Cured by Christ’s Forgiveness
Mark 1:29-39 (Isaiah 40:21-31, 1 Corinthians 9:16-27)
Epiphany 5 – Series B
Mark 1:29-39 (ESV)
29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.
31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.
33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door.
34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him,
37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.”
38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”
39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” Well, apparently the people of Capernaum did know and had heard. Jesus had left the synagogue after driving out the demon and teaching with an authority previously unknown. He went to visit the home of His newly called disciples, Simon Peter and Andrew. Joining them were two other newly called disciples, James and John. Apparently they were going home to finish out the Sabbath with some relaxation and fellowship. Kind of like those of you who will be leaving here this morning to visit your friends and relatives.
There was just one minor problem. Simon’s mother-in-law was bedridden because of a fever. Perhaps that’s why Simon’s wife wasn’t in church that morning; she was tending her mother during her time of illness. And make no mistake this was no minor cold or flu. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick – dangerously so especially without any Tylenol or other medications to ease pain and bring her temperature down. So as soon as Jesus announced that they were going to Simon and Andrew’s house, they told Him – ‘Mom has a fever’.
Now we don’t know if they told Jesus in hope that He would heal her or out of fear that she might be contagious and desirous of going someplace else. Either way, Jesus did not alter His plans. Apparently He didn’t say a word either. He just continued to the house, entered in, “took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her.”
Now this wasn’t some partial healing, or a mere masking of symptoms such as many of our over the counter medicines do for us. The fever left her, completely and totally. We know this by what Mark writes next, “and she began to serve them.” Simon’s mother-in-law was able to immediately fulfill her vocation as hostess and meet the needs of those who had come to visit her house. She didn’t need a few days to regain her strength nor a few minutes to recover her balance. Jesus lifted her up and she began to serve her sons and their friends.
Now bear in mind that being served was not why Jesus healed her. He didn’t lift her up and say, “Now that I have healed you, hop to it. Get supper on the table and wine in our glasses. Sweep the floor, turn down the beds and put the chocolate on the pillows.” Jesus healed this woman for the same reason that He healed he demon possessed man in the synagogue that morning and the countless others throughout the region in the coming years. He healed her for the same reason that He went from town to town preaching and working miracles. He healed her for the same reason that approximately three years later He rode into Jerusalem, allowed Himself to be arrested, tortured, crucified, killed, and buried. He healed her for the same reason that on the third day He rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven and will come again to judge the living and the dead. He healed her because God is love and He wants to restore His children to the health and peace that He created us to have.
Apparently the word of this healing, along with the casting out of the demon earlier spread faster than news of a Hollywood divorce or a politicians baggage in today’s communication age. Thus the once humble house of a fisherman and his family became the hotspot of Capernaum. As soon as the sun set marking the end of the Sabbath day, the entire town turned out, bringing everyone who was sick. From the colds and flu’s, aches and pains, to fevers, cancers, arthritis, and unknowns and even a few more demon possessions who were cursing and sputtering, trying to reveal the mystery of Christ before God’s appointed time. All came in order to be lifted up and healed by the hand of Jesus. I suspect that rest and fellowship were no longer on the agenda that evening at the house where Jesus was staying.
“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” Well, apparently the people of Capernaum did know and had heard. But they did not understand. This can be seen later on in Scriptures when they abandoned the one who had healed them - who had come to restore health and peace to their souls - by demanding that He be tortured to death on a cross. A death reserved for those who were not really considered to be real people in the eyes of the Roman government.
You see, these people were more than happy to throng to Jesus when they could get the symptoms of their illness masked. They were eager to be with Jesus when He was giving them the shot in the arm to allow them to go about their lives as they saw fit. And they thought that was enough. Of course, what they failed to understand and refused to listen to is that they may have been healed, but they were not yet cured. Now don’t get me wrong. The miraculous healings that Jesus did were good and wonderful, bringing relief and comfort to all. Those diseases and demon possessions were most certainly removed completely and totally. They were definitely a sign of Jesus’ love and compassion, and a hint of the cure to come. But, these healings were simply field medicine. Patch up the patient so that he is stable until the cure can be given. The people were still terminally ill with sin, the real cause of all illness and suffering in this world, but they didn’t want to hear about the necessary cure. Who wants to think about surgery when you feel healthy? Who wants to admit that there is cancer taking over and only the most aggressive and radical of treatments will insure survival when everything in the world says that you are healthy?
We certainly don’t. For when we hear that the cancer of sin is running rampant within us and every other human conceived, born or not, we stop listening and hope that the messenger will just go away, leaving us to the delusions of health and peace that we have created in this valley of the shadow of death. We cling to the delusions that we will be able to contain and control the cancer of sin that infects every last bit of us. We down play it, seek to mask the symptoms, and deny the existence of God so as to deny the existence of sin. But it doesn’t work.
“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” The law of God has been written in our hearts. And while we are good at ignoring it, making excuses for what we have done, diverting attention to others, the truth is that the Law of God convicts our conscience’s and leaves us with no where to go but the one who heals, not just with field medicine to patch us up for awhile, but with the one true cure that is so radical and extreme that it baffles human logic and imagination.
If we want to be cured from sin and all of it symptoms of pain, suffering, disease, strife, and restlessness we must first be killed. If we want to live in peace and health we must first die to sin and death. That is the radical cure that God has prescribed to us. It is the same cure that Jesus showed to Simon’s mother-in-law and the people of Capernaum that evening. It is the cure that Jesus showed throughout Galilee as the last verse of this day’s reading says. Jesus “went throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”
You see, Jesus is much more than a field medic making us feel better so that we can continue on with life as usual. He is much more than the health and prosperity example that so many church bodies have reduced Him to be today. The shocking truth is that Jesus is not about peace and health here on earth, though He certainly grants it in an abundance far beyond what we deserve. What He is about is curing us from the sin that since the fall is as much a part of us as our soul. He is about taking the whole amount of sin that we humans can come up with and bearing it all to His cross so that we might be cured. On that cross Jesus became the terminal patient with the cancer of sin so that we might live. On that cross Jesus in His love and compassion for you died so that you might live. On that cross Jesus became the cure for us so that all the sin and death that He has paid for with His blood may be removed from us as far as the east is from the west.
Having secured the cure for sin, God lovingly and gladly administers it to all who would have it. But, as I said earlier, it is still radical. For we must be killed that we might live. The old sinful nature in us, the old Adam as Luther called it, must be killed, more specifically the old Adam in us must be drowned by the waters of Holy Baptism, in which God washes us clean and gives us faith so that we might cling to the cure for our sins, Christ Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. But old Adam is an excellent swimmer, and he keeps popping his head above the water. This is why we must, by daily contrition and repentance drown the old Adam and die to sin and all evil desires so that the new person in Christ may arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. This daily drowning of the old Adam is done as the Holy Spirit leads us to hear God’s Word and to receive His gifts of forgiveness by faith in Christ Jesus and all that He has done.
“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” Understand that in giving us the cure for sin and death, Jesus is not promising us a healthy, peaceful life here on this earth. Rather He is giving us the certainty that when He calls us to our heavenly home, all disease, all suffering, all strife will be gone, and we will know peace and health beyond our wildest imaginations. In the meantime, Jesus cures us with the forgiveness of sins, healing us now so that we might, as Simon’s mother-in-law did, serve our neighbors by fulfilling the numerous vocations that Christ has called us to, and by spreading the Word to all that we meet that you are cured by Christ’s forgiveness and they can be as well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.