We’ve reached a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. After five back-to-back conflicts with the Pharisees, Jesus withdraws to the sea of Galilee, most likely because of the Pharisees’ plot to kill Him. If His disciples hoped for a quiet oceanside retreat to rest, they would be disappointed.
The Crowds, The Sick, And The Demons
North, South, East, And West
Jesus’ fame had grown too large for Him to find solitude. Verses 7 and 8 tell us a large crowd followed Him from “Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon.” If we look at a map, we’ll see that the crowds came from every direction, including the territory of the Gentiles. Mark includes this detail to help us understand that Jesus’ message and kingdom includes all people, not just the Jews.
The crowds have grown so large that they threaten to become a mob. Mark notes that the disciples had a small boat ready for Jesus so that the crowd wouldn’t “crush Him” (v. 9). While Jesus focuses on preaching, the crowd seems mostly interested in the physical miracles He can perform. They are much more interested in the healing of their immediate circumstances than in the message Jesus has come to preach.
Healing The Sick
In verse 10 we read that within the crowd, those with all kinds of diseases pressed toward Him, trying to touch Him to receive healing. Picture yourself in the sandals of Jesus and the disciples. The crowd has grown into a borderline mob. The sick (and likely contagious) threaten to overwhelm you. The ill and injured desperately want to get to Jesus after hearing story after story of His miraculous healing powers. Yet Jesus refuses to send them away. He graciously continues to heal them.
Fighting The Dark
While Jesus faces off with the Pharisees on one front and heals all manner of disease and injury on another, He is also fighting an invisible battle against the powers of darkness. Mark intentionally weaves this thread through his story. Jesus came to bring the good news and to heal the sick, but He also fought against Satan and his demons all through His earthly life.
In verse 11, we read, “whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’” Jesus silences the demons for a few possible reasons. One, He wants to control His mission and when His identity is revealed. And two, demons are not the appropriate heralds for the Messiah. Don’t miss Mark’s irony that the demons know who Jesus is while the religious leaders, who know the Scriptures, fail to recognize Him.
In what ways might we be tempted to seek Jesus’ healing in an immediate situation rather than spiritual healing? Do we value Jesus’ ability to heal over the good news He proclaimed?
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