Jesus begins his Ministry in Galilee
MARK 1: 29–39
The Gospel of Mark is a fast-moving narrative that is full of action. Mark uses words like “immediate”, “at once”, “straight” and “straightaway” to suggest urgency about Jesus on the move proclaiming the Good News and establishing His ministry.
Today’s gospel is set in Galilee where Jesus establishes his ministry. His first healing is recorded on a Sabbath. Though the restrictions of Sabbath observance necessitated restraint from work, this healing was done in the privacy of Simon’s (later renamed Peter) home.
We are told that on leaving the synagogue, “Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew” and that Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, “and they told him about her straightaway”.
The narration continues “He (Jesus) went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up… the fever left her completely and she began to wait on them” (Mk 1:29–31).
Some aspects of this healing are worth mentioning. The healing is immediate and complete. There is no account of the mother-in-law’s faith as a prerequisite for her to be healed, as mentioned in other healings. Jesus touched her and she was healed immediately. This is the transformative power of Jesus; His touch brought healing, wholly and completely.
Jesus’ use of touch in this healing is observed, as opposed to the use of words in commanding evil spirits in the earlier deliverance that Sabbath. It became His usual pattern when dealing with physical healings in that He often touched those who needed healing, even the leper whom He should not touch without becoming unclean himself. There is something soothing and transformational about the human touch and yes, Jesus was not afraid to touch. It was part of his healing ministry.
Simon’s mother-in-law was able to resume her chores immediately after she was healed. Mark recounts “and she began to wait on them” (Mk 1:31). This is confirmation that a healing took place and as a consequence, she could resume her normal routines.
Though it was the Sabbath, Jesus was moved to heal her, thereby demonstrating that compassion was more important than the Law. It does not go unnoticed that the subject of Jesus’ first miracle is a woman. Such is His regard for women, as opposed to the actual customs and culture of the time.
The gospel continues that later that evening, and presumable after Sabbath hours, “they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils… and he cured many … and he also cast out many devils” (Mk 1:32–34).
Here we see the totality of the peoples’ response to the miracle Jesus performed that Sabbath in the synagogue, in that “they brought all their sick to Him” and “the whole town came crowding around the door” (Mk 1:32–33).
In return, “he cured many who were suffering… He cast out many devils” (Mk 1:34). In so doing, Jesus healed both physical and spiritual infirmities. It is noticed that Mark’s gospel maintains the distinction between illness, (physical illness) which requires healing, and demon-possession (spiritual illness) which requires exorcism. By His actions, Jesus is teaching His disciples and all people of God, to minister to others for His sake.
The narrative continues “he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was” (Mk 1:34). The demons, being spiritual beings knew who Jesus was, the Son of God, but Jesus was not ready to have His identity revealed. The time of full revelation of His personage as Messiah, had not yet come.
After a hectic Sabbath, and before dawn the next morning, Jesus left the house “and went off to a lonely place and prayed there” (Mk 1:35). This shows that Jesus found it necessary to balance activity with solitude and time with the Father, thereby demonstrating the importance of cultivating communion with God in private. What better time to do so than early in the morning when our minds are fresh and free of the cares of the day?
On finding Jesus in that lonely place they told Him “everybody is looking for you” but His response “Let us go elsewhere to the neighbouring country towns…” (Mk 1:38) speaks to His clear sense of purpose and mission “…that is why I came” (Mk 1:39). His ministry was to be available to all.
Today’s gospel invites us to a new existence of faith.
The Gospel Meditations for February are by June Renie, a retired law librarian and a graduate of the Catholic Bible Institute. She is an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist at St Anthony’s parish in Petit Valley.