Last week, we heard about Jesus at the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath day. His disciples, Simon and Andrew, James and John, witnessed his authority, his power to act, as he makes the man with the unclean spirit whole. The Gospel reading for this Sunday takes place right after Jesus leaves the synagogue. It is still the same Sabbath day.
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
Simon and Andrew--remember, they are brothers--live in Capernaum. Simon's wife's mother lives with them, too. I wonder how they feel to have Jesus enter their home. "At once," they tell him that Simon's mother-in-law is sick. When Jesus comes to her, touches her, and lifts her up, she is made well! Another work of power! What must Simon and the others think? His mother-in-law must feel so very grateful; she immediately begins to serve Jesus, her son-in-law, and his friends.
That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.
For the Jewish people, sunset marks the end of the Sabbath day. When it is evening, they may work again, they may carry loads. Now they may carry their loved ones, those who are sick and those who are possessed with demons, to Jesus. St. Mark is not very clear, though, who "they" are. Who brings them to Jesus? Do people who saw him at the synagogue suddenly arrive at the house? Or do Simon and the others go out and bring people to him?
And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons
What a day for Jesus and the disciples! What have they seen? Jesus has taught with authority in the synagogue, he has made a man with an unclean spirit whole, he has lifted up Simon's mother-in-law from her sickbed, and now he has cured many more people in their city! They have witnessed so many works of power in their short time as disciples. If all this can happen in one day, what will happen on the next day? I wonder what they think as they go to sleep that night.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
The Sabbath must have been a very long day for Jesus, but St. Mark tells us he gets up very early the next day. The Greek action words that St. Mark uses to tell us what Jesus does, say that after Jesus gets up, he goes out and departs for the deserted place. In English, we just say he "went out" because goes out and departs mean the same thing. It seems like St. Mark is just repeating himself. But we know that repetition in the Bible tells us to pay attention. Something important is happening.
Jesus very deliberately searches for time alone to pray. We can say that Jesus seeks out time alone to pray. He must really need to be alone with God.
And Simon and his companions hunted for him.
Jesus seeks out God. The disciples hunt for Jesus. Hunting is also a way of searching very deliberately. But is it the same thing as seeking? Are they doing the same thing?
When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”
Everyone is searching, it seems! What do the disciples mean? It seems like they might almost be reproaching Jesus, reminding him of the people in need. They want him to come back into their city, back to their home. They'd like him to perform more works of power. They have been hunting him so that he can do their will.
But Jesus says,
“Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Jesus does not do what the disciples want. He does not do the will of the disciples. Why not? Doesn't he want to help the people of Capernaum anymore? It would be good to help them a little longer. They could leave for other places the next day.
How does Jesus decide what to do? How does he choose which good thing to do?
We remember that just before the disciples arrive, Jesus spends time alone with God. Alone in the deserted place, perhaps he can focus on what God wants. Perhaps alone with God, he learns how to use the power to act. Perhaps in prayer, Jesus seeks out the will of God.
The disciples have so much to learn. They need to learn that "disciple" means follower, not hunter. They need to learn that hunting is not the same as seeking. They need to learn to seek out the will of God.
We know more than the disciples, because Jesus has already taught us to seek out the will of God. Jesus has already taught us to pray,