I. Jesus came preaching.
A. The initial witness was removed when Herod arrested and eventually beheaded John the Baptist.
Details of this are told in other places (Matthew 4:12; 11:2; Mark 6:14–25; Luke 9:7–9). When Jesus heard of this action, he moved to a place far north of Jerusalem, away from Herod and the religious leaders of the Jews. He went there to preach. From those who heard him, he would begin the process of calling his disciples.
B. The Message Jesus preached – Compare Matthew 4:17.
- The gospel of God—This means that God has begun the fulfillment of his promise to pardon iniquity and provide a perfectly fit payment for transgressions (Isaiah 40:1, 2). Though we are weak and subject to destruction at any moment, the word of the Lord to grant redemption will not fail (Isaiah 40:6–8).
- The time is fulfilled—Paul wrote that “In the fulness of time, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoptions as sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5). However God determined the “fullness of time,” it had arrived in the appearance of Jesus as the son of a virgin, but now in particular in the inauguration of his public ministry and in the proclamation from his own lips that God is fulfilling his gospel.
- The kingdom of God is at hand—The book of Hebrews begins with the announcement that Jesus’ coming inaugurated the “last days” culminating in the subjection of all things to him in the company of a redeemed community. (Hebrews 1:2–4, 13, 14). Jesus’ affirmed that it is so.
- Repent. Just as John the Baptist had announced, this appearing of the Messiah would not involve the immediate subjection of all things to him but must be preceded by a work of redemption and spiritual transformation. Without repentance, there would be no kingdom. True evangelical repentance includes a turning to Christ as well as a turn from sin. This is why Peter can speak of God’s determined patience in terms of wanting “all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:10). The early church rejoiced when they heard of the response of the Gentiles saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18) Note that Peter’s message concluded with the words, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). A saving response may be referred to as repentance or faith when we are assured that the one includes the other.
- Believe the gospel. If one repents, therefore, in a way that sees sin in its true dimensions, he will yearn for the gospel of forgiveness through Christ. A true call to salvation involves both of these, for it is “a work of God’s Spirit, whereby a sinner, out of true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience” (The Baptist Catechism, question 92).
II. Jesus Calls Disciples. Jesus had been preaching in Galilee about the kingdom, repentance, and the gospel.
A. Now he isolates several men and calls them to be his followers and learn from him.
So, four fishermen, two sets of brothers, were selected as the first of those who would follow him throughout his ministry. Simon and Andrew were casting their nets and James and John were mending theirs. Their nets must be ready before the casting or the fish will slip through the tears. The mending is done that the casting will be successful. The partnership of each set of brothers was sealed, their skills in their profession were high. Luke provides greater detail of the context of this call to discipleship in Luke 5:1–11.
B. These fishermen obviously had been hearing him preach. Immediately they begin to see the eschatological importance and unrivaled knowledge and power of this one who called them.
They realized, because of the prophetic fulfillment and eternal relevance of his message, that this call supersedes in importance any earthly vocation they could pursue. When they heard his message and had seen the power of Jesus, upon the word of Jesus, both, without question, left their nets to become “fishers of men.”
III. The Kingdom of God Among us
A. He taught with authority as if he had firsthand knowledge of all the Scriptures (21, 22).
This authority came from the author of the text. Jesus knew the meaning of every text to be read and was the embodiment of the way in which it would be fulfilled (Matthew 5:11, 22, 34, 39, 44; 6:25; 7:12, 21–23, 24, 26, 29). Matthew 7:29 ends the “Sermon on the Mount” with the same words of Mark 1:22. Mark summarized the impact that Jesus’ unvarnished confidence in the meaning of the text and his authority in teaching had on the crowds who heard him.
B. He demonstrated power over demons (23–27).
- In this fallen world, Satan has been granted room and power to operate as one of the manifestations of judgment for Adam’s disobedience and our continuing transgressions. To him the entire race is in his captivity (Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19), blinded by his lies (2 Corinthians 4:4), hardened by his deceitful machinations (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10), and kept in fear by the threat of death (Hebrews 2:14, 15).
- Particularly prior to the work of Christ and his binding of the strong man by his redemptive work, Satanic activity was strikingly egregious in some cases (See 5:1–13). Jesus now confronts a case in which Satan has been let loose in all his deceitful scheming in his ability to dominate the mental processes of a man and even his physical control.
- Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). This demon recognizes who Jesus is from the character and purity of his teaching and cries out in desperation knowing his impending doom and final consignment to eternal destruction in hell (24). He recognized Jesus as “the Holy One of God.” Jesus forbad him to speak of this, for he knew of the gross immaturity and misperceptions that people had of the work of the Messiah.
- This act of compassion and power in freeing the man from demonic control partook of the results of Christ’s redemptive work and committed him to the cross. Every work of Jesus that cut into the curse of the fall was dependent on his final act of becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). These were manifestations of unlimited power, but were much more, for unlimited power cannot make it just for a legitimate punishment to be removed. Every confrontation with and act of relief from evil showed not only power but the certainty of propitiation.
C. He healed all manner of diseases (29–34; 40–42).
We find the same dynamic in these two cases. The responses of the persons healed were strikingly different.
- Peter’s mother-in-law lived with her two sons and supposedly their families. She had a debilitating fever. Jesus healed her. Fevers come from some internal inflammation indicative of a pathological problem. Jesus knew all the organic connections that were indicated by the fever. Upon his taking her hand and raising her, the sickness left. She responded to her newly-given health by serving Jesus and his recently-chosen disciples. Again, this was not only power but redemptive compassion at work.
- Diseases and demons must bow to his command. Having healed the woman and having cast a demon out of a man in the synagogue, people from all over the city of Capernaum began to come to Peter’s house in the evening and Jesus healed them and cast out demons. Matthew 8:17 cites Isaiah 53:4 as a prophecy of Jesus’ ministry of healing. It is clear from that context that the healings presupposed the perfection of his redemptive intent in the incarnation: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Every time Jesus reverses an effect of the fall, his coming suffering is intensified.
- The healing of a leprous man gives an even deeper dive into Jesus’ willingness to shoulder the curse upon us. Leprosy is often seen as a curse for presumptuous sin and haughty disobedience (Numbers 12:9–15; 2 Kings 5:27) and its healing is peculiarly recognized as calling for a complex series of sacrifices (Leviticus 14:1–20). The man called on the willingness of Jesus to take this curse on himself, and Jesus healed him immediately. He ordered him to silence concerning the healing and instructed him to follow the sacrificial law connected with the healing of leprosy. The man did not heed Jesus’ order of silence, but he “spread the news abroad” (45). Not only did he manifest disregard for the authority and compassion of Jesus who solemnly and sternly warned him, but he greatly complicated the ability of Jesus to move about freely. The manifestations of divine power in Jesus did not diminish the real limitations of his true humanity.
IV. Prayer and preaching constituted Jesus’ method of announcing the gospel (35–39).
A. After a frenzy of activity on the previous evening, Jesus went early and alone for prayer (35).
Though his life as Son of God, eternally generated by the Father, never lacked any of the energy, essence, knowledge, or assurance implicit within the godhead, his human nature needed regular fellowship with the Father through the Spirit. Every season of prayer for Jesus was a Gethsemane, a submission to the Father’s will in light of the coming season of trial and death. His unbroken involvement in the lives of persons under the curse, his compassionate intervention in its effects on their lives, had the effect of placing the cup of wrath before him. Fellowship with the Father who assigned this redemptive work to him and gave him a people was a necessary element of his being the “Lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19).
B. Befuddled by Jesus’ disappearance, Peter and the others looked for him and, when they found him let him know that the crowd had gathered again.
So dazzling and sensational was this work of healing and conquering demons, that they could not conceive of a more useful and glorious way for him to spend the day. His response must have taken them a bit by surprise.
C. Jesus said they would go “somewhere else” and he took them to the towns nearby.
“That I may preach there also” was the reason. Preaching the gospel was more compelling and at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. In his healing, he was entering personally into his gospel labors; in his preaching he opened to his hearers the truths of divine revelation concerning the gospel. In saying, “For that is what I came for,” Jesus does not place his speaking above his dying for sinners, bearing their sin in his own body. His preaching was a necessary means of explication, so integrally related to the event itself, that one cannot benefit from the event apart from its verbal presentation. One cannot understand it apart from its verbal inspiration. Jesus explained the nature of sin and its consequences. He gave lessons on the spirituality of the law and the consequences of disobedience to it. He opened to his hearers the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 4:16–30; 24:24). He presented himself as a ransom (Mark 10:45). “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher” (Romans 10:13, 14, 17). In praying, he assured his heart, calmed his Spirit, sensed the presence and perfect will of his Father, progressed in the knowledge of the character and cost of his obedience, and “was heard because of his reverent submission, his godly fear” (Hebrews 5:7, 8). In preaching, he set forth in word form the saving truth of his person and work.
He has come, by whom all things were made.
He has come, the God we disobeyed.
A gospel of repentance he preached.
The demon-possessed and sick he reached.
The word of the Lord came from his will.
His prophecies he came to fulfill.
The gospel he preached brought him to die,
Suff’ring God’s wrath, and then set on high.
Jesus the Son sought his Father’s face.
Away from the crowd, he found a place.
But we find quiet disturbing to own;
Go to the fray and leave prayer alone.
What haughty sin and pride we invoke
When blessings of compassion provoke
A contradiction of the command.
Against his will, we prefer our stand.
When Jesus calls, leave your nets behind.
Set them down; press them out of your mind.
When he calls you to follow, then go;
Lay aside your life, come weal come woe.
His call lifts up his name and his word.
To desire aught else would be absurd.
The Giver of Life will make you true
Till he fulfills his purpose for you.