January 4-5 sermon resource

Jesus’ Ministry Begun

  • Main text: Mark 1:21-45
  • Accompanying text: Psalm 103:1-5

What this passage means to us

Grace is love in action. It is undeserved and unearned. It operates not because of the work of the recipient but because of the love of the one who exercises it. As such it lies at the heart of our salvation. As Paul reminded the Ephesians, ‘For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith’ (Eph. 2:8, GNB). Healing is also an activity of God’s grace. And God’s grace is extravagant” [1]. As Jesus begins his ministry we see that it is characterised by Jesus’ compassion for the sick, for the outcasts and for those enslaved by evil spirits. As Mark records Jesus miracles, he draws our attention to Jesus’ desire to keep the miracles secret. Jesus does not heal and drive out demons for his own purposes or to build his renown, but rather his motive in healing is one of compassion and inclusion. Likewise, the miracles are not transactional. Jesus heals, restores and cleanses without requiring anything in return. Jesus miracles are grace; they are love in action.

This passage in Mark does not just witness to Christ’s compassion though. It also testifies to ‘who’ Jesus is. In Capernaum the crowds were amazed not just by what he taught, but by how he taught. Unlike the scribes, he made no appeal to a higher authority (such as Moses, or respected Rabbis) when he taught. For Jesus, there is no higher authority for him to appeal to. While this raised questions in the crowds, the demon he encounters instantly recognised the truth of this when he declares Jesus as human (coming from Nazareth), and as one from heaven, (the “Holy One of God” (1:24)). Through Jesus’ actions in this chapter we see Christ declare his authority over the Scriptures as well as over both the physical and spiritual realms.

Despite the crowds and the fame that Jesus experiences as he begins his ministry, Marks makes a point of recording that Jesus made time to pray. In 1:35 we see that Jesus takes what is probably the only opportunity he had to pray by himself. NT Wright writes that “Behind the public activity and controversy lay Jesus’ life of total dependence on the one he called Abba, Father” [2]. Following his miracles it would have been easy for Jesus to stay in Capernaum, to let the people come to him – but Jesus steadily moves on, preaching throughout all of Galilee. Jesus’ message was not just for one town or one people – he was sent by the Father to bring good news to the whole world.

In the final section of our passage, a leper comes to Jesus. Of this section Origen asked, “why did he touch him, since the law forbade the touching of a leper? He touched him to show that “all things are clean to the clean.” Because the filth that is in one person does not adhere to others, nor does external uncleanness defile the clean of heart. So he touches him in his untouchability, that he might instruct us in humility; that he might teach us that we should despise no one, or abhor them, or regard them as pitiable, because of some wound of their body or some blemish for which they might be called to render an account” [3].

Storyline and context

“Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'” (Mark 1:14b-15). As Mark records his gospel accounts, it is interesting that often he illustrates what Jesus’ teaching is as opposed to just telling us. In this passage we see that Jesus rescues a man from the evil spirits that were troubling him. When he meets Simon’s mother, he heals her from her illness. In his encounter with the man with leprosy, he not only heals the man, but he also pronounces him clean. Leprosy at the time was viewed as not just a physical ailment but a spiritual one, and under the Law after you recovered from the disease, you still needed to make a guilt and sin offering to be declared clean and allowed back into the community. These miracles are not just recorded to tell us about what Jesus did, they also are “a visual demonstration of what that kingdom is like. In God’s kingdom there is no place for evil… there is no place for sickness…[and] there is no place for sin” [4]. As Jesus continues his ministry in Capernaum we will see how Jesus builds upon this when a paralysed man is brought to him for healing…


Scripture resources

  • Matthew 4:23-25; 8:1-4; 8:14-17
  • Luke 4:31-44

Other GCI resources

Footnotes and References

  1. Donald English, Bible Speaks Today: the Message of Mark, (Downers Grove, IL: 1996). Digital edition.
  2. Tom Wright, Mark for Everyone, (London, UK: SPCK, 2001). Digital edition.
  3. Quoted from Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Mark, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2000). Digital edition.
  4. Andrew Sach & Tim Hiorns, Dig Deeper into the Gospels: Coming Face to Face with Jesus in Mark, (Nottingham, UK: Inter-varsity Press, 2015). 32, 34, 37.
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