Sermon: Mark 1:29-39

 

Do you think you can keep a secret? I have an important secret. A secret so powerful that it will change your life forever. Can you keep a secret? You probably already know this secret, but I want to make sure you know it. Really know it. Can you keep a secret?

Here’s the secret.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

It’s a good secret isn’t it?

Do you know it? I mean really know it?

Mark shares this secret at the start of his gospel account. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1). Mark wants to make sure you know this secret too.

There is general agreement that Mark is the earliest of the four gospel accounts. It bears so many similarities to Matthew and Luke that scholars also agree that those other authors used Mark as a source for their own accounts. More recently, it’s been suggested that Mark wasn’t written to be read but rather to be performed. That makes sense given only a few people were actually able to read anyway. Mark is short, sharp, and to the point. He doesn’t waste words or repeat himself. There’s no long genealogy like Matthew or story of Jesus’ birth like Luke. He just gets straight into it. In fact, if we only had Mark’s gospel to rely on for a timeline, from baptism to death we have about 3 weeks of Jesus’ life.

Mark writes, though, not to give you information about Jesus but for transformation through Jesus. He’s told you, his audience, his secret – Jesus Christ is the Son of God – but what are you going to do with it?

What do the characters in the performance do with it? Early on in the gospel Mark points in the direction of transformation when he shares his first words of Jesus; “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (1:15) The good news. The secret. Repent. Believe. Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Two weeks ago, Bob preached on the calling of the first disciples. Do you remember it? How remarkable it is that Jesus calls out to these two sets of brothers “follow me” and they all just left their jobs and livelihoods and followed Jesus. They must have known the secret, right? This scene of immediate faithful response seems to suggest that the disciples know that Jesus is the Son of God. I mean really know it, right?

Then last week Grace preached on the next passage. Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum. Grace shared an amazing story about her sister’s transformation back in China. Do you remember? In the passage from last week, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and a demon-possessed man cries out in the middle of the service. Do you recall what he said? “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

“I know who you are.” (1:24)

Hang on a minute. How does the demon know who Jesus is? And the demon is right! This is a secret. The demon isn’t meant to know this.

“Be silent, and come out of him” (1:25)

The disciples, they know too right? Surely?

“What is this?” (1:28) they ask. They don’t get it. That confidence, the bravado they had when they leapt out of the boat at the moment of Jesus’ call… it’s gone. They have no idea what’s going on.

But we know. Mark’s told us. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That’s why he can cast out demons. That’s why his teaching has authority.

We’ve had a week between two readings but in reality it’s the same day. As soon as Jesus and the disciples leave the synagogue they go to Peter’s house. Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. More likely that she’s sick with worry. She’s just found out that her son-in-law left his perfectly good job to go and follow some rabbi from Nazareth! How will he provide for his family… including her? The usual reason for a mother-in-law to be living at her daughter and son-in-law’s house was because (a) she was a widow, (b) she didn’t have a son, and (c) she was poor. What was Peter thinking?

But that random rabbi from Nazareth heals her. She gets up and serves. And it’s still the Sabbath.

Now, do you know those moments in TV shows or movies where there’s a piece of information given near the beginning that only later appears to be important. That’s called “foreshadowing.” In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, Andy and Red are in prison and Red is the guy that gets stuff from the outside for people. Andy asks for a rock hammer. Red, expresses concern about Andy using the rock hammer to escape the prison. Andy laughs at the suggestion since a rock hammer is only about the six or seven inches long. When Red later sees the rock hammer, he jokes that it would take a man 600 years to tunnel under the walls with one of those hammers. Of course, if you know the movie, the rock hammer is exactly the thing Andy uses to escape from the prison, even though it didn’t take him quite as long as 600 years. That’s called foreshadowing – subtly disclosing a piece of information that seems irrelevant at the time but later will become really important to the plot. Jesus heals on the Sabbath and Peter’s mother-in-law works on the Sabbath. Foreshadowing.

Just to emphasise this a little more, the next scene change begins with “That evening, at sunset…” (1:32). Sunset marks the end of Sabbath. Everyone else in town (and Mark makes the point of saying it’s everyone else in town), they know that you don’t work on the Sabbath. They come to be healed once the Sabbath is over.

Again, more demon-possessed people are brought to Jesus to be healed, and Jesus casts out many of them. But, “he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” (1:34).

They knew him. They knew the secret. But they’re not allowed to tell anyone. Why not?

Mark hints at the answer to that question a few verses later. Early in the morning, after a huge night before with the whole town bringing their sick to be healed, Jesus goes out to a solitary place to pray. The disciples hunt for him. They have no idea where he is. When they do find him they say “Everyone is searching for you” (1:37).

Jesus! You’re famous! You’re a celebrity! Everyone wants to know who you are!

How does Jesus respond? “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came to do.” (1:38) It’s not about fame. It’s about the kingdom of God. Repent. Believe. For Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Do you believe? Do you know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Really, really know it? Repent. Believe. For Jesus Christ is the Son of God.


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