Hey I’m Josh Hawkins and this is episode 57 of Opening Up the Gospels. In Episode 56 we found Jesus along the shores of the Sea of Galilee where He formally called His first four disciples - Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, James and his brother John. After fishing all night without catching anything, Jesus instructs them to go out into the deep and let down their nets. And when they bring them up, they begin to break because there are so many fish. Jesus had used His power as the creator of everything to fill the nets with fish, and so Peter falls down at Jesus’ feet, knowing that there’s something not safe about Him. What a scene this must have been. After this, both sets of brothers leave everything and heed Jesus’ call to formal discipleship. Remember, these fishermen had known Jesus since the spring, and here we are in the fall of the same year. How much thought have these guys given to what happened earlier in the year with John the Baptist? They were back home fishing and probably just doing normal life again, and now their lives are on the cusp of completely changing forever.
In this episode I want to look at a few events in this early Galilean period that Mark and Luke record. They take place in Capernaum, the small town Jesus always returns to on the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Though we can’t determine the exact timing of these events, it seems like they happened over a relatively short period. Jesus now has four formal disciples and His fame is spreading throughout Galilee. Let’s read from Mark 1:
"And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his 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 everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee."
(Mark 1:21–28 ESV)
So here we are sometime after the calling of the first disciples, and they all now enter Capernaum together. On the Sabbath, Jesus goes into the synagogue there and begins teaching. We don’t know exactly what He taught, but Mark says that the people in the synagogue were absolutely dumbfounded and overwhelmed by Jesus’ teaching - it wasn’t just something they said “wow” to in the moment - it was something that left them awestruck for a while. Imagine what it was like to sit under Jesus’ teaching. What the people were used to hearing from the scribes and other religious leaders in Israel was completely different than what Jesus taught. Instead of seeking position before men and making much about so many trivial issues, Jesus spoke the truth, teaching the things that really mattered - big things like eternal life, death, faith, and the age to come. What a day this must have been for so many of them.
The teaching that Jesus gave was not the only memorable thing that happened that Sabbath in the synagogue. A man with an unclean spirit causes a disruption and arrests everyone’s attention. He said “what have you to do with us” or perhaps better translated “what do we have in common, Jesus of Nazareth?” “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!” Now what was said shows that even the demons know who Jesus really is - not only was he “holy” in the sense of being sinless, but he was the one who had been set apart and anointed by God as the Christ. A couple of places in scripture use this title: Psalm 16 verse 10 where David uses the words “holy one”, and Judges 16 verse 17 when Samson is being referred to - in our Bibles we might read “Nazarite”, but the translation of the word is “consecrated one” or “holy one”. Like Samson vanquished the Philistines, Jesus is going to vanquish every bit of darkness on the planet. The unclean spirit knows that, and it’s just a matter of time before it happens on the Day of the Lord.
So with a word, Jesus commands the demon to be silent and come out of the man. The guy convulses, the demon comes out, and the people in the synagogue are utterly amazed again - both the authoritative teaching and the casting out of the demon become the talk of the towns all over Galilee, and Jesus’ fame spreads everywhere.
Let’s keep reading in Mark 1:
"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."
(Mark 1:29–34 ESV)
This has got to be another one of my favorite scenes in this part of Jesus’ ministry. After what had just happened in the synagogue, Jesus along with James and John enter Simon Peter and Andrew’s house in Capernaum. Though John 1 said that Peter and Andrew were from Bethsaida, it seems as if their family is established in Capernaum now. Peter’s wife is there, as well as his wife’s mother who was sick with a fever. So what does Jesus do? He just goes and lifts her out of bed. The fever goes away, and she starts serving the rest of the family as if she hadn’t even been sick. What was the rest of the day like for them? Put yourself in the shoes of someone in that house. Jesus had astounded everyone in the synagogue earlier, and now everyone in the house must have been shocked by the healing of Peter’s mother in law. But that wouldn’t be the last astounding thing He would do for the rest of the day. The Sabbath ended at sundown, and so the people were no longer resting per the commandment. Mark says that the people brought all who were sick or oppressed by demons, and Jesus healed them. Luke adds a detail to this scene that Mark leaves out - check out Luke 4:40:
"Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them."
(Luke 4:40 ESV)
Look at that - Jesus laid His hands on every one of them. Think about the drama of this. The clock strikes 6pm, and everyone bolts for the house where Jesus is. They had heard and seen crazy things earlier that day in the synagogue, and now the Sabbath is over and the whole city comes out bringing all their sick and demon possessed. What do we do with sick people? We put them in hospitals and insane asylums so we don’t have to deal with them. But Jesus isn’t like that. All of the brokenness of humanity is before Him, and as dusk turns to darkness, Jesus lays his hand on them - one by one. Think about it - He didn’t have to do it that way. Other times when He heals, he just does it with a word or just says “go, it’s taken care of”. But what compassion is in His heart for the people that causes Him to lay his hands on each one of them? Oh that we would have this heart for the hurting, the broken, the sick, and the oppressed as we point them to put their faith in humanity’s great healer, deliverer, and redeemer, Jesus.
We’re not sure how late Jesus stayed up ministering to the city’s inhabitants, but we do know He probably didn’t get that much sleep that night. Let’s keep reading in Mark 1:
"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 1:35–39 ESV)
This is such another beautiful moment we find in the Gospels. Jesus woke up well before dawn to find some time to pray. I don’t believe this was because Jesus needed to recharge and get refueled, as if He needed to plug Himself into the Father. He was doing this relationally, because of the love He had for the Father. Think about it - there was a real “leaving” that happened in Jesus’ incarnation. When Jesus took on flesh, the fellowship in the Godhead had changed in a way I don’t think we can begin to fathom. So I think this time of prayer was about communion and fellowship because of love. We’re not sure how long he spent in prayer, but it must have been several hours. When his disciples woke up and found him gone, what did they think? How long did it take for them to find him? What about the crowds that had been healed the night before, how eager were they to see Jesus again? When they found Jesus, I’m sure his response shocked them. “Hey, I know everyone is looking for me, but we’re actually leaving. I need to go preach to the other towns. That’s why I came.” And though Jesus wouldn’t return to Capernaum that particular morning, something significant had already happened. The people had been awestruck by His teaching and touched by His power, and now His fame would spread like fire throughout Galilee.
Well here’s a couple of points for your meditation this week:
1) Put yourself in the crowd in Capernaum that came to Jesus after sundown. What was running through your mind as Jesus was laying hands on everyone and healing them?
2) Ponder what it would have been like to be in the synagogue during Jesus’ teaching on the Sabbath. What was lunchtime conversation like that day?
If you’ve missed any of the past episodes, you can find them all on my website, www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. In the next episode, we’ll look at some of the events in Jesus’ early Galilean ministry. See you next time.