Commentary on Mark 1:29-39
We continue from yesterday’s reading, following a day in the public life of Jesus. It was still the Sabbath and, after the synagogue service, Jesus now goes to the house of his two disciples, Simon and Andrew in Capernaum. (As it was the Sabbath, people could not go very far or do anything which could be labelled ‘work’.)
In the house Jesus finds Peter’s mother-in-law confined to bed because of a fever. When he is told about it, he immediately goes to see her, takes her by the hand, lifts her up and heals her. Immediately, she gets up and begins to serve them. This is not simply because that is the role of a woman in the home. Rather it is a way of saying that it is the role of the whole Christian – man or woman – to serve. Healing is not just to make one well but to enable one to become again an active, serving member of the community.
In the evening, once the Sabbath was over, people were free to move around. So large numbers come seeking out Jesus to be healed of their sicknesses and to be freed from the power of evil spirits. “The whole town was gathered at the door.” That is the door of the house where Jesus was. Many times we will see a reference to the “house” where Jesus is. It seems to be a symbol of the place where Jesus is gathered with those who are close to him, a symbol of a Christian community, of the church. When the poor and the sick and unfree no longer come to the doors of our community seeking healing and wholeness, we need to reflect on the quality of our Christian witness.
The following morning, Jesus leaves, goes to the hills to be alone and to pray. His disciples come in search of him. “Everyone is looking for you,” they tell him. Although there are many demands being made on him by the people of Capernaum, Jesus
a. needs time for himself to renew his spiritual energy and be in contact with his Father, and
b. has to think of the needs of other people as well.
Jesus may have been the Son of God but he could only be in one place at a time and, during those three years of public life, he really only reached a very small number of people. To reach the rest, he needed and still needs our help.
When Jesus returns from his prayer he does not go back to Capernaum, although there were certainly more people to be healed and helped there. Instead he went on to synagogues all over Galilee proclaiming his message of the Kingdom and making it a reality by healing the sick and liberating those controlled by evil forces.
This scene brings up the importance for us of availability. We do need to be available to all those who are in genuine need. At the same time, there is what we might call the ‘poverty of availability’. No matter how generous and self-giving we are we can only give so much. We need to find a balance between people’s needs and our limited resources. We do not help people by working ourselves to the point of ‘burnout’. We also need ‘quality time’ to be with God, to pray and to reflect on our priorities. Jesus gives us an excellent example here.