Mark's "day in the life of Jesus" moves from the synagogue at Capernaum to the home of Simon and Andrew where Simon's mother-in-law is healed. After tea, crowds gather and the healings continue. In the morning, Jesus sets off on his preaching mission, announcing that "this is why I have come."
v29-31. Mark sustains the sense of drive in Jesus' mission by telling us that he "immediately" moves from the synagogue to Simon and Andrew's home. Mark notes that the four newly called disciples are still with Jesus. Simon's mother-in-law's fever is obviously serious as she is unable to wait on her guests. A fever in the ancient world was often life-threatening and the complicated remedies and incantations of the time were next to useless. Mark notes the simple, but powerful, application of Jesus' healing power. On numerous occasions Mark mentions the touch of Jesus, or as here, his grasp.
v32-34. The "day in the life of Jesus" continues after sunset (after the Sabbath) with a descriptive episode of healings. Mark underlines the large number of people who press in on Simon and Andrew's front door and goes on to explain that there were many healings of great variety, including exorcisms. The episode illustrates Jesus' power and authority. As for the demons, they knew who Jesus was and in accord with ancient belief, would have used Jesus' name to gain control over him, but Jesus has control over them and does not even let them speak.
v35. Early in the morning Jesus heads off to a solitary place for prayer. This may be his practice, or Mark may be illustrating how the press of the crowds, due to his popularity, is already forcing Jesus to adjust his personal behavior.
v36-37. The popularity of Jesus, his personal magnetism, is underlined in the statement of Simon. The authority of Jesus' teaching and his power over sickness and demons, is identified as the reason.
v38. This verse is surely the punch-line of the episode. Jesus came to proclaim (communicate with authority) the gospel (understood). The miracles visibly proclaim this message rather than verify it, cf. Matt.12:28. So, rather than stay and heal, Jesus must go and preach; his task is to proclaim the coming victory over the dark powers that enslave humanity.
v39. Mark gives a thumb-nail sketch of the Galilean mission. Jesus covers the "whole" of Galilee, preaching as he goes. The preached word is associated with the sign of exorcism and at this stage, much of the preaching is in the local synagogues.
In a recent Australian documentary, "Two Thirds Sky, Artists in a Desert Country", the work of five Australian landscape artists was compared as they wrestled with images of the Australian desert. Idris Murphy, a committed Christian, was able to speak of his work in theological terms. For Idris, the Australian desert is not unique, in that it is part of a world-wide landscape, but it is particular. Wrestling with its particularity is the task of Australian landscape artists who seek to communicate its essence. For Idris, the essence is the nature of God hidden in creation's design. As a startling sunset can communicate this essence, so the painting, serving in a sense as the Holy Spirit, seeks to communicate this essence to the viewer.
Jesus' miracles are like paintings. Although some see them as acts of kindness, or examples to follow, or proofs of Jesus' divinity, or even an authentication for Jesus' preaching, they have, in fact, an independent and therefore, far greater worth. Their essence communicates divine truth. The apostle says that the creation reveals God's "eternal power and divine nature", but Jesus' miracles actually communicate a more profound truth, that "the Kingdom of God has come upon you."
In our passage for study, we see Jesus healing Simon's mother-in-law, healing the crowds and driving out demons. The disciples, understandably, see themselves as social workers and try to bring Jesus back to the coal-face of human misery. Yet, Jesus did not come as a social worker, but came to communicate a mystery long hidden - "the incomparable riches of his [God's] grace." So, Jesus must move on to other towns and villages to, as he says, "preach there also."
In following the master our task is the same; we are to communicate the essence of God's grace in words and images. The word of grace is easily communicated through the media - a parish paper, a television advertisement, ..... The image of grace is not so easily communicated, but is often more powerful than the words. A gracious life may say more than a word of grace. An unmarried mother refused a christening at her local church images one thing, Christ telling a woman taken with adultery "neither do I condemn you", says another.
As the artist strives to distill the pure essence of a landscape on canvas, so should the believer distill the essence of grace on the canvas of their life. For Jesus, the casting out of demons, more than anything else, communicates the dawning kingdom and its gift of freedom. For we children of the kingdom, set free by the grace of God, the pure essence of God's message of grace is distilled in one particular gracious quality, love. To love the unlovely, to forgive the unforgivable, to accept the unacceptable, ......, such is love, such is grace.
The function of the church is obviously not social work, yet there is value in it. What is its value?