Mark 1: 29 – 39 Jesus heals many & Jesus prays in a solitary place
Jesus heals many
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the house of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Jesus prays in a solitary place
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’
Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
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It was the Sabbath, and Jesus had just amazed the townsfolk of Capernaum by his teaching and by casting out a demon. Because it was the Sabbath, with strict rules about how far you could travel, Jesus went to the house of Simon and Andrew. There he found Simon’s mother-in-law, who was ill.
Mark gives us important details about the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. He is describing a specific woman, with specific symptoms. She was Simon’s mother-in-law, and she was suffering from a fever that was bad enough to confine her to bed. The disciples told Jesus about her. It was the Sabbath; healing her would be controversial. But Jesus is moved by compassion. He went to her, took her hand and helped her get up. The fever left her, and she began to wait on them.
We experience an act of healing by Jesus whenever we are forgiven. Are we like Simon’s mother-in-law? Do we immediately start to serve Jesus with renewed vigour? Forgiveness is a great opportunity for us to rededicate ourselves to the service of Jesus.
Although Jesus carried out many healings later that evening, this was the one that stayed in the mind of the disciple who witnessed it. Maybe it was Simon himself who recounted the story to Mark. For many years, the writer of Mark’s gospel was believed to be a friend of Simon Peter, who was with him in Rome and recorded everything Simon Peter remembered of Jesus’ ministry. I understand this is no longer the accepted view, but the gospel is early – the first of the four – and is believed to have been written in the 70s AD. It is quite conceivable that this healing is based on a direct eye-witness account, and the detail provided supports that view.
The Sabbath lasted until sunset, and as soon as the sun had set, the townsfolk began to bring their sick and demon-possessed to Jesus. Mark tells us that Jesus healed many and drove out many demons. My 21st century mind struggles with the concept of demon-possession. For Mark, what differentiated illness from demon-possession? Would we reach the same diagnosis today? How could we differentiate between demon-possession and mental illness?
At all events, Jesus must have been busy for hours, and every one of those healings cost him power. We know this, because Mark 5: 25 – 34 tells us about the healing of the woman with an issue of blood. She touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed. Jesus said, “Who touched me?” He knew that somebody had been healed. As verse 30 puts it, ‘At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him.’ Luke actually puts the words into the mouth of Jesus: “But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’ (Luke 8: 46) Healing took energy.
Despite finishing late in the evening, Jesus was up long before dawn, when he went to a solitary place to pray. ‘Despite finishing late’? Perhaps I should say, ‘Because he finished late’? Jesus needed the time of solitary prayer to regain strength for his arduous ministry. He also needed guidance as to the next step in his ministry. Should he stay in Capernaum and consolidate? Or should he tour the other villages in the area and spread the word as far as possible? He prayed, in solitude; and when the disciples came looking for him, full of enthusiasm at the response of the people of Capernaum, Jesus was able to say, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’
I’m sorry that I cling on to too much self-will. I do not always accept your guidance or obey your commands. Please help me to respond to your love, shown in Jesus, in whose name I pray.