Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

by Crossings

Mark 1:29-39
(Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany)
Analysis by Michael Hoy

29As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And 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. 35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

DIAGNOSIS: The Lonely Place

Step 1 – Initial Diagnosis: Sick
Sickness afflicts people in synagogues (read: churches) and in homes (v. 29), men (vs. 21-28) and women (v. 30). It is most indiscriminate in claiming its victims-and all of us are susceptible.

Step 2 – Advanced Diagnosis: Searching
The presence of sickness is only worsened by those who do nothing to change the circumstances, seeking themselves to avoid susceptibility. Peter’s quest for Jesus, really re-quest of Jesus, “Everyone is searching for you” (v. 37), is indicative of the malady in Peter’s unwillingness to get himself contaminated with the problem of physical sickness, especially with all its demonic overtones. Consider it more of a request-if even that-that somebody else should take care of the problem. But as for us, leave us out of it.

Step 3 – Final Diagnosis: Deserted
The real tragedy is that in leaving ourselves out of the picture is that we are still infected with a deep spiritual sickness. In leaving ourselves out of the picture, the theological truth may be that God will do the same-leave us out. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that God would confirm out being outside the picture of hope.

PROGNOSIS: Proclaiming the Message

Step 4 – Initial Prognosis: Coming Out
But that is what makes, all the sweeter, the promise that Jesus “came out to do” (v. 38)-to heal, to proclaim to us who are trapped in our deserved desertion, our sickness of the heart and of the soul, as well as of the body. That means that Jesus enters deeply into our desertion, our “very dark” and “deserted places” (v. 35).

Step 5 – Advanced Prognosis: Finding
What Peter finds in Jesus, what we all find in Jesus, is the one who cures us, and not just spiritually, but all the way through, including our physical beings, sooner or later. Of all the ones to be searching for, Jesus is the one who provides the cure. And our faith in receiving his cure, his hand-holding us through it, lifts us out of our doldrums into a new life (v. 30).

Step 6 – Final Prognosis: Serving
Faith is expressed in serving-in getting up and getting on with the task of caring for others who have needs. Peter’s mother-in-law got that spark. As soon as the fever had left her, she began to serve (v. 31). Once knowing Who the Lord of healing is, and how far his healing can take us, we too can go out of our way, in service, into the dark and lonely places.


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