All Men Seek For Thee
Sunday, May 7th, 2023
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA
35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. 36 And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. 37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. 38 And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. 39 And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils. 40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. 42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. 43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; 44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.
Father, we thank you for the example of the Lord Jesus, for his piety, his prayer, and his power to cleanse. And we ask that just as Jesus touched the leper and healed him, so also you would touch us and heal us from our iniquities, for we ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
This morning we finish Chapter 1 of Mark’s Gospel, this is the 6th sermon in our series, and so far we have covered a lot of ground.
As we have seen, Mark’s gospel moves at a rapid pace (everything is said to happen “immediately”), and so what might take four chapters to cover in Matthew or Luke, Mark covers in a couple verses.
This is of course intentional and is meant to portray Jesus in a certain light. Mark knows there will be other gospel accounts you can read (he knows the other gospel writers) but his task is set forth Jesus as the Lion from the tribe of Judah. Marks wants to emphasize that Jesus is a new David, a new Elisha, a new Joshua, one who leads God’s people into the promised land of the kingdom.
One of the other major emphases in Mark’s gospel is the spiritual warfare in Christ’s ministry. Who is the great opponent Jesus comes to do battle with? So far it is Satan, and the demons, and those under their influence.
Mark pulls back the veil so to speak and illustrates what the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
So although Jesus is walking about Galilee and Capernaum by the waterfront, He is waging spiritual warfare wherever He goes, that is what the preaching of gospel of the kingdom does. Light has come into the world, and the darkness cannot comprehend it.
As we look at our text, verses 35-45, we see this is a continuation of what took place the day before. And if you remember the sermon last week, we saw that Jesus enters the synagogue on the sabbath day, and he casts out a demon, and then after church they go over to Peter’s house for dinner and there, he heals Peter’s mother-in-law. And then when the sun goes down on the sabbath day, the entire city gathers at the door of Peter’s house desiring to be healed. So, this is a late night of ministry for Jesus, and he crashes at Peter’s house afterwards.
Turning to our text, in verse 35 it says…
35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
Here we have a hint and foreshadowing of the resurrection. Jesus is said to “rise up” (ἀναστὰς) early in the morning, and guess what day it is, it’s Sunday. The Jewish sabbath was Saturday, Jesus is resurrected early on Sunday morning, and Mark uses the same language here that he will use at the end of the book when He says, “Now when Jesus was risen (Ἀναστὰς) early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.”
Notice also the reference to devils being cast out. Here in chapter 1, Jesus casts out a bunch of devils, sleeps and “resurrects.” And that’s the first thing Mark calls attention to in chapter 16 when Jesus actually rises from the dead: he rises early and appears to a woman who he had delivered from demonic possession.
So Mark gives us this foreshadowing of the resurrection. Jesus after a long night of ministry, rises up early in the morning, and he goes to a solitary place to pray.
Now why does Jesus do this?
Jesus of course is the one who answers prayers according to his Divine Nature, but in His human nature he desires to show the disciples (and us) what true piety looks like.
What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means to mortify your flesh, to get up early, to seek solitude, so that you can speak with your Father. If Jesus did it, we should too.
This is what true devotion looks like. It seeks the quiet places away from society, before the noise and business of the world begins, and communes with God.
If Jesus desired solitude and prayer and He is the Son of God, how much more should we? How much more do we need to pray than the one who never sinned?
Continuing in verses 36-37…
36 And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. 37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.
There are many reasons why someone might seek after Jesus. If you had heard that a true prophet of God was in your town, and had the power to heal any disease, wouldn’t you go to him? Wouldn’t you bring your family and friends to him? Wouldn’t you want him to touch you and make your body completely well?
This is the primary reason people are seeking after Jesus, not because they want to enter the kingdom of heaven, or receive spiritual healing, but because they want His power to do something for them. They want earthly and temporal relief from sickness and affliction. Jesus of course, wants to give them that, but he wants to give them something more.
The language Mark uses here for following and seeking after Jesus is the language of hunting. And this same language is used in 1 Samuel 23:25 where David is hunted by King Saul. It says there, “Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon.”
This should not surprise us that Mark is again portraying Jesus as David.Like David, Jesus is anointed king but has not yet ascended the throne, he has the power to cast out demons, and though he is righteous and innocent, Saul pursues him so that he must withdraw into the wilderness.
And it is there in the wilderness that David writes various Psalms, and one of them is Psalm 63, the heading is, “A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.” And if you know Psalm 63, what is the very first line of that prayer? “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee.”
This is what Jesus does. He rises early, he goes into the wilderness where David himself was once hunted, and there he seeks the Lord while all men seek after him.
This is the irony Mark is employing. He is playing with this idea of what it means to seek someone. You could seek them like Saul seeks for David (to kill him), or you could seek them like Jesus seeks for God (because He loves Him). Both seekings happen in the wilderness, but one is righteous and the other is wicked.
And the question we should ask then is: Why do we seek Jesus? Why do all men seek after Him? Why are the disciples looking for him? What do we really want from Him? Is it merely physical healing and the improvement of our temporal circumstances. Or does our seeking have eternity in view? Are we led from the healing of our bodies to the healing of our souls? From the casting out of demons to the casting off of sinful desires. Christ of course has the power to do both, but many people seek only one of these from him. So what do you seek?
The disciples say, “All men seek after thee,” but we know that is not inherently a good thing, are they seeking like Saul or like the Psalmist seeks for God?
Well how does Jesus respond to this newfound popularity? How does he handle the fame and notoriety?
38 And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. 39 And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.
Jesus knows what the people seek. But he also knows the reason for the Father sending Him to earth. He knows the purpose for the incarnation, and the goal of his whole ministry. Why did Jesus come forth? He says, “so that I may preach.”
It belongs to the wise man to know and publish the truth, and Jesus is God’s very wisdom who comes forth in order to preach.
Preaching is God’s instrument for salvation. It is the word proclaimed that cleanses and gives life. And while Jesus has the power to do any kind of miracle he likes, anytime he wants, he only does them to reinforce the truth of His preaching, to bear witness to his words. For Jesus, miracles are just signs to help people believe what He has to say.
As we will see next Sunday in chapter 2, Jesus says to a bunch of unbelieving scribes, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house. Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all.”
Anyone can say “your sins are forgiven,” but because the forgiveness of sins is invisible, it is hard for people to believe Jesus when he says it. And so because of their unbelief, he says things that are lesser to him, but of more weight with human beings, namely “arise, take up your bed, and walk.”
Jesus says elsewhere, “an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” It is immaturity and human frailty that needs miracles to believe in Jesus. This is why Jesus says to Thomas after His resurrection, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Blessed are all who live after the ascension. Who go to church and hear the Word, and believe what God says.
So why did Jesus come forth? To preach.
In verses 40-45, Mark then tells us about an encounter Jesus has with a leper.
40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
Leprosy was one of the worst things that could ever to happen to you. Not merely because of the physical pain that might be associated with it, there are many possible forms of leprosy, some more serious and some less so.
But to become a leper was to be exiled from the presence of God, to be cut off from society, and even to be alienated from yourself. In leprosy, your own flesh is exposed and consuming you.
It says in Leviticus 13:45-46, “the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. 46 All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.”
The life of a leper is a life of perpetual mourning: the wearing of torn clothes, the disheveled hair, the covering of the mouth, all of these signify lamentation, death, and silence.
Furthermore, in the history of the Old Testament, only two people were ever healed of leprosy. Miriam (Moses’ sister) who was miraculously struck with leprosy and then healed by God. And Naaman the Syrian, who was healed by Elisha the prophet.
In 2 Kings 5 we see how the king of Israel receives a letter from the King of Syria, requesting that Elisha heal Naaman.
“And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.”
The king of Israel knew that only God had the power to heal leprosy, and so he took it as an act of war that the king of Syria would request this from one of their prophets. Nevertheless, a double portion of God’s Spirit rests upon Elisha, and by his word, Naaman is healed.
So who is Jesus that this leper comes to him? He is Elisha. He is God, who has the power to kill and make alive.
The leper has nothing else to lose and so he goes to Jesus and says, “if you will, you can make me clean.”
41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. 42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
In the old world under the old covenant, uncleanness was contagious. To touch a leper was basically to touch a corpse, which made you unclean for seven days. And if you touched a dead body, you had to be sprinkled with water by a clean person on the third day, and on the seventh day, and then bathe and wash all your clothes, and only after all that could you come back into the camp (Num. 19).
And so for Jesus to touch this leper and heal him was to turn the world upside down. Where once defilement flowed and spread to anyone who touched the defiled, in Jesus entropy reverses. Death starts running because life has entered the world.
This is what was prophesied in Zechariah 13, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”
Jesus is that fountain, and wherever he goes, whoever he touches, he makes them clean. This the beginning of a new world order, wherein Jesus is making all things new. And that fountain of cleansing still flows today. Wherever the Word is preached, sin and uncleanness is removed.
As it says in Ephesians 5:26, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”
In verses 43-45 we have the conclusion of this scene.
43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; 44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.
So Jesus heals this leper, and then commands him to keep the law of Moses as a testimony to the priests. Earlier we heard in Leviticus 14 how this ritual plays out, a priest examines him to determine if he is indeed healed, if so, then two birds are taken, one is sacrificed, the other dipped in its blood over water, and then that blood is sprinkled seven times over him. He then has to shave off all his hair, bathe, remain outside the temple seven days, and then come back on the 8th day, offer two lambs, one for trespass, one for a burnt offering, and then blood and oil is placed upon the right ear, the right thumb, and right big toe. That is how atonement is made and the man is finally pronounced clean.
Jesus wants this man to do that, not only because these are types and shadows of his death on the cross, but also as a witness against the temple which itself needs to be cleansed.
If you keep reading in Leviticus 14, after it describes the ritual for cleansing lepers, it describes the ritual for cleansing leprosy in a house. Houses and garment can become leprous too, and that is what the synagogues and temple have become: leprous houses where demons live.
When Jesus turns over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, He is coming as a priest to examine whether there is leprosy in the walls. And so for this leper to show up to God’s house, having been cleansed by Jesus, it is a testimony and warning unto them.
The leper is a sort of warning shot that Jesus himself is going to come to the temple and examine it. And what happens to leprous houses in Leviticus 14? They are torn down. As Jesus himself will say before his death, “not one stone will be left upon another, all will be thrown down” (Matt. 24:2).
In addition to commanding this man to do what Moses commanded, Jesus also commands him to “say nothing to any man.” This injunction against running his mouth, is intended to preserve Jesus’ ability to minister in the cities. But because this man cannot keep it to himself, this story “blazes abroad” so that Jesus can longer openly enter the cities.
Here again we have this ironic reversal, where Jesus heals the leper but because of his disobedience, is forced to chance places with him. The leper can enter the cities, he is restored to society. But now Jesus is forced to live without in desert places, back in the wilderness.
This is of course the gospel. We are all spiritual lepers. Our flesh is corrupt, it spreads to other people, we are alienated from the life of God (dead in our sins), and this alienates us from one another. Leprosy is meant to teach us the corruption of sin, the consequences of the curse. And the way that God has chosen to heal us and restore us to Himself, is by sending Jesus to take all of that uncleanness upon himself. And then like the goat on the day of atonement, He is sent outside the camp. Alone in the wilderness. Jesus does that for you and me.
Mark is a genius and has ordered these opening healing scenes of Jesus ministry to match the order of Leviticus 10-16, which also matches the order of events in Genesis 3.
After Adam sinned in the garden, God curses in this order:
First, the serpent with crawling upon his belly and eating the dust, and the promise that one day his head will be crushed.
Second, the woman with pain in childbearing and desire for her husband
Third, the man, with toil and alienation from the ground to which he shall return.
This is the same order we have seen in our text. The same order in which Jesus comes to reverse the curse.
First, he silences and casts out the serpent. He wars against Satan and exorcises the devils.
Second, he heals a woman (Peter’s mother-in-law) from burning fever, itself a symbol of desire/burning of the passions.
And now third, he heals a man, a leper, a son of Adam who has in his body a perpetual reminder of death, of “to dust you shall return.”
And so Mark is giving us Jesus as the one who comes to undo the curse, who comes to crush the serpent’s head, and who will die and rise to deliver His people. This is the hope of the gospel, repent and believe.