Healings in Capernaum
“That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him” (vv. 32–34).- Mark 1:29–34
Having exorcised an unclean spirit from a man in Capernaum’s synagogue, Jesus departs for the “house of Simon and Andrew” (Mark 1:29). Jesus probably lived there during His stay in Capernaum, and He would have been quite welcome in that home because of an episode recorded in today’s passage.
Upon entering the home of Simon, who is better known to us as the Apostle Peter, Jesus finds that Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever (vv. 29–30). We do not know the precise nature of the ailment, but Jesus addresses it at once, taking the woman by the hand and restoring her to health. She then does what anyone who has been redeemed by Jesus does—she serves Him (v. 31).
Yet Jesus heals many others in Capernaum in addition to Peter’s mother-in-law. At sundown, many people in the city bring Him their friends and relatives who are sick or being oppressed by demons (v. 32). Why sundown? Recall that Jesus has been teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath (v. 21), which is reckoned from sundown to sundown. In other words, the people come for help once the Sabbath is over, at which point work is permissible once more. Perhaps they have been influenced by the Pharisees to believe healing is not allowed on the Sabbath because it is a form of labor, a subject about which Jesus will soon have something to say (3:1–6).
Mark informs us that in the process of these healings, Jesus “would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him” (1:34b). He did this often in His early ministry, forbidding people to tell of His works or to reveal His identity (for example, v. 44; 5:43; 8:30). This command to be silent has puzzled many commentators, but it is easier to understand when we consider first-century Jewish society and the type of mission Jesus was engaged in. First-century Palestine was part of the Roman Empire, and most Jews were not very happy to be under the rule of the caesar. Many uprisings against Rome occurred in the era, led by Jews who claimed to be the Messiah, and they invited swift reprisals from the Romans. To broadcast Jesus’ works and identity might have attracted the attention of the Roman armies and brought an end to His ministry before it was time. Furthermore, John Calvin comments that Jesus did not allow Himself to be identified “because the time of the full revelation was not yet come.” He could not be revealed in His fullness until the cross, for the cross reveals the Messiah of Isaiah 53 clearly.
Several biblical texts show us God’s sovereignty in revealing Himself. Our Creator does not show Himself on demand; rather, He chooses to reveal Himself and His purposes when He sees fit. This happened during Jesus’ ministry when He would not let others speak of Him. It happens today, as God chooses when and where to reveal His salvation to His elect and call them to faith through His Word. God is wise in how He reveals Himself, so let us not demand that He act on our timetable.
Passages for Further Study