In today’s passage, Mark highlights the compassionate healing ministry of Jesus. The Bible does not promise us that God will always answer our prayers for physical healing in the way that we want. Yet sometimes He does, and we should give glory to Jesus as the Great Physician no matter how He responds to our prayers.
The Text (Mark 1:29-34)
29 Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. 31 So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.
32 At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.
Matthew, Luke, and John focus a great deal on the teaching ministry of Christ. Each of those gospels include large blocks of “red letters,” or direct quotations of Jesus’ teachings on what the kingdom of God is like and how people can enter and then live in it. Mark’s gospel also includes such sections, but they are broken up a lot more by “black letter” sections that describe the miracles that Christ performed. Remember that Mark was trying to show the practical, action-oriented Roman world the power and authority of Jesus Christ.
With the healings described in today’s passage, we see Jesus’ power over physical illness and health but also His tender care for people. When Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a very serious sickness (she could not get out of bed and Luke tells us in his gospel that she had a “high fever”; Luke 4:38), He does it by reaching out, taking her hand, and lifting her out of the bed and her illness. He loved her, just as He loves you and me. Word quickly spread that Jesus not only taught with authority and cast out demons; He could and would heal people of diseases. Long lines of sick and demon-possessed people are brought to Him after sunset, and Jesus “healed many” and “cast out many demons.” Were there some that He did not heal or set free, perhaps because they lacked faith or the desire to be well or free, or simply because it was not His plan? We don’t know – the passage doesn’t say clearly enough. But we do know that Jesus compassionately healed many people that night, and people saw the power and love of the Son of God.
Our own experiences and the testimony of the rest of the New Testament show us that God does not always will to heal Christians of every physical illness and ailment. We still pray to Jesus the Healer, and He still does great healing miracles today. We rightfully trust in good health and wellness practices and solid medical advice and treatments. Yet we should do this with an attitude of prayer, remembering that God is the one who gives the doctors knowledge and wisdom, even when they don’t recognize His hand. God is the one who gives us life and breath. We should glorify and give thanks to Him when we recover from sicknesses and injuries, even small ones.
Another thing to consider is that when God does not heal us as we ask, He can use our physical suffering to draw us closer to Him spiritually. When we are weak in body, we lean more on Him, and we become strong in His Spirit. When we have drifted from God, usually without even realizing it, God may use suffering to draw us back to fellowship and obedience. As Christian thinker and writer C.S. Lewis has famously said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”^1. Praying for you to feel God’s comfort and grace in your lives today.
^1 C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (1940; repr., San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 14.