Reflections on Mark 1:29-39 Part 4

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"He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up" (Mark 1:31)


‘lifted her up’. 1 This is one of many unobtrusive but clear pointers towards the resurrection of Jesus. The idea of rising or being lifted up is an ever increasing thought woven throughout the narrative of Mark. The fever was life threatening; Peter’s mother-in-law was snatched from the jaws of death, the ultimate of evils.

We know that Jesus came to identify with the whole of suffering humanity, to take upon himself the sins of all and take away its power to alienate and destroy all that militates against realising the potential of the new self in accordance with God’s plan. So far we have had the healing of individuals representing the universal healing Christ came to bring. We now have a widening of the vision of evil, its general and universal nature but also of that saving grace that comes through Jesus.

Now, at the doorstep of Peter’s house, we have the whole town coming to bring all those in distress and in need. It is interesting to note that Mark says he healed ‘many’, implying that not all were healed. 2 Here we see the tender mercy of God the Father in action through Jesus (John 14:10). It is this mercy of the Father that enables us to experience joy amidst suffering (1 Thessalonians 1: 6).

We learn here that suffering is not punishment for sin that come from God as Jesus, the Son of God spares no effort in liberating man from this oppressive situation. He is breaking the powerful chain of suffering and death and is inviting people once again to choose life rather than death (Deuteronomy 30:19). The liberation brought by Jesus here points towards that definitive liberation when there will be no more tears, no more suffering no more culture of death:
‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ (Revelations 21:3-4)
There is a clear alternation between the healing of individuals and the healing of the crowd: the man with the unclean spirit, Peter’s mother-in-law, the whole town only to return to the individual leper in verse 40. Jesus has time not only for the crowds but also and perhaps above all for the individual. He has time for you and I. Just let us seek him with all our heart.

Notice the very simplicity of the account, there is no exchange of words in Peter’s house, no real conversation is recorded, just simple basic actions. Actions speak louder than words. Let us also notice the emphasis on service. The recognition and appreciation of the work of the Lord in Peter’s mother-in-law translates into service. Is it the same with us? All actions are carried out with a sense of immediacy. It is the immediacy of love, it is the immediacy of gratitude, it is the immediacy of enthusiasm, it is the immediacy of those who are led by the Holy Spirit.

The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law takes place on the Sabbath showing that the law was meant for the benefit of man, that human need takes precedence over the letter of the law. Jesus respects the Sabbath by worshipping at the synagogue but distances himself from the legalism of contemporary Judaism. He came not to abolish the law but to fulfil it.

We are also stuck by the energy of Jesus: the first part of the day was spent worshipping and exorcising the man with the unclean spirit then he made his way to the house of Peter and then another healing and, after sunset, receiving the “whole city” with its many diseases. We do not know what time he went to bed but he must have worked well into the night as he did not begin until after sunset, when the Sabbath was over. Despite this he rose early in the morning when it was still ‘very dark’ (v. 35) to a lonely place to be in communion with the Father. This was his source of strength. The wilderness is the place of encounter, the place of no distractions, the place where there is no personal success or honour, the place of the divine presence, the place where we discover God’s will and plan for us. This was a vital necessity for Jesus as it was in the wilderness that John prepared the way for him, it is in such a place that the Father and Holy Spirit revealed their approval and it is here that he now comes to regain his spiritual energy, it is here that he finds the source of his power. A time of being alone in prayer is essential for tapping into the strength and power of God. He is not intent on fulfilling his own personal plan, but the plan of the Father and there is only one way of knowing the plan of God and that is by walking in his presence and listening. This is a clear lesson for us. He who was perfect needed the power of prayer, we who are riddled with imperfections and sin need prayer much more. The fact that we are here together around the Word and meditate on it is an indication that we are also aware of that need.

‘Simon and his companions hunted for him’. It was such an isolated placed that it was difficult to find him. He did not want any sort of distraction in these moments of intimacy with the Father. Let us also note how Simon (Peter) is singled out from the others ‘Simon and his companions’. The primacy of Peter is subtly but also very clearly indicated here.

The focus of the disciples is on the crowd still searching for Jesus, among whom possibly some of those who had not been healed. The disciples saw only the circumstances; Jesus was focused on communion with the Father and doing the will of the Father. What do we focus on? Do we focus our circumstances or on discerning the will of the Father for us while dwelling in his presence?

What would have been our reaction if we were told that everyone was searching for us? Would we have gone back with the disciples to bask in the glory and honour that would have been ours, the sense of importance that we would feel, the sense of power, perhaps? Jesus had discovered the will of the Father for him at that moment, the disciples had not. He had to spread the message. Do we feel that same need? Do we also feel called to the privilege and duty of spreading the message? Do we feel called to serve those in need?

Robert Walsh


1Other translations have ‘she is raised up’, which is even more explicit.
2Luke on the other hand says ‘each of them’ (Luke 4:40)

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