Summary: Jesus has the will and the power to transform a person's life and make all things new
FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
FEBRUARY 5, 2012
Some people think that the Kingdom of God will come when Jesus returns—when he comes as King of kings and Lord of lords. These people are waiting for the kingdom. Other people believe that the Kingdom of God is synonymous with heaven. The kingdom of God will be experienced when they die and see Jesus face to face.
This is certainly not Mark’s point of view. Mark sees that Jesus understands himself to be the Kingdom of God. When Jesus proclaims that the “Kingdom of God has come near,” (this is a poor translation and might better be translated, “The Kingdom of God is upon us,” he is announcing that God’s kingdom has broken into our world. Yes, we still await its fullness, but at the same time we live in the reality of God’s kingdom in our lives and in our world today.
THE KINGDOM COMES TO CAPERNAUM
In Mark’s gospel, the kingdom breaks in with force. From the moment of his baptism, Jesus has claimed his identity and his purpose. He has faced Satan in the wilderness, he has begun to call his disciples, he has taught, and he has cast out demons.
The impact of God’s kingdom continues to expand. In our lesson today, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. His ministry grows and he heals many of the sick who were brought to him and cast out several demons. At the end of our story, Jesus heads toward the neighboring towns in order to proclaim the good news and impact the region with the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God breaks down the barriers of sickness and evil. Nothing can be victorious over it. Where the kingdom of God is, there is new life, freedom and ministry.
One of the items that catches our attention in this story is what Jesus does for Peter’s mother-in-law. Mark writes that Jesus “takes her by the hand, raises her up, and then the fever left her.” Mark uses this word “raise up” several times. Significantly, Mark uses it to describe what happened on Easter morning—Jesus was raised up. This is a powerful word.
Some of us have had long term illnesses, or have taken a long time to recover from surgery. These people understand a little of what Peter’s mother-in-law was experiencing. When you are ill, you are prevented from using your gifts and talents in a way that is a blessing to others and to you. Sometimes one’s purpose in life or worthiness is questioned. Illness also separates us from our community. People stay home, or recover in a hospital or rehabilitation center.
When Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law, he raised her up and restored her. Once again she was able to use her gifts and she did it by serving others. This woman is the first example of what discipleship is. She also was restored to her place in the community. Relationships were healed and strengthened.
As disciples of Jesus, who follow his example, we can see our ministry as that of raising people up. We don’t merely provide for their needs, or make them comfortable. We do more than that. We raise people up so that they can use the gifts and talents that God has given them, and so that they can again take their rightful place in the community. Of course, this is more than a hand-out, or merely a stop gap measure. What Jesus demonstrated and what we are called to is life transforming.