It was the Sabbath and Jesus and his four disciples, named by Mark, as Andrew and Simon, James and John, had left the synagogue in Capernaum, where Jesus had healed a man with an unclean spirit. It must have been a bewildering and extraordinary Sabbath, as Jesus starts his ministry in Mark’s gospel, without any indication of what was coming. The men went to the home of Simon and Andrew where Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. Jesus very quickly, without ceremony or words, took her hand, helped her to get up and we’re told, she recovered immediately. Jesus’ ‘work’ on the Sabbath, breaking religious rules about what can and can’t be done, has just reinforced the priority Jesus is giving to those who need him and the love God has for them.
Jesus’ fame immediately begins to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee following the healings.
Mark’s gospel is full of urgency, a sense of immediacy and in the gospel’s early verses, Mark demonstrates the clear characteristics of Jesus’ ministry which are present all the way through the gospel, and how he is in this world, as God’s Messiah and the Son of God. There is not much preparation for any of us and if we listen with open ears and hearts, we find ourselves also astonished with his capacity, determination and focus.
Immediately after Jesus’ baptism and after his time spent in the wilderness, we encounter Jesus in a number of ways: as a teacher, full of authority, amazing everyone; a healer, so compelling even the unclean spirits come out at his ordering and all kinds of illnesses are cured; Jesus as a mystic, as he points to the time being fulfilled as the kingdom of God has come near for everyone, not simply the wealthy or educated; he is a prophet, he sees injustices and names them as he makes friends with street people, with women, those considered unclean, he socialises and shares meals with the marginalised and tax collectors, talking scandalously about God’s love and the inclusion of everyone in God’s kingdom; and finally, Jesus is someone who begins a movement which spans the millennia, stepping beyond his own time, culture and people to encompass the whole world.
What I encounter however, in Jesus, beyond all these recognisable identities, is a man who truly loves his neighbour as he generously shares the love God has for him. Jesus shares the good news with everyone. I hear Jesus speaking and acting on this love:
So that evening, after Sabbath had ended, at sunset the people brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons …. he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons, and he would not allow the demons to speak, because they knew him.’ (Mark 1:33-34)
Jesus had already met the demons in the wilderness, he knew who and what they were and they surely knew him, and he acted quickly and comprehensively in casting them out from those who were possessed.
Finally, after a long day and busy night, Jesus would have been tired, but in the pre-dawn darkness he got up and went to pray, in a quiet place, to God, and to think through what was happening. The disciples came searching for him, their excitement was high. They urged Jesus to stay in Capernaum and continue with his healing.
Instead, Jesus’ response was to ‘move on’ throughout Galilee, becoming an itinerant preacher, attending the synagogues and deliberately ‘casting out’ demons as an expression of his loving ministry of healing. It’s also important to recognise Jesus was not creating them. Jesus is present in the very places of tragedy, oppression, pain, disease and diagnosis, those places where we have unwillingly found ourselves. The reality of evil, does not override or overshadow the presence or power of God.
Jesus lovingly shows up in the places of most need, even when the need is so strong and immediate, yet we can still miss his presence. However, in the discovery and diagnosis of illness, in the places of violence and horror, in the brokenness of relationships, in the poverty of life, it is important we remember we need never face the tragedy alone. And, we can confidently share this good news with love, that Jesus Christ, in the power and authority of God, in confronting the demons of this world, whatever they may do or be, do not have the final say, even though they continue to haunt our lives and make us doubt what we hear and see. Jesus silences them on many occasions and continues to do so for us today, and his resurrection finally silenced their power and authority. We can be confident of this.
The demons of our time which still possess us, include greed, fear, hatred, selfishness, unkindness, judgement, power, wealth and privilege, lurking in our lives, feeding our sense of uncertainty, our resentments and inflaming differences to the point of terror and exhaustion.
Yet we know it doesn’t have to be as the world expects and with Jesus’ commitment to sharing the good news with everyone, the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near. So let us continue to change our priorities, learn to live differently, believe in what God has promised to us all, knowing this is what Jesus was sent to share with everyone, and in all the places we find ourselves. (Mark 1:38)
Let us be like Simon and Andrew, James and John, bringing those who need help to Jesus, sharing the good news in the face of disbelief, cynicism and rejection. Let them hear the good news of Jesus Christ. The Lord be with you.
Borg, M.J. 2006. The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering the Life of Faith.
Jarvis, C.A., Johnson, E.E. [Gen. Eds]. 2014. Feasting on the Gospels: Mark. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.