Summary: After they left the synagogue, they went directly to the house of Simon and Andrew, along with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying in bed, sick with a fever, so they promptly told Jesus about her. He went up to her, took her by the hand, a
In fact, the whole city gathered at the door. He healed many who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons. However, he wouldn’t allow the demons to speak because they knew who he was. In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went to a deserted place and prayed there. Simon and his companions searched diligently for him. When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you.” He said to them, “Let’s go to the neighboring towns so that I can preach there, too. For that is why I came out here.” So he went throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Looking through the Gospel text this week I was reminded of the story of the priest who gets pulled over by a policeman after running a red light, and when the window is wound down, the officer is immediately confronted with the smell of alcohol emanating from the car!
“Have you been drinking, Father?” the policeman asks. “Not a drop”, the priest replies.
“Well … would you mind telling me what you’ve got in that flask”, the policeman asks. “Ah … that would be water”, says the priest.
The policeman picks up the flask, opens it and sniffs it. “I believe this is whiskey, Father”, says the policeman.
“Mother of God!” says the priest, “Another miracle!”
And as I read through the Gospel reading today I find myself making the same response: ‘Another miracle!’
We’re actually only in the first chapter of the Gospel according to St Mark, and yet already we have been confronted with a whole series of miracles!
No sooner had Jesus entered the synagogue to teach than he was confronted by a wild, crazy man, screaming out at him, and Jesus healed the man.
And within a day of that event, or so it seems, everybody who is sick or possessed is crowding around Jesus, and Jesus is healing them of their illnesses and driving out demons, and the activity becomes all-consuming, though the irony is that Jesus seems to be engaging in the whole process a little reluctantly!
We sense a degree of frustration, I think, with Jesus early on, as He tries to quieten the testimonies of the possessed – “You are the Holy One of God!” – lest the whole thing get out of hand. And yet it does get out of hand, and Jesus seems frustrated by the hordes that press on him. It appears that He wants people to listen to what He has to say, and not just to get carried away with His miracles or His mysterious identity.
This is made quite explicit at the end of our reading today, where we see Jesus, having escaped from the crowds that were pursuing him to a ‘lonely place’ (vs.35), telling His disciples that it’s time to move on.
“Let’s go to the neighbouring towns so that I can preach there, too. For that is why I came out here.” (vs.38)
And it seems that Jesus, after having taken some time to think things through, realises that His priority has to be spreading His word of hope about the new world coming. The great well of human need that He sees round about him is, it seems, a distraction that threatens to divert Him from His real work.
Surely there were any number of others who could take up the task of healing the sick. Jesus must focus on spreading the word, “for that is why I came out”!
As I say, there is a fair degree of irony in this because despite Jesus’ words, He never actually acts in accordance with His own pronouncement!
Perhaps indeed the ordinary needs of ordinary human beings are a distraction from the greater work of spreading the Gospel, but if so, Jesus seemed to consistently allow Himself to be distracted!
So many people come to him, we are told, that there isn’t room at the door, and yet we don’t see Jesus standing up and saying, “Look! I want everybody to put their physical issues on hold for a moment. I have some things I’d like to say.”
No! There is a well of human misery surrounding Jesus as He begins His ministry, and Jesus wades right into it!
Jesus does not detach Himself. He allows Himself to be distracted. He reaches out. He heals. He liberates both the infirmed and the possessed, and He does so knowing full well that this is detracting from the work that He was sent to do, but He does it anyway!
Yes, at the end of the day he creates some distance for Himself and He decides that it’s time to focus on preaching, and yet the immediate follow-on from this pronouncement is that a person afflicted with leprosy finds Jesus and asks for help.