Jesus Begins Healing and Casts out Demons

Matthew 8:14–17; Mark 1:21–34; Luke 4:31–41

One emphasis of Mark’s is the authority of Jesus (Mark 1:22, 27; cf. 2:10; 3:15; 6:7; 11:28–33). He teaches as one with authority, and the response is surprise and wonder, but not faith. His authority is that he did not cite a rabbi or some tradition when he taught but spoke as an arbiter. While in the synagogue, Jesus exorcised a demon (v. 27). He set out to cleanse the unholiness on a day God intended to be holy. Jesus’ manner of exorcism and the words he used were similar to Jewish exorcists (e.g., “rebuked” and “muzzled”), yet he didn’t use incantations as mentioned in the pseudepigraphical book, Testament of Solomon. Josephus attributed Jewish exorcism to Solomon and even said such practices were customary (Antiq. 8.45–49). Since Jewish exorcists invoked magical incantations (cf. Test. Sol.), Jesus simply commanded, and he obeyed. 

The genesis of demons is an interesting one. Angels were created by God (Psalm 148:1–5), and they have free moral agency (Psalm 103:20–21; Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4). Some of these angels did in their outcast status changed the course of events that eventually birthed demons (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4). The text used to determine this was Genesis 6:1–4. This passage spoke to the ancient audience of the comingling between the divine and earthly figures—something that violated God’s creative purposes and was thus sinful. In the Greek Old Testament, this passage has in the place of “sons of God,” “angels” in Genesis 6:2. In place of Nephilim (“fallen ones”), the Septuagint has “Giants” in Genesis 6:4. Therefore, the Old Testament of the early church believed this passage to speak regarding fallen angels who had copulated with women and produced as offspring a race of Giants. Because of the commingling of earthly and divine beings, God would eventually judge the earth and destroy it by the flood due to the subsequent corruption that arose because of the intermingling of angels and humans.

However, if God were to destroy all except Noah and his family by flood, one might assume that the flood would destroy the offspring of angels and women (Giants), ending the matter. The case is that the disembodied spirits of the offspring (Giants) produced by angels and women became what we regard today as “demons.” As seen in the New Testament, these demons often sought to possess bodies to enjoy once more the pleasures of the flesh that brought God’s judgment on the earth in the days of Noah. Furthermore, we also read about Giants post-flood (Numbers 13:33), which suggests that some survived.

Jesus obtains notoriety from the crowds but not faith (v. 28). This wonder continues throughout the ministry of Jesus. So many just aren’t sure what to make of him, and we have the benefit of hindsight so much that we cannot fathom how they were so confused. His hushing of the demons may have to do with him not wanting them to be the ones to disclose who he is. After all, if it’s coming from a demon, people may look to them in a way he doesn’t want. Angel worship, or angel religion, may have been an issue (Col. 2:18; cf. 1 Cor. 11:10; 1 Tim. 4:1). 

After this, they go, and Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. She begins to serve him, and crowds gather to be healed by him at sunset when Sabbath prohibitions end (v. 32). Matthew attaches this to fulfilling the prophecy about Jesus (Matt. 8:17). The English rendering from Isiah 53:4 reads, “griefs” and “sorrows,” which often leads us to equate that with struggles and sins, or something along those lines. It would be better translated as “sicknesses” and “pains,” which is more faithful to Matthew’s rendering and the English derived from it. Here on out, Jesus is noted as having healed multitudes. 

The Invitation to Follow Jesus

Matthew 4:13–22; Mark 1:16–20; Luke 5:1–11

Matthew’s and Mark’s passages are calling of the disciples, while Luke’s details what occurs immediately after they join Jesus. He had just read Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, and the crowds, not liking what he said, sought to kill him. Jesus, however, eluded them and left Nazareth and went to Capernaum. Capernaum was a city in the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, and there was a large fishing industry in this city and the others surrounding the sea. Here on out, Jesus makes Capernaum his base of operations (cf. Matt. 9:1). 

Matthew ties Jesus’ location to a prophecy from Isaiah (Matt. 4:13–16; cf. Is. 9:1–2). The prophecy envisioned when the Assyrians threw the region into darkness by their conquest (721 BC), but that light would come to it once more. This was why Jesus was here. 

Nazareth was in Zebulun and Capernaum was in Naphtali, both of which were in the territory of Galilee. To the west, north, and east, Galilee was surrounded by non-Jewish populations, hence “Galilee of the Gentiles.” It also came under Gentile influences, which was why many pious Jews didn’t regard the area very well. Interesting that Jesus went to a lowly regarded area to draft disciples. 

Jesus begins preaching the message of John the Baptist (Matt. 4:17). As he walks by the sea, he calls Simon and Andrew and James and John (Matt. 4:18–22; Mark 1:16–10). This wasn’t their first meeting: they were with him after his baptism and when he turned water into wine. Rabbis were typically sought after by students, and the rabbis determined who’d they take on as a disciple. Here, however, Jesus chooses his own, something out of the norm (cf. John 15:16). Not taking for granted the scene, understanding what a disciple was is important. A disciple was not only a student but a follower. They mimicked their rabbi in all that he did. When Jesus gave his great commission to make disciples, he told them to make little Jesuses of all the nations.  

The next event occurred in the morning after a night of fishing (Luke 5:5); by this time, Jesus’ popularity had swelled to proportions, making teaching difficult because the crowd was pressing in on him. Jesus entered Simon Peter’s boat and set out so that he could be heard. The way the lake is situated is akin to an amphitheater, so Christ setting out gave him enough distance to be heard while the people crowded. The acoustics in this area are ideal for such an address.

Jesus later asks Peter to cast his nets after an unsuccessful night of fishing (Luke 5:4). Fishing entailed not only the use of nets (Luke 5:2, 4) but also a spear (Job 41:7) and fishhook (Job 41:1; Amos 4:2). Ezekiel prophesied the spread of the Gospel in fishing imagery(47:8–10). Peter’s asking the Lord to depart from him was not only Peter’s sensing the holiness and personhood of Jesus, but it was also a manifestation of his guilt (Luke 5:8). One reason Peter might have wanted Jesus to depart was the belief of his ancestors that no one can look upon God without incurring his wrath (Exod. 20:19; Judg. 13:22; 1 Sam. 6:20). Luke solidifies that it was at this point that they left everything to follow Christ (Luke 5:11).

Jesus in the Synagogue

John 4:43–54; Luke 4:16–30

Leaving Samaria, Jesus ventures to Galilee. John makes a preliminary note in verse 44, which we later see in Luke’s passage under this study. While in Cana, where he performed his first miracle, a father from Capernaum came seeking healing for his son. He’s desperate because of the dire nature of his son’s health (v. 47). This father had traveled fifteen miles, about a day’s journey, uphill. The father didn’t make it back the same day, but his servants met him, and the nobleman inquired about when his son became well (vv. 49–53). 

Luke 4:14–16 is a year, filled in by information from John 1:29–4:54. Since Jesus had time to make an impact within a year, his popularity no doubt grew. So when he returned to his hometown to participate in the synagogue meeting by reading from the prophets and preaching, he would have likely been given attention to see what he would say and do.

From this sketching of the synagogue meeting and other passages, we notice how closely the early church worship mirrored the synagogue meetings. The synagogue meetings were not for worship per se but religious instruction. Synagogues were like an institute of religious education (Contra Apion 2.7; Mosis 3.27), and synagogue worship negates the place of the temple in the life of the Jew. The temple was where worship was rendered, though one might argue that common prayers in the synagogue were a sort of devotion.

There were at least two readings in a synagogue meeting—one from the Law and the other from the prophets (Megillah 4.1–5). The latter was followed by the ruler of the synagogue asking if anyone had a message after their reading (Acts 13:15; 15:21). The Law was read on a liturgical calendar in its entirety in three years (Megillah 29b). Had a priest or Levite been present, they would have been given preference over anyone reading (Gittin 5.8), so Jesus’ reading infers the absence of both. The reading of a prophetic book was the meeting’s conclusion, known as the haftarah. Since this portion of the reading was not preselected, the reader, at their discretion, could select the passage to read (Megillah 4.4).

For Jesus to unravel the scroll to Isaiah, to read this small portion from it, to roll it back up and hand it to the attendant likely took some time because the Jews were respectful in their handling of the Scriptures. After his reading followed a sermon that explained the text and applied it (cf. Luke 4:31–33; 6:6), and afterward, Jesus related this reading to the ministry of Elijah. However, the message and point of this relation appear after they question who Jesus’ father was. The fact that stung the audience was that Elijah, like Jesus, was also sent to Gentiles to work miracles when the people of God refused to receive them. This enraged the audience, who likely anticipated the Messiah, but they couldn’t believe his report because they knew him as Joseph’s son and had seen him grow among them.

When Jesus read from Isaiah, one passage Jesus noted was the one that read, “…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This phrase indicates that the year in which Jesus spoke was the year of Jubilee (cf. Lev. 25:8–17, 50–54; Deut. 31:9–13). During the year of Jubilee, whoever sold themselves as enslaved people or was indebted was released from their debts and freed. If someone lost land as surety, it was returned. Imagine a year where all was forgiven. That’s the year of Jubilee, and it is after this model of the year of Jubilee that chapter seven bankruptcies are modeled.

However, that doesn’t mean that a person was free to rack up as much debt as possible so that it could be forgiven in seven years. No, those usually indebted were in that position because they had to borrow to survive and not because they tried to save the cars, boats, and ways of life to which they became accustomed. This year was for those who found themselves in an unfortunate position of indebtedness—a position in which all Christians find themselves (cf. Matt. 18:23–35). Jubilee was meant to avoid oppression and social classes. On this year, every man was square with one another. It was in this year that Jesus begins healing on the Sabbath—a move that would later draw the ire of the religious leaders of his day. 

The Woman at the Well

John 4:5–42

Some thirty-four miles from Jerusalem, Jesus arrives in Sychar (Shechem; Josh. 24.32). John often uses the term polin (“city”) to indicate a small town, so we’re not in a big metropolis. At noon, he sat by the well when a Samaritan woman came to draw from the well. Water drawing usually occurs in the morning or evening and by a group of women (Gen. 24:11; Exod. 2:15–16). So drawing water alone may reflect her story—that she’s been married multiple times (John 4:18). Jesus asks for a drink at noon, and he asks for a drink upon the cross (John 19:28). 

John is careful to mention that Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. They were a race who sat between being Jew and Gentile, descending from Assyrians and Israelites. In Jesus’ time, Shechem was regarded as the “city of senseless” (T. Levi 7.2). Between AD 6–9, the Samaritans desecrated the temple on the eve of Passover: “It was customary for the priests to open the temple gates just after midnight. … some of the Samaritans came privately into Jerusalem, and thew about dead men’s bodies in the cloisters; on which account the Jews afterward excluded them from the temple” (Jos., Ant. 18.2.2). 

What’s later evident is the Holy Spirit is the living water of which Jesus speaks (John 7:37–39). Like Nicodemus, the woman takes him literally, however. The transition from the discussion about water to her husband is a little odd (vv. 15–16). It’s not a natural conversation progression, but men had met their wives at wells, such as Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 24:17; 29:10). There’s no technical term in Greek for “husband.” However, when it’s used as possessive, it’s implied. Assuming that “husband” is the better translation reminds us that rabbis disapproved of more than three marriages, even in the case of death (b. Yebam. 64b). If the translation is to be “man,” then she’s a serial fornicator. Either way, she’s living with one who isn’t even hers. 

Jesus’ point in asking this question may have been to reveal that he was a prophet, to which she responds (v. 19). She changes the conversation to their differences in worship location. Abraham and Jacob built altars in the region (Gen. 12:7; 33:20), and Mount Gerizim was where Moses blessed the Israelites (Deut. 11:29; 27:12). The dispute, however, has been ongoing for centuries. Worship won’t be tied to a location but to a person. Preachers have often stated that the spirit of worship is the mind and heart we bring to it, while the truth is doing what is commanded. John likely wouldn’t have agreed with that interpretation. Throughout his gospel, Jesus is the person who is associated with spirit and truth, as is belief in him (1:14, 17, 33; 3:5–8; 6:63; et. al.). When we worship through Christ (cf. Heb. 8:1–2), we worship in spirit and truth.

Samaritan belief in Messiah was not so much royal as he was to be instructive. Jesus discloses that he is the one of which she speaks. When the disciples return, they find Jesus speaking with this woman and are surprised. The surprise was that he was a) speaking with a woman and b) that she was Samaritan. Something Jesus often does is break through barriers by which people usually live. He disabuses us of our prejudices. He challenges our feelings on things. This woman left to bring others to Jesus while his disciples urged him to eat. As the people approach him because of the woman’s testimony, Jesus likens them to a field ready for harvest. The very people the disciples may have avoided were those they spent two days among sharing the good news. Later, Jesus commands his apostles to begin in Jerusalem and proceed to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  

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