Prepare to listen. Be still and silent in preparation to hear the Gospel. When ready, pray: I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways. (Psalm 119:15)
Read Mark 1:32-34
32That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
The story continues with Jesus’ first ‘day’ of public ministry. In Mark’s telling it’s been a full day, as Jesus moved from a public place, the Capernaum synagogue, to a private place, the home of Peter’s family. Now, at the end of the day, “the whole city was gathered around the door” (a return to the public) bringing their sick and demon possessed. I wonder how they knew Jesus could and would help them.
Two things deserve attention. First, Mark begins this story with a seemingly redundant repetition— ‘that evening, at sunset.’ Since Mark never wastes words we can assume he had a reason for repeating the time of day. Since the Jewish sabbath, a day of rest, ended at sunset, Mark has underlined that sabbath was over. Healing, which the religious leaders of Jesus’ day considered as work, was forbidden on the sabbath. (This wasn’t in the Mosaic law, but a later rigid interpretation.) The people of the city waited for the sabbath to be over before seeking Jesus for healing. Were they afraid of what their religious leaders would do if they came during the sabbath? Jesus had already ‘broken’ this rigid sabbath rule by publicly healing the demon-possessed man and privately healing Peter’s mother-in-law, yet the people still waited until it was over. Who were they afraid of? They came to Jesus, not to worship and submit to their Messiah, but because he was a miracle worker. They didn’t even know who Jesus was. They came for the ‘goodies’ and not to sign up for Jesus’ mission or even hear his message. Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom of God and all the people wanted was relief from pain and suffering in the present moment.
Second, in contrast to the ignorant city folk, the demons knew Jesus. Instead of being delighted, Jesus “would not permit” them to speak. Because they knew him, Jesus silenced them. Mark doesn’t explain this, ending his story with this somewhat ‘mystery’ demand from Jesus. We’re left wondering about it. It doesn’t make sense for us today. We know that we’ve been called to speak out about Jesus; to not be silent. We sing, ‘Go tell it on the mountains, over the hills and everywhere that Jesus Christ is Lord.’ Why did Jesus insist on silence here? We have to keep reading Mark, living with and wondering about another unexplained mystery, and unanswered question. Keep wondering as we make our way through Mark.
It’s a temptation to follow Jesus for the ‘goodies’ and not bother with the hard work of entering ever deeper into a relationship with him that will be costly. Wonder about your reasons for following Jesus. What confession do you need to make; what do you need to affirm that is good in your relationship?
Live your questions, make friends with them and perhaps you’ll eventually live into answers.
Respond to Jesus in prayer
It is easier to follow you for the ‘goodies’, Jesus and sometimes I’m tempted to take and take from you and never bother to grow in my relationship with you. Guide me today to people and places that will take me beyond the ‘goodies’ and deeper into your way. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world because you truly know Jesus.