Mark 1:29-39 29They left the synagogue and went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30Simon’s mother-in-law was lying in bed, sick with a fever. Without delay they told Jesus about her. 31He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32That evening, when the sun had set, the people kept bringing to him all who were sick and demon-possessed. 33The whole town gathered at the door. 34He healed many people who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons. But he did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew who he was.
35Jesus got up early in the morning, while it was still dark, and went out. He withdrew to a solitary place and was praying there. 36Simon and his companions searched for him, 37and, when they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is looking for you!”
38He told them, “Let’s go somewhere else, to the neighboring villages, so that I can preach there too. In fact, that is why I have come.” 39Then he went throughout the whole region of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Last Sunday, I heard audible gasps when we prayed for the family and congregation of Pastor Jim Weiland. Pastor Weiland served at First Evan from 1985-1995. Since then, he had been serving the congregation of Christ Lutheran Church in Merrill, WI.
On January 10, Pastor Weiland was struck by a semi-truck on Highway 8 in Oneida County. He suffered severe head trauma.
The medical staff kept Pastor Weiland in a drug-induced coma to help his brain heal. But, on Monday, January 22, God called his faithful servant home to heaven.
After worship last week, someone asked me why God would allow something like this to happen to someone who could do so much good in our world.
That’s a great question. Humanly speaking, we can’t come up with a good answer. Spiritually speaking, though, we know the answer, don’t we? Jesus has authority. He demonstrates His divine authority over Pastor Weiland’s death, over Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever, and over the Capernaum citizens’ various diseases and demon possessions.
Mark tells us that Jesus had demonstrated His authority that Sabbath morning in the synagogue when He drove a demon out of a man. Then, the battle shifted from the synagogue to the house; from the demon-possessed to the fever-stricken. But, there is good news! The same authority Jesus proclaimed with His words in the Lord’s house, is the same authority He displayed with His touch in Peter’s house. “He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she began to serve them.”
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.
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 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: “Jesus got up early in the morning, while it was still dark, and went out. He withdrew to a solitary place and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for him, and, when they found him, they said to him, ‘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. He can appear helpless when a beloved pastor is killed in a car accident.
It seems like He has gone away for the day.
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.
We are a people obsessed with our bodies. We have attached our happiness, our joy, and our quality of life to our bodies.
We fret over our health.
We stress about our appearance.
We feel guilty about our diets.
We’re ashamed about our weight.
And so, we go to great lengths to tend to the body. We join a gym. We run here and there. We eat this and don’t eat that.
We minister to our body, but neglect our soul. We rest our eyes, but don’t fix our eyes on Jesus. We exercise our muscles, but don’t exercise our faith. We nourish our body, but find no nourishment for our soul.
In our text, everyone is looking for Jesus so that He can bless their bodies. How does Jesus respond? He leaves town. He moves on. He has come to preach and teach because His teaching is good for the eternal soul. He isn’t as concerned with what happens to the mortal body.
Today the Holy Spirit reminds us that Jesus did not enter our world 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’s go somewhere else, to the neighboring villages, so that I can preach there too. In fact, 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.
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 your diseases and ailments and injuries to strengthen your faith in Him. He uses cancer to drive you to your knees in prayer. He uses the hospital stays to remind you that you can’t do this on your own. He uses car accidents to bring His faithful servants home to heaven. 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 influenza. But the much more important eternal effects of sin have been removed.
On the Sabbath, Jesus entered the house of Simon Peter. This Sabbath, Jesus has entered His house at Epiphany.
You may be focused on your physical health, Jesus preaches that He is focused on your spiritual health. You may want healing for your body. Jesus preaches that He brings healing for your soul. You may desire a miracle cure. Jesus preaches that He gives you the miraculous cure through Absolution, Baptism, and Communion.
Jesus has entered this house to preach. That’s why He has come. Amen.