“And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.” Mark 2:1-2
Word went throughout the city that Jesus was in the house of Simon and Andrew, and soon the place was packed with people. The city of Capernaum, and particularly this house, had become the headquarters of Jesus and His ministry. Recently, He had been away traveling, and visiting the synagogues, “Throughout all Galilee,” to preach the Gospel (Mark 1:21-39). But people were saying that He was back, having returned quietly to “the house.” Soon, “Many were gathered together insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door.” They packed the house, and Jesus, “Preached the word unto them.”
It is a good thing to have a packed house when the Word of God is preached. It is not the main thing that attendance is large, but it is no small matter either. Christians cannot think (although some today do seem to operate on this premise) that no matter how we gather the crowd, it is fine just as long as the house is packed, but we also cannot think that a full church is a bad thing. Several passages in the Bible make a point of how big the crowds were that came to hear Jesus.
“…there followed him great multitudes of people…And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain…And he opened his mouth, and taught them…” Matthew 4:25-5:2
“And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him.” Mark 3:9
“…the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God…” Luke 5:1
“…there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another…” Luke 12:1
We should hope and pray for our church houses to be packed with people to hear the Word of God. Of course, men can gather great numbers by offering some kind of entertainment, or some material reward. It takes work, but churches can be packed by the use of the usual promotional methods. Jesus dealt plainly with the issues that arose around the great crowds that formed supposedly to hear Him, who actually came as a result of ulterior motives.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life…” John 6:26-27
With these words, the Lord exposed two ulterior motives people had for joining the multitudes that came to hear Him: excitement about seeing miracles, and the desire to gratify physical needs. These are unworthy motives, one worse than the other. Jesus said that the best motive was to seek eternal life. Of course, the fact that He dealt with ulterior motives means that Jesus had people coming to see and hear Him for less than the best reasons. He did not turn them away, and neither should we when people come to church for reasons less than the best. The truth is that it is not wrong to give people reasons to attend our meetings other than spiritual reasons. The attractiveness of our buildings, the friendliness of our people, the quality of our music, and the magnetism of our programs are good things that may help draw the crowds; but the church has better means for packing the house than these. It is to these things, emphasized at the beginning of Mark 2, that our attention must be drawn as we plan for the church services and evangelistic efforts of the next year.
The Presence of Christ
Mark chapter two verse one says, “It was noised that he was in the house.” Ultimately, Jesus was the attraction that packed the house. Without a doubt, the churches of Jesus Christ have the potential of experiencing the real presence of Christ in their meetings by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus taught His disciples about the ministry of the Spirit, He said that believers after Pentecost would be able to “know” the Holy Spirit (Read John 14:15-23), to “see” Jesus even after He had gone back to Heaven, and to have Him “manifest” Himself to us. When the Spirit came, God was not only manifested to the believers, but also to the unsaved around them! In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Simon Peter pointed out that the thousands who heard him could both “see and hear” the shedding forth of the Spirit by Christ upon His servants and handmaidens. They not only could hear them tell, “The wonderful works of God,” but also they could somehow see the presence of the Spirit in their faces (Read Acts 2, and note especially verses 32 and 33). This manifestation of God by the presence of the Spirit in believers is powerfully described in the depiction of an ideal church meeting given in I Corinthians 14:23-25. If all the believers are under the control of the Holy Spirit and are admonishing each other and the unsaved people who have come, the lost man, “Falling down on his face…will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” So says the Bible.
This manifestation of God in the life of the believer is explained more fully to us in II Corinthians 3 and 4 (Read both chapters). The New Testament age, we are taught in this passage, is characterized by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers in Christ, and His ministry through them (chapter 3, verses 5-11). Our ministry therefore is far more glorious than the ministry of the Old Testament priests. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (verse 17). This amazing liberty happens in this way:
“…we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” II Corinthians 3:18
Chapter 4 tells us that “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” (verse 6). By beholding the glory of the Lord in the pages of Scripture (the “glass” or mirror according to James 1:23-25), we are changed into the same image by the Spirit of God so that people can see His face in ours! There are many more marvels in the rest of chapter 4, and we should meditate on them all, but it clearly teaches here that, “The life…of Jesus,” can be, “made manifest in our body,” (verses 10-12). When we are filled with the Holy Ghost, the presence of Christ can be experienced in our meetings.
This truth presses upon us the urgency of seeking the face of the Lord for revival in the church. James 4:1-10 tells us how to seek it and get it, and we need to follow the exhortations there. Let us humble ourselves, submit to God, and draw near to Him by cleansing our hands and purifying our hearts. Then we can expect to have the most powerful attraction possible in our church meetings: the very presence of Christ.
The Preaching of the Word
Make no mistake about it, the meeting in the house of Simon and Andrew was for preaching. “Many were gathered together…and he preached the word unto them” (verse 2). Primarily the ministry of the Lord Jesus was that of an itinerant preacher. That’s what He said when He announced His ministry at the synagogue of Nazareth.
“…he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…” Luke 4:18
In the first chapter of Mark, we read about great numbers of people coming to Him for healing, but we also see how He walked away from opportunities to heal in order to preach. The disciples urged Him to stay in town because there were so many more wanting to be healed, but He told them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, for therefore came I forth,” (See verses 32-39). So He went on a preaching tour of Galilee. The chapter ends with the story of a leper Jesus heals, and He tells him not to tell anybody about the healing (verses 40-45). But the man told everybody, and news that Jesus could heal actually hindered His work as a preacher! He, “Could no more openly enter into the city” because of the throngs of people who sought to touch Him or beg Him for healing. But Jesus wanted the healing downplayed so that He could get on with preaching the Word!
Even the story we are reading at the beginning of chapter 2 emphasizes the Lord’s priority of preaching over miracles, and the importance of spiritual healing over physical healing. When the crippled man was brought to Jesus (now read verses 3 through 12), Jesus said to him, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” When His critics condemned Him for these words, He spoke to them these words, and only then did He perform the physical miracle:
“That ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.”
Forgiveness of sins was put before the healing of the body. This was always true in the ministry of Christ. And it makes sense because every bodily healing is temporary. Every one who was healed by Jesus of some physical disease later died of another one! But those who received forgiveness of sins through the Son of God never lost the gift of eternal life.
Then why did Jesus heal people’s bodies? Theologians say it was in order to prove that He was God. However, Jesus said that only one of the miracles would prove His deity, and that was to be His resurrection from the dead (See Matthew 12:38-40). His other miracles did approve Him as a man of God (Acts 2:22-23), but did not prove He was the Son of God. Other men of God had done miracles before Him, and more would do them after His time. The miracles of Christ were not done primarily to prove anything, but rather because He was, “Moved with compassion,” on people (Note Mark 1:40-41). He healed them because He could, and because He loved people. He wanted to relieve their suffering, and He could do it. This is why He healed the sick. Christ’s main work was preaching the Word.
Really, the preaching of the Word of God is very attractive, because it will meet the need of every willing heart. Men do not live by bread alone. They must hear and believe the Word of God in order to live successful, happy, and healthy lives. Sadly, even Bible-believers sometimes belittle the importance and power of Bible preaching. However, when the Word is preached in the power of the Spirit, it becomes the Spirit’s sword (Ephesians 6:17), and does great good (Hebrews 4:12-13). Of course when even the words of God are expounded by carnal men (not controlled by the Holy Spirit), “The letter killeth,” (See II Corinthians 3:5-6 again), and harm can be done. But a revived, Spirit-filled preacher, carefully expounding the Word in clear terms, can pack the house.
The Faith of the Earnest
When the house was packed, even though much good was being done as Christ preached the Word to the people, a miracle, we might say, almost didn’t happen because of the difficulties created by the crowd. Four men brought a crippled friend to the house, seeking to get him to Jesus. The problem was that they could not get him to Jesus because of the people who would not let them pass. There is an interesting lesson in the fact that those who were closer to Jesus than he was actually hindered the needy man from getting to Jesus because, instead of helping him, they stood in the way. But the four friends were not deterred from their efforts by the difficulties. They, “Uncovered the roof where he was,” and, “let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay,” and set him down in front of the Lord Jesus. Then something startling happened.
“When Jesus saw their faith [not the faith of the palsied man, but the faith of his four friends], he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”
It was the faith of those who made a determined effort to get a needy man to Jesus that led to both a spiritual and a physical miracle, about which the people were, “All amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.”
The faith of a few who are determined to get somebody to Jesus can pack the house! Unfortunately, we do not see much of this kind of active faith, even in the good churches today. To have faith that if a man can be brought to Jesus, his problems will be solved, and to act on that faith with determination, is to open the way to miracles. This is the kind of faith any Christian who reads this article can have, and act upon, in the coming days. The effort may require the help of others, as in this case, but if others are needed, they can be found. If several work together to get a sinner to hear a preacher of the Gospel, their work will often bear fruit. This kind of work is really faith in action. It is not carnal to say, “I believe the Lord will touch my friend, if I just do my part in getting him to Jesus.” The house of God will be fuller than last week if the people of God decide that it is their mission during the week to work together to bring sinners to hear the Gospel on the Lord’s Day.
The house can and ought to be packed for the services at Bible-believing churches, whether on Sunday or at revival meetings. They ought to be packed as they regularly were in the eras of revival in the past. To see this happen, we must seek the Lord for His presence, and pay the price to have it. We must put great stock in the power of Bible preaching. We must step out in faith to bring lost souls to the church, praying that our faith will become theirs before they go home. These are things that should happen in the days ahead, and we ought to see that they do.