Sermon Ideas For Mark 1:29-39
This passage falls within the first main section of the Gospel that extends from 1:14 to 3:6 and deals with The authority of Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus had appeared on the scene (after his baptism) as a preacher in 1:14-15. He called two sets of brothers, Simon and Andrew, James and John in 1:16-20 and then went to the synagogue in Capernaum where he taught with such authority that his listeners were amazed (1:21-28). In addition, he cast out a demon with a command and amazed the crowd even more. At this his fame spread throughout Galilee.
Now the setting changes and we find the Lord in the house of Simon and Andrew directly after exiting the synagogue. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus wastes no time moving from place to place. The frequency of the phrase "kai euthus" in Mark’s Gospel points to his feverish pace. He is a man with a mission and nothing will delay him from completing that mission.
Simon Peter was a married man and, as was often the case, he lived with his extended family in one dwelling. His mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Notice that Mark does not dwell on the kind of illness she had. What is important is that Jesus “raised” her by the hand and the fever was gone. Jesus would one day be “raised” himself and the fever of a sick world would be cured. What is more, Simon’s mother-in-law served Jesus and his new disciples. She did not care to recuperate from her illness probably because there was no need. Jesus had done it all, cure and recuperation! Now she could live the proper life of service to Him and to others. This is the first encounter in this Gospel between Jesus and a woman. Interpreters miss the point of her service if they concentrate on the women’s sex and condemn the service as patriarchal. It is not her sex that matters, but the service of one who was healed.
There was quite a reaction from the whole village of Capernaum. Either because he had cast out a demon in the synagogue or because he had cured Simon’s mother-in-law, or both, the whole town turned up at the doorstep of Simon’s house. The iterative imperfect of the verb
µÆµÁ¿½ signifies the steady stream of people who probably began coming during the day and kept coming at night to present any that were physically or spiritually sick. The whole town was jammed in Peter’s doorway!
Jesus obliged them with his mercy and power and healed many and cast out many demons. Did he heal everyone and cast out every demon? The focus, however, is not on the people, but on Jesus. The focus is on his willingness to accommodate as many as possible and on his power to do so. He has authority over biology, chemistry, and the demonic. He uses this power for the benefit of others and not himself.
But there is a wrinkle in this episode that the reader has not encountered before. A hint of this wrinkle was given in the passage immediately preceding. In that passage Jesus had rebuked a demon in a synagogue and commanded it to be silent. The demon had correctly identified him for who he was. It seems that the colleagues of the synagogue demon also “know” him in this passage. The reader is drawn in by curiosity to know what the demons “know” about this intriguing person. But it is precisely at that point in the narrative that Mark places his wrinkle in the text. The wrinkle is the Messianic Secret.
Why did Jesus not allow the demons to speak and reveal his true identity? Mark’s answer: “because they knew him.” At first glance it doesn’t seem like a satisfying answer. Notice, however, that the demons do not believe in or trust him. They know who and what he is and they want nothing to do with him. Knowledge is not always enlightening! Sometimes it comes up hard against personal agendas and biases. It is not that the demons do not believe that God exists. They know He does. They just can’t stand it!
For the reader, moreover, this “knowledge” may even be misleading. It may be misleading in the sense that heretofore in the Gospel we have heard a small amount of the content of Jesus’ preaching (a mere line or two in 1:14-15), and have witnessed a few instances of his authority over the powers of calamity. The reader can easily be mistaken concerning this special man and think that he is no different from any other miracle worker. Mark’s ingenious answer to that possible misunderstanding is his device of the Messianic Secret. Not until the Gentile Roman centurion speaks his approval of the crucified One in 15:39 do we discover that only when we see his blood flow and hear him breathe his last do we realize that this man was not a miracle worker only, but the very presence of the Creator whose power and authority are not revealed best by healing mothers-in-law, but by the supreme sacrifice upon an instrument of torture. Then we “know” him not as the demons “know” him but rather with trust and faith in his power to save.
In the next section (vv. 35-39) Jesus retreats from the pressing duties of healing and looks for a quiet and lonely place for prayer. The next time he finds such a place he will be busy at work feeding 5,000 people. But now his disciples “hunt” him down. The “star” is gone and the insatiable crowd wants more of him.
Here again we see how misunderstood he is. Though he is quite willing to heal and exorcise demons, his true purpose lies elsewhere. He came to proclaim the Good News. He will do so with authority and power in word and deed, but he will do so in a way no one has “known” before.
Roy A. Harrisville III, Ph.D. Trinity Lutheran College Issaquah, WA