The Holy One Healed Many — Feb 8 2015 — Mk 1:29-39
In the gospel passage just before this one, we saw that Mark’s Gospel emphasizes Jesus as God’s Son and as the Holy One; the powerful personal and material presence of the immense God. We see that continue in today’s gospel reading, Mark 1:29 forward, as Jesus continues to cast out demons and heal.
Some background on Mark’s gospel includes these points:
· This gospel was probably written in Rome directly after the execution of Peter and Paul. That would have been in the last part of the 60’s of the first century. ;
· The writing of this first gospel was probably precipitated by the execution of Peter and Paul. For, if the apostles were dying out, the printed word would have to replace their verbal testimony to Jesus and his works
· Imagine if our bishop and presiding bishop were executed in our town; and then the town leaders started executing members of our congregation – we would be afraid and so the believers in Rome became afraid
· So Mark’s first readers – the believers in Rome – were very afraid. Mark styles his gospel to respond to that fear. For example, Mark 16:8, where the women did not follow the angel’s instruction because they were afraid
· Yet (despite the fearful noncompliance of those women, and the failures of St Peter) the gospel still moved forward. Why? Mark says that was because of the singular nature of Jesus – for example, through these eyewitness accounts of healing — that Jesus was and continues as the holy one of God, the living presence of God’s immense power.
Demons are repeatedly mentioned in this Gospel reading, as are evil spirits, and sickness.
We too see people in our own time who are caught up by an evil inner force of fear and hatred. Can you think of an area of conflict or even something that seems demonic in your own experience or situation?
By contrast, God can open our eyes to see divine love at work in the world around us – in a person like Mikhail Gorbachev who initiated a process of nuclear disarmament of a truly momentous nature. Think of Martin Luther King, of Gandhi in India, the martyrs of Japan we remembered last Friday, or Absalom Jones this coming Friday; or any of those we remember day by day in the annual calendar of the church. We can read their stories in Holy Men, Holy Women (by Church Publishing, available through Amazon.com). They are all people who are caught up by a good and holy inner force of love, and whom God raised above demonic forces.
That is what our Gospel is about. If there is an ache in our breaking hearts, God feels the ache with us. That is why God sent Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is the power of God who walks into a conflict, and then the demons leave.
When we follow Jesus, he transforms us (Mk 1:17). Do you feel there are powerful evil forces around you? Remember this: You are named, owned and filled with the power of the Holy One of God. Take one step in faith in Jesus, in love, and in hope. Then take another step. You will find that the demons wilt, and quail, and retreat–like a mist that burns off in the light of day. In our gospel reading, Peter’s mother does nothing more than accept Jesus’ hand – and then, recovered, goes on to serve him.–
Our healing does not rest on our actions, talents or abilities. You can see that from the ending of the Gospel of Mark (Mk 16:8). There, although the disciples disobeyed the instruction of the angels, and although the disciples did NOT go out and tell the gospel, yet the gospel still went forward. The Corinthians reading (1 Cor 9:16-23) describes how the gospel goes forward in the power of God. It depends not on you or me, but rather, on the power of the Holy One of God, and it has never failed.
Two interesting features of demons in the Scriptures are these: (1) They tend to be associated with disorder; and (2) they are often unnamed. But in Ps 147 we see that God names the stars, and in baptism our name is associated with that of Jesus, and his signature placed on our foreheads. God has given you a holy and eternal name.
When people start loving, that is when people start winning. You and I have a choice. You and I are not overpowered and chained to fear, or to a meaningless treadmill. Rather, we have God’s power to construct a different future. Like Peter’s mother in law, let us reach out our hand to take the hand of Jesus, to claim that power, to welcome and multiply that power of divine love in our lives.