In this section at the beginning of the Gospel, Mark’s aim is to show us a “typical day” in Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. After preaching and casting out an unclean spirit in the synagogue of Capernaum, Jesus moves to Simon’s house and heals his mother-in-law, who was in bed with fever. As a result, this woman becomes, so to say, a “deaconess” and “she began to serve them” (in Greek: kaì diekònei autoìs). In the evening Jesus cured “many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons”. The following day, early in the morning he got up and went out, looking for a quiet place to pray. But Peter and the other disciples “hunted for him” and were able to find him in a “deserted place”, saying: “Everyone is searching for you”. This is an implicit request to go back to Capernaum in order to finish his job of healing and casting out demons.
The disciples’ request is good, at least in principle. The first time (v. 30) they had spoken in favour of a sick woman; now again they intercede for the whole city of Capernaum. But Jesus’ answer sounds quite harsh: “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do”. Let us go on, let us go elsewhere: why such a sharp answer?
Because Jesus wants to make it clear, from the very beginning, that his mission is “on the move”, is an itinerant mission – which implies the refusal to implant it in a specific location. Even in Capernaum, this was probably chosen because it was a city at the borders, as Matthew points out: “He made his home in Capernaum by the sea… Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:13,15). But Capernaum is nothing more than a field base, a campbase. It is not meant to become his official seat, or his “parish church” because, as John Wesley used to say, “the world is my parish”! So let us go elsewhere, to the neighboring towns or, better, to the neighboring villages. The Greek word komopòleis refers to small villages, and was possibly chosen to contrast the word pòlis, city (v. 33). The mission of Jesus implies a movement from the city centre, from downtown to the suburbs, to the most isolated places. Let us go to the suburbs, let us go and preach and heal to the borders of society. May our Churches, which very often prefer to remain comfortably seated and implanted at the centre, accept this invitation!
“Let us move on the neighboring villages” means, from the practical point of view, that the Church has to choose the suburbs, the poor, the forgotten, the victims of injustice. But this invitation has also a spiritual dimension. Somehow this movement of “going on” is the continuation, the extension of the early departure of Jesus from Capernaum, looking for a “deserted place”. Jesus went out, and the disciples had to hunt for him: such is, today again, the condition of the disciples of Jesus. Our Master is always ahead of us, as the angel tells the women at the tomb: “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee” (Mark 16:7). Being Christians means to be the itinerant followers of an itinerant Master and Saviour. It means that we are called to go on, looking and running after Him throughout Galilee and throughout the world, proclaiming the good message and casting our demons.
Luca Maria Negro, Baptist minister, President of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy.