The First Resurrection in Mark
As 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.
32 That evening, at sunset, 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.
35 In 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 neighbouring 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.
Last week we saw Jesus going to the synagogue and preaching about the good news of God’s kingdom. He told people that God’s plan for putting the world to rights had begun.
And in the synagogue, a man with an unclean spirit tried to shout him down. An unclean spirit is a spirit which is separated from God; against God, in fact, and Jesus showed he had more power than such spirits. He had God’s power. He was the real thing!
In this week’s reading, Jesus leaves the synagogue, and we see that his power is not just about religion. It is not just power for church. He heals a woman in her home; a woman with a fever. The kingdom of God, which Jesus is preaching and bringing, is for ordinary people, too. It is for all of life.
There is something else happening with this story, which is central to the gospel of Mark. We need to understand this, or we will miss a key message about God’s love, which the gospel is trying to communicate to us.
To understand this, we need to go to the end of the Gospel. It’s on the screen, but if you wish to follow in the pew bible, it’s on page 52.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
And that’s where the Gospel of Mark ends! No one sees the resurrected Jesus at the end of Mark! “He is not here,” said the young man. “He has been raised,” but you will not find the resurrected Jesus at the tomb; you have to go back to Galilee; which means, you have to go back to ordinary life to find the resurrected Jesus, the place where you live. He is going ahead of you in everyday life; in Galilee.
People are always dissatisfied with this ending to the Gospel. They want to see Jesus. And so, there are at least two endings that other people have written for the end of Mark to try and tidy it up. Are they in our pew bibles...?
That’s actually good; making up a resurrection story, because Mark is asking us, with his gospel story, “How will you talk about resurrection? Where will you find it? How will you tell the story of Jesus?
“Read the gospel again. Think about it. Listen to Jesus while you are working, and walking, and eating. Talk with your friends; the other disciples. Ask each other, where are you meeting Jesus?”
Matthew and Luke answered Mark by writing their own gospels. They copied the basic story of Mark and then added and subtracted other bits of the traditions about Jesus, and put a different spin on various events. They were telling their own story of Jesus as they described how they met him in their life.
Other people did as Mark invited them. The pored over the book. They read it and re-read it. They tried to copy what Jesus did. When they faced an issue, a problem, they asked, “What would Jesus do if he were 42 and had two grumpy teenagers, and his husband was away on business? How would he handle it?”
They found a pattern in the stories in the gospel of Mark, and then, they found the same pattern in their own lives. We can do the same; you probably are!
The pattern starts in today’s reading!
Simon’s mother in law is sick in bed, when she needs to be up and welcoming guests. It says, “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her...”
Now let’s see more of the pattern in Mark Chapter 5. This is the story where the little girl is desperately ill; at the point of death, and Jesus is hurrying to get there in time. And, you remember, he was interrupted. The woman with the flow of blood touched him, and stopped him. And because of the delay, the little girl died before he got there. Remember what happened?
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?... [At the house]... he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age).
Finally, Mark Chapter 9.
26After crying out and convulsing him terribly, [the spirit] came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand.
Do you hear the pattern? Resurrection, for us, is happening in the gospel, not at the end. Resurrection is for everyday life. Jesus comes and takes us by the hand and lifts us up! If we follow Jesus; if we ask what he would do if he were 83 and had arthritis and bad knees, he takes us by the hand and lifts us up.... and we are able to stand...
For Simon’s mother-in-law it was so she could serve. For the girl there is a deep, wonderful mystery of healing of womanhood. She was nearly 12, on the cusp of adult life and is raised up next to a woman who was called unclean, and separated from God, because of her bleeding! And there’s the little boy; who knows where he was going?
Well—we do know! He, and they, was going on with life. They were living their ordinary lives in Galilee. That’s where Jesus met them. The resurrecting Jesus.
And for us now, if we go back to our ordinary lives, to our Galilees at home and at work, and live like Jesus would live, we’ll meet the resurrecting and resurrected Jesus, too. We will be lifted up.... and be able to stand...
You can prove this! You can prove it by trusting Jesus enough to follow him into Galilee, and live like he would live. And he’ll lift you up. Amen
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
I am most grateful to my friends Rev Anne Butler and Dr Alan Cadwallader for some of the insights in this sermon.