My Scripture reading for today was Mark 1: 29-39. As I read it, I found myself applying the same old tired categories that I often assign familiar passages. It’s a healing story. A miracle. Jesus proclaims a kingdom that is breaking into the world now, and the evidence is found in the battle he does with the powers of darkness and evil. In a strange way, I quickly translated this passage relating a fantastic world of events far superior to any account of a fictional hero into the familiar “isn’t that nice Jesus” part of my brain. Okay Jesus, I got you, now where did I put that copy of that spy thriller that caught my attention yesterday…
Thankfully, the work of the Holy Spirit often breaks into to the mundane and reminds us that God is indeed God, and the deep well of Scripture continues to refresh us at exactly the point we think the well has gone dry.
My eye re-scanned the page and lighted upon verse 31: “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” Again, it is easy to cordon this off as yet another miracle in the long list Jesus performs, giving us an overarching picture of Jesus, Son of God, miracle worker. I dug deeper.
Pay close attention to that phrase, “took her by the hand and lifted her up.” The Greek verb for “he lifted [her] up” is egeiren, and can be translated a number of ways. It can mean “lift,” “raise,” “wake,” “stand,” and “establish” among a number of other meanings. On a surface level, it is clear that Jesus took her by the hand, and in that moment, manifested an act of power that lifted her up into well-being (evidently, so much so that she went right into serving them).
Dig deeper, however, and we find something more mysterious at work. That same word egeiren is also used throughout the witness of the New Testament to refer to resurrection (another competing work is anastemi[asis] as in John 6:40). In Mark 16:6, the young man in the tomb announces that “He has risen!” (egerthe). Acts 3:15 has Peter proclaiming to the crowd that although we killed Him, God egeiren-ed Jesus from the dead.
Yet, Simon’s mother-in-law wasn’t dead, and on the surface, this story looks like the equivalent of God’s power in Christ alleviating suffering much like a quick dose of Advil. Is there a connection? I think there is, and it comes down to this: God’s power at work in Jesus’ healing ministry is the same power that raised him from the dead. In fact, the smaller manifestation of power in healing Simon’s mother-in-law prefigures the power put on display on the third day. Taking her by the hand and raising her up, the One who will be raised now invites her to follow him. She does, but now as his servant, ministering to Him before that same power drives him out to confront the demonic powers of sin and death and defeat them, one-by-one, egeiren-ing those poor souls from death into life.
Healing points to resurrection, resurrection to rebirth, rebirth as new life free from the bondage of our minds and our bodies to sin and decay. (Romans 8:21)