Regrouping the Groupies

After Jesus comes out of the wilderness, he goes to Galilee and begins calling some fishermen to follow him and become disciples. That all must have seemed well and good, but these guys don’t really know who Jesus is yet. They get to be the first groupies in a little known band, traveling around and seeing if this guy is going to hit the big time. First stop—the hometown of Peter and Andrew, a test to see what this guy has got when it comes to being on stage. Jesus doesn’t disappoint.

They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee. Mark 1:21-28

Picture of 1st century (foreground) and 4th century synagogue (background)

The four disciples that Jesus has first called are very familiar with Capernaum. They know the fishing holes AND they know how things work in the synagogue. There are ways of teaching and interacting with people that are expected of religious leaders. It seems like Jesus will be able to hold his own when it comes to standing in the synagogue, and not only with his teaching skills, but by casting out demons! Wow. But Mark’s gospel doesn’t highlight Jesus’ teaching. Nothing is written about what Jesus actually says! And he doesn’t linger on Jesus’ presence in the synagogue. Jesus immediately changes gears…and we are to change our focus, too…not only here, but in the entire trajectory of Mark’s gospel. Here’s what happens next…

And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. And he came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them. When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And he healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who he was. Mark 1:29-34

Picture–Peter’s mother-in-law’s house

Jesus goes next door after coming out of the synagogue. Scholars and archaeologists believe that the house was actually right next-door, just steps away. Simon’s mother-in-law has a fever. Some people might have thought a fever was demonic or divine punishment for something. It is so disabling that she can’t offer hospitality to Jesus and the boys, and that’s why the illness gets mentioned to Jesus. It robs her of status and dignity.[1]Jesus walks in and takes the initiative, like he did in the synagogue: he takes her hand and raises her. This is the same word used for Jesus’ resurrection later in Mark. There is divine resurrection power at work. Her fever goes away, and Peter’s mother-in-law gets up and serves them.

Please don’t think of this passage as first century patriarchy and a woman’s role in society. The word here for ‘serve’ has overtones of Christian ministry throughout Mark. The same word appeared in Mark 1:13, where Jesus was served by angels; Jesus says that he has come to serve in Mark 10:45, and when Jesus is on the cross, Mark notes the women that were standing there who had followed him and served him. Part of what constitutes a disciple in Mark’s gospel is serving. Eugene Boring notes: This woman who has been healed and raised by Jesus performs a ministry [1]to the fledgling church, like later pastoral ministry.

And check this out: “When later archaeologists discovered Peter’s house in Capernaum, it appeared to be quite ordinary. Just like the period houses of this day, it consisted of a few small rooms clustered around two open courtyards. But after Jesus died, the function of this house changed dramatically. The house’s main room was plastered over from floor to ceiling, and the pottery changed from household pots and bowls, to storage jars and oil lamps, and indicated that the house may have become a place for the first Christian gatherings.”[2]

This house becomes a theological history of how worship of God moves from synagogue to houses, and to house churches…after the destruction of the temple, this ‘house’ will become the ‘house of prayer for all nations,’ the place of healing, table fellowship, and instruction of disciples. Peter’s mother-in-law was one of the first to show what service to Jesus looks like, and her house is now competing with the synagogue. The city is so small that word spreads fast, and by morning, the WHOLE CITY has gathered at the door, so to speak, and Jesus is doing what he did at the synagogue, but in a house.

As God’s groupies, the disciples had to be regrouped to see and think differently about the kingdom of God. And we do too. God’s power is not contained in or reserved for a synagogue…or a church, or cathedral. The kingdom of God is not reserved for those with religious power, but for those who have a relationship with Jesus. So…are our houses, our gatherings, and our presence allowing others to experience the power of God and become places of healing, freedom and wholeness? Something to think about.

You all fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

[1] M. Eugene Boring, Mark: A Commentary, Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006, 66.

[2] Biblical archaeology: accessed February 25, 2019.  http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/biblical-archaeology-sites/the-house-of-peter-the-home-of-jesus-in-capernaum/

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