20 March 2021
Series: Hope Emerges
Book: Mark

3 Ways Jesus Clearly Defied Expectations

Bible Passage: Mark 1:29-45

As Jesus’ fame begins to spread, he does precisely the opposite of what a person should do who intends on becoming a cultural icon!

Clarity

Hope Emerges:  The Story of Jesus

Mark 1:29-45

Related Discussion Guide: Clearly Unexpected

In the previous passage, Jesus commands an unclean spirit to come out of a man, and as a result, “his fame spread everywhere.” Most anybody trying to create a brand or a movement would love this response and capitalize on it. Fame would be seen as a massive step in the right direction! Therefore, if Christ’s purpose were to lead a movement to change the political structure, address social justice issues, or just create a vast following, it would only be logical for Him to seize the moment and expand it. But oddly, Jesus runs from the popularity and does precisely the opposite of what a person should do who intends on becoming a cultural icon! If Christ’s purpose was to become a celebrity, He had the moment in hand, but He rejects it!

Now, be sure that His response to popularity doesn’t fully clarify His identity and purpose, nor the hope that was emerging through Him; however, it makes it really clear what the hope is not, what His purpose is not, and who He is not! Ironically, 2,000 years later, nothing has changed. People who claim to be followers of Christ continue to insist on a hope He didn’t offer, a purpose He avoided, and an identity He refused. 2,000 years later, we see preachers capitalizing on the very thing Jesus himself ran from. So, what was his response and what can we learn from it, what clarity can we gain? Well, let’s read today’s passage then I’ll take you back through it. Mark 1:29-45 reads,

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.

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. 36And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38And 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.

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 1:29-45 reveals three clarifications about the person and mission of Christ – Hope!

Jesus refused to let the demons frame His identity. (1:29-34)

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.

While Matthew and Mark report that the mother of Peter’s wife was laid up with a fever or lying sick with fever, Luke, who was himself a physician (Col. 4:14), tells us that she was in the grip of a high fever, or was suffering from a severe attack of fever.1

In the absence of modern drugs, fevers were often fatal. Jesus does not function as a physician; he does not create a potion that will break the fever. Nor does he behave like many of the magical healers of his day; he does not exorcize the fever by means of incantations and manipulation of the woman’s body. He does not even pray audibly. His supernatural power is exhibited in the simplicity of the healing; He merely takes the patient by the hand and raises her from her bed. It is not surprising that Mark later reports that people regard his body and clothing as power-filled (the hemorrhaging woman is sure she can be healed by touching his cloak, 5:27–28). 2

I love the fact that right after she was healed, she starting serving! Humorously, I can’t help but imagine Jesus doing that because Peter’s mother-in-law was a great cook! HA! But the point is, she didn’t take the kindness of Christ as an entitlement to live for herself but rather to love and serve Christ and others! Put that in your mind because it’s going to be an ingredient in the rest of our conversation today, so let’s keep moving through the text …

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.

We know of a few instances in the Gospels where the demons proclaim the identity of Jesus. In last week’s passage, we saw Jesus confront a demon-possessed man in the synagogue who cried out, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God,” but Jesus first rebuked Him and told him to be silent! Then cast the demon out of the man.

Casting that demon out, was enough to cause his fame to spread everywhere. So to no surprise, in the very next passage crowds of people have found out Jesus is staying with his disciples at the home of Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew. Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law but this is done within the privacy of the family, however, the next thing you know, at sundown, people begin to surround their house. They were bringing all those who were believed to be demon-possessed and all who were sick. Verse 33 says the whole city was gathered outside their door!

So, Jesus, as you would expect, is healing people and casting out demons, in fact, he healed so many people Mark doesn’t even attempt to give a number, he just writes, many people! But, here is where we start seeing this interesting theme become more clear. In verse 34 Jesus refuses to allow the demons to speak because they knew who He was! In other words, Jesus didn’t want them announcing to everybody that He was indeed God in the flesh; that He was and is the eternal logos; that He was and is the Eternal Son of God!

Why would Jesus not want the demons to say that about Him? Well, Christ had no desire for the perception of His deity to be publicly formed by demons. He was not looking for the inmates to testify of who He was, but rather for the Father to testify of who He was. He wasn’t looking for, nor would he allow those who were working against the Father to get the glory or the opportunity of being those who defined His deity to mankind, but rather only the Father. The Father was going to be the One who testified to all the universe of who Jesus is and it was not going to be the way anybody would have expected! His deity was going to be put on display through His brutal and horrific death; a death that would not be understood at that moment but after His resurrection would become completely clear because He is God, He had just suffered the debt that all mankind owed! The eternal Son God had just paid the eternal debt of eternal separation from God – AKA Death. Likewise, at His resurrection and ascension and then at His return, all will see Him for who He is and for what He actually came to do and why, all in the perfect timing and direction not of Satan and his demons but rather the Father! Jesus didn’t come to be glorified because he can heal disease or cast out demons, but rather he came to die to set us free from the curse that leaves us slaves’ death! So, there was no way The Father was going to allow the deceptive, lying, wicked demons to be the ones who got the opportunity or honor of declaring His identity to the world!

Jesus refused to let his popularity dictate His mission. (1:35-39)

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. 36And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38And 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.

A person motivated by their mission cannot be detoured by hype or popularity, however, a person who is motivated by hype and popularity can’t stay on mission, well any mission other than hype and popularity! Jesus knew his mission and no manner of popularity would distract him from it. He was not a politician who was going to flip-flop on positions so he could maintain momentum. He was not a business executive adjusting his brand and marketing to grow his profits. He was not an insecure celebrity who found his identity in fame and praise. He was and is the eternal Son of God who was coming to set us free from death and launch us eternally into Life!

So, right when momentum and popularity would get going, Jesus would take off to the next town! Why? Jesus makes it clear in verse 38 that his primary purpose was to preach; therefore, he came out from the hype in Capernaum so he could get away from healing and back to preaching. He avoided the popularity that could be achieved by staying in one town healing everybody that came and went to another town to be able to preach there as well.

And don’t forget what He was preaching! Earlier in chapter 1, we learned that his preaching was a call to repent, believe and follow. “14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’ ” – Mark 1:14-15. His sermon was to repent from trusting in themselves, repent from their efforts to achieve righteousness, repent from worshiping everything but God (including worship religion in the name of God), and instead believe in the good news that Jesus was preaching and as such follow Him so that they could live under God’s rule in God’s Kingdom instead of man’s rule and man’s Kingdom! Jesus was not coming to make people feel good about living in this world, He had not come to make us feel good about the values of this world, he came to tell us to let it all go and live surrendered to Him and bask in all the things His Kingdom are about!

So, to no surprise, it wasn’t His preaching that was being sought after! People were interested in it for sure, but, it was His miracles that they were seeking. His popularity was expanding because He was healing people and casting out demons; not because He was telling people to abandon their love for this world and instead love God. But Jesus wasn’t dissuaded by the crowds from His mission!

This is earth-shattering to some who ponder who Jesus claimed to be. They can’t understand a person not wanting to have the kind of momentum and influence that was created by Christ’s ability to heal and cast out demons. But the excitement and motivation of the crowds were ironically in what Satan had offered Christ in the wilderness! If Jesus was here to achieve what Satan had offered him in the wilderness, then everything was set for him to have it. He just needed to stop preaching about the Kingdom of God; because that was going to get Him killed, and instead Jesus just needed to ramp up His efforts to heal more people and cast out more demons. But that wasn’t His purpose, therefore Jesus rejected the demands for Him to make His ministry about those things and instead, moved on to the next town so He could preach there as well.

Jesus refused to let His mission compromise His compassion. (1:40-45)

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.

“By way of background, Leviticus 13 and 14 describe in detail the woeful status of lepers and the law concerning leprosy. If you were a Jew in the ancient world and you woke up one morning with a strange appearance on your skin, it would strike terror into your heart. First, you were required to go to the priest, who, using the guidance of God’s Word, determined whether this outbreak in your flesh was a harmless skin affliction or whether it was leprosy. If it was leprosy, that not only meant that you had a dreadful physical malady that probably would be with you for the rest of your life, it was the worst possible announcement you could hear with respect to your fellowship in your home, the community, and the assembly. If you were found to have leprosy, you were deemed to be not just unwell but unclean. Leprosy could not be healed in the ancient world, so lepers were cast out of the covenant community. You were not allowed near the temple and could not enter the gates of Jerusalem. You had to live alone, without the fellowship of family members and friends. You wore tattered clothes and had unkempt hair. It was necessary to cover the lower portion of your mouth so you could be noticed from a distance as a leper. You were not allowed to come within fifty paces of another human being. If you saw anyone else approaching, you had to cry out, “Unclean, unclean,” lest you spread your contamination. To be a leper was to be the ultimate pariah in the household of Israel.”3

“Particularly striking is the boldness of the leper. In Luke’s story about Jesus cleansing ten lepers, the men call out to him from a distance (Luke 17:12–13). Here the man ignores the restrictions imposed by Leviticus and comes so close that Jesus can touch him. Mark undoubtedly perceived the man’s boldness not as callous disregard of the Torah or as disrespect of Jesus but as an expression of intense faith. He coveted for his readers the same boldness of faith (see 11:24).”4

“The Lord Jesus Christ, the sinless one, whose food was to do the will of the Father to fulfill all righteousness (John 4:34; Matt. 3:15), violated the ceremonial law. Not only was the leper not allowed to touch a non-leper, but the non-leper also was not allowed to touch a leper. But Jesus touched him, notwithstanding any controversies with the Jewish religious leaders that would come after that. Mark shows us that Jesus was the Lord of the ceremonial law, with the authority to set it aside for His own redemptive processes.”5

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.

Sometimes Jesus performed miracles to compliment His preaching and mission, but in this passage, we yet again see there are plenty of occasions that it totally got in the way of His mission, so why did he do it?

Jesus knew the consequence of his actions. It wasn’t his mission to heal people from sickness and disease, to remove demons that could then come right back, but rather to break the curse of Sin and as such send the Holy Spirit who would fill all who are in Him and make it impossible for a demon to possess us. He came to set us free from the curse that left us incapable of knowing God and experiencing His love for us, of setting us free from the curse that made it incapable for us to not only love God and others but be loved by God and others! This was His mission, this was indeed God’s plan, but; it was also the plan of the God who is the embodiment of Love, and as such, as important as His mission was, as necessary as it was, Jesus wasn’t so obsessed, so driven, so identified by it, that He had no compassion on the less important needs of mankind.

Everywhere He went Jesus cast out demons and healed people, even though it wasn’t his mission, and even though it made His mission more complicated at times; but that’s how love works. Love doesn’t mean we lay aside our mission, it just means we don’t compromise love as we accomplish it! A loving God could not set aside love to accomplish a mission of love.

So even though Jesus knew this leper would get sick again from something else, who knows, even leprosy. Even though Jesus knew the demon-possessed man could be possessed again; love motivated him to do something that was truly futile in the long term but truly meant something in the short term. Love.

The church cannot forget this lesson. We must stay on Mission. Loving people doesn’t save them, the gospel does. We must get the gospel to the nations, but, doing so without loving people is a hypocritical and empty message. We must love our community not simply to earn the right to share the gospel, but we must love our community because if you don’t then you don’t know God! From our collective effort to work together as a church to love and serve one another and our community, to our individual efforts to love and care for others in the church as well as our neighbors who know nothing about Jesus. Our mission can never be forgotten, it must stay our priority, but it can never justify not tangibly meeting people where they are and loving them through their hour of need!

Challenge: What hope are you offering your family, friends, and community?

Are you sharing the Hope of the Gospel without testifying of that Hope through a life of genuine love and compassion? Are you giving others hope through your love and compassion while leaving them void of the eternal Hope found only in the Gospel?

It cannot be missed that Jesus went out of His way to make sure His central effort was preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God, and as such calling people to repent, believe, and follow Him. However, as hard and as diligent as He worked to make sure that was His main effort, He still did not neglect the people who were coming to be healed. Even though Christ knew healing was a temporary futile thing to do, He still did it because He genuinely loves people. Loving people was not a method for Jesus; loving people is why Jesus came.

All too often we evangelical conservatives have given too much effort to find ways to not love people! This is not in any way suggesting the foolish concepts of loving people in a way that enables them to continue destructive or entitled behavior. However, it just means that if I genuinely love people, I’m willing to serve them even when it is inconvenient. It means that their needs and hurts matter to me enough to do something about it. It doesn’t mean simply tweet about it, or call the church to tell them to do something; but rather I stand ready to lead and do it myself if necessary.

On the other hand, there seems to be a popular movement that many call the social gospel, which suggests the effort of the church is the ministry of compassion and not the preaching of the gospel. It even suggests that the gospel itself is the ministry of compassion. This is unmistakably totally void of any biblical context or truth. Your children, spouse, neighbors, friends at school, employees, people you work for or work with; can only be set free from the curse of sin through the good news of Jesus Christ!

The Good News (AKA The Gospel) is information and therefore must be shared for it to have any impact! It is information that must be shared for a person to be motivated to repent. It is information that must be shared for a person to know the actual Jesus who demands that we believe in Him and as such follow Him. It is information that must be shared for a person to access true living, that is eternal life.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves if we are having conversations with the people we love that includes the information of all that is awesome about Jesus Christ. Are we sharing, even if primarily through our own story of struggles, what it means to follow Him, or are we leaving that information out in fear of people judging us for our failures to follow Jesus, or simply out of fear that they will no longer love and adore us?

I’m not suggesting that you need to be able to share the doctrines of the Gospel with the depth that someone like Jonathan Pugh can, but I am suggesting at a minimum you should be willing to invite people to come with you to hear the truth of Jesus taught in a church service, and you should be making an effort to learn it enough that you can begin to infuse conversations about the gospel into the conversations you have with others.

We have to accept the fact that no matter where we are on the theological learning curve, no matter how much we know about the bible, there is always a motive in our heart to not talk about truths of Jesus because we fear how it will be received, that is we fear how we will be received when we do. But, Jesus said, “if you follow Me I will make you become fishers of men.” So, are you resisting that work in your life through your refusal to genuinely love others, or are you fighting that effort out of your fear of talking about the person and work of Jesus Christ?

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    Footnotes

    1. Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (Vol. 10, p. 68). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
    2. Hare, D. R. A. (1996). Mark. (P. D. Miller & D. L. Bartlett, Eds.) (p. 30). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
    3. Sproul, R. C. (2011). Mark (First Edition, p. 33). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
    4. Hare, D. R. A. (1996). Mark. (P. D. Miller & D. L. Bartlett, Eds.) (p. 34). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
    5. Sproul, R. C. (2011). Mark (First Edition, p. 34). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.