Isaiah 40:21-31 • Psalm 147:1-11, 20c • 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 • Mark 1:29-39
Context – I have grown to love this passage as I have spent more time with it recently. This is chapter 40 assumed to be the beginning of the second part of Isaiah where the setting moves from warning the people of the coming exile to the point where they are now in exile. The message has been, up to this point, to ‘turn back to God.’ Now, the message is ‘turn back to God’, the message does not change but their situation has changed drastically. Isaiah says, still, ‘Turn back to God.’ In Isaiah’s own words ‘the message is the same as it was from the beginning – Turn Back To God!’ However, now, ironically, the message seems to be presented, by Isaiah, with an enhanced excitement and possibly even joy.
Insight – The catalyst for Isaiah’s excitement is that he is reminding them that the ‘good news’ is that ‘God is here.’ God is even here ‘in this disaster, this exile, the slavery, this misery, this hopelessness.’ God is here. Think of our last 12 months, ‘God is here!’
Context – We are in this particular Psalm on this particular week because it is just the perfect response to our Isaiah passage! It is a Psalm of praise, almost a tutorial about praise.
Insight – Consider the connections between God naming all the stars and feeding the baby ravens when they cry. The description of God in the majesty but also in the ordinary, God is there in all!
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Context – Paul, as is the case in some of Paul’s other letters, is writing to the believers in Corinth, primarily addressing the division that exist among them. The church at Corinth is a mess and division is at the core of this mess.
Insight – Paul’s call to the Corinthian believers is to respect each other enough to meet them ‘where’ they are. To not change their ‘residence’ but to meet them there and then to be a light that points to the light for them out of their darkness.
Context – This is our final week in the first chapter of Mark, that does not mean it is the end of the chapter, there is more…..but next week we jump to chapter 9. If you need a reminder of the huge number of events that Mark has written about in this first chapter, look back at the list I gave you last week detailing all that had happened up to that point. Add to it the experiences we looked in verses 21-28 to really zoom in for this week.
The writer Mark, quite possibly was an unaware, yet strict, misogynist. It was a deep and cultural attitude toward women (in most cultures as it still is today) that had really not been challenged, nor had it been recognized. This ignorance did not make it right, especially as we watch Jesus have a very counter attitude. Part of the ‘Love you neighbor as yourself’ challenge is to always investigate our selves in regard to such arrogance while, at the same time, always being ready to be genuinely willing and ready to put ourself second to the possibility that these evil attitudes are in us and need to be dealt with, sacrifices need to be made and changes enacted in each of us. Actually, I think that the unedited presence of Jesus, along with his automatic ‘all people are created by the creator and loved equally’ approach to life is a signal that Mark is on his own journey of transformation. Believe it or not, this paragraph is not a tangent it actually is important to this passage. Last week I said that in that passage we see Jesus make his first public appearance as the deliver, I should have said that Jesus made his first public appearance to the men, now, in this week’s reading, Jesus makes his first public appearance to the women. Jesus is taken by his disciples to the home of Simon where we see Jesus heal the ‘mother in law’ – Ms. No Name. Mark only names woman who are of extreme importance – much like the demon possessed man, woman were not named unless it was necessary.
Insight – As has been the case throughout this first chapter, there is much to select on in this reading. As you read, let these considerations hang in your mind:
- Jesus first public miracle in Mark’s account was a dismissed, and probably, despised possessed man. The second was a woman. Both of these were individuals were considered ‘less than’ people, both were accustomed to living unnoticed – these are the first two that Jesus recognizes.
- Jesus tells the demon to ‘be silent’, a command we see again this week. These demons are proclaiming truth yet Jesus tells them to ‘shut up.’
- As Jesus heals the woman she is ‘raised’ and immediately begins to ‘serve’.
- After dark (when is allowable according to Sabbath laws), everyone in the town shows up at the door – men, women, demon possessed – all are crowded in together.
- Just using the theme of ‘freedom’ think through all the impacts that Jesus performs on this first day, this Sabbath.