By Robert Olsen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Having just come off a full day of healing people from sickness and demon possession, Jesus woke up early and went to a secluded place to pray to the Father. This tells us that we need to see the importance of prayer and take time to pray.
While Jesus was sleeping, Peter and the disciples came looking for Him because many people were wanting to see Jesus. Throughout Mark, the disciples misunderstand what Jesus’ mission was, often seeing Jesus as a great leader who was going to do great things like kick the Romans out and restore Israel to the time of David.
However, Jesus told Peter that He needed to go tell the good news in other towns, which is why He came — to preach the gospel.
Just like the disciples at this juncture in Jesus’ ministry, many people look to Jesus as a sort of wonder worker through whom His followers will receive temporal rewards, like fame and fortune.
The promise of riches and health is not the message Jesus came to share. His message is about being made right with God, which is an eternal reward.
While Jesus was preaching, a man with leprosy approached Him and asked to be healed. In the Book of Leviticus, people with a skin disease had to remove themselves from society because they were unclean and would defile others by their touch. However, this man, having heard of Jesus’ miraculous powers, broke all of these social and theological conventions to come and get healed.
Jesus’ willingness to help this man in need is a good pattern for us to follow.
As Christians, we are concerned with the spiritual well-being of people and the need to share the gospel in order to meet this need. However, it is also imperative that we help others meet their physical needs when we can to help show the love and compassion of God.
Many times, it is by helping others that God gives us opportunities to share the gospel!
Once Jesus healed the leprous man, He told him not to tell anyone what He had done for him but to go and see the priest so he could be declared clean, fulfilling what is required in the Book of Leviticus.
Instead of keeping silent, this man went out and told everyone what Jesus had done for him, which made it difficult for Jesus to travel about freely because he was always in demand to meet the people’s physical needs.
Why wouldn‘t Jesus want everyone to know about Him so that the crowds would come to Him? Jesus didn’t want to be perceived mainly as a miracle worker instead of One who came to die for the sins of mankind.
To fulfill the prophecy of the Old Testament, Jesus needed to suffer, die, rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. Jesus wanted people to listen to His message, not come for their own physical benefit of being healed and getting food.
We need to see Jesus correctly as well. Many people today want Jesus to do what they want Him to do, but God gives us what we need. That is forgiveness of sin and atonement with God through Christ. This is the gospel message Jesus came to preach.