Photo by jeltovski on Morgue File.
This morning, we will continue our trek through Mark’s account of the Gospel of Christ. It is important to remember, when we refer to the individual Gospels that they are in fact testifying to one Gospel. That is to say, there are not four separate gospels; rather, there are four accounts of the one and the same Gospel: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is why, in most translations, they are delineated as the Gospel according to Matthew, the Gospel according to Mark and so on. These are four portraits that frame the one life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The One who is shown to be the incarnate Son of God.
Yesterday, we considered Jesus exorcising a demon in Mk. 1.21-28. Here then is our next pericope:
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 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. (Mk. 1. 29-34)
This is a fairly straight-forward pericope. Mark gets to use his favorite word (i. e. immediately) twice in this short section of verses! You almost get the mental image, as you read Mark, that Jesus and the disciples and everyone around them are moving in fast-forward! They all seem like a big ball of frantic energy sprinting from one place to the next!
Mark tells us, after exorcising the demon and teaching the people in the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon (i.e. Peter) and his brother Andrew. Along with Jesus and these two brothers was another set of brothers: James and John. The call of these four men was chronicled in Mk. 1.16-20.
Mark tells us that Peter’s mother-in-law had fallen ill with fever. We are not told any details about this illness or her. How old was she? Her name? How long had she been sick? Was this a deadly sickness or a more benign virus? We are not told. All we know is she is sick . . . sick to the point she has to lay in bed and is unable to perform any of the normal chores around the house.
They quickly tell Jesus about her illness and he goes to her, takes her by the hand, sits her up and the fever dissipates from her. We often see Jesus doing similar things as this when healing someone; that is, he will touch them in some way. We know Jesus had no need to touch them in order to heal them. He could heal a person even though he was miles from them. It would seem Jesus does it for the personal touch. It is an expression (along with the healing itself) of compassion and sympathy. Who more so than Jesus would be pained in his heart to witness the serial effects of sin and death!
Notice, as soon as she is healed, she begins to serve them. In other words, as soon as Jesus heals her of her fever, she gets up and busies herself with serving others. This is a great picture for us. When Christ brings healing or blessing into our lives, we should be prompted, all the more, to serve him gladly and freely.
The pericope closes out with Mark informing us that at evening many people brought their sick loved ones and friends to see Jesus. No rest for the weary! In fact, Mark states the whole city was gathered there. People were drawn to Jesus. They flocked to him. Now, as we will learn later in his ministry (cf. Jn. 6) many did so simply for the theatrics, if you will, or the signs of the healings and such. They really did not care about who he was or his gospel message. But here, early on in his ministry, we see people flocking to see him and have him heal those they loved.
We again run into those who were demon-possessed. Mark adds a note of commentary to it when he informs us, and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. This is a telling bit of commentary. Who knew Jesus? Who knew who he really was? Who saw past the miracles and healings to see the real person and mission of Christ? The religious leaders? No. The people who had so long waited and sought for the Messiah? No. His own family? No. His still wet-behind-the-ears disciples? No. Rather, it was the demons!
Now, I suppose, it is easy to criticize those around Jesus at this time; but, let’s be honest, believing this itinerant-preacher/healer/carpenter from Nazareth is the long-awaited, long-hoped for, long-sought after and prayed for Messiah, would be a big pill to swallow. It would be akin to hearing you had just won the $400 gazillion dollar lottery and you needed to go down and claim your prize. I am sure it would take a bit of time for that to really sink in! The demonic powers knowledge of him goes back much further than his Incarnation. At the same time, Jesus is performing irrefutable miracles in their midst. He is teaching and preaching with an authority the people had never heard before (cf. Mk. 1.27; also Mt. 7.28-29).
Jesus, as we have mentioned in previous posts, is demonstrating his authority, in no uncertain terms, in Mark’s account. Who could he be? Who could he be that commands the demons and they obey him? Who could he be that has the Trinitarian witness at his baptism? Who could he be that can face Satan toe-to-toe and come out victorious? Who is he that has the power to preach the arrival of the kingdom of God and to proclaim the message of the gospel? Who is he that has the power to call fisherman from their home, livelihood and family to follow him? Who is he that has the power to heal sickness and disease at a word? On and on we could go. Who is he? Or, to pose it as Christ did later to his disciples, Who do you say I am? (Mt. 16.13-20).
Mark tells us that Jesus did not permit, he did not allow the demons to speak because they knew him. He commanded and they obeyed, as simple as that! No wailing and gnashing of teeth. No screaming and cursing. No blaspheming and vulgarity. No opposition. No rebellion. Just simply a command and obedience! Would it not be something if we, as Christ-followers, were as obedient?!
Here are three lessons I glean from this pericope:
- Jesus is a personal Savior and Lord. Again, when he healed Peter’s mother-in-law, he held her by the hand and sat her up in her bed. He didn’t have to touch her. He didn’t have to even enter the room. But he did. Jesus shows himself to be a personal, compassionate and sympathetic Savior. The disciples would later ask Jesus about the cause of a man’s blindness (cf. Jn. 9). They asked whether his blindness was caused by the sin of his parents or his own sin. In that instance, Jesus said neither. Of course, we know, generally speaking, all diseases, illnesses and sicknesses are a result of sin. A result of humanity’s fall and rebellion against God. Sin came into the world, and death (along with disease, frailty and the rest) by sin. We get sick, become ill, diseased and die because of the effect of sin. Jesus came to remedy that problem. He came as a personal, loving, compassionate Savior.
- When Christ brings healing or blessing to us, we should all the more serve him. Of course, we should serve him regardless. When Christ works in our lives, it should give us new energy, new focus and drive to serve him. We serve him, as he taught us, by serving others. We serve him by offering a cold drink of water to a woman who is thirsty. We serve him by visiting a man who has long been bed-ridden by disease and frailty. We serve him by showing kindness to a stranger, by giving a smile to someone who is forlorn, by extending a helping hand to a neighbor. We serve him by looking past and beyond divisions that too often separate us: divisions of race, socio-economic backgrounds, education and the like.
- We can learn a valuable lessons from those demons that Jesus encountered. Do we know who he is? Do we affirm, with Peter, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God! And, do we obey him at his word. That is all it should take after all. One word from our Lord should bring, to follow Mark’s lead!, obedience immediately! Let us be busy about obeying him. Let us be busy about knowing him and making him known. Let us be busy about these things to bring glory and honor to the only name given under heaven whereby we must be saved: the name of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4.12).