Reflection on This Week’s Readings


Think of a lioness; perhaps you’ve seen one in a nature documentary. Her power is palpable, even through the TV screen. She is strong and fierce, able to expertly take down prey and defend her pride from danger. She is also gentle, grooming her tiny cubs carefully in the afternoon sun. With the same strong jaws she is able both to kill an enemy and to carry her young gingerly by the scruff of their neck. Jesus’ power is something like that: just as mighty as it is tender.

Jesus casts out demons relentlessly. In a single evening, he exorcises an entire city’s worth! Jesus’ power over the demons is so complete that he doesn’t even permit them to speak. What are the demons in your own life, or in your community? What forces seek to dominate or control? What systems cause hurt or destruction? Out of God’s great love for us, Jesus grapples with each and every source of pain, oppression, and suffering in the world.

With that same power, Jesus gently lifts Simon’s mother-in-law by the hand, and her fever is gone. In a tender bedside moment, she is healed personally, intimately, and completely. This woman, ordinary and unnamed in Mark’s gospel except by her relation to her son-in-law, is still not so unimportant as to escape Jesus’ notice and care. And neither are we.

Jesus bathes us in the waters of salvation and defends us from danger. He feeds us at the table of mercy and carries us tenderly into abundant life. We are protected, healed, and loved by the One who created the cosmos, who possesses power to destroy any earthly power, yet who “gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless” (Isaiah 40:29). Like cubs learning from their mother, we rise and follow so that our lives might show forth that same fiercely tender love.


Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
On the Sundays after Epiphany and after Trinity Sunday in year B, we repeatedly encounter the paradox set out by Mark: Jesus, although hidden from many, is revealed as Christ to believers. This Sunday those who recognize Jesus and receive his power are assembled in a house, as were the first hearers of Mark’s gospel. We too arise from our sickbed to serve others, proclaiming the kingdom and sharing holy communion.



Jesus meets with his disciples, and he escapes alone to pray. He heals, and he hides. He displays power, and he orders demons to keep silent. Mark’s account of the meaning of Jesus’ ministry alternates between his being hidden in the crucifixion and being acclaimed risen within the believing community. Like Peter’s mother-in-law, we have been raised from illness and now serve one another.



This poem from Isaiah 40 is chosen to exemplify the power of the Lord God to bring hope and life out of despair and death. We too are faint and powerless, and we have gathered to be raised from our sickbeds to serve one another. The Old Testament reading both articulates the human hope for salvation and prepares us to receive today’s gospel proclamation.



We are called to share Paul’s paradoxical understanding of life under the gospel. We are free, in order to submit ourselves to others. In Luther’s words, Christians are both perfectly free, subject to none, and dutiful servants, subject to all. Like Peter’s mother-in-law, we arise from ourselves to be a slave to all.

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New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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