The Compassion of Jesus the King

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Photo by Will Cooper

The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

 

Leviticus 13:45-46

Mark’s gospel announces the best good news that this world has ever heard. It is the good news that God’s saving promises concerning Israel, the nations, and this world are fulfilled through the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the King. We have seen that it is an ancient biography but one that is different from other ancient biographies. This is true because Mark was convinced that his subject, Jesus of Nazareth, is the most important person who has ever lived. Mark believed this and writes in this way because Jesus was not defeated by death as were all other great men but instead defeated death and the evil powers behind death, idolatry, and sin through dying. And, the proof of this truth is that he was raised from the dead.

Finally, on an individual level—and I desperately want you to get and see this as we go through Mark—Mark’s gospel announces the good news that through the work of Christ, primarily at the cross, people who turn to him and believe discover what it means to be truly human and to be truly free to live out one’s purpose on this earth—one’s purpose as a creature made in God’s image. Through Jesus’ sacrificial death, he reconciles people to God. He cleanses their sins, makes them holy, and empowers them by his Spirit. He restores them to fellowship with God and to service in God’s kingdom. That is what the Gospel of Mark is all about.

Now, from this passage, I want us to see an important truth about Jesus. It is that he has compassion for the marginalized. However, he is more than just compassionate. Many people have compassion for the less fortunate, but they do not have the power to do much, if anything, about it. Jesus, however, more than just having compassion, does something about the marginalization of people created in God’s image by restoring them into fellowship in God’s community. That is what I want us to see today as we look at Mark 1:40-45. Jesus demonstrated his great compassion by restoring a person that had been marginalized from Jewish society.

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 the desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Mark 1:40-45

LEPROSY, PHYSICALLY SHAMEFUL AND CULTURALLY DESPISED

There are a few things that I want to note about this story. The first concerns leprosy. Leprosy was physically shameful and culturally despised, so much so that the afflicted person was driven literally to the margins or to the desolate places of Jewish society. Leprosy was a dreadful disease to have in first century Judaism not just because of the disease itself. That was bad enough. It was a disfiguring skin disease that would have certainly caused great embarrassment, shame, and pain to the individual. However, just as bad as the physical toll that it took on an individual was the social damage that leprosy waged upon its victims.

As we saw from our Scripture reading in Leviticus (see above), the person who had a malignant form of leprosy, as this man did, was not allowed to take part in normal communal life among his fellow Israelites. Rather, he had to live outside the camp or outside the community alone in the desolate places. The reason for this, at the time in which the events of Leviticus took place, is that the tabernacle, God’s dwelling place—the place where heaven and earth met—was located in the center of the Israelite camp. And, in order for God’s people to continue to live around the dwelling place of God, nothing unclean could enter or continue in the camp. Leprosy was one of those things that defiled and caused a person to be ritually unclean. In fact, not only was the person with leprosy unclean, but also all those who came into physical contact with such a person became unclean and unfit for Israelite community as well.

That was a tough position to be in. And yet, that is exactly where this man in Mark’s story found himself. He had a depreciating skin disease, shaming and excruciating, and he had been pushed by his circumstances to the detested fringe of the first century Jewish world. He had been exiled to the desolate places.

JESUS GOES TO THE DESOLATE PLACES TO REDEEM HIS PEOPLE

This brings us to the next point that I want us to notice from this story. Jesus had gone to a very sketchy place or else he would have never encountered this leper. In short, what I want us to understand at this point is that Jesus goes to the desolate places to redeem marginalized people. Now, at the end of this passage, Jesus had to spend even more time in the desolate places, outside towns and communities and on the fringe because the man he healed went against Jesus’ command and openly told people about what Jesus did for him.

However, even before that occurred, Jesus himself had entered the desolate place where the marginalized and forgotten lived alone. At this point, I want to stop and note a truth that should be comforting to you. Jesus has compassion on the marginalized. We will see that illustrated in this story in just a moment. But, the very fact that the Son of God took upon human flesh and dwelt among us illustrates for us the compassion that God has, that Christ has, for the marginalized. The leper had been marginalized and exiled from Jewish society, but the fact is that all of us, no matter where we stand on the social ladder, have been exiled from God’s presence and from the kingdom of heaven.

All of us, left to ourselves, are unclean and unfit for fellowship with God and the service to God. All of us are on the outside looking into God’s community, because we have all turned to and lived in the service of idols. Let that sink in. This is not just the story about a first century leper. This is the story of each and every one of us. None of us have leprosy but each one of us has sinned and fallen short of reflecting the good character of the Creator to the world around us. Our sin and idolatry makes us unclean and unfit for fellowship with God and service in God’s family.

And yet, God the Son, the Creator of heaven and earth, took upon flesh and identified with us in the sorrow of this desolate, deformed world. He came to us because he cares about the marginalized. He has compassion on those alone and afraid. He is merciful toward those enslaved to various sins, even though the fault of that slavery is our own. In fact, Jesus’ compassion and mercy is illustrated beautifully for us in the next truth that I want you to notice from this text.

JESUS IS MOVED WITH PITY TOWARD THE MARGINALIZED AND IS ANGERED BY THAT WHICH GRIEVES HIS PEOPLE

When Jesus was approached by this leper and the leper pled with him to be clean, verse 41 says that Jesus was moved with pity and that he stretched out his hand and touched him. What I want you to understand at this point is that Jesus is moved with pity toward the marginalized and is angered by that which grieves the people whom he created in his image. That Jesus was moved with pity and that he actually touched this man are points that we must not miss.

Again, Jesus had pity and compassion when he saw this leprous man. Interestingly, there is scholarly disagreement as to what pity means in this verse. There are textual variants in the available manuscripts so that we are not entirely sure whether Mark intends to say that Jesus was moved with pity or with anger. It doesn’t really matter what Mark intended to say because, on some level, the entire life and ministry of Jesus shows that both were true. Jesus was moved to pity and compassion for the marginalized or else he would not have went to desolate places to minister to lepers and outcasts. Jesus was also angry. We see this as well when Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb. That Jesus wept conveys not just that he was sad, but that he was angry as well. Jesus was angry that there are dehumanizing forces in this world that cause people to suffer and to feel alone.

If you think that God is distant and that he does not care, then realize what this passage and all the gospels are telling us. Realize and understand the uniqueness of the gospel. In Jesus, the Creator himself drew near to us. He approached us in our uncleanliness and brokenness. Heaven and earth touched in an individual, and that individual went into the desolate places. And, one reason that God the Son took upon flesh is that human suffering and a world that reflected something other than his goodness made him angry.

Shootings at airports and night clubs make God angry. Child abuse makes God angry. Death makes God angry. Jesus was angered that we live in a world in which diseases deform his image bearers and in which the people who most need community and compassion are so often driven to the margins and forgotten. Violence, disease, death, dehumanizing sin, and selfishness make God angry, and it made Jesus angry. It should make us angry. In fact, I want you to see that it made Christ angry enough and moved with enough compassion and pity that he did the unthinkable, the unimaginable.

JESUS TOUCHED THE LEPER AND MADE HIM CLEAN

Verse 41 says—it emphases for us so that we will not miss it—that when Jesus was moved with pity, compassion, or anger—that he stretched out his hand and touched the leper. This was strictly forbidden by Jewish law. The reason that this man was driven to live alone in the desolate places was because if someone touched him, they too would become unclean and unfit for Jewish society. You did not touch someone or something that was unclean, or else you would become unclean and unfit for community yourself. And, yet Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper. Please realize and understand that Jesus didn’t have to do this. We learn in the Gospels that Jesus didn’t even have to be in the same town with a person to heal them. We would say that he didn’t even have to be in the same zip code. By the power of his word, Jesus could grant life to the dead from miles away. Jesus most definitely did not have to touch this leper, but he stretched out his hand and touched him anyway.

There are two things that I want us to take away from this. First, when Jesus touched this leper we see a clear picture of the good news that Mark tells in this gospel. As one commentator puts it, “The whole of the gospel is here in a nutshell: Christ redeems us from the curse by becoming under a curse for our sake (Gal. 3:13).”[1] When Jesus went to the cross, the New Testament tells us that he went as a sacrifice for our sins to cleanse us, to make us holy, and to restore us into fellowship with God and his community. This, as we will see, is exactly what Jesus did for this man as well. Our idolatry and sin make us unclean and unfit for fellowship with God. However, by going to the cross as an atoning sacrifice for sins, Jesus makes a way for us to have our sins cancelled and our lives made clean. He makes us fit for fellowship with God and life in God’s family and kingdom. Through faith in Christ and his death for us, we are reconciled to God and we are cleansed of our sin, made holy, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live in service to God. We are empowered to go to the desolate places and to the marginalized just as Jesus did to help restore the broken and forgotten.

Second, and connected to the point that I just made, when Jesus touched the man, it did not cause Jesus to become unclean. Rather, it caused the leper to become clean. For any other person to have touched the leper would have caused that person to be unclean and then they both would have been unfit for first century Jewish society. However, Jesus had the opposite effect of making the man clean with his touch. Again, this is what Jesus does for us as those marginalized and exiled from God and his kingdom. For those who hope in him, Jesus restores them into fellowship with God and into God’s family. His touch makes us clean.

JESUS RESTORED THE CLEANSED MAN TO FULL COMMUNAL LIFE

Finally, I want us to notice that Jesus restored this once marginalized man to full communal life. We see this in verse 44. Jesus healed him of leprosy and told him to go to the priest to make an offering for cleansing. By going to the priest and making an offering for cleansing, this man would have been restored to full communal life and participation in first century Jewish society. Jesus restored this man physically, spiritually, and socially.

Again, we should see ourselves in this story. Not leprosy, but sin separates us from God’s family and kingdom. However, Jesus restores us through his sacrificial death for us. We were all booted from God’s family and kingdom, driven to the desolate places where we became enslaved to false gods and powers, but Jesus took upon himself our transgressions. He went to the desolate places and bore the full weight of that slavery and was crushed beneath the evil powers of this world.

But, he didn’t remain in the grave. He was bruised but not beaten. Rather, he rose from the dead, proving that he had triumphed over disease, death, and the devil, and proving that he had made a way for us to be restored into fellowship with God and into the fellowship of his family. Jesus has compassion on the marginalized of this world, which in one way or another has included every single one of us!

APPLICATIONS

Now, for a few moments, I want us to think about how this applies to us. First, and foremost, if you have never trusted in Christ and are still in a desolate place, without God and without hope in the world, realize that through turning from the path you are on to Jesus, you can be forgiven and restored into fellowship with God. You can join his family. You can be empowered to live in service to God in this world. You can join Christ in helping those who need the good news of restoration. So, if you’ve never hoped in Christ, my prayer is that this would be the day that you find your life in his.

Second, I want us to see in this message the importance of the church and church fellowship. Just as the leper was able to return to first century Jewish society once he was healed and cleansed, so being redeemed through faith in Christ makes us members of Christ’s family. And Christ’s family, his community, is represented on this earth in local churches. It is vitally important that if we belong to Jesus, that we belong to a local church as well. It is vital that we take part in serving together, loving one another, and bearing each other’s burdens. The church is Christ’s new community filled with people who have been restored to fellowship with God and united together in one family. We represent to this world the joys of the world to come. If you have been restored to God by Christ, then you have also been restored to his family and you need to be involved with and in that family in a local church setting.

Finally, for those of us who hope in Jesus the King, we must realize that just as Jesus restored the marginalized, so we have been called to do the same. We have been called to carry the good news and the compassion of Jesus to those who need it. And, we are not just go take the good news and our compassion to our well-off neighbors either. We are to take it even to the desolate, seemingly shady places of this world. People need the good news that Jesus restores sinners to God and to his family. They need to see the compassion that God has for them in our compassion and in our willingness to meet their needs. May we be about that business in our daily lives! Jesus has compassion on the marginalized, and as those who have been restored from the margins ourselves, we should show compassion to those who have been marginalized in our communities.

People aren’t marginalized and pushed to the edge of our communities because of leprosy but they are for other reasons. Some are pushed to the margins due to their socio-economic condition. Others are pushed to the margins either intentionally or unintentionally because they are in the minority racially from the majority of those in the community. Still, some are on the margins because of unpopular choices that they’ve made morally and socially. However, for whatever reason people find themselves on the fringe of our communities, Jesus calls us to go to them, to befriend them, and to attempt to restore them. He calls upon us to share with them and embody for them the good news—the good news that the Creator has compassion, that their lives matter to him, that he offers forgiveness and new life, and that he has redeemed a new people of compassion and restoration who welcome broken people.

[1]R. Alan Cole, Mark in TNTC (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1989), 119.

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

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A Day in the Life of the King

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Photo by Will Cooper

I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.

 

Isaiah 43:15

 

Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of your favorite celebrity would be like? Or, perhaps what a day would be like in the life of a world leader, like the president of this country or the king of some other great nation or kingdom? Perhaps you wondered what it would be like for someone for whom money is not an issue, or what it would be like for someone who commanded the attention and the respect of all their peers.

Well, in this passage, Mark shows us what a day in the life of Jesus the King looked like during his ministry in the region of Galilee. Remember, Mark’s Gospel is ancient biography similar in style to other ancient biographies but is distinct from other biographies as well. The reason it is different is that Mark was entirely convinced that the subject of his narrative is different from every other person who ever lived. He is different in that he is to be identified in a unique way with the LORD, the god of Israel, and his life demands a response from every single person.

We continue to see the things that were different about Jesus in this portrait of a day in the life of Jesus. In fact, here we see that Jesus has authority, that Jesus is the Holy One of God, and that Jesus must be received on his terms.

With that, I want you to go ahead and look at the verses that make up this passage. And, as you look at it, keep in mind that Mark is telling us about a day in the life of Jesus the Christ. We start out in verses 21-28, early on a Sabbath morning, as Jesus entered a synagogue in Capernaum—a cultural center in the region of Galilee—and began to teach. From there, in verses 29-31, we move immediately from the scene in the synagogue to a meal that Jesus shared with his disciples in a private home. Following on from that, in verses 32-34, we read that many people began to bring their sick and demon-possessed to Jesus. By this point, the Sabbath would have ended, since it only went from sundown to sundown, and people would have no longer been restrained by regulations from approaching Jesus for healing and exorcism. Finally, in verses 35-39 we are back again, 24 hours from where we started, as Jesus rises early on a Sunday morning to pray. Now that we have an idea of the timeline of this day in the life of Jesus, it’s time to look at the passage.

And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. and they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everyone throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 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.

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.

Mark 1:21-39

According to Mark, this was a day in the life of Jesus the King, and from this day in the life, we see at least three truths.

JESUS HAS AUTHORITY

First, unlike any other person who has ever lived before or since, Jesus had and has authority. Mark stresses this truth throughout this passage. Mark tells us early on in verse 22 that Jesus had authority to teach and that he taught with authority. That apparently set him apart from the scribes. While they taught the traditions and interpretations of men, Jesus taught a new message, the message that God’s word had been fulfilled in his own life. Jesus’ interpretations of Scripture and history were not the mere traditions or opinions of men, but they were the very words and thoughts of God. Jesus taught with authority.

Jesus also demonstrated authority over unclean spirits. In verses 23-26, Jesus rebuked and exorcised an unclean spirit from a man attending the synagogue, and Jesus did it by the power of his word. He commanded and the unclean spirit obeyed. In fact, the unclean spirit recognized Jesus’ authority. In verse 24, the unclean spirit identified Jesus as the Holy One of God, and he feared that Jesus might use that power to destroy him.

To a degree, the people were also aware that Jesus’ power over unclean spirits was a demonstration of great authority. In verse 27, they questioned among themselves, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Power over demonic spirits would have been significant for the people of the first century, and it is significant for us today. Jesus’ authority over demonic powers means that he has authority over the sources of chaos and disorder that still wreak havoc in this fallen world. This is a dark world with devils filled. Peter says that the devil himself roams around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. There are many powers that would love nothing more than to steal and kill and destroy from God’s image bearers. However, Mark assures us that Jesus has authority over them all. They can do nothing without his permission, and they are powerless before him. They can try to wreck and destroy, but Jesus can and will turn their evil into good for his people.

Finally, we see in this day in the life of Jesus that Jesus has authority over all kinds of diseases and ailments. We see this in verses 30-31 as Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever. We also see this in verses 32-34 as Jesus healed many who were sick with various diseases. Mark wants us to see that Jesus has great authority. He spoke the very words of God, he had power over devils, and he has power over disease and, as we will see later, even death. Jesus has authority.

Before we move on, I want us to be encouraged by this reality. We still live in a devil-filled world, don’t we? There is darkness all around us. One glance at the evening news, and it is clear that this world is still a very dangerous place. We also still live in a disease-stricken and death-ridden society. The saying still holds true that the only two things guaranteed in life are death and taxes! We live our daily lives in a dark world, filled with mischievous powers, harmful diseases, and the perils of death at every corner. However, we can be assured that Jesus has authority over it all.

Are you struggling with certain things right now that are bringing a great deal of stress and heartbreak to you? Are you weighed down with health issues? Are you struggling in ways that no one knows about but you and the Lord? If so, then I want you to realize today, that Jesus has all authority. He has authority over everything in this world and over everything that is going on in your life. He has authority over the strained relationships, the ailments, and the threat of death. He has authority over it, and if we belong to him through faith, then he cares for us greatly as well. For that reason, we can trust him. We can trust him that, whether he heals us or whether it’s his will that we continue to battle against what ails us for a while longer, Jesus is in control and he is working through it all for our eventual good. That may be almost impossible to see and understand now but he promises that our sufferings no matter how great are only light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits us when Jesus appears from heaven (2 Corin. 4:17).

Jesus is unlike any other person who has ever lived. He has all power and authority over heaven and earth. And, if we belong to him, we can rest assured and have peace that he has nothing less than our eternal salvation in mind as he exercises his authority over the powers and the troubles in our lives. Jesus has authority!

JESUS IS THE HOLY ONE OF GOD

Second, from this day in the life of Jesus, we also see that Jesus is the Holy One of God. Strangely enough, the ones who recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God were neither the crowds who heard Jesus and saw him heal nor Jesus’ disciples. Rather, it was the demons whom Jesus had come to destroy. Consider, again, verse 24. There the unclean spirit cried out before Jesus, saying, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”

Jesus is the Holy One of God. I want us to pause and think for a moment about what this means. That Jesus is the Holy One reflects the idea that I have been talking about for a few sermons. Mark wants us to see that Jesus is different from every other person worthy of a biography in the ancient world. He and his life are set apart; they are holy.

That Jesus is the Holy One also reflects the first point above. Jesus has authority. He is God’s Messiah—the king of heaven and earth. He is distinct and different from all others because he has authority over devils, diseases, winds, seas, and even death.

That Jesus is the Holy One of God also points to the reality that Jesus perfectly reflects the character of the LORD, the god of Israel. In Jesus, we see exactly what it means that the LORD is gracious, compassionate, merciful, slow to anger, forgiving, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:6-7). Unlike any other person who has ever lived, Jesus reflected the image and the character of God perfectly to the world around him.

Finally, that Jesus is the Holy One of God points us again to the fact that Jesus is to be intimately identified with the LORD, Israel’s God. No other Old Testament book influenced Mark and his gospel like the prophecy of Isaiah. And, in Isaiah, Isaiah’s favorite title, or favorite way to identify the LORD, the god of heaven and earth, is by calling him the Holy One of Israel. This is also how Isaiah described the LORD after he had a vision of him in the Temple. For Isaiah, the LORD is characterized best as someone who is thrice holy (Is. 6). He is the only god, and he alone keeps his promises of salvation to his people and to the world. He plans and carries out those plans without fail.

By pointing out that Jesus is the Holy One of God, Mark is once again identifying Jesus in an intimate way with Israel’s God. He does not spell out for us the distinctions between God the Father and Jesus as the Son of God. He doesn’t give us a systematic explanation of the Trinity, but he does clue us into the fact that Jesus is to be identified intimately with the LORD, and that in Jesus, in some mysterious way, the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth, had come to dwell among his creatures. Mark, in his own way declares as would Isaac Watts many centuries later that in Jesus, the mighty maker died for man the creature’s sin!

Now before we move on to the final point, I also want us to pause and think about how this applies. That Jesus is the Holy One of God means that we, as his people, should be holy as well. This was the LORD’s call to his people in the Old Testament. He called them to be holy as he is holy. The same is true for us as followers of Jesus. Peter tells us that God called us, as the church, to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation. He explains that Jesus made us a people of his own possession so that we would reflect his glory in the world (1 Pet. 2:9). And, we most reflect the glory of Christ when we live holy lives—lives set apart from unbelievers. And, we live lives set apart from others in this world, not necessarily by what we don’t do but by what we do.

Christians sometimes have the idea that holiness means not doing certain things, especially in our culture. For many, holiness means abstaining from alcohol, in spite of the fact that Jesus himself enjoyed wine and even turned water into wine at a marriage celebration. For many, holiness means deleting other actions or refusing to hang out in certain places and with certain people.

However, we will see from the life of Jesus that holiness is largely determined not by what we don’t do but by what we do. Being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect manifests itself most profoundly in the way that we treat other people. Jesus calls us to pursue holiness through treating others graciously, compassionately, and patiently and through forgiving people when they wrong us. We imitate Christ best when we abound in steadfast love and faithfulness toward others, especially to those whom we have made commitments and toward those who’ve been overlooked and discarded by the world. Jesus is the Holy One of God, and as his followers, we are to be his holy people.

JESUS MUST BE RECEIVED ON HIS TERMS

Finally, the last truth I want us to see in this day in the life of Jesus is that Jesus must be received on his terms. We see this in a number of ways. First, we see it in the strange way in which Jesus made the demons remain silent. Unlike the crowds and even Jesus’ own disciples, the demons knew exactly who Jesus was. They knew that he was the Holy One of God, that he had great authority, and that his mission was to bind the evil one. However, when the unclean spirit began to announce this fact in verses 24-25, Jesus rebuked him and commanded him to be silent.

Later, in verse 34, Mark tells us again that Jesus would not permit the demons to speak because they knew who he was. He wouldn’t let them speak because they would announce this truth to the people. As we go through Mark, we will see that this is not unique to demons. Rather, when Jesus healed someone or someone identified him, he would often command them not to tell anyone.

Now, admittedly this seems strange to us. Southern Baptists encourage telling others who Jesus is, but Jesus commanded people to do the opposite. He commanded them to keep his identity as the Messiah a secret. Scholars have called this strange phenomenon the Messianic secret. Why did Jesus do this? Why was there this Messianic secret? The best explanation seems to be that Jesus kept his identity a secret in certain areas and at certain times because he wanted to correct misconceived ideas about what it meant to be the Messiah.

People in the first century had one idea about what the promised King should be, and Jesus had another. Therefore, Jesus wanted to show them who the Messiah was and what he had come to do rather than announce from the beginning that he was the One. He announced that the time had come and that God’s kingdom had drawn near, but then proceeded to show them what that meant rather than allow them to crown him as king. He wanted them to know that he had come to serve rather than to be served. He wanted them to understand that he had come to suffer the cross before he accepted the crown.

Jesus kept his identity as the Messiah a secret, because he demands to be accepted on his terms rather than on our terms. The disciples learned this the hard way in verses 35-39. There, when they searched and found Jesus, they encouraged him to return to the crowds. The disciples also had misconceptions about what the Messiah would be. They had hopes that following Jesus would reward them with fame, power, and honor, and, to a degree, that was finally happening in Capernaum. News about Jesus’ great authority spread. Crowds were coming out to meet him, not necessarily for the right reasons, but they were coming out to him nonetheless. So the disciples got excited and wanted him to return from the privacy of prayer and back into the limelight of his newfound fame. They wanted Jesus to embrace the spotlight, but Jesus had another plan.

Jesus didn’t come for immediate popularity from people who wanted him on their terms rather than on his. Rather, Jesus came to announce the good news of God’s kingdom and to defeat death and the devil by dying. He came to call true worshippers, who would worship him in spirit and in truth. So, he told the disciples that they would not be returning to Capernaum at that moment, but would go on to the next towns in the region of Galilee.

Again, what all this shows us is that Jesus must be received on his terms. Jesus didn’t come to give us health, wealth, and prosperity in this present age. He came to call us to follow him. He calls us to take up our cross and follow him as we seek to do God’s will in this dangerous world. Then, only after we’ve taken up the cross does he promise us a crown. We must come to Jesus on his terms. We don’t come to Jesus and demand our problems fixed or that he give us immediate health and riches.

Rather, we come to Jesus and we surrender our lives to his. We find our stories in his story. And, for those who do that—who take up the cross—he promises a far greater reward in the end than anything else that we could possibly think or imagine right now. We are not to remake Jesus or demand from Jesus. Rather, we are to receive him on his terms and follows his commands. And, what we will find if we do follow him is that his plans for us are much sweeter in the long run than the plans and hopes that we have for ourselves.

What was a day like in the life of the greatest person who ever lived? It was a little bit of what we might expect. He taught with great authority. He exercised great authority over devils and diseases. People were amazed and flocked to him. However, it was a bit different as well. He did not embrace the spotlight or the crown. Rather, he marched forward toward the cross. He lived to serve, to do the Father’s will, and to sacrifice for the people whom he had come to save. May we trust in him and his authority! And, may we seek to follow him in holiness, service, and love!

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.