29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.Mark 1:29-39
This week we pick up right where we left off in the story of last week. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue when a man “with an unclean spirit” interrupted the service. Jesus cast the spirit from the man, and he was well.
Today Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes to Simon’s house. This is the same Simon who Jesus would later call Peter. Upon entering, he learns that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus goes to her, “took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.”
Jesus’ teaching and healing ministries are all part of the same ministry. In the previous verses, Jesus has set the course for his public ministry, and there will be no discrepancy between what he teaches and what he practices.
There is a close parallel between the words “healing” and “salvation.” The last verse of today’s Gospel makes that abundantly clear, “And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons” (1:39).
Jesus rejects the idea that sickness is linked to God’s punishment for a person’s sin. Jesus has an understanding that would be in line with our modern thinking about illness, that it is un-wholeness, and Jesus sees healing as a restoration of that wholeness. When Jesus turned to the woman that has pushed her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of his garment, he said to her, “your faith has made you whole.”
There are a significant number of instances in scripture where touch is used. Jesus took Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand, the angel that touched Jacob’s thigh, Jairus’ daughter, the blind man Jesus touched, and so forth. There is power in touch. In scripture, touch is a metaphor for intimacy, for presence, for relationship. Humanity was created to be in relationship with one another. This has been difficult during the pandemic.
Jesus understood what we are slow to comprehend, the power of a touch, of intimacy, of nearness, makes us whole. Love not expressed, love not felt is difficult to trust. God understands this human condition and humanity’s need for closeness. This is the reason for the incarnation. Jesus is the incarnation of God’s love. And it is that love that will make us whole.