Mark 1:29-39 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. 32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!" 38 Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else-- to the nearby villages-- so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
“She’s a bit down with a fever lately, which is why she missed services today,” Peter told Jesus. Jesus comes to the bedside of Peter’s mother-in-law. He takes her by the hand and raises her up. And the fever left her. Then she put on some tea and made cute little triangle cucumber sandwiches and she served them.
Jesus had just demonstrated His authority that morning in the synagogue when He drove a demon out of a man. Now, after the worship service, He is in Peter’s Capernaum home demonstrating His compassion by healing Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever.
What a nice story that is! Wouldn’t it be nice to have Jesus come to you when you’re sick in bed, take you by the hand and raise you up? So much better than all the hassles with the HMOs and waiting in doctor’s offices and tracking down those prescriptions. I have to admit that the countertops of some of our homebound members look like pharmacies. Now, is it three pills two times a day or two pills three times a day?
Better to just have Jesus sit down on the bed next to you and not even say anything. Just take your hand and gently lift you from your bed. And the fever goes away … the cancer is gone … the dementia is removed … the old hips and bad knees and arthritic joints are all better. Just like that. So you can get up and go to the kitchen to fix everyone a nice lunch. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Jesus had entered Capernaum as a stranger. This was the beginning of His public ministry. The townspeople only knew Him as a rabbi who had come to preach in their synagogue that Sabbath morning. But Jesus was quickly becoming famous! First the people heard about Jesus making a demon leave a man in the synagogue. Now they heard about Jesus making a fever leave Peter’s mother-in-law.
By sundown, after the Sabbath had ended, people started coming from all corners of Capernaum. The whole town took up residence at Peter’s little house. People were being carried on mats or draped over shoulders. Demonized people were spitting and cussing and foaming at the mouth. People with horrible, disfiguring diseases crawled their way to the house. Those with contagious diseases were given a wide berth as they found room in Peter’s yard. The front lawn looked like a trauma center. It looked like an episode of MASH (without the laugh track).
What Jesus did for Peter’s mother-in-law, He did with everyone who came to Peter’s house to be healed. He touched every one of them. Not a single one was turned away. Not a single one was sent home with their illness, not a single one left the house void of Christ’s love. He healed their diseases. He cured their sicknesses. He stopped their runny noses. He cleansed their leprosies. He drove out their demons. He loved every one of them. Now they could all go home and be with their families. Isn’t that nice?
If Jesus had the power to drive out their demons, if He had the compassion to heal their diseases, if He loved them enough to cure them, then why did He get up early Sunday morning and leave Capernaum? Mark records for us: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’”
Jesus seemed so nice to those with fevers and broken bones and demon possessions. He healed them all. But then He left. There were still more to heal. Where did He go? Why didn’t He keep on healing?
We often think the same things, don’t we? Jesus doesn’t seem so nice when He allows our child to be sick enough to end up in the hospital. It can feel like it is Sunday morning and Jesus is nowhere around when the doctor tells us “cancer.” Jesus can appear distant when He doesn’t touch us with a miraculous healing. He can seem so aloof when He doesn’t answer our constant prayers for better health.
It seems like He has gone away for the day.
If Jesus has the power to drive out demons, if He has the compassion to heal diseases, why doesn’t He heal me? If He loved them enough to restore their health, then why doesn’t Jesus love me enough to stop my constant pain?
We expect healing to come from Jesus’ hands when we pray for healing. We want the same kind of miracles performed on us that Jesus performed in Capernaum. We anticipate that Jesus would just take us – or our sick loved ones – by the hand and make the fever go away. We assume that if the Great Physician worked the late shift on that Sabbath evening, He would put in overtime for us on Sunday morning, too.
Friends, our priorities are upside down. We expect all the wrong things. We want band aids from God. Happy pills. A quick fix. Something to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise. We want answers to all our perplexing questions. We want solutions to all our stubborn problems. We want healing for all our diseases. We want our demons silenced.
But that’s not why Jesus came. Jesus did not enter our world in order to cure our diseases. He entered our world to be the cure for the sin that kills us. He did not reach out His hands to make our bodies feel better. He reached out His hands so our bodies might one day enter heaven. He did not come to restore our health. He came to restore our relationship with God.
When Peter finally found Jesus on Sunday morning, this is what Jesus said about His absence: “Let us go somewhere else-- to the nearby villages-- so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
Jesus came to preach, not heal. But it is the healing that we like. It is the miracles that we like. Preaching, well that’s another matter.
Answers. Miracles. Healings. We’re hooked on these things. We pray for answers, miracles, and healings. And all Jesus offers is a sermon. That’s so contradictory to our way of thinking! We don’t pray for longer sermons. We don’t ask for more preaching. We don’t expect more worship services. But that’s what Jesus offers. He calls pastors into pulpits to preach. He puts teachers into our Lutheran grade schools and high schools to preach. He places Bibles into your hands so He might preach.
Jesus does not demonstrate His love for you by healing you. Jesus does not demonstrate a lack of love for you by not healing you. Rather, Jesus uses the diseases and ailments and injuries that you endure to strengthen your faith in Him. That’s what Paul means in Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
When we pray for healing from disease, it isn’t that we are praying for a wrong thing. It’s that we could be praying for a better thing. In addition to the healing from the disease, we also ask Jesus to heal the disease of anger and doubt and depression that infects our heart. In addition to asking Jesus to convert our bodies back into the youthful form we once had, we ask Jesus to convert our souls to the faith we once had as children. In addition to having Jesus touch our bodies and restore them to health, we want Jesus to touch our lives so that we are restored into a healthy relationship with our heavenly Father.
Every person that Jesus healed in Capernaum that Sabbath would eventually become sick again and die. Every person that Jesus did not heal in Capernaum on Sunday might get better or they might get worse, but eventually they would die. Jesus had not come to fight diseases. He had come to fight death. … And win!
But people needed to know this. We need to know this. We don’t learn this by His healing miracles. We learn this in His preaching.
Jesus didn’t heal everyone in Capernaum because it wasn’t necessary to heal everyone. That’s not what He came for. That’s not how He deals with diseases and demons. The way Jesus deals with demons and diseases is to die, and to drop all our diseases and demons down into the black hole of His death. The way He heals us is not to give us band aids and painkillers, but with His painful death and glorious resurrection. The diseases we endure are merely symptoms of a much greater disease – sin. Jesus did not come to deal with the symptoms by healing every disease or mending every broken bone or repairing every torn ACL. He came to deal with the disease itself – sin. He dealt with it by carrying humanity’s sins upon Himself to the cross. He buried our sins in His grave. He rose from the grave leaving our sins in the tomb. The earthly effects of sin still remain. That’s why we still deal with measles and Ebola viruses. But the much more important eternal effects of sin have been removed.
Death and resurrection is the way Jesus works true and lasting healing. The miracles just point the way to Jesus. Then we can listen to His preaching.
Pierre August Renoir is perhaps the best loved of all the Impressionist painters of the 19th century. His subjects – pretty children, flowers, beautiful scenery, and lovely women – have an instant appeal. He explained the joy he took in them, “Why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.”
In the 1890s, Renoir began to suffer from rheumatism. In 1903, he moved to the warmth of the south of France to comfort his rheumatism. By 1912, the rheumatism eventually crippled him and he was confined to a wheelchair. But despite the stabbing pain, he continued to pain for the rest of his life. One day, his old artist friend, Henry Matise, sadly watched while Renoir, grasping a brush with only his fingertips, continued to pain in great pain. Matise asked Renoir why he persisted in painting at the expense of such torture. Renoir replied, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”
Pain is neither good nor permanent. This is why we cry out in prayer for healing. But one day all of our pain will pass and we will stand in the beauty of the Lord, a beauty that will remain forever. Jesus may grant us healing now, but eventually we will still die. Our great comfort as Christians comes not in the fact that our bodies are healed, but that our souls are saved. Receiving healing for our bodies from Jesus is great. Receiving salvation for our bodies and souls from Jesus in answer is eternally better. Miracles are great. Preaching is always greater. Amen.