Wednesday 4 February 2015

Epiphany 5, Mark 1:29-39, Beginning of Jesus ministry

Mark's day in the life of Jesus moves from the synagogue to the home of Simon and Andrew. Mark tells us that the four recently called disciples are with Jesus. On a number of occasions Mark describes the touch of Jesus, or his grasp. 

Jesus is introduced to Simon's mother-in-law who is ill. She was in bed indicating the severity of the fever. It was anticipated that she was going to die. He took her hand and healed her. And she in turn began to wait on them and  gave them something to eat.

It was evening and the Sabbath was ended. Mark describes that both Jesus and the crowd are obeying Sabbath regulations.
The people brought all who were sick, literally those who had it bad or had demons, to Jesus. The whole town gathered where he was and pressed in at the front door. Jesus healed their many and diverse range of diseases. 

Mark tells us that Jesus silenced the demons. They knew Jesus and by using his name they tried to claim authority over him as in the earlier healing of the man with the unclean spirit, but Jesus didn't even let them speak. This  illustrates Jesus' power and authority. As in the earlier story we would describe these people as having mental health problems and as such they were marginalised, unemployed and reduced to begging. So in healing them they are moved from marginalised to main stream members of society.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark - as was his practice, to avoid the crowds, Jesus went off, away out of the house and out of Capernaum, and went away from the crowds, to a solitary place, deserted-a wilderness image, and he prayed. His prayer life sustained him as it needs to sustain us. Without it we just dry up spiritually. 

But the Simon and the disciples found him.  Jesus tells them that they are going
to nearby villages and market towns like Capernaum because this is what he has come to do, to proclaim his message there too.

So Jesus went to Jewish meeting places everywhere in Galilee, where he preached and forced out demons, in their synagogues.

There were  two categories, the multitude and the disciples. The disciples were those who believed, while the multitude were curious. Rich and poor, hungry have social consequences in first century Palestine. To be poor, hungry, suffering meant that you were out of favour with God, because the belief was based on a divine reward system. When Jesus forgave and healed these outcasts, it had social economic and political consequences .

Jesus gives God's blessings on the the poor, the hungry, the sick, and outcasts, the hated. Jesus turns it all upside-down. The elite in God's kingdom, the blessed ones in God's kingdom, are those who are at the bottom of the heap of humanity. The human world order is based on keeping debts, vengeance, judgement but  God's world order is based on releasing debts and forgiveness and healing, restitution into society self esteem..

We learn that the mandate for those who want to follow Jesus in 21st century Britain should be concerned with those who are on the bottom of the pile, those who are poor, hungry, unhappy, reviled. God is closer to the poor. In Latin America in the 1960s peasants, people who lived in the favelas the shanty towns got together to read the gospels. They found it revolutionary. It spoke of them the poor, of justice. They took heart, they claimed land. They fought the land owners who were exploiting them for profit. In this country the recession has caused great poverty, companies have gone bankrupt and let down thousands of pensioners who had been saving for their retirement. Is this similar? There will be a leveling.

In his book on Integral Mission Malcolm Duncan speaks of the poor around any church. What is that church doing to for the poor? What are we doing for the poor and do we even know who they are? This is mission.



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