The opening chapter of the Gospel of Mark describes a Savior who wasted no time beginning His ministry.
In quick fashion, Jesus received baptism, went into the wilderness and was tempted, proclaimed the good news of God, called the sons of Zebedee to follow Him, taught in the synagogue with authority, cast out an unclean spirit from a man in the synagogue, healed Simon’s mother-in-law and cast out demons.
Early the next day, Jesus departed to a place of prayer. He immediately left the place of prayer to preach. Mark portrays Jesus as a person of action. He drove out demons and healed a leper.
Our study begins with Jesus departing to a place of prayer. If our Lord needed to pray in the context of a hectic ministry and life, how much more do we need to rise early and pray?
Jesus rose early during the darkness and went to a deserted place to be alone while He prayed. Mark focuses on the practice of Jesus’ prayer rather than the content and requests of Jesus’ prayer, yet this brief discussion of Jesus’ prayer life communicates valuable principles for prayer.
First, Jesus rose up early in the morning to pray. Second, he prayed in a solitary place away from other people. Third, Mark may provide a clue that the focus of Jesus’ prayer was the direction of His ministry.
After the prayer, Jesus said, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.” It seems that the prayer gave new directions (neighboring villages) and focus (preach) for Jesus’ ministry. Jesus then traveled in all of Galilee preaching and driving out demons. Jesus’ example of prayer regarding His ministry should challenge every believer to pray for his or her missions field and his or her unique ministry.
This short passage describes a threefold ministry of our Savior. Jesus preached, drove out demons and healed people.
A leper came to Jesus and humbly on his knees asked Jesus to cleanse him. Leprosy in the Bible is not the same as Hansen’s disease. Because of his affliction, this man was viewed as unclean and was unable to have contact with other people.
While Jesus could have spoken the words, “Be healed,” Jesus touched the man, thereby both cleansing him and restoring fellowship between the former leper and the community.
Jesus strongly admonished the former leper to follow the Old Testament provisions for an individual healed of leprosy to return to society.
A leper was literally an outsider and not allowed to be in contact with other people (Lev. 13:45–46). The social isolation may have been more harmful than the disease itself, but Jesus touched the leper to cleanse him. There is power and blessing in human touch in everyday life, and not only for those who are lepers. Jesus warned the leper to go immediately to the priest and offer what Moses commanded for cleansing as commanded in Leviticus 14.
Mark 1 portrays Jesus as the end-time ruler (ruling over demons), priest (making the leper clean) and prophet (speaking with unrivaled authority).
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida