Mark likes to play with the words for resurrection. Again and again in his Gospel, Mark tells us how Jesus raised up the people He healed or how they arose. He does not need to mention their posture, but he chooses to do so, emphasizing their rising. And the terms he uses are the terms associated in this Gospel with Jesus’ own resurrection.
On a first reading, these words may not jump out at us. But by the time we come to the raising of Jairus’s daughter and certainly by the time Jesus rises at the end of the Gospel, we should be able to see what Mark has been doing all along.
His Gospel is like a mystery novel. When you come to the end and you see what all the clues were leading up to, you can go back and read the book again and recognize the clues for what they are. And so, after finishing Mark’s Gospel, we can go back and read it again with the final scene in mind and see all the ways in which Jesus’ healings and the ways in which people rise or are raised foreshadow what will happen to Jesus and what will happen to those who belong to Him.
That much I learned from Mark Horne’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark, and possibly also from Austin Farrer’s A Study in St. Mark. But today, as I worked on Mark 1:35-39, something else jumped out at me.
All the events in the preceding verses (Mark 1:21ff.) took place on the Sabbath. Now, Mark tells us, “early in the morning,” which would be on the first day of the week, Jesus arose and went out to the wilderness, where Simon and “those with him” (presumably Andrew, James, and John) hunted him down. From there, they did not return to Capernaum. Instead, they kept going to the other towns and cities in Galilee so that Jesus could preach there also. That, Jesus says, was the purpose for which he came forth.
Just as the rising of the people Jesus heals foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection and our resurrection, so too this is a foreshadowing of the resurrection. Mark even uses the same words at the end of his Gospel when he tells us that “early in the morning” the women came to Jesus’ tomb (Mark 16:2; cf. Mark 1:35) only to discover that he had already risen. Mark adds that this was “on the first day of the week,” as was Jesus’ rising in Mark 1.
While the word for “He has risen” in Mark 16:6 is a different word, in verse 9 Mark uses the same word that appears in Mark 1, adding the word “early” again and saying once more that this was “on the first day of the week.”
When the angel appears to the women, what he says also reminds us of Mark 1. In Mark 1, we’re told that “Simon and those with him” found Jesus. Now, the angel tells the women to give a message to Jesus’ disciples “and Peter” (16:7). And just as Jesus told the disciples that he had come forth in order to go to the other towns in Galilee, now the angel wants the women to tell the disciples that Jesus is going before them to Galilee (16:7).
In Mark 1, Jesus is training the disciples for their future mission. Jesus’ mission is not just to Capernaum, their home town, nor is it the kind of mission the people in Capernaum might want, a mission limited to healing and exorcism. Jesus came to preach, to announce the fulfilment of the time that the prophets had foretold, the time when God’s kingdom was coming. And that message had to go to all Israel throughout Galilee.
When Jesus rises from the dead, his mission starts with him leading the disciples to Galilee again. From the other Gospels, we know that they returned to Jerusalem later. But first Jesus led them to Galilee, where he sent them out to the world: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (16:15; cf. Matt. 28:16-20).
Their mission will start in Jerusalem, but just as Jesus didn’t allow Capernaum to be his center of operations to which everyone had to come for healing or to hear him, so Jesus doesn’t allow Jerusalem to be the disciples’ home base. Now people don’t flow to Jerusalem; now the disciples go out, following Jesus, to Galilee and then to the world.