Reflections on Mark 1:29-39 Part 2

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


In this new episode there is a further impressive demonstration of the authority and power of Jesus confirming both his identity and mission. This episode takes place immediately after worship in the synagogue suggesting that worship, prayer and action go hand in hand. The message is clear. If our worship and the teaching we receive do not spill out into our private corner of the world and profoundly influence our conduct there is something wrong. Church attendance is not a mask that is put on for one hour a week and to be taken off when we get home. It should equip us for service. The essential link between this and the previous episode is the presence of Jesus. Those who were in the presence of Jesus and his healing power in the synagogue brought him home to heal their private domestic world and the larger world of the whole city. This presence continues and the healing process continues in humble service to humanity at large. The presence and the healing are one, they are inseparable. Jesus gives himself in his healing. The gifts always come with the giver. We do not have a father Christmas Jesus who secretly comes down the chimney when everyone is asleep, places his nicely wrapped presents at the foot of the tree only to disappear as secretly as he came. He comes when everyone is wide awake; he knocks on the door and shares our common humanity. He only asks us to let him in.

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Everyone who opens the door to him, who welcomes him in can enjoy his fruitful presence and healing. Jesus did not come to do away with suffering. It is still with us.  He did not come to explain suffering. He does not indulge in abstract philosophy. He came to suffer (Mark 8:31). He came to identify with our suffering and now he comes to fill our suffering with his presence. 1 It is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to rise above our suffering, it is the presence of Christ that bears the weight of our suffering and it is the Father who reassures us in our suffering that we are held safely in his hands and asks us to trust as we walk in his presence. When we are aware of this and trust in him we experience that freedom which is ours in Christ. It is only then that we can we experience joy even in suffering: “In your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). Not partial joy but ‘fullness’ of joy. There are no half-measures with our heavenly Father.

He is also inviting you and I to experience that healing. To you, too, he is saying:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28)
‘He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up’. This he does with anyone who places his trust in him and remains in his presence. He will take you, too, by the hand and when he does he will lift you up above your circumstances to experience his presence and joy:
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete (John 15:11)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you (John 14:27)
It is not any peace or joy but the very peace and joy of Christ himself and so long as we are united to Jesus his life, peace and joy will be ours

Jesus entered the house of Simon, later called Peter. Jesus is eager to enter into the house of those who open their door to him, he shuns no one (John 6:37). And the house that welcomes Jesus is immediately blessed. The Holy Land is not 'holy' because, the earth, grass, water and air have any particular holiness in themselves. They are holy because there has been and still is the presence of the risen Lord. So it is with the house where the presence of Jesus is welcome. Jesus entered many houses to bring healing; he entered the house of Zacchaeus, a hated tax collector (Luke 19:5) and he entered the house of Jairus, whose daughter died and whom Jesus brings back to life (Mark 5:35-42).  If you, the reader of these words, have not let Jesus enter the intimacy of your home do so as soon as possible as he can satisfy all your needs and those of your household. He shall make things new and bring harmony, order and stability. He will take you by the hand, lift you and your household up and together you shall begin a fascinating journey. You, too, like Jesus in this episode, can be channels of the love, mercy, compassion and freedom of God for others as he transforms you on the way. Are you immersed in the culture of death unable to free yourself from something that has taken control of your life? Then stand in the presence of Jesus, welcome him into your home, into your heart for he has come to set you free:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free (Luke 4:18)
It is difficult to read this passage of Mark’s Gospel without associating it with the verses in Exodus where God hears the cries of his people

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians (Exodus 3:7,8)
Once again, in Jesus Christ, he has ‘come down’ ‘to lift us up’, to deliver us, his people, from the oppression of suffering and evil. Jesus identifies with the oppressed. One might well ask ‘where is God?’ when there is suffering. The answer is quite simple: he is right there in the midst of national disasters and equally present in personal suffering. In the passage we see illness as an evil to be fought and defeated; this is the Kingdom of God in action. We also see the importance of the home as a centre of Christian witness and evangelisation, a centre of the power of God in action but as a complement to official structures not in opposition to them.

1 The French poet and playwright Paul Claudel wrote: “Dieu seul, directement interpellé et mis en demeure, était en état de répondre, et l'interrogatoire était si énorme que le Verbe seul pouvait le remplir en fournissant non pas une explication, mais une présence; suivant cette parole de l'Évangile: « Je ne suis pas venu expliquer, dissiper les doutes avec une explication, mais remplir, c'est-à-dire remplacer par ma présence le besoin même de l'explication». Le Fils de Dieu n'est pas venu pour détruire la souffrance, mais pour souffrir avec nous. Il n'est pas venu pour détruire la croix, mais pour s'étendre dessus”.  Paul Claudel Dialogues avec la souffrance. Letter À Mademoiselle Suzanne Fouché. . Site visited  24-11-2015.

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