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Epiphany 5B Gospel

Mark 1:29-39

Maggie Mraz

The passage follows the preparatory baptism of Jesus and a transformational 40-day wilderness experience. The motion of proclaiming the good news of God is clearly underway. Jesus is ministering healing and driving out demons as a demonstration of the closeness of God’s kingdom. A liberating message comes with impressive visuals as Jesus visits a home and restores Simon’s mother-in-law from fever and frees many from disease and demonic oppression as a crowd gathers at the doorway of her house. Demons are silenced by the commanding presence of Jesus and a whole town is captivated by Godly wonderworking in the neighborhood.

Echoes are heard, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Creative tension is present between the reality of the reign of God and the need for a response. God’s Kingdom presents the Lordship of Jesus and repentance and belief are expected. The reign of God is “one great reality that confronts men and women now with the need for decision.” [1]

The authority of Jesus is apparent in the passage and compels people to respond. Simon has left his nets along with his brother Andrew to obediently follow the call of Jesus to, “Come, follow me.” (Mark 1:17). Attention to the former fisherman’s household is given in a healing from fever. In light of the obedience of the two brothers who now “fish for people” it is suggested that salvation came to their household in step to the radical obedience shown. [2]

Jesus offers people more than momentary relief from pain and affliction. The crowd at the doorway seems to have a limited understanding of the scope of the grace and compassion of Jesus found in a scene of physical healing and release from demons. We must not join shortsightedness and confuse this to simply be early success of a budding ministry. The manifestations of wonder are merely signs pointing to a greater reality found within God’s sovereignty.

Jesus, we are told, slipped away from the house very early in the morning to be in a solitary place for prayer. He removes himself from the place where he had the acclaim of people to be alone in a space creating an environment like the wilderness of the prologue of Mark’s gospel account. Here Jesus may affirm his intention to obey God in submission to the will of the Father. The passage evokes a need to maintain balance in a life of service with moments of prayerful, solitary life in God. In such restful rhythm, we may see the possibilities and potential around us as we follow Jesus each day.

Mark offers only a snapshot of the potential benefit of obedience to the call of Jesus. The passage compels us to consider a deeper relationship between ministry and spirituality. If we consider ministry as “service in the name of the Lord” and spirituality as “attention to the life of the spirit in us” as Henri Nouwen suggests we may see a way to connect the active faith of Jesus to our own everyday life of faith.[3] In step with Jesus, we may relate well with the sea of people around us. If only we adopt a rhythm of both engaging and stepping away we may be formed in the practice of solitude.

“In solitude, we can pay careful attention to the world and search for an honest response.” Henri Nouwen[4]

If we plan to take time away we will be prepared to respond slowly and creatively to all the events of life. We may resist being caught up in a need for human recognition and attention to alternatively be caught up in a way of living focused on recognizing and attending to God. Perhaps then we may bear fruit in our lives in hope of offering a glimpse of Jesus-like life to those around us and influencing repentance to emerge.

It’s easy for us to be lured into the idea that being present to people in all their needs is our greatest and primary purpose for life yet the primary concern of Jesus was to be obedient to the Father and to live constantly in God’s presence. We easily get caught up in believing we are to be constantly performing for God and activating faith excessively to the point of exhaustion or depletion. From a place of solitude we gain rest for a lifetime of journey.

Our active life of faith is informed by the reality of God’s kingdom. It is not that our mission activity establishes the kingdom of God. Instead, our belief in the coming reign of God is the framework for our missionary practice.[5] We serve people and preach the gospel as worship in response to the lordship of our Triune God. We follow the led of the Lord Jesus by hopefully alerting people to the reign of God through announcement and demonstration in our everyday life.

During this season of Epiphany we remember the revealing of the Christ beyond the Jews to include non-Jews or Gentiles. In The Road to Missional, author Michael Frost speaks of the wisdom of David Bosch in that our everyday experience of church ought to be greatly influenced by the feast of Epiphany. Such festivity invokes in us a sense of celebration, joy and, relief as the reign of God on earth offers salvation to all people. Just imagine the possibilities of creating spaces today for festive moments like the one at the door of the home of Simon’s mother-in-law where all kinds of neighbors may respond in awe knowing the nearness of God’s Kingdom and believing in Jesus as our Lord.

[1] Newbigin, Lesslie, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978), 34.

[2] Lane, William L., The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 78.

[3] Nouwen, Henri. The Living Reminder: Service and prayer in Memory of Jesus Christ (New York: HarperOne, 1977), 12.

[4] Nouwen, Henri. Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (New York: Doubleday, 1975), 50.

[5] Frost, Michael. The Road to Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 37

Maggie Mraz

About the Contributor

DMin Student, Asbury Theological Seminary


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