We continue our series through Mark's gospel this morning, and we want to look at a study today entitled 'A Day In The Life Of The Servant' - and of course the 'Servant' is the Suffering Servant of Mark's gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We're turning to Mark chapter 1, beginning to read at verse 29, taking up where we left off. You remember that the Lord Jesus healed a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue, and all the people around were talking about this, and then we read in verse 29: "And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" - and we'll finish our reading at verse 35.
Now in the passage we read together this morning, verses 29 to 34, Mark records essentially for us a day in the life of the Servant of Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Maybe you've never thought about these verses in those terms, but if you look at the previous verses we read last week, you will see that on the morning of the Sabbath the Lord Jesus went to the synagogue to worship. Then we read this morning in verse 29, 'Forthwith', and that again is the use of 'immediately', which is common right throughout Mark's gospel; immediately when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew - that is, in the afternoon. Once the Sabbath morning service in the synagogue was over, they moved on to Simon Peter's house. What we see, first of all, at least in the first half of a day in the life of the Lord Jesus, was that He was constantly serving - that ought to be no surprise to us: the Servant of the Lord constantly serving.
Matthew Henry says of this, particularly in the light of what went on in the synagogue that morning - that was, His authority in teaching, and His authority in casting out the unclean spirit out of the possessed man - 'When Christ had done that which spread His fame throughout all parts, He did not then sit still - as some think, that they may lie in bed when their name is up - no! He continued to do good'. His whole day was filled with serving God and serving others. So, our consideration this morning is: in the afternoon, after worshipping in the synagogue, He entered Simon's house, and we see there the healing of Simon's mother-in-law. I can just imagine how Peter recounted the story - remember that this is where we believe that Mark that much of his material for his gospel, from the apostle Peter. This first-hand experience given to us by Peter through Mark is stunning.
The Bible says that the fame grew of the Lord Jesus and the wonderful works that He could do, and because of that fame this particular day in the life of the Lord ended healing many, casting out many demons. It's interesting to note just in passing that Mark, as he closes his gospel, tells us of another day in the life of our Lord Jesus. It is also noteworthy to compare this day that we read of this morning with the second day in the life of the Lord. The second day in the life of the Servant of the Lord began with His betrayal, and His arrest in the evening. Then it was followed by an night of mockery which preceded the false trial and crucifixion in the morning, and ending the whole 24 hours or so with His death and His burial in the evening again.
Now I believe that there is a reason why Mark gives us, in these two days, such material. We said in previous weeks that the key to Mark's gospel is illustrated in the text Mark 10:45, that is: 'The Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many'. That statement in Mark 10:45 is almost, if you cut it in half, a description of these two accounts that describe the two days in the life of the Lord Jesus - the one we have, the healing of Peter's mother and subsequent healings of divers diseases and casting out many devils...the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. The second full day of His betrayal, trial, crucifixion, death and burial...to give His life a ransom for many. Of course, the whole point is this: the days of our Lord Jesus were spent serving.
This day that Mark gives us, of course, is no exception, but gives us the rule of our Master's life. Now we saw last week in verses 21 to 22 the authority that there was in the teaching of Christ, the word of the Lord. Then we saw also in verses 23 to 28 that that authority was manifest and demonstrated in the authority that Christ had over the demonic spirit that was in the man. Now we will see, this morning in verses 29 to 34, that not only had the Lord authority in His words and teaching, and authority over the kingdom of darkness, but He also had authority over sickness.
Now there are two interesting points, and I don't want to take time to deal with them, but they're worthy of note before we go on any further in relation to this account. The first is this: though he said, when Peter and Andrew, and James and John left their businesses to follow the Lord Jesus, that they left all and forsook everything to be disciples of Jesus, we see in this account that Peter still had a home. Now that's interesting in that it shows us that, though they left all, in the generic sense, to follow Christ, they still had family responsibilities - and though they cast off hindrances to following the Lord Jesus, they didn't cast off everything in some kind of mad aesthetic nature, but rather they kept those things that helped the service of Jesus Christ. This is exactly how this house was used: to glorify the Lord Jesus in the healing of Peter's wife's mother. In other words, discipleship never encourages us to be irresponsible. Whether it's irresponsibility toward our possessions, or irresponsibility toward our relatives, or our everyday occupations - discipleship to Jesus never encourages irresponsibility.
Then the second thing of note is that Peter clearly was married. Therefore, the doctrine of forced celibacy - which is, of course, an invention of men - is unnatural, and we don't see it in Peter or the other apostles. It is the cause of many evils, even in our day. These are just things that are interesting in passing. But what I want us chiefly to consider today is: what can we learn from Jesus, what can we learn from the Great Physician, the Servant of the Lord in this day of His life as He heals the sick, as He casts out the demons, what is the nature of a day's service in the life of our Lord Jesus?
Well, first of all I want you to consider that the nature of His service was condescending - and I don't mean that in the negative sense of the word but, as the Lord is concerned, in its positive sense. Now think about this for a moment: how would you be, how would I be after displaying such unparalleled authority in teaching in the synagogue and in exorcising demons? If it was possible for us to do such things, how would we be after it? Well, one thing I certainly would be would be exhausted! This was a busy morning for the Lord Jesus in the synagogue, and tradition tells us that the main Sabbath meal - a bit like our Sunday lunch - came immediately after the synagogue service at the sixth hour, which was 12 noon. So Jesus was travelling, probably, to Peter's house in order to have that meal; and He would have been entitled to rest after such an exciting and exhilarating experience in the synagogue service. But after that event in the synagogue in the morning, we see that the Lord Jesus is not resting - whilst He may be exhausted and exhilarated - He still spends His afternoon serving others, spending Himself for the benefit of others.
A second way we might feel if we had a morning like this in the synagogue, is that we might find that pride is rising up in our breast. We become puffed up because of the authority of what we said and what we did. We might feel superior and worthy of recognition, honour and respect. Yet, here we see that the Lord Jesus is unmoved, He is still lowly in mind, and He thought nothing of going back from the synagogue to Simon the fisherman's house to eat. Isn't that lovely? It's a wonderful commentary on those words of Paul: 'Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God', or, 'who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself of no reputation, made himself nothing; and took upon him the form of the servant, and was made in the likeness of men'.
I don't know about you, but it takes me at least a few minutes, if not a few hours, to come down to earth after I've done something noteworthy - that's what we're like, aren't we? We are prone to pride - but who else could condescend from such heights to such depths 'immediately', as Mark would say, only the One who left the right hand of God to be the Servant of both God and men. Only He could go to a poor fisherman's house for His lunch! Further to that, we see that this miracle was of a private nature in Peter's home. The healing of his mother-in-law, the Lord didn't seem to need or seek an audience before manifesting His power and authority over disease. He was just as prepared to heal in a little working-class cottage as in the great congregation of the synagogue. It didn't matter to Him!
Now what's the lesson that we take out of this? The Lord's service, every day of His life, was condescending in nature. In other words, it was selfless service. He came down to the level of the people He was serving. His teaching, His casting out demons, His healing diseases was never used as a means of embellishing Himself, His prestige. It was never used as a platform for His fame. Indeed, He dissuades it! 'Tell no one about this miracle' - He shuts the demon's mouths, and that tells us that Christ in His service was condescending, He was selfless, and we must ask ourselves: how is our service? We must ensure that our service is not self-serving - that's a great temptation - but that our service is like John the Baptist's, the forerunner of the Servant of the Lord, when he said in John 3:30: 'He must increase and I must decrease'.
Christ's service was condescending. Here's the second thing: it was considerate. It was considerate. Now the disciples had not known Jesus for long, but even after a little while following Him they had learned to bring all their troubles to the Master because He was considerate. I wonder how long you have been a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ: have you learned this lesson yet? Bring all your troubles to the Lord! Peter's wife's mother lies sick, sick of a fever, and this is a simple home, a basic homestead - and it's all upset, upside down because this matriarch is now fallen ill. They bring their upset to Jesus. J. C. Ryle, that great evangelical Bishop of Liverpool, said: 'Doctors are to be used when we are sick', and he goes on speaking of other professionals that we need to use when the needs arise, 'but we must never forget to consult God first'. It's a hard lesson to learn. In our distress as human beings we are so prone to run to this one, that one, and the other one. It's not that those people are wrong and cannot help us - but who do we run to first? Who we run to first tells us an awful lot about our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Asa, in the Old Testament, made this mistake. We read in 2 Chronicles 16:12: 'In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians'. It wasn't a fault to seek help from physicians, his problem was he shut the Lord out of his troubles. Jacob, when he was in trouble with his brother Esau - and Esau had grounds for being angry with him - what did Jacob do? He turned first to God, we read in Genesis 32:11. Hezekiah the King, in his trouble, what did he do when he received a letter from Sennacherib? He spread it, 2 Kings 19 tells us, before the Lord. When Lazarus, the friend of the Lord Jesus, fell sick; Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, sent immediately appealing to the Lord Jesus as their friend, and said: 'Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick'. Now why did they do all those things? Because they realised that the God that is there for us, and effectually serves us, is a considerate God - and His Son the Lord Jesus is the same.
Do we bring to the Lord our problems, our troubles, our burdens? I know that that's something that is elementary, isn't it? I know that's small fry, we hear that all the time: 'What a friend we have in Jesus' - but who of us does it, really does it? Who of us takes heed, in practice, of the instruction of Psalm 55:22: 'Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved'. First Peter 5 verse 7, we can quote it: 'Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you'. Philippians 4:6: 'Be careful', or anxious, 'for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord'.
'O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer'.
You see here's the point that we could very easily miss: Jesus had become Simon, Andrew, James and John's friend. They were His companions, and Jesus had become a confidant. So here Peter and Andrew not only brought James and John back home from the synagogue with them to their house, but we find that they also brought Christ with them - what a lesson there is in that. They brought Christ home from the synagogue to be part of their lives, to be part of their home, to be even part of their lunch! Sometimes I wonder do we leave the Lord Jesus at the church door when we go home and live our lives, make our decisions, go about our business? Or do we take Him home from the morning service with us, to be a part of everything, even our very meal? Do we take Him home to let Him share in our blessings, but also share with our burdens? This was His service, He was making Himself available to these simple folk, His ear was open to their appeal, He was considerate.
He was condescending, He was considerate, and this is the reason why He was considerate: He was compassionate. His service was compassionate. Mark graphically details it in the actions that the Lord used. He says, as He came to heal Peter's wife's mother, He came near, He took her by the hand, He lifted her up and the fever left her immediately. The tenderness of the touch of His hand is there to reveal the compassion of His heart. Love and mercy were His motivation, and those were always His motivation. That's the great contrast between the Servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and those who claim to be the servants of the Lord, and claim divine authority, the Pharisees and the Scribes. So often in the gospel writings we see that when the traditions of men made the word of God null and void, Jesus disregarded those traditions, irrespective of the consequences to His personal reputation, in order that He might display mercy, love and compassion.
The rabbinic rules for visiting the sick - maybe you didn't know there were any! - stated that visitors were not permitted to sit on the bed or on a chair, but had to stand on the floor. They even had rules about how you visit the sick! But the Lord disregards them, and He touches the sick person. We're going to see later on in our study, verse 41, that He even touches this poor leprous man - and His extension of hand was simply an expression of His love, how His love was going out to this wretch who was rejected. I wonder do we reach out like that? What a question! We're big on outreach, aren't we? But I wonder does our outreach involve reaching out in compassion, mercy and love? Note with the Lord Jesus that even if it meant breaking accepted rules of convention, and even His own religion, He did it! He did it to express love and compassion! We need to ask ourselves, as we look at our own service to the Lord in the light of our Lord's service, do we have true perspective when we are seeking to reach out and touch others with the love of God? Or do we confuse man-made convention for biblical principle? Do we even allow the rules of men to prevent us serving? Here's the lesson: we need to always keep the main thing the main thing. So often we get so taken up with irrelevancies or less important things, and we allow those things to prevent us from doing the main thing - and Jesus never allowed that in His service, never!
Now let me give you an example of this: as I went through the commentaries on this passage of Scripture, I noted at least in one of them that the commentator was so taken up with the marriage status of Peter in order to hammer the Roman Catholic Church, that he never left any time to comment on the healing which is the whole point! He missed the wood for the trees. Listen: this is a great danger, that we allow our conservatism, theologically, practically, to swallow up our compassion! Now I'm not suggesting that we ditch our conservatism, far from it. The words of our Lord Jesus are instructive when He speaks about the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23, listen to what He says: 'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others'. Now He wasn't accusing them in the wrong for tithing their mint and their dill and cumin, He was saying: 'These you ought to have done according to the law', you were right in doing it, but your problem was that you left undone the most important thing - displaying justice and mercy and faithfulness in your service. It's not that they were making wrong points, but they were missing the main point.
We can have doctrine and have it all right, and so we should; and we should have practice as right as we can possibly get it, as long as it's biblically-based and not traditional - but at the end of the day, if you miss the main point, and we don't have justice and mercy and faithfulness in our service, it's all of little worth. Jesus was prepared to disregard man-made rules in order to extend His compassion as He reached out to those who were rejected.
His service was condescending, considerate, compassionate, but this is a wonderful point: fourthly, it was complete. It was complete! Now we saw last week, if you were with us, that many exorcists who moved about in the Lord Jesus' time, they worked with elaborate rituals, incantations and spells when they were attempting to cast out devils. Jesus, in a few words in the synagogue, cast out the unclean spirit - that's why people were amazed at His authority. Now the Talmud, which is a rabbinical Jewish book of instruction and tradition, actually lays down methods of dealing with what Peter's wife's mother had - a burning fever. This is what it says: 'A knife, wholly made of iron, was tied by a braid of hair to a thornbush'. On successive days these verses were repeated: first, Exodus 3:2-3, this is interesting, 'The angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt'. Then on the second day you were to read Exodus 3 and verse 4: 'And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I'. Then finally on the third day, Exodus 3:5: 'And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground'.
Now that's God's word, it's true, but all that is gobbledygook - it's all traditional nonsense, it's like Jewish magic using God's word in this way. Then, after quoting these verses, they used certain magical formulae, and they then claimed that the disease was cured. Now, do you know what Jesus did? He disregarded all this mumbo-jumbo and paraphernalia of popular superstition. In verse 31 we read that He took her by the hand, lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. It doesn't even say that the Lord mentioned one word. Not a word is uttered! He just takes her by the hand, helps her to her feet, apart from the dead religious tradition, and it is a complete cure! She is cured immediately and absolutely.
Now, if you have ever had a fever, you will know that when a fever leaves you you are in a weakened condition. The Lord didn't heal this woman like the tablets or the doctor heals us, He healed her completely - why? Because after He took her by the hand, she was not weakened, indeed she was strengthened to get up and to serve the Lord and His disciples by making them the meal. The same hand that healed her strengthened her. What a complete service this was! You know, the Lord has healed us, He has saved us from sin - but do we realise that He can also strengthen us to serve, and we are saved to serve? After she was healed she fed Jesus and the dozen hungry men. You mightn't be able to preach a sermon from a pulpit, you mightn't be able to go and be a missionary, but all of us can love, all of us can serve with justice, mercy and compassion. All of us can do something - Jesus serves us in salvation, why? So that we might serve others! I wonder has Christ made you strong? I wonder has Christ raised you to health and strength? Or maybe you have already got it? You're to be very thankful - but do you realise why you have it, why He has restored you?
Some people think: 'Well, it's so that I can do nine rounds every week on the golf course, that's why God has me in health. I'm glad I have retirement health, and it's because I want four holidays every year' - I'm not despising golf, though I'm no good at it, or holidays. I like my holidays as well as anybody, but that's not why you are in health and strength, my friend. You're in health and strength to serve others, to serve completely.
Then fifthly and finally, His service in this day in His life was comprehensive. Condescending, considerate, compassionate, complete and comprehensive. What do I mean? Well, look at the crowd that comes that evening to Peter's door. At night it seemed as if all Capernaum, having heard of this man in the synagogue being healed, gathered at Peter's door bringing sick people, demon-possessed people. The Greek verb indicates that these folk kept bringing people, they kept on coming. Now, as long as the Sabbath was unended, people were forbidden bringing the needy into the streets. They dare not bring people who couldn't walk, or see, or demon-possessed, because it would entail carrying them, and the law said that carrying a burden through a town on the Sabbath day was forbidden. So they had to wait until the Sabbath was ended - do you see how these people were all strapped with rules and regulations that prevented them serving and helping others?
I can almost see the scene. The law, at least their laws, said that the Sabbath had ended when three stars had come out in the dark sky on Saturday evening. You can see them, or I can anyway, looking out their window thinking of their loved one, their little child with ailments, their friend, their husband, their wife - and they're looking out the window, and they're counting, waiting for the three stars. As soon as they see them, immediately they go to Simon Peter's house. Here they all gather, and how powerful this Healer was: He healed all who were brought to Him. So many there were, no problem was too complex, too messy for Christ to get His hands dirty - that was His service! He's not like us, avoiding the alcoholics, and the unmarried mother, and the divorcees - no! He healed them all!
Boy, there's a lesson there that some of you stuck-up Christians need to learn! That's all it is, some of you: you're pompous, you're proud, you're arrogant - and there are people in the world that may need help, they need Christ! His service was comprehensive, He touched them all - no problem was too difficult for Him. In fact, Mark says that He healed divers diseases. He didn't put a sign up and say: 'If you've got TB or diabetes, come and see me. I can heal all complaints of diabetes and TB' - no, everything! He wasn't setting up one cure for one ailment, He wasn't limited in His power - He healed the sick of every disease. Matthew Henry put it like this: 'For His words were panpharmacon, a salve for every sore'. Oh, you wouldn't think it: that we had a salve for every sore in our possession with Jesus Christ, would you?
What about the man across the street? We've an answer for him - would you think it? We sit here, and I'm guilty of it, we sit here in our holy huddle - and if we really believed that we had the salve for all his sores, and I'm not saying there won't be problems, and I won't say there won't be long nights, and there won't be counselling, and there won't be spending of money and prayers and tears and blood! - but Christ is the answer! He is comprehensive in meeting men's needs. Here's the thing that we see: that the miracle that He wrought in the synagogue, He repeated it in Simon Peter's house. A lot of these quack healers that are about, ask them to repeat a healing - they can't do it, because it's all mumbo-jumbo, a lot of it anyway. I believe God can heal, and uses prayer often to heal - but the difference with Christ's healing was that it was comprehensive, in other words it was constant, it was consistent. Now we can't go about healing as He did, but I wonder is our service constant? Is our service consistent?
Now as I conclude I want to do two things. I want to first of all contrast these two types of healings in this passage. What am I talking about? Well, there is the healing of Peter's wife's mother, and then there is the healing of all those in the crowd. Most of the crowd, I freely admit, all they wanted was for Jesus to do something for them. They wanted something from Jesus. To put it bluntly: they were just using Him, most of them anyway. I can't blame them for that, because if I had a sick child I would be using Him too. Yet they tragically foreshadow millions in our world even today who want Christ for what they hope to get out of Christ, but are not willing to serve and follow Christ. That so easily can be us: we want Jesus for what He can do for us - He can take all our sins away, He can take us to heaven, He can give us a reason to live - but follow Him? Be His disciple? Carry a cross? Lay our lives down for others? So many are like those who Jesus said, after He fed 5000 people in John 6:26: 'Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled'. Who will we be like? Will we be like the crowd around Peter's door? Or will we be like Peter's mother-in-law? She was healed and strengthened in order to minister, and those who are saved ought to minister to God and to others!
But then the greatest contrast is with the greatest Servant: how do we measure up in our service? This convicts me to the core. If we were to take the Lord Jesus as our example, a day in the life of His service: we see three times here Jesus healing people, look at it. First He's in the synagogue, equivalent to where we are now; second He's in the house of friends; and third He's in the street. Do you know what that tells me? Wherever there was trouble, wherever there was need, wherever there was people, He was there. He was ready to use His power, He was ready to give what God had given to Him to serve - and the people flocked to Him, why? Because they perceived this in Him, that He was ready, He was willing, He was able to help - and even when He knew that they were only superficial, and they only wanted the loaves and the fish, and they only wanted their loved one healed, His compassion compelled Him! They could get a sermon at the synagogue any week, they could get a Rabbi's opinion on that particular verse of the law any time they desired - but what these poor souls needed was powerful effective actions in their lives.
Well, how is our service? How is mine? What is a day in our life like? We waste so much time on things of no profit, don't we? - and I'm including myself in this. John Wesley, the great evangelist, each evening took an appraisal and a review of every hour of his day to account for whether or not he was really serving the Lord as he should. If we did that, what would our days be like? They would speak for themselves, wouldn't they? If we are serving the Lord with our time, we need to make sure that it's not self-service, that we are actually serving the Lord. What kind of service is our ministry?
The Lord Jesus, every day, was condescending; every day and every moment of every day He was considerate; He was compassionate; anything He did, He did it completely; and when He touched people with love and grace, He did it comprehensively because He made every moment of the day count in the service of, and to the glory of God. May we, by God's help.
Let's all pray and bow our heads. Talk about what you've heard this morning around the table. Talk about it among your friends, in your pew. Talk about it, but please, I urge you: do something about it. Do something.
Father, to be like Jesus, to be like Jesus, all we ask is to be like Him. Help us to be more like Him, not just in what we believe, not even only in our words, but in our actions. Help us to condescend, to be considerate, to be compassionate, to serve others completely and comprehensively irrespective of their need or their position or condition - that they may see Jesus in us, as we seek to serve Him morning, noon and night. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tenth recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "A Day In The Life Of The Servant" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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