SYNOPSIS – Neither social conventions nor purity regulations prevented Jesus from ministering to the physical needs of men or women – Mark 1:29-39

Jesus did not allow social conventions or scruples over purity regulations to prevent him from healing the sick and delivering the oppressed from demonic spirits. Work restrictions on the Sabbath and rules about ceremonial purity were never intended to prevent the needs of God’s children from being met. The more personal nature of this story may stem from Peter having recounted the incident to ‘Mark’ – Another confirmation that he compiled his gospel from the memories of Peter.

Jesus did more than simply heal Peter’s mother-in-law – He was “grasping her hand.” The Greek verb is a strong one that means to “grasp, seize; to take hold of.” In this first-century culture, to touch an unrelated woman was socially offensive, and in Jewish tradition, to touch someone who was ill risked one’s ritual purity. In addition to physical healing, Christ was bridging social and religious boundaries.

Jesus was not a revolutionary; however, he did not allow social or religious conventions to prevent him from restoring members of the covenant people to wholeness and a right relationship with God.

(Mark 1:29-39) – “And, straightway, out of the synagogue going forth, he went unto the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Now the mother-in-law of Simon was lying in a fever, and, straightway, they speak to him concerning her; and coming near, he raised her up, grasping her hand — and the fever left her, and she began ministering unto them. And evening arriving when the sun went in, they were bearing unto him all who were sick, and them who were demonized; and all the city was gathered unto the door; and he cured many that were sick with divers diseases, and many demons he cast out and suffered not the demons to be talking — because they knew him to be Christ. And very early by night arising, he went out and departed into a desert place, and there was praying; and Simon, and they who were with him, went in quest of him and found him, and say unto him — All are seeking thee. And he saith unto them — Let us be going elsewhere into the neighbouring country-towns in order that there also I may be making proclamation — for to this end came I forth; And he came making proclamation into their synagogues throughout the whole of Galilee — and was casting the demons out” – (The Emphasized Bible – Parallel passages: Matthew 8:14-16, Luke 4:38-44).

To save a life was more important than maintaining ritual purity, something even the rabbis allowed. But there was something different in the attitude of Jesus about matters of ritual purity, an attitude that would put him in opposition to the Pharisees and other religious groups that were more scrupulous about such things.

After her healing, Simon’s mother-in-law served Jesus and his companions. This is not intended to teach female subservience. The same Greek verb rendered “serve” here was used when angels “ministered” to Jesus after his Temptation. The same verb occurs when Jesus stated that the “Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (diakoneô – Strong’s #G1247). Her physical activities demonstrated how immediate her healing was; furthermore, that service to others should follow the restoration of a disciple to wholeness – (Mark 10:45).

Healed by his touch
Healed by his touch

The events in the larger passage, all occurred in the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus previously exorcised a demon and on the same Sabbath day. The Jews would gather and begin to go about their business after the sunset since, according to their custom, the Sabbath concluded at sunset. Though men and women were eager to approach Jesus with their physical needs, they continued to conform to the Sabbath regulations and waited until after sunset to seek healing – (Mark 1:21-38).

The gospel of Mark distinguishes between the healings of illnesses and the exorcisms of demons – (“He healed many having various diseases and cast out many demons”). It does not attribute all afflictions to demons, although in a few cases it clearly does.

The Greek verb rendered “searched for” more accurately means “pursued” or “tracked down.” The text suggests self-serving motives were behind the attempts by others to keep Jesus in Capernaum. Regardless, he was intent on proclaiming the Gospel throughout Galilee – (Mark 1:36Luke 4:42).

Afterward, Jesus went out to a “lonely place in order to pray.” Elsewhere in Mark, he prays at night, in solitary places, and at critical points in His ministry – (Mark 14:32-39).

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