Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Our Great Physician!

(This message was preached at Covenant Reformed Baptist Church on Wed. eve, 6-7-17: )

THESIS: The work of Christ in healing many in such a vast crowd ought to point us to the greatest of the works of Christ – Salvation to our souls!

This evening we’ll again be considering Mark 3:7-12

But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. 11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.[1]

This passage could become rather ordinary.  What do we see here?  A crowd of people.  Jesus healing them. Mark is speaking in generalities – let’s not get lost in them.  Sometimes we get to thinking like this.  But there is far more here, when you look closely at the text, and consider the time, the crowd, and the places mentioned.  When we consider the work of Jesus, in light of the crowd, and in light of our own selves – 2000 years removed from the occasion – we will see once again, that we have a faithful compassionate and considerate heavenly Father.

Let’s set the stage – what do we really have here?  Jesus withdrew to the sea.  This is probably the Sea of Galilee.  The sea provides a natural barrier against which large crowds could not cross, literally ‘crowd control’.  I avoid crowded places.  I especially avoid large crowds.  Crowds can be dangerous.  I don’t have to tell you that – we hear the news.  Terrorists look for crowded places to make their mark, because people are constricted.  Jesus had the disciples get a boat ready – because of the crowd.

And who were the people of this great crowd?  Scripture records a much more diverse group here than we have observed so far in Mark.  Remember the crowd that gathered in Peters’ home that Sabbath when Peters’ Mother-in-law was healed?  Right after sundown they converged on Peters’ home because of the incident in the synagogue.  And of course the time when the paralytic and his friends tore the roof open at Peters home to get to Him. Or especially the crowd we read about in Mark 1:29 – 39 where we considered the land of Galilee and how dark a place it was. But the crowd in today’s passage was much larger and far more diverse.  Consider the places mentioned:

v Galilee

v Judea (Jerusalem) - 80 miles south of Capernaum

v Idumea – This is the area south of Judea, extending as far south as Gaza

§  This is up to 145 miles from Capernaum (aka Edom – Esau)

v Beyond the Jordan - This would be east of the Jordan – Perea (the area vacated by Edom) & Decapolis.

v Tyre & Sidon – North of Capernaum as far as 50 miles


The area this crowd was coming from was a range as far as 175 miles round!  What this tells us is not that people traveled that far to see him but the word traveled out so far!  The furthest people may have traveled was from Idumea and those traveled as much as 145 miles.  But remember this travel was not in the comfort and speed of a car, but on a horse, camel, or for many, on foot.  Are you ready to travel 100 miles on foot to see a faith healer?

And what about those people?  They weren’t necessarily the young and healthy now, were they?  These were the blind, the lame, the sick, the demon possessed – and their families who traveled because they had heard of a man who could help them.  How fast do you think such people traveled?  Do you think it was an easy trip?!

About 30 years ago my Mom heard about this faith healer who was apparently in town.  My Mom was a Nurse. Since she was working on the evening of this event she enlisted me, and my 2 sisters to bring my brother Scott – who was diabetic – to the healer.  I don’t remember all the particulars, but we kids weren’t all that convinced.  In any event, who were we to stand in Scott’s way?  He needed help – maybe this guy could help?

So we sat down in the far back of this large room.  At some point the invitation was made and we pushed Scott down the aisle.  After a bit of yelling and other hocus pocus, they pushed him backwards into someone who caught him and sent him back to us.  His face was literally bright red.  So on the car ride home, I asked him, “So, are you gonna take your insulin tonight?”  We knew this was a farce.  But we went – just in case it wasn’t.  When people are hurting they often do the ridiculous.  Americans spend money on meds and health pills by the millions annually.  The woman who had an issue of blood (Mark 5) spent all that she had for 12 years and was no better. 

This crowd had heard that there was a gentle healer in the area and they came in droves!  So many that Christ had to have a small boat nearby so that he could still minister to them.  I’m not sure I’d be so patient.  The crowds pressed in to touch him.  The woman with the issue of blood thought just that!  If I but touch the hem of his clothing I will be healed.  This was the crowd who traveled on foot, though sick for many miles to be healed.  And Christ healed many the Scripture says. The Greek word is πολύς and it isn’t a mystery.  It means numerous, populous, much, abundantly, freely.

Do you see the compassion of our God?   How willing he was to spend himself and be spent upon the people!  How long would you put up with such a large imperious crowd?  I doubt for very long.  Yet this was Christ’s reason for coming!  And He desired to do it!  Think about how long the crowds hung around.  To the point of not bringing enough food and fainting in the way.  The disciples, patient perhaps for a while could not put up with them for so long.  Remember the request they made to Christ that he send the crowds away to get food for the day was spent?  Yet the ministry was not done for the day…  And remember the circumstance of the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus sat on the well, and sent the disciples to get food – he was tired and hungry.  But when they returned, they saw him back at it – ministering to her.  When they pressed him to eat we read, “But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest![2]

If it was Jesus plan to do the will of the Father, what is that will?  When I was researching the passage I of course thought of Isa. 61:1-2, a passage which I have cited numerous times – the same passage which Christ cited in the synagogue in Nazareth as having been fulfilled in their very hearing! In the parallel passage, Matthew cites Isa. 42:1-4 as being fulfilled in this account.  It is a familiar passage, but I’d like to read it.

Isaiah prophesies of the Lord Jesus that he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.  Recall the list of places all the people came from – Beginning with Galilee – Galilee of the gentiles.  Idumea – AKA Edom or Esau. In my Bible, one map shows that Edom originally settled east of the Jordan, and another map referencing the time of Christ show Edom south of Judea.  Beyond the Jordan – Perea & Decapolis. Perea represented places almost entirely composed of Jewish people, while Decapolis was primarily of Gentile people.  Tyre & Sidon were Phoenician historically and therefore primarily Gentile.   Matthew tells us that Isaiah’s prophecy here is being fulfilled. 

Consider the prophecy if you will for a moment.  Matthew 12:18a seems to foreshadow his baptism.  18b speaks to the fact that Christ is not the Christ of the Jews only – a point I made repeatedly in an earlier message.  Verse 19 references the manner that Christ will be in his 1st coming – gentle – not railing.  Verse 20a expands on this considerably.  Verse 20b and 21 speak to the aspect of justice and to the Gentiles. 

This is the 1st time Isaiah uses the phrase ‘My Servant’ in reference to the Lord Jesus.  You may recall that in Isaiah 52:13 Isaiah also uses the phrase in the same way as he introduces the key essential ministry of Messiah.  Keep that in your thoughts as I begin to catalog for you a few of the Lord’s healing activities. 


·      The woman with the issue of blood.  (Mark 5:25-34) 32And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”[3]

·      The Syro-Phoenecian woman - (Matthew 15:21-28) 21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” 23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” 27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.[4]


·      The Paralytic let down through the roof (Mark 2) 5When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”…10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all.[5]


·      The Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10) 9When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”[6]

Contrast those 4 accounts with this verse, “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:58)

Why did Jesus heal people? Recall the passage in Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord[7]  Recall for a moment the response Christ gave to the disciples of John as he languished in jail - Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22)


What do we see in each of the various healings cited?  We see faith exercised.  Faith is defined in Hebrew 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. [8] And in Nazareth he did not do many mighty works because of their unbelief.  Their lack of faith is what kept them from experiencing the blessing of the Messiah. 

But these healings? Are they really the point?  Why did Christ pour himself out on such an unruly crowd?  And think about it – when the blind was given sight how did that help him?  Or the lame walk? Even the dead raised?  Wasn’t it the fact that all these eventually died again?  Yet the Messiah did come with healing in his wings as it were.  Remember the phrase ‘My Servant’ in Isaiah?  Chapter 52:13 through 53 depicts our Saviors work on the cross to cure our true malady – Sin. 

Physical healing was truly only a pointer that something is wrong.  But to heal a man’s blinded eyes and do no more will not help that man.  Remember that Isa 61 and 42 both reference something greater that the miraculous healings – the poor have the gospel preached to them.  What is that gospel? – the suffering death of the Saviour in our place on the tree! 

The fact that we have illness and troubles really only help to point us to the greater problem of our Spiritual deadness because of Adam’s sin.  One could actually say that these physical troubles are the symptoms of a far more pervasive dilemma which is our standing before a holy & righteous God after we die.

Yet Jesus willingly spent himself on helping men and women with many symptoms so that they might hear him and trust in Him and His work on the cross for our sake!

Blessed are the poor in spirit – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)

Are you poor in spirit? What does that mean? In all the cases where Christ healed – it was said of them, that their faith has made them whole.  Faith is defined as the substance of things hoped for.  Substance references something weighty.  The Greek word is ὑπόστασις – which is translated confidence most of the time.  It can also mean to stand.  When we trust in Christ we stand upon the finished work on the Cross.  Our confidence is in his perfect sinless life, and his satisfactory death to pay for our sin debt and atone us to God.

Before I complete this message there is one more portion we have not really addressed.  That is verses 11 – 12, “And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.[9]

Again we have the demonic set before us.  How does their presence fit and what are we to make of their statements and Christs rebuke?

I would direct you once again to Isaiah 61:1 and the phrase ‘liberty to the captives’ As Luke quotes it, “to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Demon possession – or oppression is nothing good.  And it is a real problem these days as it was in those days.  But Christ set us free of the bondage of sin – giving Satan no foothold in our lives.  As for the declaration, ‘You are the Son of God’ This is nothing more than a kind of political speech.  Our Lord Jesus will indeed come again with recompense for his agenda – but his first coming was not to take vengeance – but to heal the sin-sick soul.  Christ did not need the declaration of demons to further his work.  They furthered it only insofar as they came out of men and women shrieking in agony.  Indeed he is the very Son of God.  But his actions speak very much louder than their words!

 When I began to study for this message I read two of Spurgeons’ messages on the passage.  And though they were preached about 15 years apart both seemed to be evangelistically oriented.  At the time, I really did not see the need to focus the message evangelistically.  But we have the children among us today, and for the summer.  We have the poor among us.  Indeed we are the very poor in spirit. Jeremiah says,

Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?[10]

The old spiritual replies:

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

Brothers & Sisters, are you truly trusting in Jesus and him alone for your confidence before the Father?  Do you think you can stand apart from Him?  People of faith are not those who build up a faith all their own.  It is a gift of God – lest anyone boast.  People of faith are those who trusting in the very goodness of the Lord say – If I but touch the hem of his clothing I shall be healed.  Our Lord Jesus is now in heaven.  We cannot even see the hem of his clothing let alone touch it. 

Yet I tell you in all confidence that He hears you and heals today just as he did on that seaside beach with all the clambering crowd.  And you do not have to fight the crowd - you call upon the Lord – and be saved!


[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 3:7–12.
[2] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jn 4:32–35.
[3] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 5:32–34.
[4] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 15:21–28.
[5] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 2:5–12.
[6] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 7:9.
[7] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Is 61:1–2.
[8] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Heb 11:1.
[9] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 3:11–12.
[10] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Je 8:22.

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