Guests: Bruce Johanson
Read: Mark 1:21-2:17
In the first 20 verses of his book, Mark introduces Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and John the Baptist, who prepares the way for the Lord. Jesus is baptized and tempted in the wilderness. Finally, Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God and calls his first disciples. In this week’s lesson, we move on through Mark 1 and 2. Mark 1 is extraordinary because it details events that took place in a single, 24 hour period from Sabbath morning in a synagogue to Sunday morning in a secluded place. In that 24 hour period, we find Jesus portrayed as a teacher, exorcist, friend, healer, mystic, and missionary.
- Teacher (Mark 1:21-22) This day begins with Jesus teaching in a Capernaum synagogue on the Sabbath. Mark doesn’t specify exactly what Jesus said, but based on Mark’s earlier statement about Jesus’ teaching, the reader is left to assume Jesus is continuing to proclaim “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (1:15). The people in the synagogue “were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (1:22). Rabbinic teaching styles relied heavily upon the words of earlier, prominent rabbis. In other words, rabbis typically cited important sources to support their message. Jesus, on the other hand, assumed authority and a direct commissioning from God.How do most religious “teachers” operate today? Are they more like “teachers of the law” or more like Jesus? Should a person even attempt to “teach” with authority like Jesus did? Isn’t it dangerous for someone to believe they have authority and commissioning directly from God? How have you seen this attitude operate in the church? What are some safeguards against runaway teachers who, perhaps sincerely, do not listen to counsel from others, believing instead that their message is directly from God?
- Exorcist (Mark 1:23-28) In the synagogue is a man possessed by an evil (literally, “unclean”) spirit. He shouts at Jesus, who then casts out the demon. Once again, the people respond with amazement at Jesus’ authority.This exorcism takes place in the synagogue. Are there evil spirits at work even among those who are a part of the worshiping, believing community? How would you respond to someone who said “evil spirits” are merely primitive symbols for evil or a mislabeling of a physical or psychological problem? Notice how Jesus deals with the demon. How does this differ from many exorcists today?
- Friend (Mark 1:29) Following the synagogue service, Jesus goes with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. In Mark, this seems to be “home base” for Jesus. Elsewhere in the Gospels, we find Jesus staying with people outside of his family. For example, he spends time in Bethany with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. John tells us that “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5). Later, Jesus calls Lazarus his “friend” (11:11). So, while Jesus was certainly a teacher, respected and honored by this disciples, he also established genuine, loving friendships.What would it have been like to have Jesus as a friend who dropped by now and then–not with some hidden agenda, but simply because he missed you and liked your company? What types of people did Jesus seem to “connect” with most? Were they old or young? Rich or poor? Insiders or outsiders? Male or female? Reputable or questionable? Based on your answers, what is the likelihood that Jesus would have been your friend?
- Healer (Mark 1:30-34) Simon’s mother-in-law was at his home, sick with a fever. Jesus went to her, helped her up, and the fever left her. After sundown, the rest of the village came to the door, bringing the sick and demon possessed for Jesus to restore.If Simon Peter had a mother-in-law, he apparently had a family. How does it affect our view of Jesus’ disciples if we think of them as having families? Does following Jesus mean neglecting our own families? How might Jesus’ own life help us to answer this question?We should notice also that Jesus willingly healed on the Sabbath, but the townspeople waited until after sundown to come for healing. Are there times when Sabbath observance, while well-intentioned and sincere, may actually keep one from restoration that Jesus would willingly give? What are some examples of this? In general, who is more concerned about Sabbath observance–Sabbath keepers, or God?
- Mystic (Mark 1:35-57) Following his night of ministry to the townspeople, Jesus arose before dawn and “went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (1:35).Why did Jesus pray? Did he need to pray, or did Jesus pray primarily to be a good example for us? What did Jesus pray about? Do we need more or less prayer than Jesus?
- Missionary (Mark 1:38-39) Jesus’ prayer time is interrupted by his disciples who inform him that the people are looking for him. Rather than remaining with a welcoming, eager audience, Jesus says, “Let us go somewhere else . . . so I can preach there also. That is why I have come . . .” (1:38).Why was Jesus so eager to move on to a new location? Shouldn’t a preacher provide for “follow-up” care after preaching? Should Christians today focus their attention on itinerant ministry, or more established, long-term ministry? Should missionaries go where they are welcomed, or where they are most needed?Was this a typical day for Jesus? What do you imagine an “average” day was for him?