Mark 1:21-39


We have already commented as to the brevity of Mark’s Gospel Account.  But this brevity is not at the expense of a closeup look at the person and work of Jesus.  Mark is not in too much of a hurry to pause and give us a glimpse of a day in the life of Jesus.





            They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach.

            They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:21-22).


1.         Capernaum.


The small bustling fishing village of Capernaum was located on the northwestern shore of the Sea, just a mile or so from where the waters of the Upper Jordan flowed into the Sea of Galilee.


The name “Capernaum” is from the Hebrew “Kaphar Nacham” and means “Village of Nahum” or “Village of Comfort.”


2.         On the Sabbath.


The Sabbath had become, not only a day of rest, but also a day of worship.  The Sabbath would officially begin at sundown on Friday evening as the Jewish family sat down to the evening Sabbath meal.  On the next morning, a trumpet would sound, calling all within hearing to worship in the synagogue.


3.         He Entered the Synagogue and Began to Teach.


There was a synagogue located in every city in which there were 10 Jewish males.  They would come together weekly for prayers, for worship, for reading of the Scriptures, and for teaching.  In the years prior to the birth of Christ, a program of public education had been instituted throughout Palestine.  Every freeborn male was taught to read and write.  The center of this educational system was the synagogue.  It was customary for a visiting Rabbi to be permitted to read and/or speak in the Synagogue Service.  Jesus took advantage of this practice in order to preach the gospel.


4.         They were Amazed at His Teaching.


The source of their amazement was not in the fact that Jesus was teaching or even in what it was He taught.  It was that He taught with such authority.


You see, the Rabbis didn’t teach that way.  Their sermons consisted of dry commentaries on what other Rabbis before them had thought.  These interpretations were collected and kept and handed down from generation to generation.  We know them as the Mishnah and the Talmud.  But Jesus didn’t teach that way.  He taught with authority.


We can teach with authority, too.  When God says that salvation is a gift of His grace, we can speak forth that message with confidence and authority.


When we witness concerning Jesus, we don’t come sharing religious opinions.  We have truth.  And because we have truth, we are able to speak with authority.





            Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,  24  saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are ‑‑ the Holy One of God!”

            And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”

            Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him.

            They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

            Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee. (Mark 1:23-28).


The synagogue that day was confronted with a terrible specter - a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit.


1.         Demons are often described in the Bible, but they are not necessarily defined.


a.         They are SPIRITUAL beings.  That is why this particular demon is described as an unclean spirit (pneumati akaqartw).


When Jesus first appeared to His disciples following His resurrection, they thought they were seeing a spirit.  To dispel this, He said to them, “Touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones and you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).


From this we may conclude that demons, being spirits, do not have flesh and bones.  At the same time, demons seem to have a strange passion for possessing living organisms - either people or animals.


b.         They are PERSONAL beings.


They are described as having the power of thought, speech and action.  They recognize Jesus and plead with Him.


c.         They are INTELLIGENT beings.


We see an indication of that in this passage when the demons recognize the true identity of Jesus.


d.         They are POWERFUL beings.


You will remember the time certain Jewish exorcists attempted to use the name of Jesus as a magic amulet to cast out a demon.  The demon-possessed man went berserk, attacking the exorcists and ripping their clothes off (Acts 19:16).  However, as powerful as they are, there is One who is more powerful.  He is seen in this chapter.


2.         The Demon’s Confession of Jesus.


The very first one in Mark’s account to publicly pronounce Jesus as the Holy One of God is a demon.  Not a rabbinical student.  Not a priest.  Not even one of the disciples.


This should not surprise us too much.  James 2:19 tells us that the demons believe that God exists.  There are no atheists in hell.


3.         The Rebuke of Jesus.


This demon had just testified as to the true identity of Jesus.  But He would not accept praise from the demon and He orders the demon to be quiet - literally, to “be muzzled.”  When we come to verse 33, we will see that He was not permitting demons to speak “because they knew who He was.”


There is a lesson here.  It is that you need to be careful from whom you accept praise.  Jesus would not allow this demon to praise Him.  And when the world begins to praise us, we better look out.


4.         The Reaction of the People.


The reaction of the people was multi-faceted.  It is described as...


      m  Amazement.

      m  Debate among themselves.


But there is one thing that was forgotten in the amazement of the moment.  Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath.  And no one challenged Him.


When we come to chapter 3, we shall see Jewish leaders taking great offence at Jesus working miracles on the Sabbath.  They will be nit-picking every time one of His disciples picks a handful of grain and they will be nit-picking over what day Jesus is performing His miracles.  But such opposition had not yet begun because Jesus had only started His ministry.


When we were new Christian, we didn’t nit-pick as much.  All we knew was that we loved Jesus and we wanted other people to love Jesus, too.  We didn’t spend a lot of time arguing over doctrine.  We weren’t particularly concerned when the pastor’s sermon went a little too long.  We didn’t care that the bulletin had been changed or that the carpet in the Fellowship Hall wasn’t especially eye-catching.


But somewhere along the line, those things began to become important to us.  And before too long, we began to take on a Pharisaic attitude.


Have you gotten more critical?  Are you bothered by the little things?  Do you catch yourself nit-picking?  Maybe it’s time for a return to Capernaum.




            And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  30  Now Simon's mother‑in‑law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. 31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them. (Mark 1:29-31).


Following the service in the synagogue, Jesus goes with His disciples to the home of Peter and Andrew.  Here they are confronted with a problem.  Peter’s mother-in-law is sick.


In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul alludes to the fact that Peter and the rest of the apostles were married men (1 Corinthians 9:5).  The Jews considered it to be rather abnormal not to be married.  And so, Peter was married.


But now, as he returns home with Jesus and the other disciples, he finds that his wife’s mother is sick.  She has a fever.  I suppose that some men might be rather glad to find that their mother-in-law was sick with a fever.  But that is not the case with Peter.


If there is a principle here, it is that before you seek to minister to the world, minister first to your mother-in-law.  You see, if your Christianity doesn’t work in your home, then it doesn’t work - don’t export it.


Notice the nature of this healing.  Her healing is immediate.  It was so complete that she needed no recuperation, but was able to wait on them.  Here is the principle.  It is that we are healed in order to help.  We are saved in order to serve.





            When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon‑possessed.

            And the whole city had gathered at the door.

            And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was. (Mark 1:32-34).


The setting of the sun marked the official end of the Sabbath.  Now people began to descend upon the house of Simon where Jesus was staying.  It did not stop until “the whole city had gathered at the door” (Verse 23).


The two types of illnesses which are mentioned in verse 32 are the same two which Jesus had already healed on that day.


Jesus casts out demon in synagogue


All who were demon-possessed






Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law


All who were ill





In the Walt Disney production of Alice in Wonderland, Alice comes upon the white rabbit and wants to talk to him, but he has no time and, as he scampers away, sings the following song:


I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date,

I have no time to say good‑bye, hello,

I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.


When I wave, I lose the time I save.

My fuzzy ears and whiskers took me too much time to shave,

I run and then I hop, hop, hop,

I wish that I could fly.


There's danger if I dare to stop

And here's the reason why,

You see, I' m overdue, I'm in a rabbit stew,

Can't even say good‑bye, hello,

I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.


In this age of fast food, mega-speed computers, around the world information and rapid transit, it is difficult to slow down and spend time with the Lord.


Jesus was also tempted to run life in the fast lane.  After all, He was only going to be on earth for a limited amount of time.  Thirty three years in which to change the world.  And the first thirty were spent in a carpenter’s shop.  By every modern standard, He ought to have been rushing at breakneck speed.  And yet, Jesus knew how to stop.


            In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.

            Simon and his companions searched for Him;   37  and they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”

            He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”

            And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. (Mark 1:35-39).


Jesus was up the next morning before the crack of dawn.  As the dark velvet of night begins to pale in the east and the twinkling stars wink out one by one, Jesus makes His solitary way out of Capernaum and up into the rolling hills of Galilee.


He walks until he cannot see another town or a farmhouse or a living being.  And then, He stops and waits in the silence.  Quietly, He sits with His Father.


There is something special about a quiet time.  About getting alone in a place where you can’t see another soul and where you can be alone with the Lord.


Our problem is that we are too busy.  We have schedules to meet and places to go and things to do.  And even when we do try to get quiet, it isn’t long before the outside world is hammering at our door.


In this instance, the hammering came from the disciples.  As they come upon Jesus, they wonder what He is doing out here.  After all, Jesus is on a roll.  He has just started His ministry with a bang.  There is work to be done in Capernaum.  He has healed the sick, but there will eventually be others who will become sick.  His ministry in Galilee is only now getting started.  It is too early for Him to go on vacation and take a day off.  But Jesus doesn’t go back at this time.  His plan is quite different.


            “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”


The Jews had a tendency to take the truth and sit on it.  You remember the story of Jonah, the reluctant prophet.  He was sent by God to preach to the city of Nineveh.  Instead, he took a long cruise on a ship going in the other direction.  After a short detour via submarine, he finally arrived in Nineveh.  And even when he got there, his attitude was one of reluctance.  He proclaimed to the people, “In forty days God is going to destroy your city.”  And the Lord had to say, “Don’t forget to add, ‘Unless you repent.’”

Jonah’s attitude was reflective of the Jewish people.  They had been entrusted with the oracles of God.  And they were determined to keep those oracles to themselves.


Before you start passing judgment upon them, take a look at your own life.  When was the last time you shared the message of the gospel with someone?


It has been said that, instead of being fishers of men, most of us have become keepers of the aquarium.  Perhaps you need to ask the Lord to remove you from your comfort zone so that you might be used in introducing another to Jesus.  And when He does, you be faithful.


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