20 August 2023

Ready to take on the whole of the Galilee.

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

Whenever preachers talk about Jesus curing everyone in Capharnaum, they tend to describe it as Jesus spending all day curing people and throwing out demons. But read the text: The people came to him at sundown, Mk 1.32, Mt 8.16, Lk 4.40 so he actually spent all night curing people. Hope he got his Sabbath rest, ’cause he sure needed it.

By the end, preachers tend to describe Jesus as exhausted. And he might’ve been really tired, ’cause he was up all night. But exhausted? That’s only because they don’t know what it’s like to supernaturally cure the sick. 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 your 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. It’s a rush.

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 ἀναστὰς ἐξῆλθεν/anastás exílthen doesn’t mean, as the KJV puts it, “rising up… he went out,” but “the one who is up [already], goes out.” Jesus didn’t wake up and figure it’s prayer time; he was still up, and didn’t wanna sleep. He wanted more.

What kind of mood did you imagine Jesus was in?

Mark 1.35-39 KWL
35 Still awake in the still-dark morning,
Jesus comes out and goes to a solitary place,
and is praying there.
36 Simon Peter and those with him
search for Jesus,
37 and find Jesus and tell him this:
“Everybody looks for you!”
38 Jesus tells them, “We should go elsewhere,
into the other towns there are,
so I can preach there also,
for this is why I’ve come!”
Luke 4.42-44 KWL
42 Once it became day,
Jesus comes out and goes to a solitary place,
and the crowds are looking for him,
and come to him.
They’re holding on to him
lest he leave them.
43 Jesus tells them this:
“In the other cities as well,
I have to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom.
For this is why I’m sent.”
44 And Jesus is preaching
in the Jewish synagogues.

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

See, one’s mindset makes a huge difference when it comes to interpreting bible. If we bring our own pessimism, skepticism, cynicism, negativity, and exhaustion to the text, we wind up with a negative-sounding Jesus who’s just plain done with these people. And that’s not Jesus. He loves people! He came to save people. Not ditch ’em at the first opportunity.

The idea of an exhausted Jesus, desperately trying to claw back some strength through prayer, is based on our own lack of experience, and bad attitudes. Y’ever notice how many preachers are introverts? To them, people are tiring. Ministry drains them. So they need to get away from people on a regular basis, and renew their strength in prayer… and project themselves upon Jesus, and it’s entirely wrong. He didn’t look at the Galilee and think, “Man, I have so much still to do.” He looked at it in the Holy Spirit’s might, and thought, “I’m gonna conquer the world!”

(Last little thing. In the Textus Receptus, Jesus is preaching in “the Galilean synagogues.” Lk 4.44 KJV The earliest copies of Luke say τῆς Ἰουδαίας/tis Yudéas not τῆς Γαλιλαίαςtis Galiléas, but someone in the 400s decided Galiléas made more sense and changed it: Jesus was teaching in the Galilee after all, not Judea. But Luke wasn’t describing the synagogues’ locations, but origin: They were founded by Jews.)

The people who sought Jesus.

In Mark it’s Simon Peter and the other students who sought Jesus after he took off. In Luke it’s the crowd. Not sure how big a crowd, but certainly bigger than Simon’s group. Jesus responded to Simon with “We should go elsewhere” Mk 1.38 —so they clearly consist of nothing but his followers. Jesus responded to the crowd with, “I have to proclaim the good news in the other cities” Lk 4.43 —they’re trying to hold onto him, but they’re not going with him.

Why were the people of Capharnaum trying to hold onto Jesus? Well, besides the fact he’s the nicest, friendliest guy, they wanted a healer around in case anybody else got sick. Why should Jesus go to other cities?—other people could just come to Capharnaum. Plus he’s a prophet; they might want some prophecy. Plus he’s a rabbi; he could teach ’em every Sabbath, and maybe every other day of the week, since he’s around. Plus he’s Messiah—he’s the king of Israel; once he takes over the country and world, maybe he’ll remember his old friends in Capharnaum and give ’em really good, powerful jobs.

As for 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, “Man, Jesus has so much still to do.” And that’s before they knew Jesus was taking this show on the road—they might’ve figured, apart from trips to visit Jesus’s family in Nazareth and Cana, apart from trips to Jerusalem for the festivals, they were gonna stay at Jesus’s home base. Not travel the Galilee. And the Dekapolis, and into Syria, and Samaria again, and they were gonna be doing this a bunch.

Everybody’s expectations about Jesus were off, ’cause 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.

So off he goes!

Mark 1.39 KWL
Jesus goes throughout all the Galilee,
preaching in their synagogues,
throwing out demons.
Matthew 4.23-25 KWL
23 Jesus goes 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
goes out to the whole of Syria.
They bring him all those with all sorts of things wrong,
and he cures them:
Illness, disease, chronic pain, seizures,
demons, epilepsy, and paralysis.
25 Many crowds follow Jesus
from the Galilee, Dekapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.
Luke 4.44 KWL
Jesus is preaching in the Jewish synagogues.

Pharisees were the only ones with synagogues, and custom was for any visiting rabbi—whom the synagogue president recognized, of course—to speak first. This was definitely a custom Jesus could use to his advantage. Once his reputation spread past Capharnaum, just about any synagogue would want to hear him speak, and speaking first meant Jesus set the tone for the evening.

Had Jesus only stayed in Capharnaum, he wouldn’t have been the guest speaker, nor the first speaker: He’d’ve been one of the resident rabbis. Who spoke second, third, fourth, whatever—depending on how many rabbis wanted to talk. He wouldn’t get to start the evening with his (infallibly accurate) interpretation of the scriptures, obligating every other rabbi to deal with what he said. He’d be just another rabbi reacting to the first guy. Traveling empowered Jesus to effectively preach God’s kingdom in every synagogue he visited. Smart thinking.

As he traveled, Jesus brought his new reputation with him: He could throw out demons. With a word. Got a demoniac in the family, and you’ve given up hope of ever getting ’em cured? Jesus is your hope.

True, 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 might work 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 be annoyed if they don’t. (Heck, they’ll be annoyed even if they do. Too many non-Pentecostals believe miracles look like Hollywood special effects, and are let down when they see what a real one looks like: It’s not “special” enough.)

Yes, Jesus came to teach. But don’t believe the cessationists who argue Jesus only or primarily came to teach; that the miracles were a distraction he avoided. Miracles are part of the package: God’s kingdom comes with teaching and power. 1Co 2.4-5 The teaching is important, but the power confirms the teaching’s really from God. The power is important, but without good teaching it’s fleshly. They go together—despite naysayers who doubt the power’s for the present day, or power-hungry charismatics who skip Jesus’s teachings for the spectacle.

Jesus brought both teaching and power with 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.