Every book in the biblical library has unique characteristics that set it apart from all other books in the bible. The passage that is our first reading today from the book of Job – dealing with suffering and pain – is fairly typical of this book. So also each of the gospels have particular ways of telling the story of Jesus that are unique. John features long and exalted speeches of Jesus; Matthew is marked by 5 large blocks of teaching that begins with the famous sermon on the mount, identifying Jesus as the new Moses; in the prayerful gospel of Luke, the most characteristic feature are the parables that are unique to him.The gospel of Mark, that we are reading from this liturgical year, uses particular language. For example, the word euthus appears 72 times in the Greek New Testament – but 42 of those times are in the relatively short gospel of Mark. The word is usually translated into English as ‘immediately’ or ‘straight away’. The use of the word helps to convey the breathless quality of this action-packed story of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus is on the move, bringing in the kingdom of God – through his teaching authority, but especially through the mighty works of God that Jesus does – to heal the sick, to forgive sins and to cast out devils. There is almost a child-like quality in the telling of the story: Jesus did this, and then he did this, and then he did this…
The gospel today also contains an insight into the reasons for the healing ministry of Jesus. When he goes euthus from the synagogue (last Sunday’s gospel) to the house of his friend Simon-Peter, he is told euthus that his mother-in-law is sick with a fever – not a ‘man-flu’ either, but a serious illness that was potentially life-threatening. So Jesus goes to her bed, takes her by the hand and raises her to new life. Her response is key. She begins to serve them. This is the point of healing – it enables us to resume our rightful activity in the world in sharing in the love of God with those around us.Then as evening falls (and the Sabbath ends) the crowds of people descend on the house to share in the mighty works of Jesus. This is what God does. This is what the kingdom looks like.
Even after an exhausting day of pastoral ministry, Jesus is up early in the new day – long before dawn – to spend time with the Father in prayer. Later, Simon and the other disciples will come to him, reminding him of the crowds that continue to press around their house, looking for him, wanting more of the action and the show.
The response of Jesus is amazing. He doesn’t return to the crowd. He doesn’t continue to heal. He declares that his place is somewhere else. His place is at another village, among other people who need to know the reality of the kingdom as it breaks into life on earth.
When we become so caught up in the activities of our jam-packed lives – full of so many good things – maybe we should take the time to do what Jesus does. Maybe we also need to go away to a lonely place and pray – to see if the Lord actually wants us to leave aside some of these good things – so that we can concentrate on the one necessary thing that the spirit will drive us to do?
Recorded at St Paul’s, 6pm (11’22”)