Authority over Disease

Neither social conventions nor purity regulations prevent Jesus from ministering to the physical needs of men and women – Mark 1:29-39. 

Jesus did not allow scruples over purity regulations keep him from healing the sick and delivering the oppressed from demonic spirits. Neither Sabbath restrictions nor Levitical rules on ritual purity were intended to prevent human needs from being met.

The more personal nature of the next incident may be the result of Peter recounting it years later to Mark, further evidence that the latter compiled his gospel from Simon Peter’s memories - (Mark 1:29-39).

And in the story, Jesus does more than simply heal Peter’s mother-in-law. It states that he was “grasping her hand,” and the Greek sentence uses a verb with the sense of “grasp, seize; take hold of.”

In the culture of that day, to touch an unrelated woman was socially offensive, and in Jewish tradition, touching someone who was ill risked contracting ritual purity from that person. Thus, in addition to physical healing, Jesus is bridging social and religious boundaries.

Though he is no political revolutionary, Jesus does not allow social or religious conventions to thwart him from restoring a member of the covenant people to wholeness, both physical and religious.

To save a life is more important than maintaining ritual purity, something even the scribes and Pharisees allow. But with Jesus, there is something different in his attitude about matters of ritual purity, and this causes friction between him and the Pharisees who are more scrupulous about such things.

After her healing, Simon’s mother-in-law arose and served Jesus and his companions. Mark does not report this fact to teach female subservience to men. The same verb rendered “serve” is used in Mark when angels “minister” to Jesus after his temptation (diakone├┤).

The same Greek verb occurs later when Jesus states that the “Son of Man came not to be served but to SERVE” and to give his life as a “ransom” for many. The physical activities of the woman demonstrate 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 on the Sabbath day. Though men and women were eager to approach Jesus to meet their physical needs, they continued to conform to the Sabbath regulations by waiting until evening to do so - (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”), and it does NOT attribute all afflictions to demons.

After these events, Jesus went out to a “lonely place to pray.” And elsewhere in Mark, he prays at night, in solitary places, and at critical points in his messianic mission.


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