Victor Hugo wrote a giant of a novel in 1862. It is called Les Miserables, about a man named Jean Valjean who was redeemed from a life of crime by the grace of a Catholic priest. From that moment on, his whole life is transformed.
Another primary character in the novel is Fantine, a poor woman who ends up losing her job at a factory because it is found out that she has a child but is not married. As it turns out, she is working for Jean Valjean, but he is going by the name Monsieur (M.) Madeleine. It is one of the supervisors of the factory who lets Fantine go. To survive, she has to turn to prostitution.
Another main character is Javert, a policeman who fastidiously follows the law. When Fantine is arrested for hitting a “gentleman,” she is brought before Jean Valjean. An argument between Valjean and Javert results. Hugo concludes this chapter in the following way:
Nevertheless, she also was the prey to a strange confusion. She had just seen herself a subject of dispute between two opposing powers. She had seen two men who held in their hands her liberty, her life, her soul, her child, in combat before her very eyes; one of these men was drawing her towards darkness, the other was leading her back towards the light. In this conflict, viewed through the exaggerations of terror, these two men had appeared to her like two giants; the one spoke like her demon, the other like her good angel. The angel had conquered the demon, and, strange to say, that which made her shudder from head to foot was the fact that this angel, this liberator, was the very man whom she abhorred, that mayor whom she had so long regarded as the author of all her woes, that Madeleine! And at the very moment when she had insulted him in so hideous a fashion, he had saved her! Had she, then, been mistaken? Must she change her whole soul? She did not know; she trembled. She listened in bewilderment, she looked on in affright, and at every word uttered by M. Madeleine she felt the frightful shades of hatred crumble and melt within her, and something warm and ineffable, indescribable, which was both joy, confidence and love, dawn in her heart.
When Javert had taken his departure, M. Madeleine turned to her and said to her in a deliberate voice, like a serious man who does not wish to weep and who finds some difficulty in speaking:
“I have heard you. I knew nothing about what you have mentioned. I believe that it is true, and I feel that it is true. I was even ignorant of the fact that you had left my shop. Why did you not apply to me? But here; I will pay your debts, I will send for your child, or you shall go to her. You shall live here, in Paris, or where you please. I undertake the care of your child and yourself. You shall not work any longer if you do not like. I will give all the money you require. You shall be honest and happy once more. And listen! I declare to you that if all is as you say,—and I do not doubt it,—you have never ceased to be virtuous and holy in the sight of God. Oh! poor woman.”
This was more than Fantine could bear. To have Cosette! To leave this life of infamy. To live free, rich, happy, respectable with Cosette; to see all these realities of paradise blossom of a sudden in the midst of her misery. She stared stupidly at this man who was talking to her, and could only give vent to two or three sobs, “Oh! Oh! Oh!”
Her limbs gave way beneath her, she knelt in front of M. Madeleine, and before he could prevent her he felt her grasp his hand and press her lips to it.
Then she fainted.
I bring this up because in our text today we see Someone who is even more kind and compassionate than Jean Valjean. Mark wants us to know that Jesus came to change lives, but not in the way we might be tempted to think.
“And immediately, after coming out of the synagogue, they went into the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Now, Simon’s mother-in-law was laying feverishly sick, and immediately they speak to Him concerning her. So after coming in [to the house], He raised her up after taking her by the hand; and the fever left her and she serves them. Now evening being arrived, when the sun went down, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed, and the whole city was gathering together at the door. And He healed many sick, having various diseases, and He cast out many demons and did not permit the demons to speak because they knew Him.”
Where we’ve been…
So at this point in Mark’s story, Jesus has been baptized and declared (at least to His ears) to be the Son of God. Then He was sent out into the wilderness where He was being tempted for forty days; He overcame this trial, thus proving that He was more worthy than the Adam who had been tempted in a garden. And then He comes onto the public scene, proclaiming the Gospel and commanding people to repent and believe it. Then He calls two sets of brothers to follow Him, and immediately they respond, essentially forsaking their former lives, showcasing the incredible authority of Jesus.
His authority is only painted more clearly when His teaching in the synagogue one Sabbath provokes a demon within a man. Jesus silences the demon with a word and commands the demon to leave the man alone. The demon can’t do anything but throw a temper tantrum as it obeys the authority of Jesus. People wonder at this and news quickly spreads.
And our text today begins immediately after the synagogue service comes to a close.
Secret Sabbath Healing
The first thing that Mark wants to prove in this text is the personal kindness of Jesus. Mark writes the following in Mark 1:29-31,
“And immediately, after coming out of the synagogue, they went into the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Now, Simon’s mother-in-law was laying feverishly sick, and immediately they speak to Him concerning her. So after coming in [to the house], He raised her up after taking her by the hand; and the fever left her and she serves them.”
The first miracle Mark records Jesus performing is the exorcism in the synagogue. This means that His followers—Simon, Andrew, James, and John—didn’t know until earlier that day that Jesus had miraculous capabilities. For this reason, Jesus might have already been staying at Peter’s house (cf. 1:35), and He hadn’t healed Peter’s mother-in-law because no one had yet asked. But it is also possible that Jesus was invited to live with Peter because they recognized that He might be able to help Peter’s mother-in-law. We cannot be dogmatic on this point.
The point of the matter is that the disciples implored Jesus to help someone. What is this if not prayer? J. C. Ryle explains,
There is no remedy like this. Means are to be used diligently, without question, in any time of need. Doctors are to be sent for, in sickness. Lawyers are to be consulted when property or character needs defense. The help of friends is to be sought. But still, after all, the first thing to be done, is to cry to the Lord Jesus Christ for help. None can relieve us so effectually as He can. None is so compassionate, and so willing to relieve.
And notice that they aren’t asking for personal favors. They are asking for someone else. How often are our prayers focused on our own wishlists? How often do we forego praying for ourselves and pray for those we love? Or even those we barely know?
But there’s even more to this story. After Jesus comes into the house, He goes in to Peter’s mother-in-law and answers their request. But He does it in a very Jesus-specific way. You see, Jesus knew how to care for people. It will be made more evident as the book (specifically, the chapter) unfolds, but Jesus did not consider Himself too good or holy to touch the unwashed, sinful masses of humanity. Mark tells us that Jesus put her back on her feet “after taking her by the hand.” Jesus loved people hands-on. In truth, as the Son of God, He was a million times—infinitely—better than the people He was around, but His attitude never showed this to be the case. He loved people and was more kind to people than even the kindest person you can think of on this planet. This is our God. This is the One who gave His life in our place.
But we can’t leave this part of our text until we look at Peter’s mother-in-law’s response to being healed.
If you’ve ever been sick, you know that it takes a while to recover and actually function normally again. You feel better, but you’re still not rested because your body has been working overtime to fight infection. So after a day or two you get back to normal.
But look what Mark says: “The fever left her and she serves them.” Before we get caught up in her response, and before we try to make an application out of her response, let’s just take a moment to marvel at the power of our God. He heals instantaneously. As soon as He touched her, not only was her sickness gone, but she was physically able to serve them. The fever fled at Jesus’ touch, and any fatigue also left as well. No result of the fall felt comfortable around Jesus. Demons scream in terror and run away from Him, and sicknesses also flee from His presence. This is the powerful God we serve.
But, unfortunately, in our day, people want to take this beautiful verse and twist it to say, “Look, the Bible is sexist. Women are always forced to serve.” Well, thankfully, that is not the case. As one commentator helpfully explains,
It cannot have connoted the idea of subservience or inferiority to Mark, for the word for “wait on” (Gk. diakonein) is the same word used for the angels’ “attending” Jesus during the temptation (1:13). It is, moreover, the same word translated “to serve” in 10:45, where Jesus declares that the Son of Man comes “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Serving is the way of Jesus and those who attend him, and thus it describes an essential characteristic of the kingdom of God that Jesus introduces and exemplifies. For Mark, the proper response of one who has been touched by Jesus is to serve “them,” that is, the Christian fellowship.
In addition, David Garland goes so far as to claim, “Jesus’ female followers seem to grasp the need to give themselves in service to others more quickly than the male followers.” We see Jesus’ disciples arguing in Mark 9:34 about who is the greatest. But Peter’s mother-in-law recognized that she owed her health to Jesus, and as such, she should do what she could to make His life easier.
Garland adds, “This miracle reveals that God heals so that one may better serve.” This is beautiful. In our day and age, there is a blight on the church called “faith-healers” and “prosperity preachers.” These charlatans are deceivers. They explain that Jesus came to give us “our best life now.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Peter’s mother-in-law would say that she had her best life that day. But in addition to being healed, what made her life even better was giving her life in service to God. Even just that afternoon, serving the Son of God a meal, made her life better than it had ever been before.
But these modern “preachers” don’t explain this. They focus on what God can do for you. And they say, “If you have faith, give us money, and God will reward your faith by blessing you.” Never mind that all of the first followers of Jesus (by and large) were violently killed for their faith in Jesus. They definitely had their best life then. But the reason why they gave their lives for Jesus was that that was the ultimate way they could serve Jesus. And, because He served them by granting them eternal life, the best response is to honor Him by dying physically.
“God heals so that one may better serve.” Do you want healing for yourself, or for the good of the kingdom? I know it’s a hard question. (I don’t believe that miraculous healings have ceased to happen today, but i don’t think they’re anywhere as frequent as modern faith-healers would like to claim they are.) If God miraculously healed you, would it spur you on to serve Him more, or would it spur you on to serve yourself more? (I promise that this is incredibly personal for me; i’m just waiting until i go through Mark 3:1-6 to actually discuss it. For me, i have come to terms with a lack of healing because i know i would have only served myself as a result.) If God heals you, it’s because you can serve Him better healthy. If God decides not to heal you, it’s because you can serve Him better in a state of imperfect health.
Trust Him! He knows what He’s doing.
Public Sunday Pressure
The second thing Mark wants to prove in this text is the overwhelming compassion of Jesus. Mark writes the following in Mark 1:32-34,
“Now evening being arrived, when the sun went down, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed, and the whole city was gathering together at the door. And He healed many sick, having various diseases, and He cast out many demons and did not permit the demons to speak because they knew Him.”
It is essential to note how Mark opens verse 32. He emphasizes both that evening comes and “the sun went down.” Why does he do this? “The Sabbath extended from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, during which Jews were forbidden to work or travel.” Since everything from verse 21-31 occurred on the Sabbath, Mark tells us that the Sabbath is now over. It is now Sunday—what we now call the Lord’s Day. The day when we gather to worship Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel, the first public gathering to Jesus occurs on the Lord’s Day.
Who made up this first, public gathering? “All who were sick and those who were demon-possessed.” Jesus has always been a friend of the ordinary, disheartened, struggling person. And Mark explains further that “the whole city was gathering together at the door.” The tense of the verb indicates that they likely “kept gathering” late into the night.
It is important to note that Jesus “healed many sick . . . and He cast out many demons.” Some people want to explain away the Bible by saying, “There is no such thing as demons. People back then were unscientific and just thought things like diseases and ailments were the results of demons.” Unfortunately for these skeptics, Mark explains that Jesus did both. He healed diseases, and He cast out demons. And if we look closely at the post from 1:21-28 and verses 29-31 above, we see that He goes about them differently. There is no case to be made that demons don’t exist. They do. And Jesus has power over them!
Most commentaries want to say that “the whole city” is a hyperbole, and there is no difference between the “whole city” who gathered and the “many” who were healed. I think there is a difference. I believe that even if Mark is exaggerating the number of people who came out to Peter’s house, the use of “many” means that some were not healed. But why would Jesus not heal everyone?
Perhaps for the same reason that He didn’t permit the demons to speak. Mark tells us that He silenced the demons because “they knew Him.” They knew He was the Messiah, and to the Jewish people in first-century Palestine, the Messiah was going to ride on Rome and kick tail (cf. Revelation 19:11-21). There were other things Jesus had to accomplish first. Primarily salvation. But even today we’re waiting for Him to return and kick “Rome’s” tail, because all His people have not yet been saved from sin (cf. Matthew 1:21).
For this reason, i believe (and i admit i could be wrong) that Jesus did not heal every single person that gathered that Sunday. While He didn’t want demons convincing the people He was the Messiah, Jesus also didn’t want people to think that He was only some miracle worker. There is so much more to Jesus than simply working miracles!
Has Jesus “raised” you?
And here’s where i get to explain what’s better than Jesus working miracles of healing and exorcism.
Mark explains that when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, “He raised her up after taking her by the hand.” The word used there for “raised” is the same word used to describe Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. One commentator helpfully notes, “The early church may have seen in the story a foreshadowing of Jesus’ power to raise from the dead at the last day.”
So my question for you today is this: Has Jesus raised you?
You might be perfectly healthy. You might not be. You might be in a perfect mental state. You might not be. You might be rich. You might be poor. None of that matters. What matters is this: Has Jesus raised you?
Ephesians 2:1-6 says,
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens.
This passage explains that we came into this world dead-on-arrival. And our chosen path of sinfulness proved this to be the case. But God loved us enough to make us alive, and as verse 6 explicitly states, “He also raised us up.” Essentially, Paul is saying, “God resuscitated you, and then took you by the hand and raised you back onto your feet.” Ephesians 2:10 ties it all together: “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” When we are saved by Jesus, we are saved to serve.
But how are we made alive? We are made alive by God by hearing and believing the Gospel. The Gospel is that Jesus walked this earth with you and me, and poured Himself out in compassion for us, and then was condemned to death on a cross by the very people who had been made to walk by His grace and compassion. However, three days later, He rose from the dead.
His death was sacrificial. We deserved to die for our sin, but Jesus took our place for us. Because, if we had been killed for our sin, we would never rise again. But because Jesus died, and because He rose, if we believe in Him, even if we die, we will rise again (cf. John 11:25).
So i ask again: Has Jesus raised you?
Believe in Him today!
Let me conclude with the lyrics of a beautiful hymn:
In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease;
My Comforter, my All in All;
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
Notice what the hymn does not say. It does not say, “In health alone, my hope is found.” It does not say, “In peace of mind alone, my hope is found.” It says, “In Christ alone.” Let’s never confuse the gifts for the Giver. And let’s forever seek Christ alone, for Himself, and not for His benefits. He Himself is the True Bread and Living Water. Health and wealth (even from Him) are not bread or water. Jesus alone is. Let’s seek for comfort and peace in Him alone!
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
The next post can be found here.
Thanks for reading.
 Victor Hugo, Les Miserables (New York, NY: Fall River Press, 2012), 125-126.
 J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: The Four Volume Set [Fully Linked and Optimized] (Kindle Locations 5739-5742), Primediaelaunch eLaunch, Kindle Edition.
 James R. Edwards, The Pillar New Testament Commentary – The Gospel According to Mark, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2002), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 60.
 David E. Garland, Mark (The NIV Application Commentary Book 2) (p. 73), Zondervan, Kindle Edition.
 Ibid. Kindle Edition.
 James R. Edwards, The Pillar New Testament Commentary – The Gospel According to Mark, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2002), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 60.
 James A. Brooks, New American Commentary – Volume 23: Mark, (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1991), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 52.
 Ibid., 51.
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