Mark 1:29-31

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. Mark 1:29-31

Events happen very quickly throughout Mark. It is a breathlessly told story. BANG, something else interesting happens. And as the story goes along, it has a way of constantly surprising us. My sense is that we ought to pay close attention to those times when we’re surprised.

We’re still in the first chapter!

It is hard to put ourselves in the position of someone reading this story for the first time but we can imagine what that would be like. Jesus and his friends leave the synagogue and go home with Simon and Andrew where they find Simon’s mother-in-law sick in bed with a fever.

“Modern” people might read this and imagine Jesus leaving a wooden or brick church building, walking together down a street, and entering a large enough home that it could accommodate Simon and his family, including his mother-in-law, and Andrew (and his family, if he has one.) That, most certainly, wasn’t what it was like.

These were very poor people living a subsistence lifestyle. Their homes were much more like tiny concrete/stone apartments with very small rooms around a central open space for cooking. Extended families shared the same spaces. People would sleep in the rooms or on the roofs. Beds were mats on the floor.

“Synagogue” – like “church” – refers first to the people who gather together and only secondarily to a building in which they could gather. It is quite likely that there wasn’t a dedicated building for worship in the little fishing villages along the Sea of Galilee. Visit Capernaum today and you’ll see the ruins of a synagogue building…originally built in a Roman style, 100-200 years after the time of Jesus.

Consider what this scene in Simon and Andrew’s home teaches, not only us, but those first disciples. Gathering together with other men in worship was nothing new to them. For several hundred years, Jews living outside of Jerusalem – with only periodic access to the temple – practiced their faith by the customs they followed in their homes and by gathering with others to sing, pray, and study the Law. That Jesus would take them to such a gathering was normal.

“Going home after worship” was also normal. Even having a sick family member at home was normal.

The “mystery” was what caused someone’s illness. Common sense held that perhaps they had done something worthy of punishment. The Law included many passages referring to the sick and often the need to send them out of the village. The interesting thing about that is that, in our modern age, doctors can diagnose an illness, describe it down to the cellular level, and still people are left with the haunting spiritual question, “Why is God letting this happen to me?”

The wonder of this story is obviously what Jesus does. He goes to the unnamed mother-in-law, takes her by the hand and heals her.

No doubt the disciples are shocked! And, like us, they ask, “Who is this guy?”

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you joined worship with others to healing at home. We pray for those we know and love who are ill today. From the very beginning, you are our Healer and there is so much in our lives that needs the healing you can bring. Come to us and take us by the hand. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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