Reflections on Mark 1:29-39 Part 1

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"He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up" (Mark 1:31)


This passage begins with ‘and’ 1 thus linking this episode closely to the previous one. Both take place on the same day, the Sabbath. The previous event took place in the synagogue; this takes place at a private residence. The usualness of the previous event was shattered by the startling revelation of the identity of Jesus "I know who you are, the Holy One of God" (Mark 1:24). Jesus gave everyone present confirmation of his divine nature by showing the power given to him. The episode under consideration gives further, more extensive, confirmation of the same.

This episode takes place at the home of Simon and Andrew. The account shifts from an official public place of prayer and worship to the private residence of two disciples. The action of God enters all domains, both private and public, and it is unstoppable. Viewing events from the perspective of the religious leaders of the time Jesus had no mandate to operate outside official structures. Of course, his mandate came from a higher authority, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). We, too, need not wait for an official mandate which may never come. We already have a mandate “so I send you”. 2 Having said that each person must be acutely aware of the fact that Christ is the foundation on which we are to build and we must take heed of the warning not to deviate from the teaching of the truth. Truth and Christ are one and to betray the one is also to betray the other

As he came out of the synagogue Jesus probably left many outside talking about what they had just witnessed. He does not stay behind to bask in the glory and appreciation of the crowd but makes his way immediately towards the house of Simon, later to be called Peter, and his brother Andrew. These early disciples are becoming a closely knit group around their leader.

‘As soon as they left the synagogue’. Without wasting time they made their way to Peter’s house. The quick pace of Mark is evident everywhere (vv. 1:23, 29, 30). Immediately the possessed shouted out in the synagogue, immediately they left the synagogue, immediately they told him. Jesus and his disciples are not time wasters, they get down to business! However, they are not completely absorbed in frenetic activism. We have seen Jesus going out into the wilderness to be alone in prayer, as a faithful Jew in the synagogue, and now, in this passage, we see him at night withdrawing into communion with the Father (v.35). Prayer and action are intimately combined. Prayer nurtures action and action is the result of prayer. It is only in prayer, in the presence of God, that we can discern the will of God and if we are serious about our lives then we are serious about doing the will of God and not our own.


1 The Greek word καί, translated ‘and’, is often not translated
2  Cfr. Pope Francis’ homily at the closing Mass of the eighth world meeting of families, Philadelphia, Sunday, 27 September 2015. The readings at Mass were Numbers 11:25-29 and Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48: “In the first reading, Joshua tells Moses that two members of the people are prophesying, speaking God’s word, without a mandate. In the Gospel, John tells Jesus that the disciples had stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. Here is the surprise: Moses and Jesus both rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow! Would that all could be prophets of God’s word! Would that everyone could work miracles in the Lord’s name! … But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected. Once we realize this, we can understand why Jesus’ words about causing “scandal” are so harsh. For Jesus, the truly “intolerable” scandal is everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit! … Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!” To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith!”. Vatican website, site visited 7 October 2015.

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