Mark 1:29–34 hangs together with everything since Jesus’s baptism to establish the pattern that Mark gives for Jesus’s ministry through his Gospel. Jesus retreats into a desolate place and then comes to the crowds. Jesus preaches to the people and then calls people to follow. Jesus begins teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath day and then moves out into the streets. Jesus exorcises unclean spirits, and he heals sick people. And then, at the end of our reading, we see this pattern amplified and multiplied.
If you read through Mark, you can start to see how these patterns deepen. Each healing tells you a little more about how his authority is not just to heal but, more so, to forgive. Each exorcism happens a little differently and tells you a little more about his authority even over unclean spirits.
Jesus goes to Simon’s mother-in-law’s house and heals her. Unlike the exorcism in the synagogue, this is a private home. Instead of rebuking, he very gently takes her hand, and she is healed. She gets up and starts doing normal kinds of things.
Lesson number one: not one of Jesus’s healings or exorcisms happens the same way. There is no formula. It isn’t a magic spell. The authority he wields is the authority of the One who, on the one hand, sits above the earth so that its inhabitants look like grasshoppers and, on the other hand, cares to give strength to the weary.
In the same way, the Word of God that you encounter on Sunday morning is not magical. It doesn’t become invalid if you miss a word or if the pastor stumbles here or there. Instead, it is the power and authority of the Almighty God, reminding you that he has words chosen out for you to hear this morning.
After that, people from all around Capernaum came to him, each with a story and a background and a life like the man possessed by an unclean spirit in the synagogue and like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. And Jesus healed them. He cast out each unclean spirit. Each individual story changed.
Lesson number two builds on lesson one: the Gospel of God is this amazing mix. He doesn’t speak in a generic way, and, as only God can do, he speaks to everyone.
Here again we find yet another reason why we cannot do our Christian faith on our own: we are baptized into a community, into the Body of Christ. God would use your voice to speak his Word personally into the lives of others. He would use the voices of countless more to speak His Word into that person’s life, in an amazing collage of peoples and times.
I think of how deeply humbling it is to consider the voices of Christian faith that have shaped me. Challenging, comforting, leading, supporting. My mom and my dad. My brothers. My youth director. My mission trip leaders. My college roommates. My brother pastors. My teachers and principal. Just in the life of faith of one Pastor Muther. In thinking about this collage of peoples in my life, I pray for that to be true in the lives of my children and in the lives of those I serve.