Are we healers or destroyers? There are more accounts of Jesus healing than any other person in the Bible (Mark 1:21-28). What can we learn from his healings? Could it be that with Jesus people have a higher priority than penalties and laws? Could it be that God is a God of compassion? Does Jesus want to heal more than people’s diseases? Does he also want to heal their lives? Why when Jesus healed people did he touch them, speak to them and use the physical means at his disposal? Not everyone has been given the miraculous gifts of healing that Jesus had, yet we too have opportunity to touch, speak and use the physical means at our disposal. A simple touch or word can heal or destroy. Jesus came to heal not destroy. Are we healers or destroyers? (
If God can create, he can certainly heal the creatures which he created. God reveals himself as our healer throughout the Bible. Possibly the earliest healing in the Bible is when Abraham prayed for Abimelech’s household and God healed them (Genesis 20:17). God promised healing to Israel in Exodus 15:26 in return for their obedience. There is also our responsibility for the healing of those we have injured (Exodus 21:19). Numbers 12 and Deuteronomy 28 reveal that one cause of disease can be sin. And in Deuteronomy 32:39 God reveals himself as healer in a manner than no man can. So, when Jesus healed even what we term today as mental illnesses (Mark 1:21-28) it was a sign of his divinity. Though he does not always heal immediately, God’s promise of healing has not changed.
God healed Israel’s national problems (1 Samuel 6), water sources (2 Kings 2), leaders (2 Kings 20), land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14) and the people themselves even though they were not perfect (2 Chronicles 30:18-20). It was conditional, if people would humble themselves and pray to God and turn from their wrongdoings. David sang of God healing all our diseases (Psalm 103:1-3) and broken hearts (Psalm 147:3). True healing covers both body and soul and the source of that healing is the cross (Isaiah 53:5). God promised to those who honor God’s name that a new day of righteousness would dawn with healing (Malachi 4:1-2). Jesus healed people in their bodies, souls and minds (Mark 1:21-28). He continues healing the lives of those who have joined a new spiritual nation, the kingdom of God.
An important part of Jesus’ ministry two thousand years ago was to heal all kinds of illness and disease (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:21-28). He later ordained twelve to preach and heal (Mark 3:14-15). Healing was connected to Jesus appointment of preaching the gospel, healing broken hearts, proclaiming deliverance for those captive to sin, recovery of sight and freedom for the oppressed (Luke 4:16-21). Some in the church have a special gift of healing, but not everyone (1 Corinthians 12:9, 28-30). James 5:14-16 gave special instructions regarding healing in the church. The elders, which in the context referred to local church leaders, would anoint the sick with oil. James’ instructions did not preclude using other elements in healing. Jesus used mud. It is the prayer of faith that saves the sick not the elements used.
Jesus faced a demon with a critical spirit in the assembly (Mark 1:21-28). Where does such an attitude come from? What did the demon say? It muttered in effect, “What do you want here with us, Jesus, you outsider? Are you here to destroy us?” Even acknowledging who Jesus was, it had a negative attitude. If we find that our conversations revolve around tearing people apart rather than encouraging them, then let’s take the authority of Jesus over the evil in our hearts. Notice that the demon also possessed the man. Evil is about possession and control. Do we want to possess or control the church? If so, then we are acting like demons. Jesus came to set the church free, not possess it. Let’s cast out the demons of negativity in our lives by the authority of God.
In Mark 1:21-28 Jesus faced a demon that possessed a man. The demon controlled the man’s life. What owns us? Alcohol and drugs possess some people’s lives, but that is less common as other things. What about greed and the desire to be affluent? Do gluttony and selfishness possess us? Are we possessed by various national materialistic dreams? Money is what possesses politics. Have we ever heard someone run on a poverty platform, giving more of what we possess away? No, we are possessed by politics that promises more wealth. What about envy? Does jealousy of others possess us? What about criticism? Does a critical spirit possess us? What about lust? Does covetousness possess us? Perhaps demon possession is not as rare as we might think. Is our world filled with demons that want to own and possess us?
In Mark 1:21-28 when Jesus exorcised a demon he did not perform an elaborate ceremony. He simply used his authority and told the demon to be quiet and leave. We all have our demons. While we look down our noses at the drunk or drug addict, we may be possessed by the demons of judgmentalism and selfishness. While we criticize the overweight person, we may be possessed by the demons of pride and ego. While we smile outwardly we may be battling the demons of depression and despair. Worshiping the gods of chemistry may work for a while, but drugs only mask our demons. Pharmaceuticals are like crutches; they are needed because something is broken. The long term solution is often to find the cause, exorcise the demons and change our lives so that they will not come back.
In Mark 1:21-28 Jesus entered a synagogue on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a sacred time under the Old Covenant and the synagogue was a sacred space for the Jews. In that sacred time and space, the teachers of the law believed that they had sacred authority, yet it was Jesus who taught with authority, effectively invading what they believed was their place not his. The one who was most outspoken about it was someone possessed by an unholy spirit. Think of it. The one who was most concerned with protecting what he thought was his sacred space was someone who wanted to possess it or had a possessive spirit. We confuse what is sacred to us with what is sacred to God. Let’s exorcise the demons of our own creation and get back to what is truly sacred.
What does it mean in Mark 1:21-28 that Jesus taught them as one who had authority? He did not teach like the Pharisees, yet they were the religious authorities of the day. They were known for nit-picky preaching. So, if religious authority does not make someone an authority to teach, what does? Let’s first of all look at the other extreme, those who teach as if they have authority, but their teaching is rubbish. Any ignorant fool can stand up and act like he knows it all, pulling ideas out of thin air and blaming the Holy Spirit for idiotic doctrines, but that is not what this is talking about either. To have the authority of Jesus, we ought to at least start by teaching what Jesus taught instead of inventing things that have no basis in the Bible.
In the New International Commentary on the New Testament, William Lane describes Jesus' message at the start of his ministry as a call "to radical decision." Mark 1:14-15 shows Jesus preaching in effect that the time is now, the sovereign authority of God is near, have a radical change of heart and mind and believe the good news. The description of the kingdom being near is not completely clear. We do learn later that Jesus is the door and the king of that wonderful kingdom. Throughout his ministry Jesus constantly confronted people with the nature of a kingdom decision. It was a life-altering vote between this world with its empty promises and vain pursuits and the next with its promise of an exciting eternal life. Let us too make a radical decision because the sovereign authority of God is near.
The Old Testament metaphor of God fishing for people pictured his call to divine judgment for society's evils. In Mark 1:16-20 Jesus called professional fishermen Simon and Andrew to become fishers of men, and later James and John. This must be seen in the context of the ancient metaphor and Jesus' own call to repentance. We have all done wrongs. The call to repentance is a call to a change of heart about how we treat each other and our relationship with God. Our decision is either for salvation or judgment. The exaggerated nature of the professional fishermen's response is indicative of their sense of urgency. Not all of us are called to missionary work. However, the lesson still applies. All other responsibilities pale into insignificance in comparison to the decision to allow God and his kingdom into our lives.
Are those fish bumper stickers, used by Christians, pagan? Let us not listen to fictitious urban legends which claim silly things. Let us learn to know what we are talking about. We have all believed false ideas masquerading as truth. It’s time we learn the truth about the fish. Christians call this the ichthus from the Greek word for fish. It simply means that we are one of the fish caught by the fishers of men as Jesus commanded Simon and Andrew in Mark 1:16-20. It also symbolizes the good fish who will be chosen for eternity with God from the parable in Matthew 13. Ichthus is also a string of Greek abbreviations: I (from the Greek word for Jesus) + ch (Christ) + th (God) + u/y (Son) + s (Savior). The fish symbol is one of Christianity's oldest.
In Mark’s version of Jesus’ ministry, the first public words out of his mouth were, “The time has come!” (Mark 1:14-20) Some translations render that as the time is fulfilled or simply put, “Time’s up!” (the Message). This goes against the idea that the kingdom of heaven is entirely future, after this life is over. The fact is that the time for God’s rule is both now and in the future. Parables such as the mustard seed and leaven indicate a reign of God that grows. If it grows, it exists now as well as in the future. The words repent and believe are said in a sense that something is present with us now, not to come over 2,000 years later. In response to that kingdom call, the disciples immediately left their nets. The time has come!
In Mark 1:14-20 Jesus said that the kingdom of God has come near. The word reign is sometimes preferred to kingdom, not just to bow to gender sensitivities or other possibly suspect motives, but for good reasons. The word kingdom carries with it connotations of a small elite class that abuses and makes capital of the majority. Such “royalty” is totally foreign to the sovereignty of God. Words like reign or dominion help us understand that the kingdom of God is not necessarily understood by this world’s political terms. Others prefer to use the original Greek word basileia but using specialized jargon is useless for helping the average person understand God’s government. We enter that reign of God when we do God’s will (Matthew 7:21). It grows as more people submit to God’s dominion now and for eternity.
Jesus preached repentance (Mark 1:14-20). Louw and Nida define it as the “result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness.” Friberg explains that it means to “change ones mind.” UBS calls it a “change of heart.” Repentance is not penance. Penance is restitution. A desire to set things right is good but no deeds can pay for our sins. The word penance and modern definitions of repentance which have been derived from it such as claiming that repentance is a “change of direction” do injustice to the concept of grace. Even John the baptizer recognized that any such change of life was not repentance itself but rather fruits of it (Matthew 3:8). We don’t perform to earn grace, but we do good deeds in gratitude for grace freely given by God. (Louw-Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. 1988. United Bible Societies. Friberg.; Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. 2005. Trafford Publishing. Newman, Barclay.; UBS Greek New Testament. 1966. United Bible Societies.; http://www.metanoiaministries.org/Historical.html)
Jesus encouraged people to believe (Mark 1:14-20). Some bigots think that is mindless belief. In the original language belief is not a mindless activity engaged in by intellectually inferior, uneducated people. It is an intellectual evaluation. It means to be persuaded of and have confidence in the Gospel. It is a religious faith. It is a saving faith. It is not divorced from intellect. Contrary to many prejudices against those who believe in Jesus, his Great Commandment includes loving God with our minds. Belief can be either unthinking or thoughtful. The kind of belief that Jesus encouraged was to be thought through deeply not just rushed into without using the mind. Because none of us has access to all knowledge, all human belief is faith based upon best available knowledge. Belief in the Gospel is a reasonable, intellectual conclusion. (Friberg. Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. 2005. Trafford Publishing. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/belief/)
A fad today claims that religion and Jesus’ teachings are two different things. It defines religion differently than the Bible does (James 1:26-27) where it is simply a translation of a word meaning worship or ceremony. It is a neutral word which needs more explanation in a sentence to separate good from bad religion. Defining all religion as against Jesus is ignorance of the word’s meaning. It is part of a modern fad of interpreting the Bible by human whim rather than serious study, blaming the Holy Spirit for fanciful modern inspiration and ignoring his inspiration throughout Christian history. When Jesus announced that the reign of God is at hand (Mark 1:14-20), he was not speaking of a kingdom of this world, but ‘the nature of true religion, here termed by our Lord, "the kingdom of God."’ (Wesley, John. ed. by Thomas Jackson. Sermons on Several Occasions, The Way to the Kingdom, Sermon 7. 1872. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library)
Religion and Jesus’ teachings are not two different things as some falsely claim. The religion of Jesus Christ and that taught by human tradition may sometimes be two different things (Galatians 1:13-14). Jesus taught “true religion,” not “mere outside religion” but “religion of the heart.” His religion is a “participation of the divine nature.” That is where repentance finds its root, in a change of heart which results in outward good works. When hearts are void of repentance, then any ceremonies become empty religion. Ceremonies are not wrong. Jesus instituted the bread and wine, which are very important ceremonies of his religion. However, even that is empty religion if not accompanied by a change of heart. That is why the first words from Jesus in regard to the realm of God were for people to repent (Mark 1:14-20). (Wesley, John. ed. by Thomas Jackson. Sermons on Several Occasions, Preface, First Series, Consisting of Fifty-Three Discourses and Sermon 3, Awake, Thou That Sleepest. 1872. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library)
Is repentance negative or positive? Jesus did not use it in the negative sense of turning away from sin or changing our ways, but positively in turning to the Gospel. Sinners repent but the negative phrase “repent of sins” is not to be found in the Gospels. Repentance comes from two Greek words, “meta” meaning after or beyond or even outside, and “nous” meaning thought or reason. So “metanoia” or repentance is a life-changing afterthought, rethinking after we have sinned. Thinking outside the box and thinking outside of one’s self are akin to repentance. What did Jesus ask us to think about? He did not say “repent of sins.” Rather, he asked us to “REPENT AND BELIEVE” the Gospel, to change our minds and think in a positive direction. That positive direction is belief in the Gospel (Mark 1:14-20).
When Philip invited Nathaniel to come and see Jesus (John 1:43-51), his encounter was a life-changing epiphany. Jesus revealed something simple about his previous activity and immediately Nathaniel realized that he was talking to the Son of God, the king of Israel. Those illuminating moments of the divine are magnificent. Many people encounter God in everyday events, but quickly pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move on as if nothing happened. However, epiphanies are important moments not to be so easily dismissed. It is precisely at those times that we realize what are the deeper, important things of life, and the nature of reality beyond what our physical senses perceive. An epiphany is like when the background noise of this world’s distractions suddenly fades to nothing and the only sound left is the still, quiet voice of God.
When Philip told Nathaniel that they had found the one Moses wrote about in the law (John 1:43-51), Nathaniel’s initial reaction was disbelief. We may react in similar fashion today. Can anything good come out of Mexico, Maine or Mumbai? Our prejudices blind us to finding Jesus. It may not be geographical prejudice. It may be linguistic, someone with a different accent or grammar. It may be racial, someone of a different ethnic group or skin color. It may be denominational, someone of a different church background. It may be educational, someone of a different educational level or field. Bigotry is not logical, but it is built within all of us, and it prevents us from finding Jesus. Mother Teresa once said that the dying, the cripple, the mental, the unwanted, the unloved they are Jesus in disguise. 
When Jesus found Philip he had a simple message (John 1:43-51), “Follow me!” That is the same message that Jesus gives to us today. The Christian journey is filled with mixed messages: “Follow a man! Follow a woman! Follow the rules! Follow the traditions! Follow the discipline! Follow the confession! Follow the whims! Follow the fads!” Yet none of those things defines Christianity. When we find Jesus, we are not satisfied with following him. So, we invent rules that neither Jesus nor the Apostles did and we ignore the things that Jesus taught. We follow our egos and worship our own ideas instead of the Christianity of Jesus. This passage contains one of the simplest and most profound definitions of what Christianity is all about. Let’s remember those important words that Jesus said when he found Philip, “Follow me!”
When Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, God was very angry with them (Numbers 12:1-9). Blinded by their criticisms, they failed to find God behind his servant. When David had the opportunity to avenge himself against Saul’s persecution, he refused because he found God in the picture. He said that he would not lift his hand against God’s anointed (1 Samuel 26:22-24). When Ananias and Sapphira lied to church leaders about their offering, they only saw people (Acts 5:1-10). They did not find Jesus in the picture. When people killed Jesus and the prophets, they did not acknowledge the presence of God (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Philip found Jesus (John 1:43-51) and became a true disciple. Like Nathanial, have we found the Son of God, the king of Israel, or have we only found faulty people?
When Philip found Jesus (John 1:43-51) he told Nathanael who initially scoffed. Philip then invited him to come and see. When we tell people about our faith they sometimes scoff. Philip set a good example. He did not try to argue with Nathanael, but simply invited him to come and see for himself. That’s a great way to handle scoffers. Ultimately people must see Jesus to come to faith. Our local church has strengths. We are a praying, compassionate and giving church. We put on great pot luck meals. But, ultimately unless people find Jesus among us, they have not found the purpose behind it all. Like Nathanael, when people come and see Jesus in our midst, then they find faith. That’s the same invitation that Jesus also made to two disciples of John the baptizer, come and see.
The invitation to come and see (John 1:43-51) is non-threatening. It is not an argument. It is not applying pressure or any kind of manipulation. Why are so many of us afraid to offer such a simple invitation? When people are tired of this world and its false advertising, let’s invite them to come and see Jesus. When people are weary and heavily laden with the consequences of wrong decisions, let’s invite them to come and see Jesus. When people are beset with every kind of worry and anxiety, let’s invite them to come and see Jesus. When people are tired of false religion, let’s invite them to come and see Jesus. Not once did Jesus’ disciples ask if others had given their heart to the Lord or where they would spend eternity. They simply made a non-threatening invitation.
Jesus and his disciples did not make altar calls. Charles Finney popularized them in the 1800’s. In defense of the altar call  Steve Deneff quoted Charles Spurgeon, who did not use altar calls. He criticized churches which no longer have altar calls as watering down the Gospel. Does he promote human techniques and also criticize Jesus? Deneff claims that altar calls build an accountable community via testimony and confession. Are we more righteous than Jesus? Why not follow Jesus’ example? Altar calls are not a condition of salvation. They can cause false confessions manipulated by hype. They can be misused to promote a preacher more than Jesus. They are something seen, but faith is the evidence of things not seen. What did Jesus' disciples do? They often issued a simple invitation to come and see Jesus (John 1:43-51).
Baptize literally means "to dip" but is used in the Bible in several nonliteral ways like passing through the Red Sea dry shod (1 Corinthians 10:2), washing dishes (Mark 7:4), overwhelmed with calamity like the cross (Mark 10:38-39), ceremonial washings by sprinkling (Hebrews 9:9-14), and an outpouring or large bestowal (Matthew 3:11). What do following Jesus and a life baptized in the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:4-11) mean? Could it include the "baptism" of suffering and death which Jesus experienced? The cross is as Christians understand it, good news indeed for God's anointed, the Son of God. If we want to follow Jesus, make sure we “look good on wood.” A commercialized Christmas hides the real cost of following the baby who would be born. Advent prepares the way that will lead to the cross.
Being baptized with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:4-11) brings a different way of life, the way of the cross. Much of today’s politics is about selfishness. We don’t want to make sure the poor have health care because we are selfish. The super rich block any legislation that requires them to pay more in taxes, because they are selfish. We don’t want to be merciful towards illegal aliens because we are selfish. Countries with universal health care pay much less than Americans do for health care. On average more foreigners start businesses and create more jobs than native born citizens. In the 50’s-70’s requiring the super rich to pay more in taxes caused a resurgence of the middle class. Selfishness hurts a nation. Jesus taught us that self-sacrifice benefits everyone. Living the way of the cross is good news.