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1 And the heavens and the earth and all their host were finished.
2 And God had finished on the seventh day his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it, because that on it he rested from all his work which God had created in making it.
This passage ends the story of “the beginning.” I have argued in previous blogs that it imagines a time aslant our time in which God’s process of creation takes place. These verses therefore do not state that God’s creation was historically complete sometime in the past, but rather that God’s labour does have an end. What God puts in hand he/she completes, then rests. This rest means God’s satisfaction with what has been done. Perhaps we can interpret God’s rest in terms of a hope that God’s purpose in creation will be realised “at the last day”. This was in the mind of the Jewish Rabbi who described the seventh day as “The last of days for which the first was made”.
Here there is no mention of the Sabbath commandment, doubtless because the intended readers would all have observed it all their lives.
The reader will note that the verses emphasise repeatedly the creative labour of God. The work seems effortless -God speaks and it is done- but the writer wants his readers to know that this involves divine labour which requries rest. Those who declare that God never changes nor suffers are not biblical. The labour of creation is a theme of the Bible. The prophet Isaiah imagines God as a woman labourng to give birth. According to John’s Gospel Jesus said that his father was always working. The same Gospel sees the life and death of Jesus as the labour of God, completed on the cross, with the words, “It is finished.” The Genesis writer wants his readers to imagine a God whose creative labour is costly and demands rest.
The alert reader will see that there’s a tranlsation problem in verse 3 abpve. John Darby’s translation is honest but incomprehensible “all his work which God had created in making it.” The Hebrew says “created for making”. Most translations pretend there is no problem. The best suggestion is that the phrase “for making” is just a way of intensifiyng the force of the verb “created” – creation is active labour.
The reader is shown an inventive, labouring God in the act of fashioning a good creation and good creatures, in which his human creatures made in his likeness will exercise his rule on earth.
If we stand back from the narrative however, we can see the work of an inventive human writer who is fashioning a creator God. This is a fact with which all theology should begin: God is a human invention. I’m not saying God doesn’t exist. The “God” invented by human beings may correspond to reality just as E=MC squared corresponds, but if we leave human imagination out of account, we turn “God” into a thing, albeit a very mighty divine thing. That’s not the Bible’s way. It never conceals the use of the human imagination in the making of God. Put another way we might say that God’s revelation of himself is never fully understood by human beings, the proof of which is in that sentence itself. “Revelation of himself“? Why has God been understood as masculine until very recently? Surely because the human beings who imagined God were living in a male-dominated culture. I will return again and again to the invention of “God” in the Bible.
28 And his fame went out straightaway into the whole region of Galilee around.
29 And straightaway going out of the synagogue, they came with James and John into the house of Simon and Andrew.
30 And the mother-in-law of Simon lay in a fever. And straightaway they speak to him about her.
31 And he went up to[her and raised her up, having taken her by the hand, and straightway the fever left her, and she served them
This passage picks up from Jesus visit to the synagogue.Gradually we come to realise that Mark is describing “a day in the life of Jesus”. It has begun with public teaching and healing. Now it continues into the private realm of Peter’s household. As soon as a “house” is mentioned in scripture we should be on the alert because the theme of human and divine dwelling places is one the most important. The Greek word for house is “oikos” from which English has derived, ecomomy (rules of household management) ecology (the study of the earth as a house for ts creatures) and ecumenicity (a welcome to all who dwell on the earth). I’ve written about this theme at length at emmock.com/oikos.
Here the house Jesus enters is not at peace because Peter’s mother-in-law is ill with fever. Her husband must have died and she has come as a widow to her daughter’s home. She is the senior woman but is in fact subject to her daughter. Guests have arrived at the house and she is unwell and unable to greet them. When this is pointed out to Jesus he doesn’t simply accept their explanation of why part of the main room is curtained off (There would only be one main room used for all purposes.) Rather he breaks etiquette and probably social taboos, by “going up to her and lifting her up.” The details count. He doesn’t ignore her, he goes up to her. Then he takes her arms, lifts her up (to a sitting position) and takes her hand. Here is intimate, scandalous, behaviour, a male guest intruding on the senior woman of the house and touching her! Immedaitely she is well and takes the honoured role of serving the guests.
I love this story, it’s such a tiny miracle, demonstrating such intimate understanding and kindness. Lack of peace is always an opportunity for the devil. God’s goodness made available by Jesus “raises” someone who is down and restores peace. Mark is always nudging the reader to see in Jesus the one who shares human weakness (finally on the cross) and raises them up (finally by his own resurrection). One of the signals by which Mark nudges us to pay attention is the use of his favourite word, “straightaway” – three times in this short passage. The new world that Jesus is creating in this one day has already refashioned the faith (of synagogue worshippers) the mind (of a demon-possessed man) and the body and spirit (of a sick woman), but it’s a very small world there in Galilean villages. Is that what a real Messiah should be about?