After Jesus returns from his temptation in the wilderness, he continues to demonstrate authority. He begins to preach, calling the people to repentance (Mk 1.14-15). He calls his disciples, and they leave what they’re doing to follow him (Mk 1.16-20). He teaches in the synagogue at Capernaum, “and they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mk 1.21-22).
And then, as if to put an exclamation point on his defeat of Satan in the wilderness, he confronts one of Satan’s servants, “an unclean spirit” (Mk 1.23) who, it turns out, speaks of himself in the plural (Mk 1.24)—maybe there’s a whole legion of them in there—and who confesses freely, “We know who you are: the holy one from God.” Jesus wastes no time or words (this is my rendering): “Shut up and get out” (Mk 1.25).
Which the spirit does.
There are other such occasions that Mark recounts: Jesus exorcises a madman in Gadara (Mk 5.1-20) of what is confessedly an entire legion of demons, and he casts a spirit out of a young boy who had seemed beyond hope (Mk 9.14-27).
Incidentally, the first of these exorcisms is at the beginning of his ministry; the second is in the middle; and the third is at the end. His authority never wavers or wanes.
Are these examples of lordship over evil, which should have gone in the previous post, or of lordship over disease, which is the subject of this post?
Yes, they are.
But Jesus’ lordship is not limited to spiritual disease; he takes authority over physical ones as well:
- He heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever in Capernaum, just after casting out the demon (Mk 1.29-31). And not only does the fever leave immediately (which is odd, given that a fever is typically an indication that the body is battling an infection), but she is immediately restored to full strength (Mk 1.31).
- That evening he holds a healing service—a real one—and heals all comers, whether of physical or demonic conditions (Mk 1.32-34). Note that everything we’ve mentioned in this series so far, with the exception of the two later exorcisms, occurs in Mark’s first chapter. Jesus is spectacularly busy, “about [his] father’s business,” as he had put it all those years ago (Lk 2.49). Again, he’s a dutifully obedient servant even as he takes authority over all he meets.
- Soon after, he heals a leper (Mk 1.40-45). There’s a lot of discussion about just what biblical leprosy was; I’m not inclined to think that it was Hansen’s disease, but rather some sort of skin condition similar to eczema or psoriasis. But whatever it was, it wasn’t curable; if you had it, you had to isolate yourself and just wait it out, and for some (e.g. 2Ch 26.21) it never went away. Jesus healed it on the spot.
- A few days later he heals a paralytic (Mk 2.1-12)—and forgives his sins for good measure. Even today much paralysis is incurable, despite considerable research. So it’s no surprise to us that the onlookers say, as we would today, “We’ve never seen anything like this!” (Mk 2.12).
- A few days later he does it again—this time paralysis of just one arm (Mk 3.1-6). He does it with a word; he doesn’t even need to touch him. And—this is important—he does it on the Sabbath. The Lord over disease is also Lord of the Sabbath, a point he takes time to make here. And it goes a step further; he is angered—angered!—by the onlookers’ professed piety, by the fact that they’re more concerned with process than with people, more concerned with letter than with spirit. There seems to be no arena of life into which he does not step with authority.
- He heals a nobleman’s daughter and a woman with a hemorrhage (Mk 5.21-43).
- He heals a Gentile woman’s daughter (Mk 7.24-30).
- He heals a deaf-mute (Mk 7.31-37).
- He heals a blind man (Mk 8.22-26).
- And he heals another blind man, Bartimaeus (Mk 10.46-52). This man, this time, calls him “Son of David!” (Mk 10.47). We should recall what that title means. King. Lord. Absolute and eternal authority (2S 7.16).
No ordinary servant.