Lessons From A Day of Miracles
“And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee. 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.”
This passage is the beginning of a long list of miracles recorded by Mark. As I read it, I cannot avoid noticing how much our Savior crammed into one day. Our Lord seems to have rested little. He was always about his Father’s business, either preaching the good news of salvation by the grace of God or performing good works of mercy by the power of his grace as God.
We recognize, of course, that the days of visible, demonstrative miracles being performed ended with the completion of Holy Scripture. There have been none with the gift and ability to do those things by the Spirit of God since the days of the apostles. Those who yet pretend to possess such supernatural gift are just pretenders. They are not the servants of Christ. Our Lord still performs miracles, but not in a public, demonstrative way.
However, he did perform great miracles of mercy upon the bodies of men and women and for the benefit of their lives while he lived upon the earth. He did so, and gave his apostles power to do so, to confirm in a public manner his claims as the Messiah.
In the passage before us, we begin on Saturday morning, the sabbath day, with our Lord and his disciples in the synagogue at Capernaum. There he taught with authority the Word of God and cast a demon out of a man. Then he healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. The news of his power and mercy spread like wildfire through the town. By nightfall “all the city was gathered at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils.” These miracles performed by our Master are instructive pictures of his grace and power, and are here recorded by Divine inspiration to teach us about him, his grace, and his salvation.
The first thing we learn from this passage is that it is right, and sometimes necessary, to correct false doctrine. — “And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes” (vv. 21-22).
Our Lord and his disciples went into the synagogue because that was the place where men and women met in the name of God, claiming to worship God. There he opened the Word of God and taught them as one having authority. He spoke boldly and plainly. He spoke the truth of God in such unmistakable terms that those who heard him were astonished by his doctrine.
I am sometimes told, when I am asked to preach in churches and places where people do not believe the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, I ought to be careful not to offend. That means, “Be careful not to preach the gospel. Let men go to hell with a Bible in their hands. Do not cause a disturbance just because people are lost, Christ is blasphemed, and the truth of God is perverted.”
God’s servants are not such self-serving creatures. Faithful men are faithful to the souls of men, faithful to the truth of Holy Scripture, and faithful to the glory of God. They who have a word from God speak the word of the Lord clearly and distinctly, regardless of cost or consequence. Only a hireling courts the favor of his hearers or fears their frowns.
The second thing we see in these verse is the necessity of heart faith. We are specifically told twice that the demons knew the Lord Jesus. — “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God” (vv. 23-24). — “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” (v. 34).
The Scribes did not know him. The Pharisees did not know him or acknowledge the truthfulness of his doctrine. The religious leaders of the day denounced the Son of God as a false prophet. But those demons knew both who he was and the truthfulness of all that he taught. Yet, they were not saved. Their knowledge was not unto salvation.
We should lay this to heart. The mere belief and acknowledgment of Bible facts and Bible doctrine is not salvation. I realize that there is no salvation apart from the knowledge of gospel truth. But merely having your head full of facts is not salvation. That kind of faith is no better than the faith of devils.
They all believe and know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The demons all know that he died at Calvary as the victorious, effectual, sin-atoning substitute for God’s elect. They all know that he is seated upon his throne in heaven. And all the demons know that he is coming again in judgment and will cast them, along with all the wicked, into everlasting hell. The demons of hell know a heap sight more than most preachers and most professing Christians. There is no infidelity among them.
But saving faith is no more an act of the head than it is an act of man’s imaginary free will. Saving faith is a matter of the heart (James 2:19; Romans 10:9-10). Heart faith is more than information in the head. It is the transformation of the life, from the inside out. Heart faith is more than knowing about Christ. It is trusting him, loving him, rejoicing in him, commitment to him, and cleaving to him.
Martin Luther once wrote, “Christianity consists of personal pronouns.” It is one thing to say, “Christ alone is Savior.” It is another thing altogether to lift your heart to heaven and say, “Christ alone is my Savior.” The demons of hell acknowledge the first. Only a child of God can truthfully state the last.
Salvation is not a reformed life or a reformed creed. Salvation is the personal knowledge of Jesus Christ revealed in your heart by the Holy Spirit. It is not information in you, but Christ in you, which is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
Simplicity in Prayer
“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” (vv. 29-31).
Third, we have set before us the simplicity of true prayer. Faith, worship, and prayer are simple, unadorned, unpretentious things. Where they are true and sincere, there is nothing about them that even resembles show, formality, ceremony, or hypocrisy. Far too often, particularly in acts of public worship and prayer, I fear that most of what is said and done is said and done to be heard and seen of men.
Carefully observe the simplicity of everything in these three verses. When we are in trouble, when we have heavy burdens and cares, we ought to follow the example of simplicity we see in these verses. I call your attention to three facts set before us by the Spirit of God in verses 29-31.
I mention this fact simply because the church of Rome has historically claimed Peter as the first pope, while at the same time teaching the necessity of clerical celibacy, as though celibacy is somehow more spiritual than marriage. They are wrong on all counts. Peter was never a papist. He was a married man. (It is hard to have a mother-in-law without being married!) And celibacy and spirituality have nothing to do with one another.
Peter’s relationship to Christ did not exempt his family from trouble. His mother-in-law’s relationship with the Savior did not keep her from trouble. The fact is, God’s children suffer in this world just as other people do. As long as we live in this world of woe, we will have trials, troubles, sicknesses, bereavements, and sorrows.
When we have troubles of different kinds, it is both prudent and proper to use the means at our disposal by God’s providence. There is no contradiction between faith and the diligent use of means. When you get sick, go to the doctor. If you have legal problems, hire a lawyer. When you need help, turn to your family and friends; and say, “I need help.” But be sure you do not fail to recognize this third thing…
When Peter’s mother-in-law was sick, “they told him (The Lord Jesus) of her.” This is the first and best thing to be done in all cases. When trouble comes, cry out to him who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. No one else is so compassionate and willing to help as he is. No one else is so powerful and able to help as he is.
When Jacob was in trouble, he turned to the Lord for help. He cried, “Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of Esau” (Genesis 32:11). When Hezekiah was in trouble, he spread Sennacherib’s letter before the Lord, and said, “I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand” (2 Kings 19:19). When Lazarus was sick, Martha and Mary sent a message to the Lord Jesus, saying, “Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick” (John 11:3).
We ought always to do the same. When sicknesses, bereavements, sorrows, trials, and troubles come, let us act in the simplicity of faith and tell him who is able and willing to help.
“Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow?
Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus;
He is a Friend that’s well-known;
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.
This is the counsel we are given in the Word of God. — “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalms 55:22). — “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6) — “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Christ’s Perfect Work
In verse 31 we are given a picture of our great Savior’s work. It is always perfect. — “And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.”
When the Son of God heals, he heals. One minute this woman was lying in bed, sick with a fever. The Master took her by the hand, lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. The next minute she is serving him. Such a fever, even after it is broken, usually leaves a person very, very weak; but when our Savior works a work, he leaves nothing undone.
This is certainly a picture of the way he deals with sin-sick souls. He who redeemed us with his blood, when he comes in saving grace to our souls in the power of his Spirit, gives us everything we need to make us completely whole. — He who chose us redeemed us. — He who redeemed us justified us. — He who justified us calls us. — He who calls us gives us faith. — He who paid our debt gives us grace. — He who obtained eternal redemption with his blood gives life to all his redeemed ones. — He who gives us life gives us faith. — He who gives us faith gives us power to become the sons of God. — He who washed away our sins with his blood cleanses us by his Spirit in regenerating grace. — He who justified us also sanctifies us. — He who sanctifies us will also glorify us. — He who has saved us also gives us the grace and strength to serve and minister unto him.
The sin-sick soul is not merely cured, and then left to itself. It is also supplied with a new heart and a right spirit, and grace and strength sufficient for all that is required of it. Whatever God demands, he gives.
Here is encouragement and comfort for those who are reluctant to publicly confess faith in Christ and identify themselves with him. Some fear that if they come forward and take up their cross to follow him, they may not be able to continue, that they will in time fall away. That was one of the things with which I struggled greatly, as Satan tried to keep me from confessing my Redeemer in believer’s baptism. The fact is, if you come in your own strength, trusting yourself, you will soon fall. But if Christ calls you, Christ will keep you. There are no half-cured cases with the Son of God! He leaves nothing unfinished. Every pardoned soul shall be preserved unto the end and perfected at last. It is written, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). — “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Here is comfort to those who are serving the Savior, but cast down by the sense of their own weakness and insufficiency. As your days demand shall your strength ever be. The difficulties you fear shall vanish before you. The lion that roars before you, as you walk in the path set before you, has no teeth, and no claws, and is on a chain; and the one holding the chain is our Redeemer. The lion cannot hurt you! The very worst he can do is make a lot of noise. He who gives you grace will also give you glory.
Christ’s Dominion and Grace
We are assured of these things just in proportion as we grasp the fifth thing taught in these verses; and that is the totality of our Savior’s dominion, particularly in the exercise of his saving grace. In this portion of Holy Scripture we see that our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, truly is “God over all.” Sickness and disease, Satan and the demons of hell, sin and death all flee at his word. “With authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.”
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). And here we see our Redeemer, the Holy One of God, destroying the works of the devil in the life of a chosen sinner by his omnipotent grace. That poor soul in the synagogue aptly portrays fallen man under the dominion of Satan. God’s elect, like all others, are by nature “children of wrath” and vassals of the devil.
Yet, on the sabbath day, this poor soul came to the house of God. There he sat, as Satan’s helpless captive, until the Lord Jesus met him in his house and delivered him by his almighty grace, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 49:24-28).
At the very approach of our Savior, the unclean spirit in that poor wretch trembled, knowing that the Lord Jesus possesses all power and authority, even over Satan himself, as “the Holy One of God.” What confidence believing souls ought to have in such a Savior! No weapon formed against us can prosper (Isaiah 54:17). No temptation can destroy us (1 Corinthians 10:13). And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under our heals shortly (Romans 16:20).
He who loved us and gave himself for us is the absolute, sovereign Monarch of the universe. We may safely trust him. He is too wise to err, too good to do wrong, and too strong to fail.
Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com