5th Sunday After Epiphany: Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39
Dear saints of Bethlehem, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Fresh from the synagogue, just after driving out the unclean spirit, Jesus stopped at the house of Peter and Andrew. Among the family members who dwelt there was Peter’s mother-in-law. She was sick with a fever. Fevers aren’t so pleasant and left unchecked can be deadly. Peter’s mother-in-law was burning up with a fever such that it left her drained of energy and activity, it left her in bed rest.
Jesus moves as if there was nothing more important in all the world than for Him to be there for this sick woman. This woman in all of her aches and pains is precious to Jesus. This woman whose station and circumstances seem quite lowly is precious to Jesus. He took her by the hand lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. She doesn’t put on a show of any kind, no grand celebration, she didn’t even bother to post an update on social media or tell the neighbors. She does what is given for her to do in that household. She began to serve them. And Jesus began to continue serving others with wonderful physical healing.
Imagine the scene, as the people heard about this healing. It must of looked like a regular trauma center at the hospital. And Jesus healed them. There was no ending to the amount sickness and pain, they just kept coming in. And Jesus was healing them.
Peter’s yard was like an overflowing waiting room in the doctor’s office. There are “various diseases” and we know how various they can be. Just think of our families and members here, our friends. Those with a common cold, suffering from sinus headaches, those with cancers, those crippled by the aches of arthritis, those struggling for breath, those with memory loss, those suffering from the darkness of depression, those with heart problems, and the demon possessed .
Just look at our prayer list. Think of all those you pray for daily not included in our public list in yourself, your family, and friends. Would it not be a wondrous release for Jesus to just come to the door and make it a day of healing! Would it not be a beautiful reason for joy and delight for Jesus to take the hand of your mother or father or spouse or grandparent or friend like he took the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law and lift them from their physical ailments? Our bodies are in bondage in this sin-cursed world and they do need healing. Few things are as precious or valuable as freedom from pain and God’s gift of good health.
Jesus made the hours of evening into darkness a time of healing at Peter’s door. How long after sundown Jesus began resting and how many hours of sleep he managed we aren’t told. But we are told what occurred in that early morning of that first day of the week that followed. Rising very early in the morning, in the hours we roll over and groan back to sleep, he departed and went out to a desolate place and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.”
In a matter of the one day, Jesus had become an instant celebrity in Capernaum! The crowd was there, and they kept coming, and the disciples thought this was as good as it gets. They thought that this is why Jesus was here among them. The people of Capernaum wanted Him to keep it going! What town wouldn’t? They thought that what had occurred was as good as it gets. They thought this was His purpose in coming among them. The disciples appear to be right in step with the desires of the people. As they saw it, the peoples’ desire for Jesus to make their lives better physically was of the highest importance. “Everyone is looking for you.”
In view of the healing that occurred as evening started this day, it is not surprising that everyone was looking for Him in the morning. Wouldn’t we hunt for someone who could cure us of our illnesses with a word or a touch? No insurance forms to deal with. No multiple appointments for diagnosis and treatment. Better than any drug prescriptions or surgeries or homeopathic pursuits, think of the relief and joy.
Jesus, however, had a different purpose in mind. With things going how the people wanted, Jesus does a remarkable thing, he says, “Let us go to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” He left all those who still had diseases and were suffering and went on throughout Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.
To sinful hearts that look first after our own wants and desires it seems as if Jesus didn’t get it. The people were coming, the place was packed, and more were waiting to get in. But Jesus wasn’t there to draw in as many people as he could at any means possible. His purpose wasn’t to be a crowd-pleaser. He was there to preach and bring the Gospel.
And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” For a city set on relief from sickness and suffering a reaction could easily come to mind something like, “Jesus, don’t you get it?”
Dear saints, don’t you get it? The reason He came was to preach and to provide the Gospel. Often times, we expect the wrong things. We want quick fixes. We want to please the masses and do whatever it is possible to get people in the doors. People often look to God hoping to make them happy, healthy, and wealthy. The reason He came was to deliver us from Satan’s grip. The reason that He healed so many in Capernaum was to call attention to the healing power of His forgiveness (Mark 2:1-12).
Jesus later denounced the cities where He performed most of His miracles, including Capernaum. He said, “And you Capernaum, will you be lifted to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment than for you” (Luke 10:15, Matt. 11:23).
This day of healing was to make known His healing forgiveness. That’s not what the people were hunting Him down in those early morning hours to receive, however. They wanted Him to make their life better right now in visible, tangible ways. When sickness is prolonged, when pain is persistent, when suffering is severe, when death comes, questions concerning God’s care come also. We ask, doesn’t God see? Won’t God act to bring me help and healing?
Yes he does in His own way and in His own time for our eternal good. That means that sometimes the sickness or suffering continues and even worsens. There will be no medical breakthrough that ultimately keeps death from us, for death is the wages of sin. Yet our plight is not hidden from God nor are we being disregarded by Him.
The truth is that we can hunt for a Jesus who fixes all our problems, including our health problems, but not our deepest problem. The people of Capernaum did not seem concerned with the root cause of their sickness. That the body breaks down, that there is sickness, that there is death, is a direct result of sin. They were happy and concerned with only their physical healing. We too fall into this trap. We get concerned and only pray for healing when we or a loved one get sick. As we should pray for these things, as we pray for our daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer physical well-being is a part of this. But we also pray, “Thy will be done.” The people of Capernaum expected and came to Jesus for their physical healing. This physical healing is but a sign that points to Christ’s healing for our sin.
Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? This what Jesus comes to do. Proclaim His gifts of forgiveness, to bring healing release from sin and death. Christ is not here to be an on demand clinician. He comes to save us from so much more, more than we often imagine or consider. That’s why, almost as if He was deaf to the people’s excitement, Jesus said, “Let’s go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”
Healing disease and casting out demons and lifting little old ladies from their sick beds was not why Jesus came. Jesus preached Himself all the way to the cross when He was providing there the greatest healing balm of all time. Jesus moved on to bring His healing touch to you and me and to this whole world of sin-sick people. Let us go on to the next town that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out. Risen from the grave Christ continues His preaching mission from town to town, even today, even to the likes of Carson City. Risen from the grave, He is now the provider of medicine of such a cure that the moment of perfect healing for you will come in the moment of your death.
This is the healing he wants you to anchor your hope in. This is the healing medicine He showered you with in your baptism. This is the healing medicine He prescribes for you today at His table. Indeed, He cares deeply about the health needs that affect you, about your aches and pains even as He did for Peter’s mother-in-law. He knows the fevers and the blood pressures and the infections and the surgeries and the hurts that distress you. He provides for those health needs today with physicians and hospitals and healing arts and medicines. But the perfect healing of your body that He came to give you is not for this life. That perfect bodily healing will be at the last, in the resurrection of all flesh.
That is where your healing comes, in death, from the blood that flowed from Christ crucified. There will be times when it seems as if things are not going as we think they ought to, as Isaiah expresses, “Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble” (Is. 40:24). There is the matter of all our sicknesses and problems of body and mind. But in the midst of all these things, the comfort and healing comes from the eternal treasures that are given and shed for you in His death and resurrection!
Simon’s mother-in-law would grow weary and die, so would all the others healed that day. Think of every healing you experience, whether it be getting over a cold or the flu, or something even greater, as more than “dodging the bullet” or getting a little favor from God. Think of it as a little resurrection. A little instance of being lifted up by the hand of God. Think of it, not as an end in itself, but a little sneak preview of a greater coming attraction, the day that Jesus comes to you and extends His hand to you and lifts you up from death to eternal life.
You and I will one day wither away too. But the healing of God comes to us from the crucified body and the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. Risen from the grave Jesus continues his preaching to you today. Through his death and resurrection, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has might he increases strength… they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” in a most important way, He lifts you up and heals you every time you hear the words “I forgive you” and every time you take that “medicine of immortality and forgiveness,” His Body and Blood into your mouths, He lifts you up. He sits by you, takes you by the hand and raises you up from the grave, because you have been given true healing – forgiveness and life. Amen.