MAIN TEXT: MARK 1:35-45
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. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And 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.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 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.” 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.
As Mark continues to show us the person of Jesus, we see a further glimpse into the reality of the Kingdom that Jesus was inaugurating. We see that this Kingdom is advanced through prayer, proclamation and cleansing.
In this Gospel, Mark desires to show us who Jesus is and what Jesus did. His aim is to build in us an understanding that this man was indeed God. Mark is displaying for us a picture of Jesus that is unique. This Gospel may have come from the pen of John Mark, but it is widely believed that Mark’s writing was the recollection of the Apostle Peter of his time with Jesus.
Mark was a younger man than Peter. He was the cousin or nephew of Barnabas. He was an African (of the diaspora Jews living in northern Africa during the time) and migrated to Jerusalem when he was a teenager or in his early twenties with his family. This young man likely observed Jesus in his home and knew the disciples well. He accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. After this, he came under the tutelage of Peter before then returning to Africa to bring the Gospel to that continent.
In our text for today, we continue in our section that began in Mark 1:21, where Jesus enters the synagogue and begins to teach. This action leads to a demon-possessed man being freed from this unclean spirit and news about Jesus spread around the region called Galilee. Jesus and his disciples leave the synagogue and go to Simon’s house, where Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was ill. They tell Jesus about her, he goes to her and she is healed. That evening, the sick and demon-possessed came to the house and Jesus healed many. This night had to be exhausting.
The Kingdom Advances Through Prayer
In the early morning hours, perhaps before any of the disciples had awoke, Jesus slips out of the house to find a place of solitude and there he prays. We don’t know how long he was in this desolate place, but we do know that at one point the disciples find him and seemed a little bothered that he would be wasting his time alone when there were many that were coming to him.
In their minds, they saw this moment as an opportunity for Jesus’ name to be spread farther and wider than Galilee. These crowds were gathering and looking for Jesus because he could heal them. We learn a valuable lesson about discipleship from Jesus’ disciples in this moment, and that is discipleship is not about controlling God’s work but rather in following God’s Son.
In this moment, Jesus had a different set of priorities. The Kingdom of God does not come through the busyness that so often accompanies the chaos of our lives, but comes through patient and consistent submission to the will of God on a daily basis.
This section that speaks of Jesus praying in solitude is one of three moments that we see in Mark where Jesus slips away to pray. The two other moments are after the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:46) and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32). These moments usually happen in times of conflict and so they appear to come at the worst time. In reality, they show that there is no greater resource that the Christian has to confront the difficulties of this life other than prayer and reliance on God, our heavenly Father.
The Kingdom Advances Through Preaching
Jesus says to his disciples that the reason he came was to preach. This is echoed later when Jesus stands before Pilate and says: “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). Jesus’ purpose in coming was to proclaim the Gospel of God (Mark 1:14) and call people to repent and believe (Mark 1:15).
As followers of Jesus, we are called to proclaim this good news. Ray Bakke has said concerning Christ followers, “We are not in the advice business, we are in the news business.” We forget this sometimes when we don’t consider the weight of the message we bear, that through Christ your sin is paid and you are truly set free to worship God as your were designed to worship!
We don’t advise people on how to make their life better or ask them to “try Jesus” to see how he fits. Rather, we proclaim the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done to reconcile back to God a rebellious people for whom he died.
This is good news. This is what Jesus came to declare. God’s Kingdom had come in part and was coming in fullness. This is why, when we see the proclamation go forth, freedom occurs–sickness flees, demons are cast out, etc. The foretaste of God’s Kingdom surrounds Jesus and when those who are affected by the sin and depravity of the fall encounter Christ, their reality changes and they experience a small portion of what is God’s Kingdom.
The Kingdom Advances Through Cleansing
In final portion of this chapter, Mark gives us an example of what occurred as Jesus “went throughout all Galilee” with his disciples. We see an leper approach Jesus and ask Jesus if he is willing to heal him of his leprosy.
One of the examples of this type of occurrence that we see in Scripture is during the time when the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms. During this time, a commander of the army of the king of Syria, Naaman, came before the prophet Elisha to request to be cleansed of his leprosy. Elisha sent a messenger to Naaman with instructions to follow for his cleansing. Naaman was angered that Elisha did not come out to see him, but follows the instructions and is cleansed.
Jesus in our portion of Mark does not respond in the way that Elisha did by keeping distance between him and the leper, but instead touches the leper! This is unheard of because to touch a leper is to become ceremonially unclean, however, we see the opposite take place. Instead of Jesus becoming unclean, the leper is cleansed and made whole.
This simple yet profound act showcases for us what Christ has done for mankind. Jesus entered our pain by taking on flesh. He lived in the broken world we live. He suffered the harsh treatment of those he came to save. He endured the punishment that we justly deserved. He died the death that we earned through our rebellion. In essence, he exchanged places with us.
In this story, the leper is restored to his family, his social circles, his life is brought back from death to life. The leper is invited back into relationship and Jesus is cast out into desolate places.
The actions of Jesus are described to us by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 1:35-45
What is the best time for you to spend time in intense prayer: early in the morning, during the day, or in the evening?
Do people still come to church wanting blessings without repentance? What blessings are we hoping to receive when we do this?
Why was it surprising that Jesus touched the leper? Why was it theologically significant?