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It was a wild and busy Sabbath day in the seaside town of Capernaum. Jesus taught and healed and found a new "home". First one miracle, then another; soon the whole town was at the door!
Then Jesus went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. They were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. He cried out, saying, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!"
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" When the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, "What new doctrine is this? With authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him."
As soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.
At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick. The whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.
Mark 1:21-34 NKJV, condensed
Simon Peter's House
Mark wastes no time. He is brief, concise and sounds like he is in a hurry as he moves from one episode to another. It seems Mark has a demon in every story. Maybe that's because he saw Jesus' entire ministry as a battle with evil. He placed this story at the beginning of his gospel so we would see and understand this right from the start.
Whether you believe in evil spirits in a literal or figurative way, the truth of this story remains the same. It makes no difference if you use the word evil, demon, evil spirit or devil--we get the picture. Demons destroy the work of God. They are the divider; Jesus is the unifier. The devil leaves us fragmented; Jesus makes us whole. Evil wrecks our lives; Jesus transforms the wreckage into something beautiful again.
The man with the evil spirit was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Was he mentally ill? Full of sin? Perhaps he had epilepsy. Whatever it was, he was in the place of worship with everyone else. We don't know if he was normally disruptive, but on this particular day, he was. The evil spirit and Jesus were not strangers. They were adversaries and knew each other well.
The spirit of evil inside the man created quite a scene. His challenge was strongly worded. "Jesus, you're from the scum town of Nazareth. And you call me evil! Are you here to destroy us all?" Jesus told him to be quiet and ordered the demon to come out of the man. In a violent show of force, the evil spirit screamed and threw the man down dramatically in front of everybody. Then he came out of the man and disappeared. People were amazed; news of this event would spread like wildfire.
Then with the man still laying on the floor, the focus shifted. Jesus accepted the hospitality of Simon, Andrew, James and John, maybe overnight or at least until the cool of the evening. They walked together from the public area surrounding the synagogue to the private space of Peter's home. At least it used to be private before Simon started chasing after Jesus!
Which brings us to Peter's mother-in-law. She was sickened by a fever. I can't help but wonder about this family situation, since illness sometimes catches us when we are run down by worry, stress, fatigue and the like. Was this mother-in-law troubled by Simon's increased interest in Jesus and his decreased attention to his family! Not all evil spirits are visible to the public as was the case in the synagogue. Some manifest themselves in private in the form of anxiety, fretting and anger. These, too, especially if unexpressed, can make us sick.
The turnaround was sudden. Jesus took her hand and lifted her up. (That's another way of saying he healed her.) Without taking any time to recuperate, she started doing the things women do when hungry menarrive on the scene. I believe her opinion of Jesus did an about face.
But this day was not over yet. At sunset when the Sabbath was ended, people began bringing their loved ones to Jesus for healing. The poor, the brokenhearted, the blind, bruised and bound--were all brought to Peter's door so Jesus could minister to their needs. I can just see the mother-in-law out there, keeping things orderly, encouraging faith and spreading hope by telling people about the miracle that cured her fever and got her back on her feet again.
The following questions can be used by groups or individuals, or they could serve as a basis for journaling.
Icebreaker: Briefly tell about a time when you witnessed a situation where a person was out of control. Describe what happened?
What do the words, "demons" or "evil spirits", mean to you? Do you believe there is such a thing? If so, what is the evidence? In what form do you see them?
A friend of mine rages against the demons of depression. Have you ever felt controlled by something you could not explain? What is it that goes on inside which makes us feel so helpless? What name might you give to an illness or condition that afflicts you?
Mark tells us that Jesus taught in the synagogues, but he didn't tell us what Jesus said in those teachings sessions. Mark was a man of action. He preferred to report what Jesus did. Like Mark, do you remember more of what you see than what you hear? Why does a person's actions make such an impression on us?Everything seemed to happen on the Sabbath. What do you suppose Jesus did the rest of the week?
The man who had been healed was left laying on the floor while the action switched to the observers. Go back to him. Who do you suppose picked him up? Who or what filled the empty space in the man's life? Create a little story about what happened to this man after Jesus healed him.
God at creation spoke and it was so; chaos became order. In a similar way in this story, Jesus spoke and it was so; chaos became order. Do you have any chaos in your life which needs a word from Jesus? The man who was healed was thrown down in public in front of everyone. Is there anything important in that symbolism?
We do not know the name of Peter's mother-in-law. I used my imagination to suggest what could have caused her fever. Did worry ever make you sick?People use "burning" phrases - We get burned up and burned out, or just plain burned.--they all refer to conditions of stress. What are some ways to relieve the tension before things explode?
What do you do when people in your home do not support your desire to follow Jesus? Do you know any constructive ways to respond in that circumstance?