Authority over Disease

OVERVIEWNeither social conventions nor purity regulations prevented Jesus from ministering to the physical needs of men and womenMark 1:29-39

Jesus Heals the Sick
Jesus did not allow scruples over purity regulations to prevent him from healing the sick and delivering the oppressed. Sabbath regulations and rules about ritual purity were never intended to prevent human needs from being met. The more personal nature of this story may stem from Peter having recounted the incident to ‘Mark,’ evidence that he compiled his gospel from Peter’s memories [Photo by].

Jesus did more than heal Peter’s mother-in-law; he was “grasping her hand.” The Greek verb means “grasp, seize; take hold of.” In the culture of that day, to touch an unrelated woman was socially offensive, and in Jewish tradition, to touch someone who was ill risked contracting ritual purity. In addition to physical healing, Jesus was bridging social and religious boundaries.

Though he was no revolutionary, he did not allow social or religious conventions to prevent him from restoring members of the covenant people to wholeness, physically and religiously.
  • (Mark 1:29-39) - “And, straightway, leaving the synagogue, he went to the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Now the mother-in-law of Simon was lying in a fever, and straightway, they speak to him concerning her; and coming near, he raised her up, grasping her hand; and the fever left her, and she began ministering to them. And evening arriving when the sun went in, they were bearing unto him all who were sick, and them who were demonized; and all the city was gathered to the door; and he cured many that were sick with various diseases, and many demons he cast out and suffered not the demons to be talking, because they knew him to be Christ. And rising very early by night, he went out and departed into a desert place, and there was praying; and Simon, and they who were with him, went in quest of him and found him, and say to him: All are seeking you. And he says to them: Let us be going elsewhere into the neighboring towns, in order that there also I may be making proclamation, for to this end came I forth. And he came making proclamation in their synagogues throughout the whole of Galilee, and was casting the demons out.”
To save a life was more important than maintaining ritual purity, something even the scribes and Pharisees allowed. But there was something different in his attitude about matters of ritual purity, which began to cause friction between Jesus and the Pharisees, along with other groups that were more scrupulous about such things.

After her healing, Simon’s mother-in-law served Jesus and his companions. This was not intended to teach female subservience. The same Greek verb rendered “serve” here was used when angels “ministered” to Jesus after his temptation. The same verb occurs when he stated that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (diakoneôStrong’s #G1247). Her physical activities demonstrated how immediate her healing was, and that service to others should follow the restoration of a disciple to wholeness - (Mark 10:45).

The events in the larger passage all occurred in the synagogue at Capernaum where previously Jesus exorcised a demon, and on the same Sabbath day. The Jews would gather and begin to go about their business after sunset since, according to their tradition, the Sabbath concluded at sunset. Though men and women were eager to approach Jesus with their physical needs, they continued to conform to the relevant regulations by waiting until evening to seek healing - (Mark 1:21-38).

The gospel of Mark distinguishes between the healing of illnesses and the exorcism of demons - (“He healed many having various diseases and cast out many demons”). It does not attribute all afflictions to demons, although, in a few cases, it clearly does.

The Greek verb rendered “searched for” more accurately means “pursued” or “tracked down.” The text suggests self-serving motives behind the attempts by others to keep Jesus in Capernaum. Regardless, he was intent on proclaiming the Gospel throughout Galilee - (Mark 1:36, Luke 4:42).

Afterward, Jesus went out to a “lonely place in order to pray.” Elsewhere in Mark, he prayed at night, in solitary places, and at critical points in His ministry.


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