They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Mark’s Gospel plunges us straight into the active ministry of Jesus and today’s passage indicates the impression that Jesus had on those who witnessed and heard him. There was wonder at what happened and an enthusiastic expectation that further demonstrations of divine power would be revealed. They were exciting and exhilarating times.
However, I want to focus on two aspects of this passage: places and people.
Nazareth and Capernaum are both noted here but neither is mentioned in the Old Testament, possibly because Nazareth was an unimportant backwater up in the hills and Capernaum was a trading and customs post which developed later.
We read elsewhere in Luke 4 of the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth and his response that “no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.” In any case a hill town in Galilee would have been no place to base a nationwide ministry. Capernaum was so very different; it was a significant trading and customs post on the Via Maris, an important route from Egypt to Syria and beyond which would have attracted and served a diverse, multinational community, so giving Jesus access to a far wider audience than in his home town.
People: Jesus enabled the recovery of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. How much more we should like to know about the family life of the disciples and apostles. 1 Corinthians 9.5 implies that the apostles, the brothers of Jesus and Peter himself were accompanied by their wives in their work and witness. We should like to know how this fitted in with family and working life – but we can assume that it did. While over the centuries there have been those who have remained celibate to facilitate their ministry (and Paul may have been one such) it is clear that many early followers of Jesus were married.
Loving God, we thank you for quiet places where we can find renewal and for busy places where we can witness to many people.
We thank you that some have freedom to serve you without family ties and we thank you that others have the support of family and friends as they Walk in the Way of our Lord.
We pray that, whatever our personal circumstances, we may always appreciate that we are never alone for you are always with us: Amen
The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member of Verwood URC