In my last few posts on the Gospel of Mark, we looked at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. We saw how Jesus was reassured of his identity as the Son of God and the Messiah. Then, after he was tested by Satan in the wilderness, he began his ministry by proclaiming the good news (“gospel”) of the coming of the Kingdom of God.
But Jesus does not merely proclaim the Kingdom of God by his teachings, though that is a major part of his ministry. He also proclaims the Kingdom of God through his exorcisms and his healing ministry.
Remember: when Jesus is announcing that the Kingdom of God is coming near, he is not simply saying that he is about to set up the church. He is saying that the time of God’s complete rule is coming. The forces of evil and death are no longer going to have control of the world. God is going to take back that control.
When God fully reigns – that is, in the Kingdom of God – there will be no more death, illness, or demonic possession. So when Jesus heals someone or casts out a demon, he is not simply doing a good work. His works are proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God.
In the stories that we are studying this week, we will see Jesus proclaim the Kingdom of God through his teaching and through his miraculous works. But we will also see the authority of Jesus as it is shown through these actions.
The Authority of Jesus’s Teachings (1:21-22)
We are picking up with the story of Jesus at Mark 1:21. In Mark 1:16-20, Jesus had called his first disciples to follow him, so he is now traveling with a small band of followers. Galilee was a sparsely populated region. Much of the population of the area is located around the Sea of Galilee (or the Lake of Gennesaret, as Luke calls it). So much of Jesus’s ministry in Galilee is located in the villages and towns around the Sea of Galilee.
The events in Mark 1:21-35 all seem to occur on one Sabbath day in the town of Capernaum. Capernaum was one of the larger towns in Galilee. It is estimated that its population was perhaps as high as 10,000. This might seem insignificant to us, but the population of Nazareth was between 150-250 at the time. So this would have been seen as a very large town in Jesus’s time. It had its own garrison of Roman soldiers and a customs post.
The archeological excavations in Capernaum indicate that the synagogue in Capernaum would have been quite large, capable of holding a large congregation.
On a Sabbath, Jesus goes to the synagogue and begins to teach. Most likely he was already well- known by this time, since he’d been preaching around the area. So the synagogue leaders ask him to speak. (The synagogue services consisted of several prayers, hymns, and Scripture readings. During the service someone would instruct the listeners.) Though we are not told the content of Jesus’s message, we are told that the crowd was “amazed” his teaching.