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?
Peter's house appears to be the Lord's headquarters during his public ministry in Galilee. Here are the beginnings of the "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.
Verses 30 — 31
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. (Augustine Stock)
Verses 32 — 34
We should note a few points in this straightforward narrative:
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. We shall discover that it is only in such wilderness spots that Jesus reveals glimpses of his hidden glory.
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)
Verses 36 — 37
Simon literally "tracked down" or hunted for 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 too can be inclined sometimes to dump our prejudices and bias on others without any consideration of their needs.
This is one of the examples Mark records where even the closest followers of Jesus can fail in their calling. They are meant to convey to the people an understanding of the life and teaching of Jesus. Here they act in the reverse. Peter and those with him "act not as disciples but as interpreters of the wishes of the crowd". (Augustine Stock). Again Mark records early in his account another great challenge which will always confront the Church: not to affirm and endorse human, worldly values, but to lead the world to encounter the person and teaching of Jesus. This is a core teaching of this passage. As usual, the context not only presents the problem, but also offers the antidote, the answer: solitary prayer in a solitary, wilderness place! Jesus is our model!
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 every 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.
We have taken these two quotations from modern sources to underpin the supreme teaching contained in this beautiful Gospel passage. It is absolutely clear in the teaching of Jesus that his disciples down through the ages are to listen intently to what he proclaims, observe how he lives out what he proclaims, and follow closely his model in their own lives. Consistently throughout his life Jesus gives us the supreme example of taking part in the public, solemn liturgical, formal worship of God in the places consecrated for this, and also retiring to solitary places for prayer in solitude. These pursuits are to have our sustained commitment.
Meditation on the Holy Gospels is to be a priority for all true Christians. Failure to observe this element of the Lord's service will have the most dire consequences. Witness the popular appeal to-day among so-called Christians who clamour for miracle sessions and inspiring messages which contain little reference to the life and personal teaching of Jesus based on the speaker's sustained meditation of the Gospel. How easy it is for a body of people to be subverted when they have allowed themselves to be diverted. Here is a loud warning to the churches. Our lesson this week gives us the answer: Jesus is our model! He said, "Follow me". All other models are false idols.
Note: This set of notes is an edited form of the original posted in 2000.
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