Reconsider Jesus – A fresh look at Jesus from the Gospel of Mark
A devotional commentary by Michael Spencer
Compiled and Edited by: Michael Bell
Table of Contents
(Note: The previous post was renamed to “The Compassionate One”)
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. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 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.” 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 – ESV
In our last chapter, we discussed how Jesus acted with compassion and is calling us to reach across barriers and get out of our comfort zones. I think it is beneficial to spend a little longer on this passage of scripture and understand the import of Jesus as Healer. We can then delve deeper into what that “does”, and “should”, look like in a church today.
The healing miracles in Mark exist as part of a message: the Kingdom of God has arrived in Jesus. Disease and physical deterioration were part of the consequences of sin that we read about in Genesis 3. In contrast, the miracles of Jesus demonstrate the power of the Kingdom of God to reverse these consequences and destroy the works of the devil.82 Those who witnessed the miracles of Jesus were being convinced that the Kingdom of heaven was real and present. At the very end of the Bible we read what this will ultimately look like: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” The healing miracles of Jesus then, were a natural outgrowth of the presence of the Kingdom. In the Gospel of Matthew,83 Jesus cites his miracles as evidence to John the Baptist that he is indeed who John said he was – the one who brings the Kingdom of God into the present.84
Furthermore, the miracles attest to the unique identity of Jesus himself. Those anointed of God’s Spirit were involved in healing in the Old Testament, but this was a rarity. Jesus is anointed by God’s Spirit in a unique way. Healings are not exceptional events, but seemingly daily events in his ministry. Mark and the other Gospel writers select certain healings not because they were all the healings that occurred but in order to use those healings to show more of Jesus’ identity, power and message. The healings build a clear case that Jesus is the Messiah, anointed with the Holy Spirit and constantly moving in Kingdom power. As with the exorcisms, Jesus was not the only person in his culture with a claim to heal, but the Gospel writers, and especially Mark, wanted us to see that Jesus’ healing and delivering power was unusually abundant. The reader of the Gospels comes away with the impression that Jesus was almost humanly overwhelmed with those who came to experience healing.
It would be appropriate at this point to point out that Jesus’ healings usually contained certain characteristics:
Jesus’ healings were immediate. The healing of the man with leprosy is typical of this and the healing happened on the spot. Even the exception to this, the healing of the blind man found in Mark 8, happens immediately in comparison to much of what we hear today.
Jesus’ healings were total. The result was complete restoration, not improvement or more tolerance to the situation. Blind persons saw perfectly. Lepers were cleansed totally. Absent tissue was replaced. Visible symptoms vanished.
Jesus’ healings were visible. The results could be seen and verified on the spot. Even Jesus’ enemies had to acknowledge that the healings happened!
So, what do we see in churches today, and what should we see? Most of the churches that I am familiar with have a practice that falls into one of two extremes.
Jesus’ miracles were immediate, total, and visible. I mention these three areas because most of what is put forward as healing today fails these scriptural tests. Those whom Jesus commissioned to go out and continue Jesus’ ministry also experienced healings along these same three criteria, though not in the same measure or frequency as Jesus. Christians should not blush from pointing this out, for the rest of the world certainly sees it! Those who claim to be imitating Jesus but show no immediate, total and visible healings are either misled or creating a deception. Scripture warns us, in fact, that many will claim to have performed healings like Jesus, yet not belong to him.85 Other passages tell us that the coming of the evil one is accompanied by false miracles.86 The failure of Christians to consider this matter has left the sheep open to the appetite of wolves and false prophets. Healing is an area where human hopes and hurts often go far beyond our desire to remain rational and scriptural. Beware of those who claim to do what Jesus did when they fail in every way! All the lights, music, singing, shouting, and praying in the world will not conjure up a miracle! God is able to do the miraculous immediately, visibly and totally.
At the other extreme, are those who say that miracles have no place in the church. Those preachers will exclusively preach these texts as allegory, or to support some other point they want to make on a particular Sunday. I am amused at how many preachers who will preach these texts discourage any kind of serious healing ministry in their church.
So what “should” churches do?
I would like to reemphasize what we discussed in the last chapter: That Jesus is compassionate and inclusive. These healing miracles show that Jesus brings something to the whole person. The Kingdom of God is good news for all aspects of our life. Many of the stories show the love of God for the most basic and personal details of our lives. In Mark 5:26 we will study the woman healed of the issue of blood. That God knows and cares about such a private aspect of a woman’s experience is a powerful testimony to the holistic shalom that comes in Jesus: He speaks peace to all that is life. For this reason alone, let us interpret these stories properly.
There is a case to be made for healing ministries to have a place in the church of today. It is an important and neglected ministry. The Apostle Paul lists “those with gifts of healing” as part of the body of Christ.87 This is plural, indicating many people and various kinds of giftedness, and even various kinds of healing. This does not describe a healer who arrives like a circus, but an ongoing ministry in the body of the Church. Also, James indicates that you should pray for yourself, and that both the church and its elders should pray for the sick.88 God will sometimes restore a sick person to health as an answer to prayer. Paul however, also makes it very clear that sometimes God’s answer to prayer is not healing, but grace to persevere.89 This is crucial, in my opinion, for building a theology of illness, for it faces reality; encourages prayer; sees an answer that may not be physical healing; and speaks of larger purposes of God in allowing sickness.
Those, at the first extreme, who say that God will give perfect health to all who pray in faith must have a real problem reconciling that understanding with Paul’s writings and with the fact that all of God’s children will eventually die.
Here then is my encouragement for churches today. The church should be involved in healing prayer as well as prayer for the miraculous. We should also realize that the church is not Jesus or the apostles. For whatever reasons he chooses, God does not heal everyone who asks for prayer in the way Jesus healed people. The reason for this is clear to me – the miracles of the New Testament are not normative for the Christian life or the life of the church. They had a greater function in establishing the Kingdom of God and identifying the King. Christians are to pray in Jesus’ name, with persistence, power and compassion. But they are also to leave all the results in God’s sovereign hand.
 In a previous chapter we looked at how, in the pre-scientific understanding of disease, demonic forces were credited with more than we would credit them today. However, it still holds true that disease is a work of the evil one and a fruit of the fall.
 Matthew 11:1-5
 The serious student should pursue a study of how the miracles in the Gospel of John are used as “signs”, that is, events which give insight into spiritual reality and the truth/presence of the Kingdom. This is a major area of Gospel study that will be very helpful in understanding miracles in the Gospels.
 Mark 13:22; Matthew 7:22-23
 2 Thessalonians 2:9
 1 Corinthians 12:28
 James 5:13-16
 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Well, fifteen posts in, and we have finally come to the end of Mark Chapter 1. I can assure that that the next chapters will proceed at a little faster clip! Some questions for you:
1. What questions or thoughts come from your mind from what you have just read? What stood out to you?
2. Would you be interested in a paper or Kindle version of the book when it is available? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can let you know when it is ready. This is an email to indicate interest only, I am not selling anything at this point, but I sure do appreciate the encouragement!
As usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome.