Saved for a purpose

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry & Bluemont Churches
February 4, 2024
Mark 1:29-39

Often people speak of seeking Jesus as if he can be found. Instead of us finding Jesus, he finds us. Some think if others can find Jesus, he’ll solve their problems or take up their cause. But that’s putting the cart in front of the horse. While it is worthy to seek Jesus, scripture tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God.[1]There might be a difference. 

We’re not to go out to find Jesus just for him to take care of our issues. God’s kingdom is about something far more important than individual needs. Furthermore, it’s not enough just to seek Jesus. When we encounter Jesus, we must be ready and willing to follow him.[2] We’ll see this in our text this morning from Mark’s gospel. The disciples seek Jesus so that he can tend to the crowds, but Jesus has a different plan. 

In my email “musings” that I sent out yesterday, I linked to an article by James Bratt, a professor emeritus from Calvin College, who describes our purpose in God’s plan in this manner: 

God is not just saving individuals from hellfire but is in the business of redeeming the whole world, the entire cosmos, from the blight of the fall. The “saved” at the end of time will populate the new earth, but in the meantime, they are to witness to that coming kingdom in every domain of human life, here and now. We are means, not the end; agents, not the goal.[3]

Before reading the scripture:

As I have tried to express in my first sermons from Mark, the gospel is fast paced. One of Mark’s favorite Greek words is euthys. Mark uses this word to express immediacy. It’s translated as “soon,” “just then,” “immediately,” “directly” or if you prefer the older English King James Version, “forthwith.” We find this word eleven times in the first chapter of Mark. It’s used a total of forty times in the entire gospel.[4] We see this in our reading this morning. 

Immediately after casting out the demon or unclean spirit, Jesus leaves the synagogue and heads to the home of Peter (referred to here as Simon). Peter and his brother Andrew’s home appears to have been right behind the synagogue. Archeologists are pretty sure where this home was located. Graffiti scratched in the wall in the late first or early second century, identify the site. It became an early church, venerated as having belonged to Peter.[5] There Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. 

Our reading today might be called “A Night in the Life of Jesus.” For after Peter’s mother-in-law was healed, the sun sets. The sabbath restrictions on travel is over. Now, people can freely move about, and they rush to be healed by Jesus. It’s chaotic. Before the sun rises and morning comes, after getting a little sleep, Jesus slips away for quiet time with his father. And the disciples head out in the dark in search of him. 

Read Mark 1:29-39

We can’t control Jesus. He doesn’t serve as our personal physician or miracle maker. Instead, Jesus came to inaugurate God’s kingdom and to show his followers what the kingdom should look like. As we see in this passage, Jesus resists becoming a freak show or circus act. As the crowd builds, instead of basking in their praise, he slips away. Even Jesus needs quiet time. 

Furthermore, Jesus’ message can’t be confined to a particular locale. While a personal relationship with Jesus is necessary, we must never forget that Jesus’ role in God’s plan of salvation is not just for us, as individuals. Jesus came and gave his life for the life of the world.[6]

In this text we also see Jesus’ human needs. His life consists of work, worship, and rest. He heals, then he gets away to rest and to reconnect with the Father. All aspects of his life are important. The same goes for us. We’re to work hard, but we’re not to forget to connect with God through prayer and worship. And it’s important for us to take time for ourselves. 

Now let’s look at the text. Mark uses that favorite word I told you about which emphasizes immediacy. As soon as they leave the synagogue, they enter the Peter’s house. Mark likes to create fast action, but here it might not just be rhetorical. As I mentioned, Peter’s home was next to the synagogue, so it really was immediate. Jesus walks out of one door and into the next door, as Peter and Andrew’s home shared a wall with the synagogue.[7]

As they enter the home, they learn of Peter’s mother-in-law’s illness. She has a fever, which in those days before aspirin and iburpofen, was serious. Unlike other faith healers of the day, or even today, we’re not told of any prayer or incantation. He doesn’t make an ointment. Instead, he demonstrates his power by just taking her hand and raising her up. Instantly healed and starts serving them. 

In a way, it doesn’t seem right. She is healed and immediately goes back to work. Again, as I pointed out in the quote from Professor Bratt, Jesus doesn’t just save us for our own well-being. There is a purpose in our lives. 

Sadly, but not unsurprisingly, some have used this passage to demonstrate how women are supposed to serve men. But that’s a misinterpretation. The word used for serving is the same word used to describe the angels tending to Jesus in the wilderness. It’s also the root of the word Jesus applies to himself. He’s the one who came to serve.[8] As we follow Jesus, we are to serve one another. 

Let me reiterate. This text in no way implies that just women are to serve. Instead, it means that those who follow Jesus (men and women, rich and poor, young, and old) are to be in service to others.[9] God’s kingdom turns the ways of the world upside down. We’re not to look to get all we can for ourselves. All are to be in service to others. A question to ask ourselves, “how are we at serving?”

Of course, the word of this instant healing spreads fast. After sunset, when the Sabbath is over and people can mill around, everyone gathers at Peter and Andrew’s door. 

Me with a girl from Honduras in front of a church, 2005

I remember the first medical mission trip I attended in Jesus’ de Ortoro, Honduras.[10] We announced in the community and surrounding villages there would be American doctors and medical personnel available on a particular day. The clinics opened at 8 AM, and by 7 AM, there was a line of folks stretching down the dusty street. Vendors popped up to sell food as many had to wait for hours. Desperate people grasp at any hope, and so all who have needs come out just as it was in Jesus’ day. Jesus heals many. He casts out many demons. 

After Jesus’ visit to the Capernaum synagogue, the demons know who he is and fears him.[11] Jesus establishes his kingdom by defeating the evil powers in the world. But he doesn’t let them identify himself. He wants his disciples and followers to come to their own understanding to his identity and purpose. 

Now all this happened in the evening. Mark doesn’t tell us what time the clinic closed, but at some point, everyone heads home. Jesus, exhausted, gets a bit of sleep. Then he’s up early, setting off to find a place where he could be alone in prayer. 

Remember, while it’s morning, it’s still dark. And in the darkness, Simon and the other disciples go in search for Jesus. They find him and, in some ways, boldly chastise him. Essentially, they imply, “why are you hiding, everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus can’t be controlled. Instead of returning to Capernaum, he has them pack up and head to other towns in Galilee, proclaiming this same message. Jesus’ fame grows. 

We learn from this passage, as did the disciples, that we should follow Jesus and not try to control him. While we might seek Jesus, we’re not to seek him for our own selfish purposes. If Jesus saves us, he expects us to be of service to others, as Simon’s mother-in-law demonstrates. 

The disciples want Jesus to go tend to their neighbors and kinfolk. But Jesus has bigger plans. And he calls us to follow him, not just to save our souls, but to for us to participate in God’s grand plan to restore the world, not by might, but by love, not by power, but with grace. Amen. 


[1] Matthew 6:33. 

[2] Mark later tells the story of one who sought Jesus but wasn’t willing to follow him. See Mark 10:17-22. 

[3] https://blog.reformedjournal.com/2024/02/02/dutch-reformed-vs-evangelical-i-salvation/#comment-90066

[4] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 58-59. The use of the word in other translations came from my own research as I looked at the KJV, NIV, Living Bible, RSV, NRSV, and Message.

[5] Edwards, 59. 

[6] We shouldn’t forget that John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world…” not “God so loved me.” God loves us and everyone.

[7] Douglas R. A. Hare, Westminster Bible Companion: Mark (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox 1996), 29. 

[8] See Mark 10:45. 

[9] Edwards, 60. 

[10] I wrote about one of my trips to Honduras in an article for the Presbyterian Outlook in 2007 and reprinted it last year in my blog. See https://fromarockyhillside.com/2023/02/02/a-return-visit-to-honduras/

[11] Mark 1:21-28. See https://fromarockyhillside.com/2024/01/21/jesus-in-the-synagogue/

Chesser Prairie in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Photo taken last week.

9 Replies to “Saved for a purpose”

  1. It’s nice to hear a fresh take on Mark 1:29-39, Jeff. My memory of sermons on this are well in the past with past thinking. There are a number of things I took from this, but I needed the reminder to take the time to take care of myself, and it’s nice to hear that women weren’t meant to serve men. Enjoy your week!

    1. I think the correct understanding of the creation account suggests that the two sexes are to be helpmates, not that one is to serve the other. Glad you found something refreshing in the sermon, Louise.

  2. I really like the quote you used from James Bratt. In fact, I liked everything you shared in your opening paragraphs.

    Our sermon today also reinforced the things you said about Peter’s MIL serving.

    1. It was partly coincidence, as I’m preaching through the gospel and the lectionary is in Mark this year and passage ended up being the same. I appreciated Bratt’s insights, too.

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