Although the other Gospel writers place the arrest of John the Baptist much later, Mark starts his account of Jesus’s ministry after John had been put in prison. On hearing about the arrest of John, Jesus proclaims to His followers that the time has come. The political leaders of Israel were cognizant of the role that the chief priests, Rabbis and even prophets played in keeping the peace. Throughout the Gospel, we read how the Pharisees wanted to prevent an uprising, the very reason they gave to put Jesus on the cross. But the imprisonment of John, a prominent prophet who had a lot of followers from the Judean countryside meant that the government officials were ready to capture and execute the previously protected group of the Jewish leaders. According to them Jesus also fell into that group and coupled with the fact that He was travelling with anarchists within His disciples, made it easier for them to execute Him. This would still happen a couple of years later but Jesus knowing all this told His disciples beforehand.
The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!Mark 1:15
Jesus started His ministry in the northern region of Galilee and slowly would move southwards as He would frequent Jerusalem and its neighbouring towns later on. His first recorded disciples were also from this region from a town called Bethsaida. Mark does not mention the various attempts Jesus made in recruiting Peter but only records the last instance where he and his brother Andrew seemingly left their father’s boat immediately and followed Him. Now that we have the other Gospels, we know that Peter needed a lot of follow up from Jesus, but since Peter controls the narrative of his sermons, he would have highlighted only the final time of asking, which was picked up by Mark in his book.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.Mark 1:17-18
Our lives before we accepted Jesus would have been worthless as we cheated and deceived our Maker, giving excuses to not come near Him. It has happened to all of us and even the disciples who were with Him for almost three years. There is no point in hiding our past and acting that we made it across the shore on our own. Even today pastors control the narratives of their encounters with God and do not let their audience know the whole truth so that the people feel like they can’t walk in their shoes. The other gospel writers showed us the real state of affairs and how much Jesus was involved in constantly building up His disciples. In hiding our weakness, we sometimes gloss over the wondrous works our Father did for us in the past that made us become who we are today. Peter became the rock on which Christ built His church because of the constant support he received from Him and not on his own.
From Bethsaida, Jesus and His disciples travelled westwards, to the neighbouring town of Capernaum where He started teaching in a synagogue. Everyone who heard Jesus’s words, immediately realised that His message was unlike anything that they had heard before. Like a professor who teaches from his/her own book, will speak with the conviction that others can only try and emulate, similarly, Jesus spoke with an authority that could not be gained by any teachings of this world but as the author of the Scripture, His authority was paramount. What they witnessed next would shock the very core of their beliefs as a man who was being tormented by an impure spirit started addressing Jesus.
“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”Mark 1:24
Perhaps a common sight during the time of Acts of the Apostles or even our present-day churches but such scenes were not seen or heard before Jesus’s time, least of all in the non-religious northern towns of Galilee. Perhaps that is why they later started claiming that Jesus is also one with the evil spirit, beelzebub (Mark 3). Jesus commanded the spirit to be silent and to come out of the poor man. He did not waste time in hearing the testimony of any man (John 2:24-25) and was certainly not going to let the impure spirit reveal what He wanted people to learn on their own. In all of Jesus’s encounters, we see one thing common that they all knew the authority He possessed and the purpose of His mission on earth. They did not dare defy Him as they knew who had come among them, but the same cannot be said about the Jews who could not recognise their Messiah sent to save them.
News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.Mark 1:28
Leaving the synagogue, Jesus visited the house of the brothers, Andrew and Simon as Simon’s mother-in-law had taken ill. Jesus simply helped her up and the fever left her immediately. She sprang up with no signs of fatigue and started waiting on the guests at her house. It was almost as if the disciples had found their own personal family doctor who made house calls. The whole town gathered at their house expecting to receive the same instant relief from their troubles.
Early next morning, while it was still dark out, Jesus got up and left the house of His disciples and went to a solitary place to spend time with His Father. The chaos and commotion of the previous day meant that He was thronged by the crowds for what they supposedly thought was His purpose. Jesus did not make His plans considering any of His new fans but only consulted God to guide His steps. Sometimes we are swept away by the importance this world places on us that we forget the most vital part of our journey on this earth. Busy schedules, work-life imbalance, family responsibilities and even our lethargies all keep us from spending quiet time with God that our spirit requires. Even though He would be thronged by crowds in every village, Jesus would still find a way to connect with His Father. Do we make time for our spiritual connects with our Father or is He just an afterthought for us, a prayer we recite at the start and end of our days, if at all?
When the disciples came looking for Jesus, they informed their rabbi that the people were searching for Him. The disciples perhaps monopolised His time by asking him to heal their townspeople. People will always be in need of the doctor, but Jesus knew that His purpose was much greater and He refused to go back with them.
“Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”Mark 1:38
One day a man with a certain skin disease came to Jesus and begged for healing. He fell on his knees and asked
“If you are willing, you can make me clean.Mark 1:40
The use of the word indignant is still debated as many manuscripts go in another way. But if Jesus was indignant at this man who was begging for healing from his skin disease, it would perhaps be for the same reason he was angry at the man who came for the healing of his demon-possessed son (Mark 9). Doubt is a deterrent to our healing as much as Faith is a starter. When we doubt that Jesus does not want to heal us or even care for us, we reduce our relationship with Him to the level of a disgruntled employee. We have made our relationship with God transactional and like an employee who hands in their notice when they feel that they are not valued by the company, we do the same with our Maker and leave Him without any notice.
Jesus did heal the man of his disease and asked him to show himself to the local priest. The priests were in charge of barring the entry of people suffering from possible contagious diseases through the city gates. But instead, the man started proclaiming about the miracle he had received from Jesus. Our overzealousness sometimes clouds our judgement as we are not able to see the wrong we are doing while trying to be in the right. Jesus was not favoured by the religious leaders and once they found out that it was He who had healed this man, they would refuse to certify him as that would mean certifying Jesus. On the other hand, the man’s disobedience meant that Jesus could no longer enter the towns as more and more started flocking to Him to derive healing. Even with our testimonies, we can create hurdles for God’s work. We want to testify about what He has done for us, but we don’t let Him guide our words and actions. If we really want to work for God, we must let Him take complete control and not be backseat drivers.
V15: After John’s arrest why did Jesus say that the time had come?
V35: Why did Jesus withdraw himself to secluded places?
V41: Why was Jesus indignant at the sick man’s request?