Category Archive: Bible – NT – Mark

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May 27, 2005

Mark 3:13-19 Sermon Notes

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Mark 3:13-19
(February 20, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Up to this point, Jesus has been working alone, followed by His disciples. Now, however, He reconstitutes His kingdom and calls twelve men to be leaders in it.


When Mark tells us that Jesus “went up on the mountain,” he isn’t just sketching the scenery. There is a reason for Jesus’ location when He chooses the twelve, a reason rooted in the history of biblical symbolism.

Eden was on a mountain. From it a river flowed to the Garden and then branched into four rivers (Gen. 2:10). Adam would follow those rivers to the four corners of the earth, subduing the world to God’s glory.

Adam was banished from the Garden. But God promised to restore men to His holy mountain. The Temple was built on Mount Moriah and was full of garden imagery. In the temple was a bronze sea with twelve chariots of water (1 Kgs 7), a sign that the water would flow from God’s holy mountain viaa renewed Israel (twelve tribes) to the world again (Ezek. 47).

Jesus is God’s son, the new Adam, and He ascends the mountain. He is not banished from God’s presence as others are, and He calls and restores others to fellowship with God. But He also sends them out. Through the twelve disciples, the river of life will flow to Israel and the world.

God also established His covenant with Israel and formed her into a nation on a mountain. Jesus withdrew from the new Pharaoahs, the Pharisees, to the sea (3:7). Now He goes up a mountain to form a new Israel. He is Yahweh, who calls whomever He wants. And when He calls they come. His Word creates faith and draws men to Himself.

THE TWELVE (3:14-19)

Jesus calls twelve men to be His special representatives. There were twelve tribes in Israel, and these twelve will be the foundation of a new Israel. To be part of the new Israel which will inherit the kingdom, you must come to Jesus and build on the foundation of these twelve apostles.

The disciples will first be with Jesus, to learn who He is. Then, He will send them out with His authority to do His works, healing the sick and casting out demons. The church still preaches and works with that authority so that people are healed (James 5:13-15) and freed from Satan’s power.

Like David (2 Sam. 23), Jesus has three special “mighty men,” though unlike David Jesus will have to die for them. He gives them names indicating what they will become: Simon will be a foundation Rock (“Peter”); James and John will speak with thunder like their Father (Ps. 104:7; Jn. 12:29).

The last disciple named is Judas, “who betrayed Him.” The new Israel isn’t better than the old. One of Jesus’ own people will betray Him. But that betrayal will carry out Jesus’ plans. By His betrayal, death, and resurrection He will form a new and faithful Israel and extend His salvation to the world.

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May 26, 2005

Mark 3:7-12 Sermon Notes

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Mark 3:7-12
(February 13, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Mark 3:7-12 is a major turning-point in Jesus’ ministry. He has been displaying His authority as the king. People are following Him in spite of the controversy. But now, after the confrontation with the Pharisees in the synagogue in Capernaum (3:1-6), Jesus withdraws.


Jesus healed paralyzed legs and a withered hand. Later, He will heal ears, mouths, and eyes. Israel is conformed to the image of man-made idols (Ps. 115), but Jesus restores people to the image of God again.

But in their Pharaoh-like hardheartedness (3:5), the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus (3:6). Like Moses leading Israel to the Red Sea, Jesus flees to the sea. The synagogue at Capernaum has become an Egypt and it will be judged as Egypt was — and so will every church that rejects Jesus and will not follow Him. But those who do follow Jesus experience the new Exodus that He brings about and they inherit the kingdom of God.

Jesus is a new Moses here. He is also a new David. Saul turned against David because he was jealous of him. He thought Israel was going to make David king. But when he tried to kill David, David escaped (1 Sam. 21). Jesus is the new David, but the Pharisees are the new Sauls. Like Saul, they will lose the kingdom. But like David, Jesus humbles Himself, withdraws, and waits for God to exalt Him as king.


But He doesn’t withdraw alone. His disciples come with Him, and so does a great crowd. Just as everyone who was miserable came to David when he fled (1 Sam. 22:2), so too a vast multitude comes to Jesus.

Some are from Galilee where Jesus has been working. Others have heard about Jesus, and that report draws them to Him. They come from Judah and Jerusalem, where Jesus is heading, but also from the Gentile lands around Israel, including Idumea (Edom), where Herod is from. The Herodians are attacking Jesus, but God draws other Idumeans to Him. Eventually, Jesus and His gospel will go to all these regions.

But now Jesus prepares to withdraw from the crowd (v. 9). The very people who are coming to Him might end up endangering Him — and that is what happens later on. They are coming to Him, not because they recognize Him as king but because He is healing their afflictions (literally “stripes”: see Isa. 53:5) and cleansing them by casting out unclean spirits.

The demons, unlike Israel, do recognize Jesus. They bow to Him and acknowledge Him as “the Son of God.” But Jesus shuts them up. He doesn’t want them to stir up trouble. Nor does He want Israel hearing from them who He is. His people will have to follow Him and figure it out. But the demon’s message is a comfort: Out of all this conflict, God will exalt Him as His Son, the king who shatters His enemies and rules the world (Ps. 2).

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May 25, 2005

Mark 3:1-6 Sermon Notes

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Mark 3:1-6
(February 6, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Our debates about the Sabbath are rarely deadly, but the one in Mark 3 is because the real issue here is not the interpretation of the Fourth Commandment but the identity of Jesus. The Pharisees want to expose Jesus, but instead Jesus ends up exposing them.


Jesus is back in the synagogue at Capernaum, but this time the Pharisees are collecting evidence for an official charge against Him. Exhibit A will be Jesus’ response to a man with a withered hand. This man isn’t in danger; his healing can wait till another day.

But Jesus doesn’t see it that way. He calls the man (literally) to “Arise into the midst.” That resurrection language reminds us that Jesus came to bring life. And Jesus wants everyone to see it.

Before He heals, Jesus asks the Pharisees a question “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” That may seem like a false dilemma. There are other options. And surely no one would say that it lawful to kill someone or to do evil on the Sabbath.

But Jesus sees only two options: Either you behave like God and use the Sabbath to give people life and rest and refreshment, or you act like Satan and kill. Either you give people access to God or you rob them of it.

Israel was to be a priestly nation, but withered hands kept you from access to God (Lev. 21:16-24). The Pharisees called Israel to a priestly level of holiness, but Jesus actually restores access to God and restores this man so that he can serve God as Israel was intended to do.


The Pharisees’ minds are made up. They don’t answer Jesus, and their silence enrages and grieves Him. This man is in bondage but they want him to stay there because their hearts are hard. They are new Pharaohs, keeping Israel in slavery. Just as God gave Israel the sign of Moses’ leprous hand (Ex. 4), God gives Israel another sign involving a hand. But, like Pharaoh, the Pharisees harden their hearts.

Jesus tells the man to stretch out his hand. That phrase ought to remind us of things we hear in the rest of Scripture. Sin barred Adam from stretching out his hand to the Tree of Life (Gen. 3), but God promsied restoration. Now this man stretches out his hand in faith and receives life.

This passage also echoes 1 Kings 13: Jeroboam’s hand was withered because of his false worship, but when he repented it was restored. The withered hand suggests that the synagogue worship is in danger of becoming like Jeroboam’s, but Jesus brings healing and restoration.

The Pharisees plot with the Herodians. King Herod was an Edomite. The Pharisees are new Sauls, plotting against the new David, and Herod is another Doeg the Edomite (1 Sam. 22), ready to kill him. Is it lawful on the Sabbath to save life or to kill? They choose to kill,but Jesus dies to give life.

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April 21, 2005

Mark and the Exodus

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In his survey of several writers on Mark’s Gospel, Rikki Watts points to the various links these authors have seen between Mark and the Exodus narrative, some of which he buys and others of which he rejects. Here are a couple worth meditating on. From J. Bowman:

The call of the first four disciples, the amazement of the crowds, and the opposition to Jesus, reflect the Exodus tradition of the response of the elders, the initial belief of the people, Pharaoh’s response, and the slaves’ anger with Moses (Ex. 4:29ff; cf. 5:21ff;…). Mark’s characteristic references to hardening (3:5; 6:52; 8:17; 10:5) are a deliberate point of contact with the Exodus — but ironically here of the redeemer’s own people… (Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark, p. 15).

From E. C. Hobbs:

Numerous parallels exist between Sinai and the transfiguration — the six days, the three associates, the building of the tabernacles, God speaking from the cloud, the shining, and the failure of the disciples as the golden calf incident — while Mark 10:1-11-11 is a second giving of the law, again “across Jordan,” before arrival in Jericho… (Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark, p. 13).

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March 24, 2005

Land and Sea (Mark 4:1)

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One of the things I’ve appreciated most in R. T. France’s commentary on Mark is his inclusion, usually in footnotes, of odd and interesting views with which he disagrees. Often what strikes France as fanciful strikes me as helpful.

Take this for instance: In a footnote on page 188, France interacts with a comment by Mary Ann Tolbert.

Tolbert notes that in the first parable in Mark 4, the emphasis is on the four types of soil (ge). Jesus, she points out, is not on the “soil” (ge: land) but is sitting “on the sea,” while the crowd is “toward the sea on the land” (ge: the same word translated “soil”).

Thus Jesus is distancing himself from the crowd: they are on the land physically while he is on the sea, but in terms of the parable, they are soil while he is the sower. He isn’t just another person responding (or not) to the word which is sown; he is distinct from all the people who are on land, the people who are themselves soils.

France dismisses this comment, saying that Tolbert is interpreting “imaginatively,” but that this is “a lot to read out of” the sea/land language. I don’t know about that: I rather like it!

And that, as I said at the beginning, is the great thing about France’s commentary. His own explanations are often a bit bland, but he has these thought-provoking gems in his footnotes.

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March 1, 2005

Mark 2:23-28 Sermon Notes

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Mark 2:23-28
(January 30, 2005 Sermon Notes)

Our text shows Jesus involved in controversy on the Sabbath. But the Sabbath isn’t the main focus of the text. Rather, the focus is on who Jesus is. Jesus is the one who does something new. He is the bridegroom feasting from place to place. And He is the Lord who gives Sabbath rest.

THE SON OF DAVID (2:23-26)

Mark says (literally) that Jesus’ disciples were “making a way” through the grainfields (2:23). That reminds us of the “way” theme in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is on the “way of the LORD” (1:2-3) and His disciples are following Him on that way.

As they went, they picked grain and ate it (Deut. 23:25). The Pharisees saw this as a violation of the Law forbidding harvesting on the Sabbath (Ex. 34:21). The Sabbath was a symbol of Jewish identity. True Jews kept the Sabbath; false Jews didn’t. But Jesus’ disciples aren’t.

Jesus responds by pointing to David (1 Sam. 21). Like Jesus, David was anointed as king but wasn’t on the throne yet. He asked Ahimelech the high priest for bread. In the Law, soldiers in camp are similar to priests (e.g., Deut. 23:9-14), and so Ahimelech gave him the showbread which only priests could eat (Lev. 24).

Jesus is identifying Himself as the new David, the king of Israel. As such, He is permitted to do what others aren’t permitted to do. He is the holy warrior who is authorized to feed His followers, even by allowing them to harvest and eat grain on the Sabbath.

The disciples aren’t renegades following a lax leader. They are Jesus’ army, and their action is a sign that the king has come. But if Jesus is a new David, those who oppose Him are new Sauls and will be overthrown.

In 1 Samuel 21, the high priest is Ahimelech, but Jesus speaks about Abiathar as high priest. Jesus is giving the Pharisees a riddle to think about. Abiathar was Ahimelech’s only surviving son and he obviously approved of David’s actions because he fled to David (1 Sam. 22). Later, however, he turned against him and Solomon replaced him. By using his name, Jesus is hinting that those who serve God ought to support David’s son. If they turn against Him, they will be replaced.

THE SON OF MAN (2:27-28)

Jesus then points back to creation. God made the Sabbath to benefit man, not the other way around. The Pharisees saw the Sabbath laws as ultimate, but their application of the laws robbed men of rest, especially because they didn’t honour the Lord who gives rest.

Jesus is the son of Adam who has been exalted as Lord over the Sabbath (Dan. 7). He didn’t come to call people back to the Old Covenant. He died and rose to bring New Covenant rest. He is greater than the Law, and He determines what may or may not be done all week long.

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February 22, 2005

Mark 2:18-22 Sermon Notes

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Mark 2:18-22
(January 23, 2005 Sermon Notes)

Mark 2:1-3:6 is a chiasm, a pattern like a sandwich. Mark 2:1-10 deals with a healing and so does Mark 3:1-6. Mark 2:11-17 deals with eating and so does Mark 2:23-28. In the centre is our text, which explains both Jesus’ forgiveness and feasting with sinners (Mark 2:1-17) and His behaviour on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-3:6). Jesus the Bridegroom makes everything new.


To many, Jesus not only feasted with the wrong people (2:11-17); He also feasted on the wrong days. The disciples of John and the Pharisees kept all the fasts connected with the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and the death of the last king in David’s line (Zech. 8:19) and they certainly fasted before the Day of Atonement as God commanded Lev. 16).

But Jesus didn’t. Why not? How can He teach His disciples to feast when the faithful are fasting?

Jesus identifies Himself as Israel’s Bridegroom. His feasting is a wedding banquet. The disciples are the groomsmen. The people feasting with Jesus (even the “wrong people,” the sinners who follow Him) are the bride. And you don’t fast at a wedding feast.

What Israel had been longing for has happened at last. God had taken His people as His bride (Isa. 62:5; Hos. 2). It would be inappropriate to fast for the Day of Atonement when you have Jesus with you, Jesus who can forgive sins apart from the sacrifices (Mark 2:1-10), or to grieve the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem and the death of the last king in David’s line when you have the true Son of David who has been anointed as King and who is greater than the Temple and Jerusalem.

Here in church, we may not fast. We do repent of our sins and sorrow over them, but the service must end with joy and feasting at the Table.

Jesus then adds that His disciples will fast when He is taken away — a reference to His death (Isa. 53:8). Their fasting won’t be determined by the old calendar but by Jesus’ presence or absence. They will mourn, but their mourning will be turned into joy by Jesus’ resurrection (John 16:20).

CHANGE (2:21-22)

Jesus’ coming calls for a party, but that party is disruptive. Jesus is new cloth and can’t be used as a patch on an old garment. He is new wine and can’t refill old wineskins without bursting them. He didn’t come to reform the old system but to change it and make it new.

Those who try to fit Him into the Old Covenant and judge Him by that standard will find their system destroyed. But those who follow Him become new clothes (wedding clothes) and new wineskins, filled with new wine (see Acts 2:13). They are His bride and as such they must celebrate.

The Bridegroom is here and there is no room for sourness and gloom. The old things have passed away. Look! All things are new!

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February 12, 2005

Mark 2:13-17 Sermon Notes

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Mark 2:13-17
(November 28, 2005 Sermon Notes)

In the Bible, forgiveness goes hand in hand with food. God promised to return to His people and feast with them (Isa. 25:6-8; 55:1-7) and that return is happening in Jesus Christ .


Jesus has left the synagogue and the home to go into the world around and the crowds follow him. Just as Jesus called the four fishermen from the water to follow him (1:16-20), Jesus now calls Levi from the water (“by the sea”). Like the dry land emerging from the waters in the beginning, like Israel emerging from the Red Sea, Levi also will be part of the new creation, the new Israel, Jesus is forming around himself.

But Levi is a tax collector, working for King Herod. To the Israelites, tax collectors were collaborators with a hated government. Besides, they were known for not keeping the Torah strictly.

Jesus, however, is the king of kings. He calls King Herod’s official to follow him and Levi obeys. Mark tells us that Levi “arose,” which is one of the most common New Testament words for resurrection. Jesus call raised Levi so that he could follow Jesus. Similarly, Jesus’ call raises us. It can raise even the worst sinner and restore the worst outcast to service.


When Jesus called the four, he went into their house, raised up Simon’s mother-in-law, and ate what she served them (1:29-31). Now Jesus, having called and raised Levi, eats in his house.

Eating is one of the main things Jesus did. All through the Gospels, we see Jesus at one feast after another. His feast is the messianic feast, the feast of God’s kingdom. But Jesus is celebrating that feast with the “wrong” people, with tax collectors and notorious sinners.

The Pharisees were disturbed. They believed that the bounds of table fellowship were the bounds of the true Israel, the pure Israel. They didn’t eat with Gentiles or with less-than-faithful Jews.

But Jesus does, and that bothers them precisely because Jesus has been announcing God’s kingdom. This feast enacts that kingdom, but the wrong people are there, people who haven’t offered the sacrifices for forgiveness. The church’s practice raised similar objections (Acts 11:3; Gal. 2:11ff.). Still today, we eat with all who follow Christ, no matter what they may have done in the past.

Jesus defends his practice. He is the doctor and doctors associate with the sick. He has come to call the sinners, not the righteous, and that means he must associate with sinners. His call heals them and all who are healed may feast with him. Anyone who doesn’t hear his call and repent, however, will not share in the feast and in the kingdom. But everyone who follows Jesus enjoys forgiveness and a place at God’s table.

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February 9, 2005

Mark 2:1-12 Sermon Notes

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Mark 2:1-12
(November 21, 2004 Sermon Notes)

Ever since his anointing as king at his baptism, Jesus has been displaying his authority. He teaches with authority, unlike the scribes (1:22). He has authority over demons (1:27). He has authority to heal (1:29-34). He even has authority to remove what God has imposed (1:40-45). But that authority leads to conflict and that conflict erupts here in our text.


When Jesus returns to Capernaum, a crowd gathers (“synagogued”) at the house he’s in and as Jesus preaches to this new “synagogue” four men bring a paralyzed man to him, so that he, too, can share the blessings of God’s kingdom as the prophets had promised (Isa. 35:6).

The men can’t reach Jesus, so they dig through the roof and lower the man down to Jesus. Their actions remind us of a burial, and specifically of 2 Kings 13:20-21, where a man is lowered into Elisha’s grave, touches Elisha’s bones, and stands up again. Jesus will act as a new Elisha!

Seeing their faith in their actions, Jesus pronounces the paralyzed man forgiven. Through their faith their friend is benefited. He becomes the first to receive the forgiveness of sins John the Baptist promised (Mark 1:4). Jesus speaks for the Father and calls him “Child” and forgives his sins.


Jesus’ earlier teaching in the synagogue led to a demonic attack (1:23-27). This time the attack comes from the scribes, whose teaching Jesus has surpassed. In their hearts, they accuse him of blasphemy. Only God can forgive sins and he has established the priesthood and the temple and the sacrifices as the way to receive that forgiveness (Lev. 4:31). But Jesus has bypassed that whole system. Who does Jesus think he is?

Jesus knows by the Spirit what they’re thinking. He asks which is easier: to declare the man forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk. Both are equally easy; both require God’s authority. If Jesus can heal, that indicates that he has the authority to do what only God can do.

And so Jesus does heal the paralyzed man. He tells him to arise (that’s resurrection language!) and the man arises.

Jesus has the authority because he is the “son of man.” That name is used for Ezekiel and this passage may remind us of Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones (Ezek. 37). It also reminds us of Daniel 7, where one like a son of man, representing God’s saints, inherits a kingdom and authority to judge (see Rev. 20:4). Jesus represents his people and exercises this authority to judge, but he shares it with others (Matt. 9:8; 18:18; John 20:23).

The crowds praise God. This is the first time they’ve seen this kind of authority, authority not only to heal but to forgive. Jesus has the authority to bring people into God’s kingdom. The raising of the paralyzed man points forward to Jesus’ own resurrection, the ultimate proof of his authority.

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February 3, 2005

Mark 1:40-45

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Mark 1:40-45
(November 14, 2004 Sermon Notes)

Up to this point, Mark has been following a pattern: Jesus’ calling is followed by a battle with Satan. Jesus calls four men and then battles an unclean spirit in the synagogue. Jesus restores Simon’s mother-in-law to service and restores many in Israel and now Jesus confronts an unclean leper. Calling and restoration are followed by cleansing.


On one occasion, a leper came to him asking for cleansing. “Leprosy” in the Bible isn’t what we call “leprosy” today; it wasn’t a contagious disease, and houses and clothing could become “leprous.”

The word for “leprosy” is related to the word for “touch”: It was God’s touch, God’s affliction, God’s chastisement. Having “leprosy” meant that you could no longer live in town and you could not enter God’s special presence (Lev. 13-14). Leprosy is a vivid picture of how we are by nature: cut off from God and from close fellowship with each other.

The leper comes to Jesus and probably finds him in the synagogue. He does what no one else has done: He bows to Jesus. He even acknowledges that Jesus has the authority, not just to heal or cast out demons, but to remove a plague which was imposed directly by God. Jesus can take away what God has imposed.

And Jesus does. “Leprosy” was God’s touch and Jesus touches the man and takes it away. Jesus doesn’t become unclean; rather, the unclean man is cleansed. Now, through Jesus’ touch and word, he can celebrate Passover and gather with God’s people and live in town again.


After cleansing the leper, Jesus scolds the man and casts him out, probably because the man was in the synagogue and in the city where he had no right to be. The man must first go through the rituals prescribed in the Law before he can return to fellowship with God and with His people.

Jesus tells the man not to say anything but to go to the priest. Jesus wants healing to be a witness to (or even against) them. He wants his cleansing of the leper verified by the priests so that everyone will recognize that he can do what Moses’ law couldn’t. Jesus removes God’s curse.


The leper tells everyone what Jesus has done. Is he disobeying? Perhaps. But it’s likely that he first did what Jesus told him to. His proclamation is a legitimate declaration of the good news.

But what’s the effect? Jesus can’t enter a town openly. The former leper can because Jesus has cleansed him, but Jesus must live like a leper, outside the town. Jesus has taken the leper’s place. He is the substitute who removes God’s curse by bearing it in our place.

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January 28, 2005

Mark 1:29-39 Sermon Notes

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Mark 1:29-39
(November 7, 2004 Sermon Notes)

When Jesus came to Capernaum, he taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath. His teaching amazed the people, as did his cleansing of a man with an unclean spirit. But Jesus didn’t stick around. He goes from the synagogue to a home and there he continues to display his authority and the power of God?s kingdom.


Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes straight (“immediately”) to Simon’s house, where they tell him “immediately” that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. This is the Sabbath, but there is no Sabbath rest for Simon’s household until Jesus acts.

Jesus takes Simon’s mother-in-law by the hand and raises her up. That’s resurrection language (Mark 6:14; 14:28; 16:6) and it’s Mark’s usual way of talking about healing (2:9, 11; 3:3; 5:41; 10:49). Mark wants us to see all of these healings as resurrections. They foreshadow Jesus’ resurrection and they are foretastes of what he accomplished by his resurrection. In Christ, God raises us up. He doesn?t always heal us, but one day he will. Even now, he has raised us up from the dead to live for him.

Simon’s mother-in-law responds by serving them (1:31), which probably means that she gave them food. She does what the angels did for Jesus in 1:13. Service is what Jesus himself came to do (10:45) and what his followers do (10:42-44). Jesus restores us to service.


As soon as the Sabbath was over, the people of Capernaum streamed to Simon?s door with all their sick and demonized friends and relatives.

Jesus helped them freely. No disease could withstand his authority. He heals all their diseases (Ps. 103). Jesus was cast out into the wilderness and triumphed over Satan (1:12-13) and now he casts out Satan’s hosts. He also silenced them: Jesus doesn’t want testimony from his enemies; he wants his people to think through the riddle of what he’s doing and acknowledge him.


Because that’s his goal, Jesus doesn’t stick around. In the morning, before daybreak, Jesus leaves Capernaum for the wilderness to pray.

Jesus’ followers hunt him down (a negative word in the Old Testament!). The people are seeking him. But Jesus resists the temptation to become Capernaum’s popular healer. He didn’t come to heal or exorcise, but to proclaim God’s kingdom. His message matters most; the healings and exorcisms make sense only in that context.

Jesus withdraws from Capernaum and goes throughout Galilee to call more people to repentance and faith. His disciples leave home to follow.

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January 22, 2005

Mark 1:21-28 Sermon Notes

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Mark 1:21-28
(October 31, 2004 Sermon Notes)

Here in our text, Jesus, the new Joshua and David, makes his first raid into the Land. He isn’t fighting Canaanites or Romans; he’s fighting Satan and his hosts — not with a sword but with his authoritative teaching.


After calling the four fishermen (1:16-20), Jesus doesn’t do anything until the Sabbath. Then he goes to the synagogue to teach. His teaching gives the Sabbath rest Joshua couldn’t give (Ps. 95; Heb. 2-3). And that rest is for all Israel: that’s why Jesus goes to the synagogue.

Jesus’ message is that the time the prophets foretold has come, that God’s kingdom is near, and that Israel, including the people in this synagogue, must repent and believe his message (1:14-15).

That message leaves the synagogue astounded (1:22). Jesus doesn’t speak the way the scribes do. He isn’t simply explaining Scripture or citing other scribes; he’s saying something new.

And that’s disturbing. “Astonished” (1:22) implies fear and anxiety (see 16:8). If Jesus does have the authority to make this new announcement, they’re in great danger. They have to repent or they’ll be left out of the kingdom. But if Jesus doesn’t have that authority, he’s a false prophet and believing him will endanger them further.

Jesus’ teaching with authority forces the people of Capernaum to make a choice: Submit to him or reject him. And that’s true of every sermon today: Every sermon confronts you with Jesus and demands that you submit to him. Good sermons aren’t always calming; sometime they’re upsetting.


One man in the synagogue responds by attacking Jesus. The man, we are told, has an “unclean spirit.” He was like Saul who had an evil spirit and who attacked David (1 Sam. 16:14-23; 18:10-11). Later, we learn that there were such men in the synagogues throughout Galilee (Mark 1:39). The synagogue is becoming another Saul, attacking the anointed king.

The phrase “unclean spirit” is found in the Old Testament only in Zech. 13:2. Jesus is doing the work of Zech. 13: cutting off the names of idols. But the roots of that term “unclean” go back to Leviticus: If you touched something unclean, you became unclean. The whole synagogue is unclean because of this man’s presence. Israel needs to be cleansed.

The man treats Jesus of Nazareth as an intruder in Capernaum and a threat to the whole synagogue (“us” in v. 24 likely refers to the people there). He sees Jesus’ holiness as a threat to the unclean people of Israel.

But Jesus isn’t here to destroy. He cleanses the man, shutting the unclean spirit up and casting him out by his word. The people are amazed at this powerful teaching and the word spreads. But the word demands a decision: Submit to Jesus and be cleansed or reject him and be destroyed.

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