Conduits of Healing and Liberation, Part 1

Conduits of Healing and Liberation, Part 1 January 30, 2024


This week our title is conduits of healing and liberation and our gospel reading from the lectionary is from the gospel of Mark:

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. 

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That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 

Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (Mark 1:29-39)

A lot of subtle truths are being communicated in this week’s reading as we transition from Jesus’ inaugural acts to his ongoing mission. Immediately after Jesus’ inaugural exorcism, we encounter a story of healing. 

Historical Jesus scholars all agree that Jesus was characterized as a healer. Last week we saw that Jesus was associated with exorcism from the demons of Roman occupation, possession, and oppression. Similarly, Jesus’ healing was to be associated with both liberating the oppressed from Roman possession and the work of healing the vulnerable masses from harm done by Roman occupation. 

When we read these stories from our vantage point today, it’s easy to read these stories as individual occurrences of “Magic Jesus” as my friend Todd Leonard refers to them. But the stories in Mark were originally intended to be read politically, socially, and economically as signs of the arrival of God’s just world (the kingdom) and liberation from Roman oppression and harm to Jesus’ community. Mark’s Jesus is casting out the demons of Roman oppression and healing the people’s maladies that oppression has caused. 

There is also a subtle tension building between Jesus’ exorcisms in the Roman coopted synagogues (sacred space) and Jesus’ acts of healing and the restoration of the original intention of the Sabbath (sacred time). In this week’s story, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law on the Sabbath and the people won’t come for healing until after sunset. As soon as the Sabbath hours are over, though, the rest of the town shows up at the door. In this story, the Sabbath is not a conduit of healing and restoration but a barrier that the people must wait out so they can come and be healed. This sets up the tension of healing on the Sabbath and the authority of the local powerbrokers that will come into even greater focus later in Mark. We’ll get to that more in the readings for the upcoming weeks. We’ll begin unpacking it, next.

(Read Part 2)



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About Herb Montgomery
Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator helping Christians explore the intersection of their faith with love, compassion, action, and societal justice. You can read more about the author here.

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