Last Sunday, I talked about there being a common theme in Mark you would hear a lot this year. The theme is that the Kingdom of God has come, it is near, and it is not yet fulfilled.
Mark has a second common theme that was in our passage last week, this morning, and will be many times this year. We call it the Messianic secret because Jesus heals people and casts out demons but will not allow them to identify Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One that they (the Israelites) have been awaiting.
I also shared that Mark’s first chapter is extremely busy…
Jesus is baptized.
Jesus is tempted in the wilderness (by Satan).
Jesus preaches his mission to proclaim the Word, and to release the prisoners and those held captive. Afterwards, he is chased out of his hometown.
Jesus calls the disciples into new vocations, into a new way of being, and into relationship with him.
Jesus performs his first exorcism in Mark.
This morning, we now have three stories that may seem disconnected and yet are deeply intertwined with one another.
When Jesus called Simon (who will become Peter), Andrew, James, and John from their boats to become “Fishers of Men”, he was calling them to leave behind their professions and their families. Thus, we often imagine that they were single men.
BUT, did you notice who the woman healed in our text today is? Simon’s mother-in-law.
Now, it is not a secret that at Jesus’ time the majority of the community believed if a person was sick it was one of two reasons either (1) the person had an unclean spirit/demon or (2) the person was being punished for their own sin or the sin of their previous generations.
Ponder that for a moment.
If a person is ill, it is either (1) they are possessed by an unclean spirit/demon or (2) punished for sin.
Therefore, what is Jesus doing when he takes this woman by the hand, her fever leaves, and she is healed?
Jesus is releasing her. He is freeing her from whatever unclean spirit, demon, or sin that is keeping her from wholeness.
This perspective paints a different way of thinking about this passage.
There are some who call this healing story the first ‘resurrection’ in the Gospel of Mark, because Jesus lifts the woman from her fever (death) and into wholeness (life).
I mentioned last week that when unclean spirits/demons leave it is healing, reconciliation, and wholeness that remains. That healing, reconciliation, and wholeness is what Christ leaves behind in our passage today.
However, did you notice her response?
What does this woman do once free from the unclean spirit/demon or sin afflicting her?
She SERVED Jesus and his disciples.
Martin Luther taught that because of grace we are freed from the bondage of sin in order to respond in love and service of our neighbors. This is NOT a coincidence.
It is also not a coincidence that Jesus’ reputation continues to grow and he becomes increasingly famous throughout the region or that the entire town gathered that evening at Simon’s house in order to be healed and have demons cast out of them.
It is NO surprise that people want that freedom and wholeness.
It is also NO surprise that Jesus is worn down afterwards.
Our Isaiah passage this morning is beautiful. It is a passage we love to read and hear, especially about how we will not be faint and we will not grow tired.
However, the truth is that at the end of our Gospel we witness Christ, God in human flesh, needing a break. Jesus needed to go in solitude, in quiet, in prayer to recharge his batteries.
So, Jesus could continue his service and continue to the next place.
So, Jesus could do what he came to do which was proclaim the Good News, release captives, and heal people.
Jesus was not just a holy medicine man, which would not have been unheard of at this time, but he is something more.
Paul writes about this freedom Jesus offers in our 1 Corinthians text, however it sounds strange to us as though Paul is being a “people pleaser”:
“I became like the Jews to win the Jews over”.
“I became like the weak, the poor, and the slaves to win them over”.
“I became like the Gentiles to win them over”.
It sounds inauthentic. It does not quite sound like a gospel of truth if he continually adapts who he is for the community that he is serving. This, however, takes it out of context.
The Corinthian community is struggling with how to live within the larger Gentile community that enables them to not be isolated, to maintain their social status, while following the teachings of this new teacher (Jesus) who had come.
The specific struggle in the previous passage is about attending social events at temple and eating the food which had been offered to, or sacrificed to, the idols. Is it lawful for them to eat this food or not?
Prior to the passage, Paul essentially says that members of the Christian community could attend social events at the temples and eat the food that had been offered to the idols if they had the knowledge in their heads (and hearts) to not “acknowledge” the idol. BUT, the member is risking the Christian faith of those within their community, who may not have that understanding in their heads and hearts. Thus, Paul argues that it is a balancing act because the member must be mindful of their influence and example for the whole community.
This leads to Paul writing about ‘becoming’ a member of various communities. Paul has been freed to ‘become’ like the Jews, Gentile, poor, weak, and slaves in order to share the Good News in a manner that their ears may be open to receiving the proclamation. That is different than “people pleasing”.
When you are freed from the unclean spirits/demons, sin, or anything else holding you back, so that you can proclaim the Word to ALL people, no matter who they are or where they are on their own journeys… That is POWERFUL.
Returning to the other theme throughout our passages this morning, we are not ‘healed’ from unclean spirits/demons, sin, or whatever is holding us back simply to “feel good”. We are healed so we can enter into our fullest lives, which God has and continues to call us into, in order that we are able to respond like Simon’s mother-in-law to LOVE and to SERVE all those around us.
My hope and prayer are that we ALL seek the understanding, healing, reconciliation, and wholeness embracing our freedom to answer those callings that God has and continues to call us into. Amen.