Mark 1:29-39 - The ministry of Jesus begins

Updated: Mar 7

Mark 1:29-39

After Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.


That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And 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. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He 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.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.


--------------------


This is the Gospel selection for the fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, read during Year B. It is accompanied by an Old Testament reading from a song of Isaiah that sings about God, “[He] does not faint or grow weary” and “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.” It is also accompanied by an epistle reading from Paul first letter to the Corinthians, which included him reminding true Christians, “I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.” These readings should be realized when pondering the meaning of this Gospel selection, as the three have become joined by those whose hearts have allowed their minds to seen the truth of God linking these three separate readings together.


The translation read aloud by a priest (said to be from the New Revised Standard Version Bible [NRSV]) is good in the sense that it gives an impression of Jesus healing the mother-in-law of Simon [aka Peter] early in the day, before going to heal many people later in the evening. This talent displayed by Jesus had many people wanting to see him, so Jesus began a traveling ministry to take the talent to the people. Still, that simplicity of message misses some specificity that is good to be known.


In the NRSV translation, the first word is “After,” which implies a leap in time took place beyond the event of Jesus teaching at the synagogue in Capernaum. That is not what is written as the first word of verse 29. The first word written by Mark is a capitalized “Kai,” which means “And.” I have written regularly about this word not being some meaningless conjunction, which translators can assume it means a subsequent time, place, and event. The word always denotes importance that needs to be noted, with the capitalization being a greater lesson that needs to be paid attention to, in order to grasp the divinity of the written word.


In verses 29-31 there are seven uses of “kai,” with the first one capitalized. The translation above [NRSV] we read about “Simon and Andrew,” “James and John,” “[Jesus] came and took her by the hand,” and “the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” The way the translation reads, everything is just ho-hum ordinary things happening. When presented that way, the lesson written is missed; and, it is an important lesson to grasp, based on the uses of “kai.”


Because some liberties have been taken in translation to add some “ands” and other things, here is the Greek written [Mark 1:29-31, according to Bible Hub Interlinear], based on the presence of punctuation marks [written or implied by the text translated by the earliest Apostles, thus written later]:


Kai euthys ,

ek tēs synagōgēs ,

exelthontes ,

ēlthon eis tēn oikian Simōnos kai Andreou ,

meta Iakōbou kai Iōannou .

hē de penthera Simōnos katekeito pyressousa .

kai euthys legousin auto peri autēs .

kai proselthōn ,

ēgeiren autēn ,

kratēsas tēs cheiros ,

kai aphēken autēn ho pyretos ,

kai diēkonei autois .


Without showing the literal translation into English, look at how “kai euthys” is repeated, once at the beginning with a capitalized “Kai,” and another time in the lower case. When “kai” is seen only as a marker of importance, the word “euthys” becomes an important word to understand. It literally translates as “at once, directly,” with its usage including “immediately, soon, at once.” (Strong’s Concordance) The word can also be translated as meaning “shortly.” That immediacy is not reflected at the beginning of the NRSV translation, although it does say the state of the mother-in-law was told to Jesus “at once.”


The immediacy is important to see as the exit from the synagogue [“ek tēs synagōgēs”] is followed by the one-word statement that says, “having gone forth” [“exelthontes”]. There is no need to restate an exit, meaning the one-word statement is important to realize as saying Jesus began his ministry at this time, following having cast out an unclean spirit in a leader of the synagogue in Capernaum. It is the ministry that had “gone forth,” or “come out.”


This is where seeing the parallel between leaving a synagogue [a house of worship] and entering the house of Simon and Andrew is a continuation of that ministry. The symbolism says what must be taught in a synagogue (as a natural place of teaching) is no different than what must also be taught at home. Thus, the ministry of Jesus was not content with simply spending a hour or so (less if they worship like Episcopalians) in a house of worship, but they wanted to keep up this presence of worship in a nearby house of family.


When the use of “kai” is found between Simon and Andrew, and also between James and John [of Zebedee], this should be seen as a statement (in one regard) to their relationship as brothers. There are two sets of brother: Simon and Andrew; and, James and John. What is missed (in my opinion) is they all were related by marriage, meaning James and John were brothers of Simon’s wife, whose mother was not only the mother-in-law of Simon, but also the mother of James and John. Thus, when the immediacy leading to the plural pronoun form of the word “legousin” [“they speak”] about the ill mother-in-law [“peri autēs”] says everyone in the house became worried about this woman’s health. That would include any females left to care for her, while the men went to synagogue.


Here, the importance of “kai” says Jesus “came to her” [“proselthōn”] with purpose. From having exited the synagogue, having come out in his new ministry, entering the house of a family where a matriarch was stricken with fever, Jesus had been led there, so “he came to her” assistance.


When the presence of Jesus is understood as the importance of “kai,” there is no need to think Jesus did anything to the woman, beyond being in the same room with her, standing by her bed. When “ēgeiren” is read as “he raised” her, the image of Jesus grabbing her by the hand, or putting his arms under her shoulders and lifting her body out of bed is reading on a simple level of poor belief. Just as Jesus had cast out an unclean spirit within a man [a leader] of the synagogue without any more than a word or command, Jesus’ mere presence near the mother-in-law was uplifting. It was what allowed the woman to awaken from her fever-induced unconsciousness and arise on her own. Just as the leader of the synagogue convulsed on the floor while an unclean spirit left his body, this woman also had the same immediate exit of fever from her body.


When the words “kratēsas tēs cheiros” are translated as “having taken hold of the hand” [or loosely “took her by the hand”], that weakens the depth of meaning that separating those words with commas makes. Prior to the comma the woman had already been “raised.” That means following the comma she is already standing. As such, “having taken hold” is a word expressing the mother-in-law was similarly effected by the presence of Jesus, just as had been the leader of the synagogue. This means the Holy Spirit is what has “taken hold,” as it was the Holy Spirit that healed both the woman and the man. Therefore, the use of “hand” is less about a hand of a human being and more about a human being held by the hand of God, so a human being then becomes a “hand” of God, as a helping hand. The leader of the synagogue was also effected in this way.


When this is seen, the next set of words state “left her the fever,” which in simple terms says she no longer had a fever making her ill. However, in deeper terms [those words are led by “kai”], after the fever immediately left her by Jesus coming to her, the words now state she was “sent away” healed, with a “fever” to serve God. The same words say two opposite things.


When this dual meaning is grasped, one should see the deeper reason Mark wrote, “she began to serve them” [NRSV translation]. A better translation allows one to see this duality, when the word “diēkonei” [also preceded by “kai”] is seen to mean “ministered.” Here, one needs to realize that Jesus had been in the synagogue on a Sabbath. Jews prepare food for the Sabbath on Friday (the day of preparation), so to think that everyone was just worried because Sunday dinner [Sabbath for Jews] was not being made and on the table [a Christian view of the Sabbath] is not something done by Jews. Therefore, she was not getting healed to wait on the boys, any more than a minister waits on those needing to be served a Sunday sermon in church does. It says the mother-in-law added fervently to the continuation of discussion of the Torah lesson that Sabbath, in the house where the family lived.


This takes one back to the secondary reason the word “kai” was found between the four disciples. It says each was an important assistant to Jesus, where he was the leader of their own house of worship – a synagogue of family, where everyone related to Jesus and his disciples were a model of how a true “church” [“ekklesia”] is meant to be. All members are equally important and each would eventually be able to call upon Jesus as Apostles, to have his presence allow them to heal others in his name, making these three verses be prophetic of the things at the beginning that would be after Jesus had ascended.


When verse 32 begins by saying “evening,” followed by “sundown,” “evening” is the last quarter of the day, between 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM. At 6:00 PM the Jewish night begins, which is typically not when the sun sinks below the horizon and darkness sets in. The first part of night is the “evening” watch; and, this is the period between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM, during which the sun does go down completely. Thus, the two parts that begin verse 32 speak of the time when the day has changed from Sabbath to Sunday (the first day of the week – yom rishon), when Jews are allowed to go outside the city limits, further than half a mile. As such, it was after the Sabbath had ended that people who had illnesses, who had heard of Jesus casting out the unclean spirit in the synagogue earlier on the Sabbath, were then permitted by law to travel to where Jesus was known to have gone [this says Simon’s house was within the walking distance, but outside the city of Capernaum proper].



When the verses repeat the use of the words “pollous” and “polla” [meaning “many”] says that “many” of Capernaum were “sick” or “possessed by demons,” so Jesus healed “many” people. This use does not imply that some were not healed or some demons were not forced out of those possessed. The use of “many” becomes a statement that says the Jews of Capernaum had not been led properly by leaders of synagogues, or rabbis speaking in them, as they did little more than affirm the scribes, as their authorities to speak. It had been that system of weakness that had led to so “many” Jews being “sick” from “diseases” and being “possessed by demons.” All who came to the door at Simon’s and Andrew’s house were healed by seeing Jesus, with that number not being specific, but "many."


When verse 34 states, “and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him” [NRSV], it should be noted that this begins with the word “kai,” showing importance in the demons being unable to speak. The Greek text actually states:


kai ouk ēphien lalein ta daimonian , hotiēdeisan auton . (Christon einai) .


Notice the parentheses surrounding the last two words. The NRSV does not translate those words, which state the demons knew Jesus commanded them as the Christ. This is a statement about God, who is the power Jesus possessed, as a divine presence with his soul, which was the Holy Spirit [as stated in Mark 1:8 – “Pneumati Hagiō”]. The Greek word “daimonian” is then a parallel, yet opposite to “pneumatic,” as both are spirits, which means they are souls owned by God. The Greek word “psuché” translates as “soul,” with the same link to “breath” and “wind” as has “pneumatic,” with the soul being relative to a human “self.” It is vital to grasp that everyone who came to Jesus possessed a soul in a body of flesh, but those bodies had been possessed by spiritual impurities that allowed “disease” and demonic inhabitation in a body of flesh by souls departed, who rebelled against God’s Judgment.


When that is understood, one can see how it was not the body of flesh named Jesus that these demon spirits knew. Jesus did not command them to be silent as they departed a body they had taken possession of; it was God who spoke to them in ways that no human ear could hear. Verse 34 is thus making the important statement that God possessed Jesus, just as did demons possess the unclean of Capernaum. Being possessed by God not only keeps oneself clean and incapable of being demonically possessed, it allows others who come in contact with one possessed by God to also be cleansed.


In verse 35, where the NRSV states, “In the morning, while it was still very dark,” the Greek states this as: “Kai prōi , ennycha lian , anastas ,” which literally translates as “[Importance] very early , in night still much , having risen up”. Because there is a capitalized “kai” leading this verse, the word “prōi” [“very early”] takes on a greater meaning than simply “in the morning.” The second segment of words states that, by knowing that “deep into the night” leads one to a point that is “very early,” before the dawn. The “Kai” makes all of this be read as an important statement of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as the Christ that was known by demons, where the ministry of light was being sent into a time when darkness surrounded those searching for light. Therefore, more than Jesus waking up early [and that meaning can still be read into these words, as the truth is not limited to only one meaning], we are being told that Jesus arose as that light sent by God.


When we then read that Jesus “went out to a deserted place,” the Greek includes the word “kai” in that is says, “exēlthen kai apēlthen eis erēmon topon” or “he went out kai departed into solitary a place.” This is then two stages of Jesus “going out,” which is again a version of the repeated theme of Jesus “having come out” or “gone forth,” as stated in verse 29. After Jesus healed all the sick and possessed Jews in the town of Capernaum, Jesus’ ministry had further “come out” and Jesus had left behind a time when he would not be in his ministry to others. This was then “a place” no one had gone before, as Jesus was alone in Galilee, which had been “desolated” and “deserted” of good shepherding of souls. This is then where Jesus was “praying” to God to return the light.


When we read, “And Simon and his companions hunted for him” [where the word “kai” is found twice translated as the conjunction “and”], the key term to grasp is “katediōxen,” which has been translated as “hunted for.” When one sees how Jesus did not have to leave the house to pray, as he could have simply been in a deep meditative state of prayer (not outside in the darkness, needing to be searched for), the word “katediōxen” is free to mean “followed closely.” In this sense, the disciples [“Simon kai those with him”], saw Jesus in a trance-like state of prayer – a transcendental state of being – such that “kai heuron” then importantly states the disciples “wanted to discover” what Jesus was doing through prayer. This is then a powerful statement that says the disciples were totally thirsting to become like Jesus, as he represented one like no one before him had been.


By seeing that, when the disciples told Jesus, “Everybody is searching for you,” that becomes the statement that says, “Jews have long sought the Messiah and they need to know the Messiah is you.” They did not search to find Jesus in the darkness outside, to tell him that more people had shown up at the door. The disciples were speaking to Jesus in his prayerful state. They were committed to doing whatever Jesus needed them to do, because Jesus was known to be that important to them and the other Jews.


This means that when Jesus told his disciples, “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,” God was speaking to all present. Jesus repeats the theme of his having come out or gone forth. He said his reason and purpose for being in human form was for this ministry that was beginning. The disciples heard God speaking to them through Jesus, just as the demons knew God was the one casting them out, with nothing they could say that would keep them where they were. Thus, the prayer of Jesus was for his ministry and the disciples who were committed in being part of God’s ministry through His Son.


--------------------


As a Gospel selection for the Ordinary season following the Epiphany, it is important for the individual to see this reading as directly applying to oneself. To see this as simply Mark recalling the early times of Jesus' ministry is missing the point of this specific reading being chosen to be read at this particular time of the year [Year B], after the Epiphany. This means one needs to see oneself first as all those of Capernaum who sought Jesus to be cleansed. In this sense, everyone needs to first see oneself as the mother-in-law who is (in essence) laying on one's deathbed [mortality only ensuring death in the flesh to come], with no way to be healed by one's own wiles or by the standard practices that are nothing more than darkness. The reader must see himself or herself as the one desperately needing Jesus for salvation.


After one sees the value of this reading is to lead one to Jesus, the next promise is to be committed to serving Jesus as his disciple. One's own house must become a synagogue or church, where one's family must also equally be committed to serving God through His Christ. One has to then hunt Jesus down in Scripture, in order to know everything Jesus did, because one wants to become another Jesus for mankind. The body of Christ is consumed through the eyes reading divine text and the mind digesting that which it has been fed - spiritual food. One must eat the body of Christ by being led to insightful meaning, which in turn allows one to be filled with the blood of Christ - enlightenment to prophetic meaning.


This level of commitment might take years of following Jesus through the written word and the insights God sends one though prayer. One then needs to learn how to enter a place of solitude, so all the noises of the world are pushed away and one can intently listen to hear the instructions that come to you from God. They come as whispers of insight, saying, "Look there." and "Inspect this." One needs to then act on those instructions.


The ending element of going out to preach in Galilee is then a prophecy of one's own mission in ministry, while remembering the people are not calling for you to come to them. Just as the people went to Simon's house, they did not go there for Simon. The people are always crying out for healing and for their evil demons to be cast out; but the lost never know where to go to be found. That can only come from Jesus Christ; and, it is the ministry of an Apostle to take Jesus Christ to the people, speaking the truth of Scripture one is told. Therefore, it is the mission of the disciple of Jesus to become Jesus Christ resurrected, as the rebirth of the Son of God [regardless of one's human gender] so wherever one goes, so too does Jesus. This is the meaning of being reborn in the name of Jesus Christ; and, it is how one earns the right to call God one's Father.


R. T. Tippett