Jesus’s Power and Priority (Mark 1:29-2:17)

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In preparing for today’s sermon, I came across the stories of two rabbis—that is, two Jewish religious teachers: Rabbi Honi and Rabbi Hanina Ben Dosa.

Rabbi Honi lived a hundred years before Jesus and was famous for praying for rain. The one time his prayer was not immediately answered, it’s said that he drew a circle on the ground and told God he would not leave the circle until it rained. Then it rained right after. As for Rabbi Hanina, who lived a few decades after Jesus’ death, he was known for praying for the sick. According to tradition, he had the ability to know if the sick person would live or die. Like Jesus, these rabbis came from Galilee in Israel. They are remembered as men of prayer who did miracles.

In today’s passage, I want to highlight how Jesus was different from the miracle workers of his time. I also want to look at how Jesus had a clear sense of mission. We’ll read from Mark chapter 1 and 2. We’ll look at two themes: Jesus’ power and Jesus’ priority. First, let’s pray.

[Read Mark 1:29-45, 2:1-17] 

Jesus’ Power

In these stories we see Jesus’ power over diseases and demons.

My first point is: Jesus’ demonstrates power over sickness and demons. You may have noticed that when Jesus heals, the person’s healing is immediate and obvious. But have you ever noticed that Jesus never prays for healing?

In all four Gospel accounts, he simply gives a command—such as “Get up” or “Be clean”—and the person is healed. This is one way that Jesus is different than the Jewish healers of his time. Other Jewish healers prayed to God for the healing because they recognize the power is God’s and not their own. And at times, God chooses not to grant that healing.

When we see Jesus praying, such as in chapter 1 verse 35, it’s never for a healing. Later, we’ll come back to the topic of Jesus’ prayer. For now, what I want to emphasize is that Jesus is unique in his power to heal and drive out demons.

Now, what happened when the Jewish people saw his power and listened to his message? They were curious, excited, and some were desperate to meet him. It was not just for the healing.

In Jesus’ healing and preaching, the Jews saw signs of an old promise by God. Centuries before, God disciplined the people of Israel for their sins by allowing Babylonian invaders to carry them into exile. Even though they had returned to their land by Jesus’ time, they still saw themselves in exile. They considered themselves under the rule and oppression of the Roman Empire. And they believed, based on many prophecies, that the God of Israel would return one day as their king, end their exile, and re-establish his kingdom.

On top of that, the prophecies said that God would forgive his people’s sins and heal them. For example, the prophet Isaiah said, “‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution, he will come to save you.’ Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:4-6).

So, when Jesus started to heal and to preach “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near! Repent and believe the good news!” everyone’s ears perked up. Was God finally returning? Was God going to get rid of the Romans and restore Israel to its former glory?

But Jesus wasn’t going to save them the way they thought. He knew his true mission.

Jesus’ Priority

This leads me to my second theme for today: Jesus’ priority. In chapter 1 verse 35, we see that after a long night of healing, Jesus couldn’t be found anywhere.

His disciples must have panicked. Eventually, they found him in a solitary place, praying to his Father in heaven. “Everyone is looking for you!” they said. In other words, they were saying, “Jesus, you’ve got a lot of work to do. People need you. Come on, why are you walking so slowly?!”

Imagine the look on their faces when Jesus said, “Let us go somewhere else.” Verse 38: “

. . . to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” He was clear about his priorities. He didn’t allow himself to be distracted from his mission, no matter how good the alternative was.

While Jesus had compassion for everyone, he was not compelled or forced to answer all their needs. His primary work wasn’t to alleviate the pain of every person. Rather, his primary work was to preach the good news of God’s kingdom. Healing of all kinds is part of God’s kingdom. But the deepest form of healing—which we all need—is not for our bodies.

The healing we ultimately need is for the disease of our hearts. Sin poisons our hearts and separates us from God. Like Israel, we rebelled against God. Isaiah prophesied that when God returns, he will forgive and forget his people’s sin (Isaiah 43:25). God will return to us, and we will return to him. Our exile will end; we will be truly home.

That’s why Jesus says to the paralyzed man in Mark chapter 2, “Son, your sins are forgiven,” not just “Be healed from your paralysis.” That’s why Jesus says to Pharisees in 2:17, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” They criticized Jesus for hanging out with shameful people. Jesus’ reply was basically this: “I came precisely to hang out with shameful people.”

But more than this, what the Pharisees really couldn’t accept was Jesus saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” Outraged, they complained in verse 7: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” They were absolutely right. Jesus was putting himself on the same level as God. It seems the Pharisees did not think God could come in human form. Or, maybe they simply dismissed Jesus because he didn’t fit their image of a respectable religious man.

Humans tend to think of God in simple, uncomplicated ways. Through our assumptions and rules, we try to control God by keeping Him in a box. But God always has a way to break through the box and surprise us.

For example, in the Gospel stories, Jesus’ triumphant moment was not to be given a gold crown and sit on Caesar’s throne. Instead he wore a crown of thorns as he died on the cross. Isaiah prophesied that when God returns, his Messiah would suffer for the sins of humanity (53:10). Through the wounds of the Messiah we will be healed (53:5).

Jesus’ paid the price for our rebellion and ended our exile from God. When we choose to follow Jesus and accept the forgiveness for our sins that he purchased for us on the cross, God receives us into his kingdom as beloved children. As children of the King, we learn more and more what it means to embody God’s kingdom priorities as we learn to love him and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

It was Jesus’ mission to share this good news and bring it into reality through his death and resurrection.


Now, how to we apply what we’ve learned about Jesus’ power and priority? Here are two reflections.

First, about Jesus’ power to heal: We should pray for people and ourselves to get well. In the book of Acts, we see Jesus’ disciples performing miracles of healings. They always prayed in the name of Jesus. But this is not a magic formula. They prayed knowing that the power lies in Jesus’ hands, not themselves. Whether a person gets well or not is always God’s sovereign decision, and we don’t always know the reasons behind his decision.

We might wonder, “Why does God let me suffer?” It’s important to remember that we live in a time of transition: God’s kingdom has come but is not fully consummated. Therefore, sickness and death are still realities in our world. That’s why we pray to God “your kingdom come”. In God’s new heaven and earth and in the resurrection of the body, perfect healing awaits. As Revelation 21:4 says, “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”

Meanwhile, we hope for healing without insisting that God follow our orders. God is not a vending machine; and prayers are not coins that you can drop into a machine and guarantee a certain result.

Even Jesus prayed to his Father, “Not my will but Yours be done.” The way Jesus prays shows us what his priorities are.

This leads me to my second reflection: We should learn what God’s priorities are. Sometimes, we misunderstand what God wants to do in this world and confuse God’s will with our own desires. We may treat God like it’s his job to make us happy.

It’s not wrong to pray, “God, please bless my family. Help my son pass his exam. Bless my business.” But if that’s how we are praying all the time, then we should ask if God is really our king—or just a genie.

But if God is our king, then as his beloved servants we live by his priorities. We need to understand what his priorities are. We need to let him shape us into the kind of people who can serve him.

Jesus is a model for us. In today’s passage, we saw that Jesus chose to spend time alone with his Father. He aimed to do his Father’s work and speak only his Father’s words. If we want to follow Jesus’ example, I think we too need to be close to the Father. Otherwise, other voices and the pressures of society will direct our life instead of God.

Let’s learn to pray as Jesus taught us, “Father, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As he says in Matthew 6, “seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness.” Trust that the Father knows what you need to live (Matthew 6:32-33).

So let me recap. What are God’s priorities, as shown in the Bible? It is to renew this world by bringing his kingdom back. And what is his kingdom? One simple way of describing it is this: the kingdom of God is where God rules, not Satan or man. The worship of God, not the worship of created things. The kingdom is where we find life, not death. Love, not hatred, Wholeness, not brokenness. These things are truly possible and truly lasting only by the grace of God.


Let me end by asking you a few questions for self-reflection:

  1. Am I spending regular time in prayer and in reading Scriptures to better understand God’s kingdom, priorities, and values?
  2. Does my life reflect God’s values?
  3. Do I only pray for success and comfort? In what new ways I can learn to pray?

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