“As soon as they left the synagogue, they went into Simon and Andrew’s house with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was lying in bed with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she began to serve them. When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all those who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. The whole town was assembled at the door, and He healed many who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons. But He would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew Him. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there. Simon and his companions went searching for Him. They found Him and said, “Everyone’s looking for You! ” And He said to them, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.” So He went into all of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (Mark 1:29-39 HCSB)
PURPOSE. Why am I here? Where do I fit? What’s my purpose for existence? It is a basic human need to know, understand and to pursue the purpose for one’s existence. To discover and to excel at those things that lie at the very core of our being. The sad part is that many today are mistaking their sexual notions, their feelings and even their desires for their identity and their purpose for existence. You and I are not defined by our needs or desires but we are often influenced by them. God made us and gave us a will, the ability to think, reason, and evaluate so that we could make moral, ethical, logical and wise choices that determine our actions, our direction, our goals and our outcomes. In other words, we may be influenced by outside forces, good or bad, but we decide how we respond and relate to those around us.
This week, we are looking at a story in Mark that illustrates this very idea in the life of Jesus. We will see how His culture and the people He encountered wanted to shape His choices and His direction. But we will also see how Jesus responded and, hopefully, find the courage to make similar choices and responses in our own lives.
This week’s story is a continuation of last week’s story (https://wp.me/p5mod1-8LV). Jesus had gone to the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath and had been asked to speak. As we saw, He taught them with an authority they had never experienced before. Jesus’ authority was then demonstrated when His presence revealed a man with an unclean spirit in their midst who recognized and identified Jesus as “the Holy One of God.” Jesus immediately silenced the spirit and cast him out of the man. Mark highlights Jesus’ authority over unclean spirits.
This week, Mark continues to demonstrate Jesus’ authority by showing His ability to heal all manner of illness and disease. Immediately following the incident in the synagogue, the group heads over to Simon and Andrew’s home. While we aren’t told specifics, perhaps they were going there to have a meal following their time at the synagogue. When they arrive they find Simon’s mother-in-law sick and in bed with a high fever. While we aren’t given any additional insight into the family’s housing arrangements, I think it is safe to assume that Simon’s mother-in-law lived with Simon, his wife and Andrew. Mark gives us a very simple and direct response by Jesus. He went to her, took her hand and lifted her up, and the fever immediately left her and she began to serve them.
Mark then tells us that as evening comes and the sun sets, “they” began bringing to Him all the sick and demon-possessed. Who are “they”? It appears to be those who had heard His teaching and observed the events surrounding the man with the unclean spirit in the synagogue, that morning. It would appear that word had spread rapidly and I would assume they had talked about the events among themselves, but I would also remind you that most of the village’s residents would have been present in the synagogue and would have seen it with their own eyes. A few, like Simon’s mother-in-law and his wife as she cared for her mother, may have been unable to attend but most would have been there.
Their response is not really surprising and I’m certain you and I would have been among those who showed up at Simon’s home that evening. They had seen first hand the power and the authority of God in Jesus and they immediately recognized the impact it could have on those they loved. They went home, prepared and waited until the Sabbath had ended and then they descended, en masse, upon the home of Simon and Andrew. Mark says, “the whole town was assembled at the door and He healed many who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons.” But you need to hear how Mark closes this event at Simon’s home: “But He would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew Him.”
You may find Jesus’ response to the demons odd, but I believe it is a further example of Jesus’ authority and God’s intent at keeping the timing of these events in alignment with His plan and purpose. There’s nothing these demons would love to do more than to interject themselves into God’s plan and cause a disruption, detour or downright destruction of this plan. To be blunt honest, I don’t think they or Satan fully know or understand God’s redemption plan. But God would not permit them to exercise any authority over His plan and its timing. He was not going to allow their knowledge of Jesus’ identity put His redemptive plan in jeopardy. Remember, the healing of those who were sick and the casting out of these demons was not just an act of compassion and kindness on Jesus’ part, it was at the core of God’s revelation of Himself in and through Jesus and a demonstration of the coming of God’s kingdom among men.
That’s the part of this that is often overlooked or minimized. The healing of disease and the casting out of demons is not, in itself, sufficient to bring fulfillment and wholeness to our lives. Those things are incredible, but they cannot and do not restore mankind and God’s creation to its intended design, state and purpose. There are those who believe that physical and psychological/mental health are the most important contributors to a person’s state of well being. They are important, but the most important aspect of a person’s health and well being is their spiritual health. What? You’re not sure you agree with or believe me? Well, watch what happens next.
Very early the next morning, while it was still dark, Jesus gets up and slips out of the house and heads back out into a deserted place. While it is translated “deserted place”, it is the same word used for the “wilderness” in previous verses. Jesus heads back out into the wilderness to pray. Mark only records Jesus praying three times, first in this story, second after feeding the multitude and then, finally, in the garden just prior to His crucifixion. While we are certain He prayed much more than that, here He seems to be seeking God’s guidance as the crowds clamored for and sought Him out for more and more of His miracles. In fact, even the disciples seem to echo the crowd’s desires because when they found Him they proclaimed, “Everyone’s looking for You!” It’s almost as if they are saying, “Teacher, what in the world are You doing? Why are You out here in the wilderness, of all places? Everyone’s been looking for You and we need to capitalize on the moment. Let’s get You back into town, right now, and keep this momentum going. Let’s build on Your popularity and success.”
Is that how you would have responded? I’m certain that’s how I would have responded. I know that’s how our culture would’ve wanted and expected us to respond. I mean, success breeds success. Right? That’s what God would want, isn’t it? I’m certain it is. If that’s what you think, then you’d be wrong. Completely wrong. Listen to Jesus’ response after spending the early morning hours in prayer with God: “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is WHY I have come.”
He had not come to heal the crowds of all their diseases, drive out unclean spirits and perform miracles. That’s not His core mission, not His purpose. He had come to preach, to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom to mankind. Healing the crowd of their diseases and overpowering demons were but signs pointing to His deity, highlighting His authority over all creation so that men would listen to His proclamation: Repent and believe for the kingdom of God is in your midst.
Let me restate what I said before, physical and mental health are important but they are not the most important aspect of our health and our lives. We are broken, but not just by our diseases. We are distraught, depressed and despondent, but not just because of our emotional struggles and mental health. How can I be so sure? Well, I’m certain because Jesus was certain of it but also because I see physically and mentally healthy people struggle with spiritual brokenness.
If physical and mental health were our greatest needs wouldn’t Jesus have focused on those needs? Instead, He focused on cleansing us of our sin and addressing our spiritual needs and our relationship with God. Instead of succumbing to the pressure of the crowds as the clamored for more and more miracles, Jesus withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. When the disciples found Him that morning they learned that He was laser focused on His purpose and God’s mission. “Let’s go… so that I may preach. This is WHY I have come.”
If Jesus needed to remain focused on His purpose and God’s mission, then certainly we need to, as well. I’m not saying we neglect the physical and mental health needs of those around us or even our own. On the contrary, we must do what Jesus did. We can minister to the physical and mental health of others and seek healing and help for our own even while remaining focused on spiritual needs and faithfully proclaiming the message of the kingdom, God’s cleansing, His forgiveness and His rule and reign in, through and over our lives. As Jesus said, “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10 HCSB)
What’s your purpose? I can’t give you specifics, but I can give you a general idea. Your purpose is to seek, to find and to serve God. When you do this, He will give you a sense of purpose and you will find satisfaction and fulfillment in your life as you live it out. Live it out, you teachers, while you teach those students. Live it out, you doctors and nurses, while you care for your patients. Live it out, you business owners, while you serve your clients and customers. Live it out, you contractors, while you build homes or offices. Live it out, moms and dadd, while you raise your children and teach them about God. Live it out, whoever you are, as you seek to love and serve God. Will it turn out perfect? No, of course not. Even with a life of faith in Jesus we still live in a broken and diseased world, we still make mistakes and choose sin, we still make selfish choices and ignore God’s will but we keep repenting and confessing our sin, we keep pursuing Him, loving Him and striving to love each other. That’s why He came…
It took a few more years, but Simon Peter finally got it: “But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence. For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.” (1 Peter 1:15-19 HCSB)