Tonight, we are gathering to discuss the Exorcisms and Healings found in Mark 1:21-2:12. As we sing in verse 3 of our hymn: “Manifest in making whole palsied limbs and fainting soul; / manifest in valiant fight, quelling all the devil’s might; / manifest in gracious will, ever bringing good from ill.”
The Nature of Evil:
One way of understanding Mark’s emphasis on exorcisms and healings goes back to the very nature of evil itself. As we have looked at before in our discussions of Genesis 1 and Revelation 22, evil is the state of being non-existent. Think of a hole in a sheet of paper – the paper is good and the hole is the evil where the paper is non-existent. We believe that everything that God creates is “good.” Gen. 1:4. As John writes “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:3-4.
Evil is the privation of the good, and of the life, and of the light. For example, as St. Augustine (354-430) writes, “We cannot see darkness or hear silence by any positive actuality but only by their want of it.” Darkness only exists as the absence of light, and silence only exists by the absence of sound. City of God, B.12,c.7. Or as St. Athanasius (297-373) writes in On the Incarnation, goodness consists in moving towards God and towards full existence, whereas evil (sin, death, etc.) consists of moving away from God and moving towards non-existence and the reversal of creation. (Ch.1, para.4).
Demons and Sickness:
Mark, like the other gospel writers, distinguishes between demon possession and illness. See, Matt. 4:24. Although possession and illness are two separate conditions, they have a common cause which is evil or the negation of the good within a person. In his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) writes: “No being can be spoken of as evil, as being, but only so far as it lacks being. Thus a man is said to be evil because he lacks some virtue, and an eye is said to be evil because it lacks the power to see.” (Bk I, Q.5, Art. 3).
In this way of thinking, demons are an affliction of a person’s spirit. Demons attack and bring harm to a person’s soul to bring that soul with them on the way to non-existence and death. Sin is a result of this defective condition because we are less than fully the Good in which God created us. Likewise, sickness is an attack upon and brings harm to the body. Sickness is a defect in the body and brings about the non-existence and death of the body.
In his gospel, Mark emphasizes Jesus’ divine ability to heal both body and soul and thus make us whole. We see this twofold wholeness in today’s reading where Jesus says both “You sins are forgiven” and “Rise, take up your pallet and walk.” Mark 2:9. Mark sees the problem in the human condition is that we are overcome by those things that seek to pull us into non-existence (i.e. sin). Therefore, Jesus’s mission is to restore us to the fullness of our creation. His mission is to eliminate and overcome those defects in spirit and body. The Greek word that Mark uses for “healing” is sozo. See, e.g. Mark 6:56. This word means to “save, heal, preserve, rescue.” Healing, restoration, and salvation are the same thing for Mark. For Mark, Jesus is the great physician – the one who heals, restores, and saves us from the defects in our souls and bodies. Mark 2:17.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is Kentucky Hot Browns. Discussion about 6:45. Compline at 8. Hope to see you here!
How lost was my conditionJohn Newton, How Lost Was My Condition
Till Jesus made me whole!
There is but one physician
Can cure a sin-sick soul