Summary: Jesus and his disciples, including James and John, left the synagogue and went straight to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever, and as soon as Jesus arrived, he was told about her. He went to her, took her by t
We are in the latter part of the first chapter of the Gospel according to St Mark this week, and it’s a scene that I think would make very acceptable day-time television. It is very ’G’ rated.
This is not typical of the Gospel stories, despite what you might have heard. Mark’s Gospel in particular is about 50% crucifixion narrative, which is hardly a kid-friendly narrative. Even so, if the Biblical writers had added chapter titles to their stories, this one might have been entitled, “Jesus heals somebody’s mum”, and that’s basically what this passage is about.
Jesus heals somebody’s mum - specifically, Simon Peter’s partner’s mum - and this is followed by some more healings, after which there’s some praying, and after which Jesus moves on to another town to do some more teaching, healing and praying. It’s all very ‘G’ rated - all very acceptable for daytime TV.
Yet I think we know why this particular Gospel story of the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law has never featured highly in TV dramatisations of the Gospels, despite its apparent wholesomeness, and it’s because it would make relatively boring television. It’s not really a very exciting story.
Now I don’t want anybody to recoil at me using the word ‘boring’ in connection with the Bible, and I’m sure that ‘boring’ is never really the right way to describe a miraculous healing, but I appreciate too that for many of us who have been reading the Gospel stories on a regular basis for most of our lives, we do start to get a little desensitised to Jesus’ healing miracles after a while. The first healing we read about blew our minds, but after the 1000th miracle you do start to ask yourself, ‘I wonder why Mark bothered to include this one?’
With last week’s reading, it was obvious why Mark included it - the crazy guy roaming about the synagogue, screaming, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth” and carrying on until Jesus performed a rather spectacular exorcism on him. This week though it’s somebody’s mum in bed with a fever, and maybe it was a life-threatening deadly virus, but it could have equally been a touch of the flu, and Jesus’ healing of her, and the various other sick people who follow her, seems relatively unspectacular. Another miracle …
You may have heard of the Irish woman, pulled over by the police for driving erratically, and when the woman rolled down the window of the car the officer could immediately smell alcohol. “Have you been drinking?”, the officer asks. “Oh no”, says the woman, “not a drop”. “Then can I ask you what you’ve got in that flask ”, the officer asks. “Ah … that’s water”, she says. The officer reaches in, undoes the flask and takes a look for himself. “This appears to be wine”, he says. “Mother of God”, she says, “Another miracle!”
And I suspect that some of us are tempted to respond in a similar sort of way here: ‘Mother of God, another miracle‘. For Jesus was always performing miracles, and after a while they do seem a little routine, unless, of course, you are the one on the receiving end, in which case no miracle is routine.