8 February 2015

Mark 1:29-39

"He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up." (v. 31)

Psalm: Psalm 147


A visit to the in-laws is often an event of legend. The politics of the family unit is one of the most dangerous pieces of negotiation one will ever have to traverse.

In this passage, Jesus arrives at Simon's mother-in-law's house. There is a sense of urgency to the visit - Jesus, John and James go straight after worship. But Simon and Andrew are conspicuous by their absence.

This was going to be no ordinary visit. There are no pleasantries exchanged; no awkward polite conversations. Instead, we are entering the sacrosanct moment of sickness and potential death. 

The un-named mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. And the diagnosis has fatal implications. 

Into this situation, we are given an opportunity to glimpse the significance of a compassionate life. Jesus, upon hearing the details of the situation, goes into her room and takes her hand. In the quiet of that moment, and in the simplicity of that action, the fever leaves her. 

Jesus did not have to touch her - indeed, that very action goes against all conventions of health, hygiene and Jewish regulations. When rules, regulations and expectations are transformed by the kingdom of God, however, the 'right' thing to do is to follow the call of compassion and to sit at the bedside, holding the hand of the sick and the dying. To hold the silence, and not to be afraid. 

This is such a beautiful and compassionate scene on its own. But glimpses of kingdom living such as this demand something more. For as that sick woman received healing and restoration, so she began to serve the people who were now in her home. 

Grace and compassion lead to a response of grace, compassion and hospitality. 

As the sun sets, marking the end of the Sabbath observance, the scene is transformed from one of solemnity and silence into a place of hope in the midst of hopelessness. Compassion, grace and hope become contagious in the area. The word is out. Jesus is in the vicinity. And when Jesus is in the neighbourhood, things start to happen. 

To Ponder

  • Jesus held the hand of Simon's mother-in-law. Whose hand are you holding? And who is holding your hand?
  • How could you demonstrate a compassionate life today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling (1)

Joanne Cox-Darling is a Methodist presbyter currently serving in the Wolverhampton Circuit, where most recently she participated in a harvest festival in a farmyard, surrounded by a 'small' dairy herd of nearly 200 cattle. Joanne is the chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency ( - described by the Archbishop of York as the "possibly the easiest form of evangelism you will ever do".