Three interesting vignettes are in today’s reading (the second half of Mark, chapter1). First, we see Jesus drive out some demons. There are some interesting details to note.
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.
First, notice that happens in Capernaum. Remember from our reading of the Gospel of Matthew that Capernaum had become Jesus’ base of operations. We can also see here how Mark stresses active nature of Jesus’ ministry, employing the term “immediately”. We get the sense the Jesus was up first thing in the morning and arrived at the Synagogue first before any of the townspeople.
Notice also, that this healing takes place in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. It is still early in Jesus’ ministry and His curing someone on the Sabbath does not raise alarm or protest from the authorities. It is later as Jesus’ popularity and fame grow that the authorities will raise healing on the Sabbath as a grounds to oppose him.
The scene continues:
And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “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.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 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.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
So again we see the use of the term immediately. We get the impression that the possessed man is one of the first to arrive at the Synagogue as well. As the morning plays out Jesus would have healed this man early and established his authority from the outset lending even greater weight to his teaching that day.
Again, even thought this appears to be happening early in Jesus’ ministry but the demons recognize who Jesus is and His authority. This is Mark’s way of establishing the truth about Jesus from the outset of the Gospel. Notice, also that we are told that Jesus’ fame immediately begins to spread around the surrounding region.
In the next verse, notice how Mark moves the action along, again employing one of his many uses of the word “immediately”.
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.
Notice, in recollecting this verse many people assume that they go to Peter’s house (who at this point is still named Simon) but in fact the text says it is the house of Peter AND Andrew, the brothers lived together. We also see the Peter has a mother-in-law but any mention of his wife is absent. Thus, tradition holds that by this point Peter’s wife had died.
Notice what happens next:
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.
We are told that the sick are brought to Jesus at sundown. This detail conveys that the Sabbath has ended and it is now Sunday. Thus, the Jewish people can come out of their homes and do the work of bringing the sick to Jesus. That the author conveys this detail is a hallmark of the thought process of a Jew, it therefore helps to identify the author as someone of a Jewish background. Notice again that Jesus does not allow the demons to identify who He is.
Jesus does the same thing when he heals the leper:
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 desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. Mar 1:43-45
People are often curious as to why Jesus does this when he knows that those that are healed rarely if ever will be able to keep the secret. (Think about it, their friends, their neighbors and their family will want to know how they are healed). The question is often asked, ‘Why does Jesus tell people not to say who healed them if Jesus knows they will fail and end up telling everybody?’
The simple reason Jesus instructs people not to tell everyone who healed them is given to us at the end of this passage. Jesus’ fame and following is growing quickly. It quickly becomes more difficult for him to move about. Back then, if a well known rabbi came to town it would have been an event to go and listen to him teach, almost like a band coming to your local theater. Jesus is surpassing all others teachers because as described He preaches with authority and heals the sick. Thus, Jesus can “no longer openly enter a town” without being mobbed. We’ll see that Jesus often has to sneak away from the crowds at night. Still the crowds follow him into the countryside. Jesus’ instructions to those he heals to not share the news about who healed them is never really an expectation that they be able to comply with that instruction, rather it is most likely a crowd management tool, giving Jesus just enough time to move on before he is overwhelmed by ever bigger crowds.