Mark 1:31 Commentary | Faithful Service: The Proof Is In The Pudding

Mark Commentary

Text & Translation

31 καὶ προσελθὼν ἤγειρεν αὐτὴν κρατήσας τῆς χειρός· καὶ ἀφῆκεν αὐτὴν ὁ πυρετός, καὶ διηκόνει αὐτοῖς.1

And having approached, He raised her [to her feet], taking her by the hand. And the fever left her, and she began serving them [refreshments]. (Mk 1:31, AT)

A Petrine Touch

This is the first of Jesus’ healings in Mark2 and the shortest miracle account in the Gospels.3

This episode is likely included because it involves Peter’s mother-in-law4 (what some have called a “Petrine touch”).5 Jesus heals many people — often in more remarkable ways.6 But, mother-in-laws are special.

Without a doubt, this healing was very near and dear to Peter — the most prominent of the disciples.

A Resurrecting Touch?

Jesus raises (ἐγείρω | egeirō) her, which is same word used to describe the Resurrection of Jesus and of believers7 (cf. Mk 6:14, 16; Mt 16:21, 17:9, 23, 20:19, 27:52; Jn 2:19, 22; Ac 3:15, 4:10, 5:30; Rom 4:25, etc.).

Herod thought that Jesus was actually John the Baptist who had been raised [egeirō] from the dead (Mk 6:14, 16).

Also, at the end of Mark, the angel told the women (i.e., Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome; Mk 16:1):

Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! [egeirō] He is not here. See the place where they laid him. (Mk 16:6, NIV)

Also, Paul writes to the church in Corinth:

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised [egeirō] imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Cor 15:51-52, NIV)

Many, including the early church, have suspected that Mark is engaging in some foreshadowing.8

Great Power, Great Compassion

Peter’s mother-in-law’s service provides proof of her instant9 and full recovery10 (she likely did not prepare pudding, though).

Many medications take some time to kick in. In contrast, like His authoritative words, the touch of Jesus is produces immediate results.

Again, as with the exorcism in the synagogue in Capernaum, no elaborate, magic words are necessary.11 No demon, no disease is any trouble for the Son of God.

This demonstrates Jesus’ authority over disease.12 Yet, more than His power/authority, this account demonstrates Jesus compassion.13

As we’ve said, when Jesus called His first disciples to follow Him, leaving their former lives behind, He did not call them to repent and believe (cf. Mk 1:15) without any regard for family ties.14

Yet, Peter’s home was no longer just the home of fishermen, but the home of fishers of men. His residence was likely their base of operations for ministry in Capernaum. Jesus demands total committment, and the resources we have can be transformed and utilized for the advance of the gospel.15

Also, given that women generally had a low social position in Jesus’ day, healing her showed He had concern for all – even the lowest in society.16

The Lord is gracious and compassionate (Ex 34:6, Ps 86:15, 103:8, etc.), wonderful and mighty (Is 9:6).

Model Response: Faithful Service

Though some doubt (Stein, 94), the account suggests that Peter’s mother-in-law is exemplifying the model response to the grace of Jesus: faithful service to the Master.17

The word translated serve (διακονέω | diakoneō) means to “serve”,18minister”, “help”.19

This word is related to διακονία (diakonia) meaning “service”,20 “ministry”,21 as well as διάκονος (diakonos) meaning “servant”,22 “assistant, deacon”.23 Deacons are servants who minister in various ways.

Technically, serve (diakoneō) described waiting on/serving at a table,24 as it does here.25 The service she provides is likely the preparation of dinner.26

However, this does not mean that a woman’s ministry/service should only consist of waiting on tables, etc. (cf. Mk 15:41)27 — as this verse has often unfortunately been cited to claim.28 Nor is this likely meant to “suggest her inferior role.”29

For in fact, service (diakonia) is angelic. For, as we read in the account of Jesus’ tempation in the wilderness:

and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended [diakoneō] him. (Mk 1:13, NIV)30

Moreover, Jesus tells His disciples to be servants. Being great in God’s sight is not about how many people are below you, but how many people you put above you (cf. Php 2:3-5). As we read in Mark 9:

33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant [diakonos] of all.” (Mk 9:33-35, NIV)31

In contrast to Gentile rulers who lord their authority over others (Mk 9:42), the way of Christ is self-sacrificial service — as He, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, exemplified:

43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant [diakonos], 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served [diakoneō] , but to serve [diakoneō] , and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:43-45, NIV)32

Christ flips corporate ladder models of greatness.

Conclusion

After Simon told Jesus about his mother-in-law who was sick with a fever, Jesus raises her — healing her immediately. She gives proof of her full recovery by serving them (i.e., preparing dinner).

In doing so, she also provides a model response to the grace of Jesus: faithful service. Far from suggesting inferiority, service is angelic and Christ-like.

May our faithful service/ministry to Christ — in whatever capacity — demonstrate in our lives the proof of God’s gracious, healing touch.

For more commentary on Mark, please visit the Book Study Overview page. For the sources cited, please see the bibliography.

Sources

  1. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Mk 1:31.
  2. Bock, 415
  3. Brooks, 52; Guelich, 63; Stein, 92
  4. Witherington, 100
  5. Cole, 115 cf. Brooks, 52; Lane, 77; Guelich, 61; Edwards, 59; Strauss, 98
  6. Witherington, 100
  7. Brooks, 52
  8. Brooks, 52
  9. Schnabel, 59; Bock, 415; France, 108; Strauss, 100
  10. Evans, 174; Bock, 415; Schnabel, 59; Brooks, 52; France, 108; Stein, 94; Garland, 72; Strauss, 98, 100
  11. Edwards, 60
  12. Kernaghan, 47; English, 60; France, 106
  13. Kernaghan, 47
  14. Kernaghan, 47
  15. Lane, 78
  16. Brooks, 52
  17. Witherington, 100; Hurtado, 28; Bock, 415; English, 57; Cole, 115; Brooks, 52; Edwards, 60; cf. Garland, 72
  18. BDAG, 229; NIDNTTE, 701; EDNT, 302
  19. NIDNTTE, 701
  20. NIDNTTE, 701; EDNT, 302
  21. EDNT, 302
  22. NIDNTTE, 701; EDNT, 302
  23. NIDNTTE, 702; cf. Bock, 415
  24. EDNT, 302; cf. NIDNTTE, 702; Witherington, 100; Bock, 415; Strauss, 100
  25. Evans, 174; Bock, 415; Cole, 115; Lane, 77; Guelich, 63; France, 108; Strauss, 100
  26. Lane, 77-78
  27. Cole, 115; cf. Garland, 73
  28. Edwards, 60
  29. Strauss, 100
  30. Edwards, 60; Garland, 72; Strauss, 100
  31. Witherington, 100; Hurtado, 28; Bock, 415; Edwards, 60; Garland, 72; Strauss, 100
  32. Witherington, 100; Hurtado, 28; Bock, 415; Cole, 115; Edwards, 60; Garland, 72; Strauss, 100
About @DannyScottonJr 215 Articles
Imperfect Servant ✝📖⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist