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Man of Healing, Man of Prayer

Other biblical accounts of Jesus’ healings offer more satisfying detail; here, describing the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law, Mark provides the bare facts and little else.  His closing comment, “and she began to serve them,” is troubling to modern ears – most of us would assume that an elderly woman, healed of a serious illness, is entitled to a little bed-rest!  Mark is making the point, however, that Peter’s mother-in-law is one-hundred per cent healed, so much so that she returns immediately to her usual activities.  News of this wonder gets around, and soon “the whole city was gathered around the door” (v. 33).  Jesus casts out many demons, not permitting those demons to speak – “because they knew him” (v. 34).  This echoes the story of the healing of the demon-possessed man in the previous passage (see last week’s commentary).  Not even Jesus’ disciples fully understand who he is, but the denizens of the spirit-world certainly do.  In the second part of today’s reading, Jesus disappears briefly, and when his followers go looking for him, they find him praying.  This may raise, for some, the question of why Jesus needs to pray.  After all, if he is divine (as even the demons seem to realize), then in praying would he not be talking to himself?  It’s a similar question to that of why Jesus needs to receive baptism (see Mark 1:4-11, on Baptism of the Lord Sunday, above) – although here the answer is different.  Baptism, for a sinless person like Jesus, is an act of solidarity with the community.  When it comes to prayer, however, we cannot assume that the earthly Jesus shares a common mind with God (otherwise, he could not be considered truly human).  In John’s gospel, we may see Jesus described as having a certain amount of supernatural foreknowledge, but here in Mark there is little trace of that understanding.