A Day in the Life (Mark 1:29-39)

This lectionary year, as you probably know, we are going to be travelling through the book of Mark. Now because Lent and Easter is fairly early on the church calendar the journey won’t necessarily be in order all the way through because during that time we’ll be looking ahead to the end of the story—although as I see it it’s actually the end and the beginning at the same time. But that part of Mark is for another day, and today we’re still in the first chapter, still at the beginning of the story, watching and hearing as Jesus begins his ministry.
I really like the book of Mark, although all of the gospels have their own things to offer; but for me Mark has a real appeal because of its sense of urgency. Mark is the shortest of all of the gospels, and by all accounts was written first; Luke and Matthew drew from Mark for some of their content but Mark was first off the mark (so to speak.)  Mark doesn’t beat around the bush, does it? Not a lot of detail, not a lot of unnecessary fluff to fill it out, Mark basically hits the high points of the story of Jesus, and you’d better pay attention if you want to keep up! One of the most common words used in the book of Mark is “immediately”—Jesus and the disciples are always immediately doing something as if one event in the story leads to another with barely enough time for us to catch our breath. This gives the book a sense of urgency, as if it’s vitally important that the writer get these stories to us as quickly as possible so that we won’t miss anything.
And if the entire book of Mark is a quick retelling of the life of Jesus, the first chapter that we’ve been hearing about over the past few weeks is like a preview of what’s to come, almost like a movie trailer you might see that pulls you in and makes you want to see the whole movie. Just in the first chapter you see Jesus
…being baptized by John
…being tempted in the wilderness
…calling the first disciples
…teaching in the synagogue and healing a man with a demon
…going to Simon’s house and healing Simon’s mother in law from an illness
…healing after sundown on the Sabbath
…going off to pray and then going out to the rest of the villages
…healing a leper
Lots of action in this first chapter of Mark, isn’t it? Beginning with only a short bit about John the Baptist and his ministry, it’s clear that this book is all about Jesus; and through all of this Jesus is established in his ministry and begins to make a name for himself.
As I indicated before I read the scripture, the passage from Mark that we read last week and the one we read today take place on the same day. We see in these two segments a sort of “day in the life” of Jesus. His day begins in the synagogue: he is preaching, with authority, and then he heals a man with a demon. Immediately, the text says—in other words, as soon as they left the synagogue—they went to Simon’s house, possibly looking for something to eat. Only Simon’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever, so Jesus goes and heals her.
It’s important to note something here: since we found Jesus in the synagogue at the beginning of the day, we know it is the Sabbath when this series of events takes place. It is the Sabbath as he teaches, it is the Sabbath as he heals the man with the demon, it is the Sabbath when he heals Simon’s mother-in- law. Later that day, after sundown, many people come to him with their own demons and illness and afflictions and Jesus ends his day healing them. Late into the night he must have worked, because it says the whole city came to see him—even if it was a small village it would have been a lot of people to heal. The passage ends early the next morning when Jesus goes off by himself to pray; the disciples come looking for him wanting him to continue with the healing but Jesus tells them it’s time to move on to other villages; “this is why I came.” he says.
Mark immerses us in the life and ministry of Jesus from the very beginning, highlighting the kinds of things that become his signature activities, laying out for us in no uncertain terms the ways that Jesus’ ministry is a manifestation of the kingdom of God. Mark also wants us to understand the connection to the source of Jesus’ power: when Jesus goes off by himself to pray, it isn’t just that he needs to rest and recharge, but that he needs to reconnect with the One who makes all of his actions, all of his healings and exorcisms and miracles possible. Travis Franklin, on the website Ministry Matters, puts it like this:
While these passages don’t carry the drama of the feeding of the five thousand or Jesus walking on the water, they do share in a subtle way the connection between the works Jesus does and the source that empowers such work. This is an important connection for Mark, because he wants us to realize that the kingdom that Jesus has been sent to express is a direct revelation of God and God’s activity in a hurting and sinful world. In all of these ways Jesus embodies and proclaims the presence of the kingdom of God.
“This is why I came,” he said.
You see, the miracle stories by themselves aren’t important, and the stories of healing by Jesus of many people from their demons and illnesses by themselves aren’t important unless we make the connection to why Jesus does all of these things and how he is able to do all of these things. God wanted to make it plain to all humanity that God is present and active in the world, a world that God created to be good but that sin and evil were and are working hard to destroy.
Interesting are the responses in this first chapter of those who are the first witnesses to Jesus’s ministry. In the synagogue, the people are amazed at his preaching. The demon challenges Jesus—but responds to his authority. Simon’s mother gets up and serves Jesus. The people come out of the woodwork to be healed by him, desperate for what he has, desperate to be freed from whatever burden is breaking them.
There is power in the relationship between Jesus and God the Father; and Jesus is unrestrained in his demonstration of that power. The only place he is cautious at all is when the demons recognize him and he orders them to keep quiet; and this seems to be only to keep his true identity from getting out too quickly, so he can build the ministry God has in mind rather than the people making him into something else. But the power is there, the relationship is there; people eventually hear him talking about God as Father, they see him going off to pray and they begin to make the connection between these things and the power that Jesus so clearly has. The power that is necessary to recreate the kingdom that was so good in the beginning. The power that can make all people whole once again, restored in body, mind and spirit.
The power is there for us to and the agent of this power is the same. Jesus Christ is the one who brings that power among us, Jesus is the one who shows us how to access that power for our own healing and wholeness. Jesus Christ shows us the way, through the stories in Mark and the other gospels, shows us the way to be restored and to help restore the kingdom of God to the goodness God created it to have. There is power in our faith—the power of love, the power of compassion, the power of tenderness. Just ask anyone who has faced a serious crisis in their life, but was able to tap into the power of love that sustained them through it. Just ask anyone who has felt the healing power of a hug when they needed it, who has known that people were praying for them and has felt stronger and more able to cope because of it. A good portion of the power that Jesus accessed was God’s love for the humanity that God had created; and that’s a power that is available to us if we will just receive it. And, it is a power that we can easily share with others, if only we will.

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