How a Servant Shows Compassion
Compassion should drive how we serve other people. We should not minister out of obligation or compulsion, but out of a caring desire for the person who needs help. We need to help people because we care for them. This is the message we get from this section of Mark. In these verses, we are introduced to the idea that Jesus shows compassion. When He ministers to people, He does it because He cares for them. Let’s look at five scenes of a servant’s compassion and five related categories of healing.
Five Scenes of Servant-Compassion and Five Categories of Healing
In this last section of Mark 1, we have five scenes that show the Servant’s compassion. In each of these cases, we see how a Christian can increase their compassion for other people. Because as Christians, in order to reach out to others, compassion is needed.
Scene 1: Physical Healing (Mark 1:29-31)
The section begins and ends with healings. In this first healing, we see that Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever. This is the first category of people who needed healing – those who are physically sick. She was sick and so they asked Jesus to come and heal her. Jesus showed compassion for those who were sick, who were close to Him.
This is the reason we lift the sick up in prayer. We pray for the restoration of health. In this case, Peter’s mother-in-law (who is never named) was healed. She served as a result of her healing. She didn’t serve out of an obligation to Jesus for healing her. Instead, she “waited on” or served others because she wanted to do so. The word “waited on” or “served” is where we get our word deacon. In a sense, Peter’s mother-in-law was illustrating the first characteristic of a deacon. Scholars don’t use this passage as a justification for female deacons, but it is interesting that the same word is used here as for Phoebe in Romans 16:1.
Scene 2: Casting Out Demons (Mark 1:32-34)
The second scene of servant compassion was in the evening. It is interesting that the demon-possessed came to Jesus at night. The demon-possessed were a second spiritual category of people who needed healing. Jesus healed this group and cast out the demons. He told the demons not to speak. It is possible that Jesus was healing demon-possessed people all night. This would make for a full day of ministry.
Scene 3: Solitude and Prayer (Mark 1:35)
The third scene is when Jesus is all alone. Here, we have a case of personal spiritual healing through time with God in prayer. Quiet time as we like to refer to today is a form of healing for the spirit. This time rejuvenated Jesus. The reason was that God used “spiritual energy” from Jesus to heal other people. Jesus couldn’t serve others very well if He was not taking care of Himself. Here, this self-care is a form of healing. It is the healing of the self. Self-care is not to replace time of worship with others. Instead, a personal time. Some would call this “me” time. The difference is that this is “God and me” time.
The work of the day and evening had exhausted Him. In His healing of the sick and casting out devils, power had gone out of Him. While others still slept, He went away to pray and to renew His strength in communion with His Father. He had need of this, otherwise, He would not have been ready for the new day. The holy work of delivering souls demands constant renewal through fellowship with God.1
Scene 4: Preaching (Mark 1:36-39)
The fourth scene reveals a fourth category of healing. Jesus says that even though He heals physical and spiritual ailments, He does not neglect the preaching ministry. He knows that preaching is part of the reason why He has come. “Kerryso” is the Greek word for “preach” in this verse. The preaching ministry complements the healing ministry. Preaching convicts and eventually heals the soul. The reason is that it leads to a conviction of sin and recognition of a need for forgiveness. The forgiveness of sin leads to healing for the soul.
Scene 5: Social Healing (Mark 1:40-45)
When Jesus shows compassion, He acts on it. The word compassion used here to describe Jesus is actually two words put together: a word that means to feel sympathy for someone and a second word that means one’s “gut.” The idea is that Jesus was moved to the very core of His being. What Jesus felt for the crowd He feels for us this morning. Did you know that? Whatever your need, where ever you are on your journey, whatever struggle you’re facing this morning, Jesus feels for you from His heart. He’s not only aware of your need; He’s concerned about your need. And He not only concerned about your need, He is sympathetic toward your need.2
So in this last scene, we see the fifth category of healing. I would call this social healing. This category of healing was different than just a fever. This was “unclean” disease. The person probably had leprosy. This kind of disease was one which was socially unacceptable. Like HIV today, the person would be cast out of the community. Notice first that the person who was sick begged for help. Notice also that Jesus had compassion for people in this condition. Also, see that the man had a desire to be healed. Finally, realize that this man’s healing became a testimony to others.
So the first healing was for someone close to Jesus. It was Peter’s mother-in-law. The final healing was for someone who was outcast. Jesus has just as much compassion for my sick mother-in-law as for someone who has HIV. We need to remember that as a church that healing is not exclusive to one group of people. My compassion should not be limited to just who I care about personally.
1 Heritage of Great Evangelical Teaching : Featuring the Best of Martin Luther, John Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, C.H. Spurgeon and Others. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997).