May 18th – Mark 1c “Jesus Heals Others With Word and Touch”

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Healing happens where Jesus goes.  You could see it as a means to draw people in to hear and trust his words, but it is much more than that.  Healing is part of who Jesus is.  As the presence of God in the flesh, Jesus brings new life and the power of love to heal.  As Jesus wandered around the Galilee, he had compassion and the ability to alleviate suffering.  So, you can see the healings as part of his integrity.  Everything about Jesus brings healing and restoration.  The hard words Jesus brings are like unpleasant medicine or the pain of resetting a bone.  Still, he is all about healing.

Mark 1:29-45

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home 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.

We see a glimpse of the life of the fisherman in the town of Capernaum.  By looking at the remnants of the town, we know that the houses were tiny and had low ceilings.  Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is sick.  We are never told about Simon Peter’s wife, but what get a small glimpse of the life he had before Jesus came along.  Jesus goes to her and heals with the touch of his hand.  We are told no words of the encounter, and she shows her thanks in deeds rather than words.  This goes along with the Christian idea that “good works” are a response to God’s love and not attempt to earn God’s favor.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick 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.

It was probably unusual for much to happen after sunset in town like Capernaum, except on nights with a full moon.  But we are told that the whole town comes and gathers at the door of this little house.  Jesus heals through the night.  It confirms our understanding that there was little relief in that world for sickness and pain.  Some people were thought to have a “healing touch” but Jesus healed everyone that sought him out.  People came to him with great hopes of being cured, and they were not disappointed.

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 I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

We talk about the two natures of Christ, that he was both God and human.  We see him here seeking some time alone to pray.  Jesus appears to be worn out by these long hours of healing.  In many ways he seems more of an introvert than an extrovert.  Time alone re-energizes him and enables him to face the demands of a new day.

One of the great unanswered mysteries of the Gospels has to do with the details of Jesus identity.  When he speaks to the God the Father, he speaks as if to another person.  Some Christian teachers have suggested that Jesus just prays “for show;” just to model righteous behavior, but the texts themselves suggest that Jesus is speaking to someone outside of himself.   Through the centuries, the main Christian answer to this is to uphold the mystery of the Trinity.  The “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” are the one true God.  Even as the Three are not each other, they are One.   This has led to endless debates on whether or not that Jesus had all the powers of God during his earthly ministry.  The Gospel of Mark suggests that some of Jesus’ abilities are limited, but the Gospel of John suggests that Jesus always has the full power of God.  If you can’t resolve a mystery, you maintain it as a mystery.  We simply believe that God understands many things that will always remain beyond human understanding.

So, when Simon Peter finds Jesus and says, “Everyone is looking for you,” Jesus says it is time to carry that message to other towns.  It is alright that people are looking for Jesus.  Jesus and the disciples head out, but they will return to Capernaum.

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

It is odd to hear the word “Indignant” applied to Jesus.  Healing is such a large part of his identity that he seems to scoff at the idea of being unwilling to heal others.  Jesus reaches out to this man and touches him (knowing that it is forbidden to touch a leper).  Jesus heals the man with a command, “be clean,” and the healing takes place.  Some healings are by word and some are by touch, but this healing includes both human contact and word.

This idea of cleanliness goes back far into the Hebrew past.  To be made clean is to be made acceptable, but to touch anything (or anyone) unclean makes you unclean as well.  But when Jesus touches people, he remains clean and his cleanliness spreads to them.  This is not the normal way of the world.  Normally, if we use water to wash then the water gets dirty.  If we use a cloth to wipe something, the cloth becomes dirty.  But Jesus does not avoid the “uncleanliness” of sinners, and for that he will be later criticized.

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

There are at least two reasons why Jesus warned the healed man to say nothing.  He was trying to simplify the task of getting this man approved to rejoin society, and he also did not want the publicity that would make his future village visits more difficult.

But the healed man could not contain his joy, and he told everyone he could.  In the imagery of the time, he was like an overflowing cup that could not keep from spilling the joy inside it.  The man apparently went on telling this story to everyone who would listen, but the news made the crowds in towns much more congested, so Jesus was forced to spend more of his time in the countryside.  But even if he was in an isolated spot, people would mass around to be healed… and to see this healer do the impossible.

A question to ponder.”Have you ever had such good news that it felt impossible to keep to yourself?”  


Pastor Rick