Ready to take on the whole of the Galilee.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 July 2016

Mark 1.35-39, Matthew 4.23-25, Luke 4.42-44.

For some strange reason, whenever preachers talk about Jesus curing every disease in Kfar Nahum, they describe it as Jesus spending all day doing it. He didn’t spend all day at it. They came to him at sundown. Mk 1.32, Mt 8.16, Lk 4.40 He spent all night curing people and throwing out demons. That’s right. Hope he got his Sabbath rest, ’cause he sure needed it.

By the end of it, preachers tend to describe Jesus as exhausted. And he might’ve been pretty tired, ’cause he was up all night. But exhausted? That’s only because they don’t know what it’s like to supernaturally heal people. Faith-healers will tell you it’s just the opposite. It’s not like a medical doctor, repairing patient after patient with treatment after treatment, taxing their mind and body with thought and work. You aren’t doing the work; the Holy Spirit is. You watch him do his thing; you rejoice once he’s done it. It’s not tiring. It’s invigorating.

More likely, Jesus was wired after curing person after person after person. Too jazzed to ever get to sleep.

Since translators don’t realize this, they tend to make it sound like Jesus woke up crazy-early in the morning, after maybe two or three hours of sleep. But anastás exílthen doesn’t mean “rising up, he went out.” It means “the one who was [already] arisen, went out.” He didn’t get up and figure, “It’s prayer time.” He hadn’t slept yet. And didn’t wanna sleep. He wanted more.

What mood did you imagine Jesus was in?

Mark 1.35-38 KWL
35 Still awake in the still-dark morning, Jesus left, went away to a wild place, and prayed.
36 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and others with him.
37 They found Jesus and told him this: “Everyone’s looking for you.”
38 Jesus told them, “We should go elsewhere.
Into all the communities there are, because I should preach there.
I left for that reason.”
Luke 4.42-43 KWL
42 When it became day, leaving, Jesus went to a wild place.
The crowd was looking for him, and came up to him. They held him back, lest he leave him.
43 Jesus told them this: “It’s necessary for God’s kingdom
for me to evangelize other towns, because I was sent for this reason.”

“Kfar Nahum is cured. Who’s next? Give me more!”

See, mindset makes a huge difference when it comes to biblical interpretation. Christians bring their own pessimism, their own exhaustion, their own skepticism and cynicism and negativity, and as a result we wind up with a negative Jesus who just wants to get away from these people. What the hell? Jesus loves people. He came to save people! Not ditch ’em at the first opportunity.

The exhausted Jesus, renewing his strength in prayer, is based on our bad attitudes. You ever notice how many preachers are introverts? For them, people are tiring. Ministry drains them. That’s why they feel the need to get away from it all on a regular basis, and renew their strength in prayer. They project that on Jesus. It’s entirely wrong. It bends him in the wrong direction. He didn’t look at the Galilee and think, “So much to do.” He looked at it with the Holy Spirit’s might, thinking, “So much to conquer!”

The crowds who sought him.

Here the gospels go different directions. In Mark, Simon Peter and others went looking for Jesus after he took off. In Luke, it was oi ókhloi/“the crowd.” Not sure how big a crowd, but bigger than Simon’s group. Jesus responded to Simon’s group with, “We should go elsewhere”—implying this group consisted wholly of Jesus’s followers. The crowd, on the other hand, wasn’t going with him—and tried to block him lest he leave ’em again.

To both groups, Jesus’s answer was he should go elsewhere, Mk 1.38 or had to go elsewhere, Lk 4.43 because the gospel wasn’t just for Kfar Nahum. Jesus had to share it with everyone. The Father had sent him for that reason; Lk 4.43 and that was the reason he left. Mk 1.38

Okay, now let’s take a closer look at Simon and the students.

Remember that tired, negative attitude I was just rebuking? You’re gonna find a little bit of that in them. In part because they didn’t have the Spirit’s power yet; they hadn’t been curing the sick right alongside Jesus. More than likely they’d only been doing the gruntwork. Carry the man who can’t walk to Jesus. Hold back those who weren’t willing to wait their turn; remind ’em to be patient. Hold down the demoniac, lest she cut herself again. All they could do was watch the miracles—which is exciting, to be sure, but speaking from experience, it’s no substitute for doing ’em.

So they were tired. As tired as most interpreters imagine Jesus being. They’d be the ones thinking, “So much more to do.”

And that’s before Jesus told them they were taking this show on the road. They likely expected to stay in Kfar Nahum. Yeah, travel with Jesus to Jerusalem three times a year, same as all devout Jews, and maybe visit his family with him; but travel all over the Galilee? Maybe that hadn’t sunk in yet. (Maybe they were too tired for anything to sink in yet.)

The students were telling Jesus, “Everyone’s looking for you”—that is, everyone in Kfar Nahum. And in Luke, everyone had found him, and insisted he not go. ’Cause now that Jesus had made the town his home base, it’s time to set up the Messianic headquarters, gather his support, gather his troops… remember, Messiah means “king,” and people back then still thought Messiah would be a political king. Time to get the anti-Roman revolution started!

Nope. Jesus’s kingdom, his good news, doesn’t look like that. And his kingdom isn’t the sort where it plunks down in one place and forces people to come to it. The kingdom goes where its people go, where our King leads. Jesus can’t just stay in one town. He’s too big. There are places to go, people to cure, freedom to grant. He had to leave.

The places he went; the people he cured.

Mark 1.39 KWL
Jesus went throughout all the Galilee,
preaching in their synagogues, throwing out demons.
Matthew 4.23-25 KWL
23 Jesus went round all the Galilee, teaching in their synagogues,
preaching the kingdom’s gospel, curing every disease, every illness of the people.
24 Hearsay about Jesus went out to the whole of Syria.
They brought him all those with all sorts of things wrong, and he healed them:
Illness, disease, chronic pain, seizures, demons, epilepsy, and paralysis.
25 Many crowds followed Jesus
from the Galilee, Dekapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.
Luke 4.44 KWL
Jesus was preaching in the Jewish synagogues.

Pharisee custom was for any recognized visiting rabbi to speak first. This was definitely a custom Jesus could use to his advantage. Once his reputation spread from Kfar Nahum, just about any synagogue would recognize him as a rabbi, and getting to teach first meant he could set the tone for the whole evening.

Whereas, had Jesus stayed at the Kfar Nahum synagogue, he’d have been one of the resident rabbis—the man who spoke second, third, fourth, whatever, depending on how many rabbis wished to speak. He wouldn’t have started the lesson, presented his (infallibly accurate) interpretation of God’s word, obligating every other rabbi to either accept or reject his message. He’d be just another rabbi reacting to the first guy. So as a traveling rabbi, Jesus would regularly go first. Smart thinking.

As Jesus went, he brought his new reputation with him. He was the guy who could tackle daimónia/“demons,” the Syrian Greek minor gods who were considered way harder to fight than mere evil spirits. He, unlike other exorcists, could order ’em out of a person with a word, and they’d go. Got a demoniac in the family, and you’ve lost hope of them ever being cured? Jesus is your hope.

Now, Jesus’s reputation wasn’t necessarily an advantage. Yes, many people who’d never go to synagogue might decide to go for once, since Jesus was teaching. Maybe they’d see a miracle. And while most folks will pay closer attention to a miracle-worker, there are always those folks who don’t care what a miracle-worker has to say; they just wanna see a spectacle, and they’ll be mighty disappointed if they don’t. (Even if they get their spectacle. Too many non-Pentecostals are convinced miracles oughta look like Hollywood special effects, and when they finally see a real one, they’re a little let down. Not “special” enough.)

Yes, Jesus came to teach. But don’t get the false idea he came only to teach, or primarily to teach. Look at all the healing he did. Look at the crowds these miracles attracted. God’s kingdom consists of both teaching and power. 1Co 2.4-5 The teaching is important, but the power confirms it came from the one God sent. The power is important, but now we should learn what our almighty God expects of us. They go together—despite naysayers who doubt the power is for God’s kids in the present day, and despite power-hungry charismatics who skip Jesus’s teaching in favor of the latest thrill.

Jesus brought both teaching and power him. Don’t misread his intentions. Don’t let your bad mood warp your interpretation. Seek his mood—his love, his grace, his generosity—for yourself.