see in the Gospels a close connection with the authority of Jesus’ teaching and His authority over demons and sickness.  Mark gives us a clear example of this in verses 21-28.  As we read this passage again, notice the emphasis on authority.  Look at verses 21-28.  Jesus is teaching here in the synagogue and Mark tells us that the people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.  It seems that the scribes of the day mostly taught them based other teachers who had gone before them.  Yet, Jesus was teaching them as one who had authority in Himself.  His teaching did not depend upon others.  However, in the middle of His teaching, a man with an unclean spirit begins to cause trouble and cry out against Jesus.  He says that he knows who Jesus is, that He is the Holy One of God. 

Mark goes on to tell us that Jesus immediately silences the man and with a simple command, casts the demon out of him.  Yet, notice verse 27.  Not only did Jesus teach them with authority, He even had authority over the demons.  Now this was something that they had not seen before and, as verse 28 tells us, something that would cause Jesus’ fame to spread throughout the region of Galilee.  Thus, I think we can say that Jesus’ casting out of this demon at the synagogue was a display of His authority over demons and affirmed His authority in teaching.  If the focus of Jesus’ ministry is proclaiming the gospel and casting-out demons and healing sicknesses serves the end of affirming His authority in such teaching, then we see a clear reason behind this work.

Before we look at the second reason in this text, I want to talk some more about the issue of these miracles attracting a crowd.  In one sense, you could say (and even argue from the text) that Jesus cast-out demons and performed miracles simply to attract a crowd for we see that repeatedly happening in our passage.  We noted verse 28.  Look at verses 29-39.  These miracles continue to attract the crowds to Jesus.  So, surely He is doing them to attract the crowds.  Yet, what about His repeated call for silence?  Look at verses 25, 34, and 43-44.  There is call for silence in each of these verses.  Granted, the first instance could simply be part of Jesus casting out the demon.  Yet, even so, what about the obvious emphasis in the rest of the passage?  This question has been referred to as ‘the secrecy motif’ in the book of Mark.  So, why is Jesus insisting on secrecy at this point in His ministry?  Briefly, let me try to answer. 

First, the spread of fame over Jesus’ healing ministry could take the focus off of the gospel.  Thus, even though it attracts attention, it can also be a distraction from what is ultimately important (as with those who simply come to be fed).  We see this conflict between the popularity of Jesus and the opposition to Jesus throughout the Gospels. 

Second, there was a real misunderstanding about what the ‘Messiah’ was to do and be.  Jesus was aware of this and slowly corrected this through His life and ministry.  Seemingly to be known as the Messiah at this point would do more harm than good.  Yet, make no mistake about it, Jesus will make it clear that He is indeed the Messiah, which will be a part of His correcting their misunderstandings.  Third, His growing popularity made the ministry of proclamation difficult at this point.  Look at verse 45.  The healed man does not obey Jesus’ call for silence and this makes things more difficult.

Well, if the miraculous caused such difficulties for Jesus at this point, why continue healing and casting out demons?  Again, to demonstrate His authority, but also…

Second, Jesus heals and casts-out demons to show His compassion (v. 40-45).

I am very humbled by this point.  Think about it, we have just argued that Jesus has authority to cast-out demons and heal the sick.  We believe that He is God in the flesh.  He is the King who did not even have a home, but apparently stayed at Peter’s house (verses 29-34).  The Almighty Ruler of the Universe cares enough to heal Peter’s mother-in-law and to heal many others and cast out demons (even after a ‘long day of ministry’).  Yet, if you are still not amazed and humbled, look at verses 40-41.  He touched him!  How could He touch him?  Jesus, being well aware of the Law (see Leviticus 13-14), knew that touching a leper would make Him unclean.  He knew the risk.  He also knew that He could heal him without touching him.  But Mark tells us that He touched him and healed him.  One commentator called this action “the whole of the gospel in a nutshell: Christ redeems us from the curse by becoming under a curse for our sake (Gal. 3:13).”

What a glorious demonstration of the mercy and compassion and grace and humility of our Lord.  Of course, this is not the last time that we will see such in His ministry, but it does us good to stop and take note, to pause in our busy lives and hectic schedules, and simply delight ourselves in the compassion of our Savior.  Some argue that verse 41 should be translated that Jesus was moved with anger, a translation that makes sense if you take it to mean that His anger is directed at the destructive nature of sin and disease or even the disobedience of the healed leper.  Yet, either way, the fact that Jesus was willing to touch the man still communicates His great compassion.

We have spoken of the stern message of the gospel that calls us all to recognize and freely admit our sinfulness and rebellion.  We have spoken of Jesus’ harsh judgment against the religious leaders of His day.  We all know the story of His dealing with the money-changers in the temple.  We need to see that Jesus was no pushover and that He was not weak.  Yet, as we see in this text and others, we also need to see His great compassion.  If we are going to truly understand and follow after Jesus, then we have to see and believe it all.  He is angry at sin, angry at disobedience, angry at rebellion.  He commands change.  He demands obedience.  Yet, what we often fail to recognize is that in these commands and demands, He is showing great compassion. 

In other words, it is Jesus’ anger and compassion that drives Him to turn over the tables in the temple.  It is Jesus’ anger and compassion that drives Him to speak truth to the Pharisees and Sadducees.  In fact, it is Jesus’ righteous indignation that leads to the cross.  We do not want to miss any of this.  We want to follow the true Jesus, as revealed in the Scriptures, and they tell us that He is at the same time loving and wrathful, holy and humble, powerful and meek.  To sacrifice any of these traits is to sacrifice what the Scriptures teach.  He heals to demonstrate his authority and He heals to show His compassion.

So, what does all this have to do with us?  What does this mean for those who are seeking to follow Christ in Sikeston, Missouri?  First, it means that we need to believe and trust in the authority of the proclaimed message.  Let me just be honest this morning, I believe firmly in the miracles that we have read in this text.  I believe that God is real and that the Bible reveals that He often uses the miraculous to display His authority and to display His compassion.  But I struggle in really expecting the miraculous in the every day.  I pray for the lost and I know that the gospel is powerful enough to save them, but I often doubt that it actually will.  Yet, I have been challenged this week by this text. 

We said last week that we want to be about what Jesus was about, namely proclaiming the gospel.  If as we have said, the miraculous serves the proclaiming of the gospel, then what should we long for and expect in our own ministries?  Again, being honest, I have to confess that I do not really know what this will always look like.  But at the end of the day, I want to proclaim the gospel like Christ (obviously recognizing the fact that I am not Christ).  I want to believe in the power of the gospel.  I want to witness it.  In the Great Commission Christ sent us out under His authority and we have seen the power of that authority in our text this morning.  Thus, may we faithfully proclaim the gospel believing in its power to save and deliver.  And may God use the miraculous as He sees fit to accompany our proclamation.

Second, it means that we need to proclaim the offensive message with great compassion.  There is a hurting world that needs a touch from the Savior, a broken people that need mercy and love.  We need to tell them the truth, namely that their sin is great, but the Savior is greater.  Like Jesus, may we proclaim the gospel with great compassion for those with whom we share.  Indeed, may our proclamation of the gospel be accompanied with great power and great compassion as we seek to follow after Christ.  Amen.

1 R. Alan Cole, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1989), p.118.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 23 July 2007 )

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