Summary: Presents Jesus the healer.
Jesus’ ministry has started with powerful action. No sooner does he start to teach than he has his first encounter with an evil spirit, i.e. a demon. With a mere rebuke Jesus casts the demon out of his victim shrieking in agony. As Mark will show in this passage, that was only the beginning of his dramatic works.
We are still on the same Sabbath day in which Jesus had taught and cast out the demon in the Capernaum synagogue. The service is over, and Simon and Andrew invite Jesus, James and John over to their home. Apparently it is a home of an extended family. Simon’s mother-in-law lives there and is sick in bed with a fever. This is evidently more than a matter of a slight headache, perhaps even a form of something as severe as malaria. When Jesus hears about her problem, he goes into the room and heals her.
Let’s look at what he does. He went to her, took her hand and helped her up. This is about as humdrum a description of a healing that a writer could come up with. All Jesus did was help the woman out of the bed. We need to remind ourselves that actually a great work was done. This woman was sick with what Luke, a physician, describes as a high fever. The fever not only immediately ends, but she is completely restored to her full strength. That’s what Mark indicates by letting us know that she immediately waited on her guests.
It would seem at a cursory glance that this healing story and the previous exorcism story are very different. Certainly the synagogue scene of casting out an evil spirit is more dramatic and makes for a more exciting story. But think for a moment about what makes that story so dramatic. What elements create the tension? the demoniac’s initial exclamations, the manifestations of the demon leaving (shaking his victim and shrieking), and the crowd’s reaction of astonishment. What did Jesus actually do, though? He spoke sternly, telling the demon to be quiet and to leave. There is a bit of the dramatic there. I’m sure Jesus would have arrested our attention in the manner that he spoke to the demon. But in reality, the dramatic tension in the story is created by the demon and the crowd. Jesus did no more than speak a couple of lines. Mark gives no indication that he is shaken by the encounter or that he had to exercise much energy in the process. You get the feeling that if Jesus had gone home to Mom and she asked if anything interesting happened at church, he would have replied, “Nothing much. I just had to make a demon leave that was acting up. That’s all.”
Jesus acts pretty much the same way in both stories: There is a problem. He fixes it without fanfare. The first incident happened in public and involved an obnoxious demon; the second was private. I make this point to help us understand the next verses and to bring up later what I had spoken in the previous sermon – Jesus’ authority.
The City Event
Our next verses report on the consequence of verse 28: News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. The word has gotten out that a miracle worker was in town. Besides the public synagogue exorcism, neighbors certainly would have passed along word of Simon’s mother-in-law being healed and that the miracle worker was in his home. Thus we are told: 32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door.
The reason for the people coming in the evening was that it marked the end of the Sabbath day. A Jewish day went from sundown to sundown. We have this picture of a sizable crowd congregating at the door of Simon’s home. Jesus presumably is standing outside the door and receiving the sick and demon-possessed. What would we see if we were there? Mark, of course, doesn’t bother to describe the scene, but we should at least have a good idea of Jesus’ manner. Other than having to reprimand the demons periodically, he most likely was acting and speaking calmly. “Daughter, be healed.” “My son, stand up and walk.” No crying out to God with tears; no shouting out to the crowd, “Behold the power of God.” No commanding the healed to show everyone what God had done. The picture is more like that of a doctor treating whomever of whatever ailment he had.
The difference being, of course, that Jesus didn’t treat illnesses; he healed them immediately. And he healed everyone. Mark says that “all” the sick and demon-possessed came and Jesus healed “many” and drove out “many.” Is he suggesting that Jesus did not heal all? Not likely. There is no record of Jesus ever refusing, or being unable, to heal anyone. The word “many” is intended to make just that point – the people healed were many and not a few, and that regardless of the type of illness they were cured.