Topic: Parallel passages from the gospels of Mark 1:21-35, Matthew 8:14-17, and Luke 4:31-41, which depict Jesus performing different miracle healings
The gospel of Mark is believed to be the earliest of the written Gospels and is considered by most scholars to be based on the oral and written traditions of the community. Therefore, Mark’s account of Jesus’ healings in Capernaum can undoubtedly be traced to stories of the actual events by people who witnessed the occurrences. According to the Gospel of Mark Jesus entered the town of Capernaum and when it became the Sabbath day he entered a synagogue and taught to willing townspeople. “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). In this synagogue there was a man with an “unclean spirit”, and this spirit recognized Jesus as the messiah and said, “I know who you are-the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24). Upon hearing this Jesus told the spirit, “Quiet! Come out of him!” (Mark 1:25) which resulted in the unclean spirit promptly extracting itself from the man’s body. This, understandably, amazed everyone who witnessed the event because in front of them was a man, named Jesus, who could command “even the unclean spirit and they obey him” (Mark 1:27). The story of Jesus’ healing of the man with the unclean spirit spread throughout Galilee and his fame amongst the peoples of the land increased rapidly. After Jesus left the synagogue he went to the house of Simon and Andrew, where he was informed that Simon’s mother-in-law suffered from a fever. “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them” (Mark 1:31). Later on in the evening the whole town gathered at the door of Simon and Andrew in order to have Jesus cure those who were ailing. “He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons” (Mark 1: 34).
When reading the above story it is important to remember that this event occurs before Jesus had achieved significant status among most groups of people, and at this point in his life he had only “recruited” the first four of his disciples. Subsequently, the people of Capernaum did not recognize Jesus as being the Son of God. The only beings that did acknowledge his true greatness as the “Holy One of God” were the unclean spirits. It was these same spirits that Jesus commanded to be “Quiet!” (Mark 1:25), “not permitting them to speak because they knew him” (Mark 1:34), which implies that Jesus did not desire for his divinity to be known just yet. When considering the placement of this story in Mark’s Gospel (at the beginning) it is obvious that such examples of Jesus performing miraculous restorations of health is intended to buttress the reader’s faith in Jesus as being truly holy. This passage is particularly significant because it depicts Jesus performing numerous feats that can be considered truly awesome and display the uncontestable truth that Jesus was the “Holy One of God”.
Following Mark as the second oldest of the Gospels is the Gospel of Matthew. It is apparent that Matthew’s Gospel was influenced by, but not limited to, the Gospel of Mark. In fact, it is believed that Matthew had two other sources, one named “M” which stands for “Matthew”, and another that scholars refer to as “Q”, which stands for the German word Quelle (“source”) . Evidence of all of these sources working together is noticeable in the passages that parallel the aforementioned works in the Gospel of Mark. The reason it can be interpreted that other sources influence Matthew’s story of Jesus’ healings is because of a few blatant differences. Upon arriving in Capernaum there is no sign in the Gospel of Matthew of Jesus teaching in a synagogue and curing a man with an unclean spirit like there was in Mark. In Matthew, rather than curing the mother-in-law of Simon, Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law. This instance does not only differ in the fact that the name of the person is different, but also in that Jesus noticed the mother-in-law without anyone pointing her out to him. Jesus cures her by touching her hand (rather than by grasping it as told by Mark), and after doing so “she rose and waited on him” (Matthew 8:15), which is contrary to the gospel of Mark where she waits on Jesus, Simon, and Andrew. The next part of the story is very similar to the one outlined in Mark, with the people of Capernaum bringing Jesus their ill to be healed, but Matthew makes a specific point of relating Jesus’ work to prophecy made by Isaiah, “He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17). Matthew’s connection of Jesus’ actions to prophecies made in the Old Testament act as method of calming the anxieties that many Jewish Christians felt due to their branching away from the rest of the Jewish community. Matthew, as an author, is believed to have been Jewish, and because of this fact he would have realized the importance of relating what Jesus did to the beliefs that Jewish people had held sacred for hundreds of years.
The most “recent” of the Gospels that mention parallel instances to the stories above is the Gospel of Luke. Like Matthew’s Gospel, both Mark and “Q” influenced Luke. Unlike Matthew though, Luke did not resort to the “M” source and instead had his own source titled “L”, “Luke”. Mark’s influence is much more evident in Luke’s writings than it is in Matthew’s. For example, Luke extensively covers the story of Jesus teaching in Capernaum on the Sabbath, and then curing a man who suffered from an “unclean demon” (Luke 4:33). The only significant difference lies in the fact that Luke refers to it as a “demon” rather than a “spirit”. In Luke’s version of the story Jesus again moves on to cure Simon’s mother-in-law (similar to Mark), but in this account Jesus must be told about the sick woman and after he learns of her illness “He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them” (Luke 4:39). This is once again similar to Mark because she serves the group rather than solely Jesus. But, this passage illustrates a completely different process by which Jesus cured the woman than either Mark or Matthew’s accounts of the same story. In the other two Gospels Jesus must at least touch the ailing woman, but according to Luke Jesus needed to only stand above her in order to miraculously relinquish her “severe fever” (Luke 4:38-39). After Jesus cures Simon’s mother-in-law the people of Capernaum once again brought him their ill to cure. The Gospel of Luke elaborates on this process of healing and describes Jesus as laying his hands on each of the sick to cure them (Luke 4:40). Mark does not mention how Jesus cures in his Gospel, and Matthew mentions that Jesus could drive out demons “by a word” (Matthew 8:16). Like the Gospel of Mark, Luke’s Gospel passage ends by Jesus commanding the evil spirits who recognize him as “the Son of God” (Luke 4:41) to not speak because they “knew that he was the Messiah” (Luke 4:41).
Although each of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke address basically the same stories of Jesus’ miraculous healings, they each vary in a few slight matters. The influence of Mark’s writings is evident in the works of those who followed him. Matthew is the most dissimilar in his representation of these events; his passage is much shorter and does not address some of the same examples as the other two Gospels. Mark’s influence on the writing of Luke is much more obvious; it contain nearly identical text that varies in only a few regions. Each of the authors of the Gospels came from different backgrounds and directed their writings towards different audiences. But despite the difference in each of the authors’ approaches at conveying their overall message, each of them undeniably fortifies the reader’s belief that Jesus is truly a divine individual that used his “power” to cure those who were in suffering.