Year B – Epiphany 5 – Mark 1:29-39

As soon as they 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 sunset, 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 neighbouring 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.

Summary—Simon, Andrew, James, and John, all followed Jesus out of the synagogue. Since they had been with Him only one day, it had been their first opportunity to see Him in action. And boy had they: He had just cast out a demon…in synagogue! What they had yet to experience, though, was Christ’s preaching the gospel of His kingdom (exorcisms have a way of interrupting that). Two of the new recruits—Simon and Andrew—lived nearby, so the group set out for their place. What Jesus found upon arriving was that Simon’s mother-in-law was terribly ill; He healed her. Well, maybe the neighbors heard about it, or maybe those who’d been in synagogue that morning were telling exorcism stories, or maybe both—in any case, the whole city gathered outside the door that evening to have Jesus heal them. And Jesus did just that, all evening. But early next morning, when the crowd regathered, Jesus was already gone: He had gone outside the city to pray. The disciples tried everywhere to find Him, and when they finally did, Simon scolded, “Rabbi, everybody’s looking for You!” To which Jesus said (and catch this, because it’s the point of the passage), “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.” See, the previous morning, in synagogue, Jesus had begun to do what He came to do: preach the gospel of His kingdom. But He had been sidetracked by an exorcism, and then again by a healing, and then again by a bunch more exorcisms and healings. The trend was escalating. And it wasn’t a bad trend—just a peripheral one: He had come to seek and to save the lost. Now, don’t get Jesus wrong: He loved to heal! He is Compassion incarnate. But that’s precisely why He had to prioritize evangelism: “A warm body and full belly can go to hell,” as somebody has said; or, in Jesus’ own words, elsewhere, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?”

Insight—Some of us may disdain the role of tangible compassion as though evangelism excludes it (and if that’s you, well, you have only to look to Jesus’ example for correction); but, I bet that most of us have the opposite problem: we tend to help elderly ladies across the street, or take cookies to neighbors, in order to feel better about not evangelizing. Helping elderly ladies across the street is good—you should do it; taking cookies to neighbors is good—you should do it. But it’s very possible to do those things without evangelizing, and that’s not so good. Those acts of kindness may lead to evangelism—in fact, they’re especially good opportunities for evangelism—but, by themselves, they aren’t evangelism. Do them, yes, and also speak the good news about Jesus.

Child Catechism—What did Jesus come to do? Jesus came to “proclaim the message.”

Discussion—Do you ever feel that you should talk with somebody about the gospel, but find yourself reaching out in ways that leave him or her clueless about reconciliation with God? For how many weeks have you been building that relationship without mentioning Jesus?  What are some ways that you can bring up the gospel, next time?

Prayer—O God, all the world is of no profit to the man who forfeits his soul, yet by our actions we deny this, helping people in this life whom we do not prepare for the next. Grant that we may boldly proclaim Your gospel, to the end that all people might worthily worship You through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline

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