Jesus is Our Model
Mark 1: 29 — 39
This text allows us to observe Our Lord early in his Galilean ministry. We are privileged to catch a glimpse of him surrounded by the needy as well as alone at prayer. We will see how intensive service to others is paired with withdrawal for concentrated prayer with God his Father. In this Gospel it is the first key occasion when we see him choose a special time and a special place for prayer. We will also begin a long series of observations which demonstrate the relationship in his ministry between preaching and healing and the priorities which must be upheld.
All of these points above help us understand the key ideas about prayer and its centrality in the life of every follower of the Lord. Week by week we will add new perceptions gained from our reflections on the Gospel accounts.
Some notes on our text
Note how the previous miracle (healing a man of an unclean spirit) and this one are our Lord's first miracles and they occur on the Sabbath. He could have chosen any day of the week. Why choose the Sabbath when it was bound to cause conflict? Might there be some connection between restoration of mind and body which they represent and restoration of the true meaning and role of the Sabbath?
Is there any further connection with rest and peace which are also features of the Ancient Sabbath?
Peter's house appears to be the Lord's headquarters during his public ministry in Galilee. Here are the beginnings of "house-church" (see 1 Corinthians 16: 19) as they evolved in the early Church. In Jewish custom this meant it would have been a place of daily prayer, meal blessings and Sabbath family worship.
Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. The fever would have been a sickness in its own right and not the result of some other sickness.
Jesus, on the group's request, went to the sick woman. He took her hand very firmly and raised her to a sitting position. Touching is important to Jesus — it reveals his tenderness, sympathy and nearness.
She is cured immediately and, having had her need attended to, she serves the needs of those present. The house was the woman's realm, and this flowed over into the practices and duties of those within house-churches. Women played key roles in these.
Out of respect for Sabbath, the people waited till the sun had set.
A clear distinction is made between general sickness, and demonic possession.
"Many" here does not refer to some, but to all present.
Jesus wanted his words and actions to show what sort of person he was rather than mere declarations, especially from demons.
There is great emphasis on the time — very early — morning — dark (literally "very much at night" ). This is to indicate something special is happening here. It is followed by a similar three-fold action. Jesus got up — left home – went off. Again a major build up. Where did Jesus go? To a "wilderness place," literally. Not a desert, as all the surrounding countryside was fertile and heavily populated. He found a place of solitude. Mark shows Jesus withdrawing from people to return to a wilderness place which typifies the place where he encountered Satan and sustained temptation.
In Mark, Jesus is seen praying only three times.
In this way the crucial role of prayer is emphasised. He prays at the beginning (1: 35), middle (6: 46) and near the conclusion (14: 32 — 42) of his ministry. They are all critical moments, at night, and in solitude. So Jesus finds his help in prayer through which he affirms his intention to carry out God's will. (Augustine Stock. William Lane)
Verse 36 — 37
Simon "hunted — tracked down" Jesus and reprimanded him implying: "What on earth are you doing here? You should be where people can find you!" Before we criticise Peter let's recall how we dump our prejudices and bias on others at times without any consideration of their needs.
Jesus ignores the scolding and gently suggests they interrupt the miracles so that they can go to other villages. The word Mark used for villages indicates Jesus spoke in the main centres or clusters of villages, covering several synagogue congregations at once. Jesus did not decide to give up healing for preaching. He had been sent to announce the nearness of God's final rule; and success, over even human need and nothing could detain him from spreading that announcement. He had to confront people with a choice, a decision.
Preaching was to have precedence. Miracles were to point to the Word — not the reverse. Jesus emphasised this principle on many occasions as we shall see as we progress through this Gospel.
Two brief quotations sum up the above ideas.
Glenstal Missal: Our Lord calls for us to open our hearts to the renewing power of the Word. This brings healing which we all need."
Walter Wessel: "His coming into the world was more to Proclaim God's Good News and all that was involved in discipleship and suffering than to be a popular miracle-worker."
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