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Gospel of Mark 1:29-39
The first chapter of Mark's Gospel places Christ in the city of Galilee, where he visits a synagogue and heals a man with an unclean spirit by casting the demons out of him with the power of his speech. Mark proceeds to narrate of Christ's healing of a sick woman, followed by the healing of many citizens of Galilee in 1:29-39. The message that this passage of Mark's Gospel conveys is that of Christ's power and willingness to heal, the universality of his love and generosity towards humankind.
The passage begins by describing the condition of Simon's mother-in-law. Her extreme illness is clearly documented within the passage as she is dependent upon her daughter's family to be cared for. Marie Sabin performs a curious analysis of the passage and notes the significance of the healings that Jesus performs in Mark,
It cannot be fortuitous that Mark, in portraying the beginning of Jesus' ministry, describes three healings: of a demoniac, a mother-in-law, and a leper. The first and last make clear that he is depicting Jesus' outreach to the most reviled of the community; situated between a demoniac and a leper, "the mother-in-law," we assume, is an ancient joke. But there are serious implications here as well: before the time of Hillel and Jesus, women, like lepers, were relegated to the outer courts of the Temple, and women received social status only through their relationship to males -- usually their fathers or husbands; for a woman to be known through her son-in-law is so extreme as to suggest that Mark is making a special point of her social anonymity. (p. 152)
The woman's social status is indeed important in this context as the woman is portrayed to be living with her daughter and son-in-law, leading one to assume that she is probably a widow. Thus, the profile of the woman that the Gospel presents its readers with is that of a woman who has the lowest standing in a society that places a higher value on men than women. The Gospel goes as far as to suggest that Simon has to be the one to discuss her case with Jesus because her lower social ranking and her extreme illness prevent herself from doing so.
Her situation, however, is reversed immediately upon her brief encounter with Jesus, as he heals her not only physically but also spiritually. The focal purpose of demonstrating the healing of Simon's mother-in-law seems to point out the Jesus' generosity and willingness to heal even the most downcast members of the society, thus showing that everyone is deserving of Jesus' love and is able to get it. After her encounter with Jesus, the mother-in-law's fever dissipates, as he takes her hand and lifts her up. Mark further notes that her healing is not limited to the dissipation of her fever, but to her ability to serve onto Christ. Ched Myers notes the fact that this encounter with the woman sets forth a type of a framework that Christ's latter encounters with people in need of healing miracles will take the shape of (144). The first step of the framework, according to Myers, involves the bringing the needs of the subject up to Jesus' attention. In his encounter with the subject, Jesus responds by healing the subject, usually by touch. The final step of the Myers's framework is the report of the miracle. The framework that Myers discusses is quite helpful because it describes the ready availability of spiritual help. In the Gospel, Simon's mother-in-law gets a cure and establishes a better connection with Jesus, only because she was seeking such a connection. This process also describes Jesus' power as when he encounters a person in need of his help, all it takes for them to get better is one touch. His one touch is enough to cast devils out of someone, to make them feel better, and to elevate them spiritually. However, the retelling of the healing, the report of the account is probably the most important step in the process for generations of religious persons who have sought a connection with Jesus by reading the Bible. The reporting of the healing brings the reader of the accounts into the action and becomes something that future generations of disciples can read and realize the power of the healing touch of Jesus.
The fact that the mother-in-law proceeds to provide service to Jesus is quite significant, as this demonstrates her immediate understanding of tenets of hospitality and Christianity. Even though Christ comes to Simon's house to heal his mother in-law, he is still a guest in the house and needs to be treated accordingly. In his analysis of the passage, David Ewart argues that Simon's mother-in-law's immediate domestic action is only indicative of her return to her traditional role and traditional tasks as a housewife. While this interpretation has validity to it when interpreting the text on the literal level, it is important to note that a metaphorical interpretation of the text reveals her thorough understanding of Christ's teaching, and her service onto him is representative of this. She does not merely serve him as the woman of the house would serve a guest, but she accepts him as her savior and her servitude to him is merely a religious person's service unto God.
When Mark describes the sick woman's healing, he notes that Christ "lifted her up" (Mark 1:31). Physically, Christ takes her by the hand and lifts her up from her sickbed. But this passage also functions well in the context of spiritual uplifting and elevation. Mitchell points out that the woman becomes a disciple of Christ (62-63). After her brief encounter with Christ, the sick woman goes through a significant transformation that allows her have a better understanding of Christ and her duties and responsibilities regarding her savior. This acceptance of Christ's power allows her to transform from the position of the ill mother-in-law, the ancient joke, and the lowest member of the society into a servile follower of Christ himself.
The ill mother-in-law is one example among various healing that Christ performs throughout the Gospel and various reports of these healings clearly demonstrate Christ's untiring efforts to help and heal all. Upon finding himself in the city of Galilee, Christ immediately assumes the role of the leader that the citizens of Galilee need him to be. His actions proceeding the healing of the sick woman demonstrate Christ's leadership and generosity to all further. The citizens of Galilee, upon learning of Christ's miraculous actions, start coming to him to find cures for their own problems. Mark describes Christ's actions by saying, "And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him" (Mark 1:34). The generosity of Christ and his love for mankind is conveyed by the fact that he does not turn away any person that come to him for healing. Every citizen of Galilee that needs to find a connection to God is able to do so during his or her encounter with Christ.
In his analysis of Mark, Ted Weeden contrasts these healings of the people with Jesus' own death that takes place later in the Gospels at the hands of authorities (22). The authorities seeking to imprison Christ are contrasted with the people following him. His popularity with the people is directly proportional to the fact that the authorities do not believe in his claims and argue that he is impersonating a God. The point of the passage, according to Weeden, is to point out that one needs to find a connection with God as opposed to questioning his powers of healing or the validity of his claims as God. Unlike the authorities, the crowds have a proper understanding of Christ and they show Christ's popularity among the regular citizens and their proper understanding of God and his work. Therefore, one would do best to follow the crowds that have managed to develop a proper understanding and appreciation of Christ's work.
Christ's healing of the sick also showcases another important element of divine power; Mark notes that the devils Christ cast out of the sick did not dare speak to him, as they knew his power. The devils plaguing the health of Galilee's citizens know of the power of Christ and are afraid of him. Thus, their brief encounter with Christ leads to an immediate abandon of their purpose and of the bodies that they had previously affected. Interestingly, the casting of the demons allows the people that had previously suffered from their evils to have the same kind of understanding of Christ as the demons had. By casting out the demons from Galilee, Christ shows its citizens his own awesome powers and allows the citizens of Galilee to get a better understanding of his might.
Christ's encounter with the citizens of Galilee further serves the purpose of illustrating God's generosity…[continue]
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