Jesus Comes Today with Healing

The text for today is our Gospel, Mark 1:29-39, which has already been read.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Straight from the Capernaum synagogue, Jesus goes off to Simon Peter’s house along with brother Andrew and James and John.  Simon’s mother-in-law isn’t feeling terribly well.  “She’s been running a bit of a fever lately, which is why she missed services today,” they tell Jesus.  “Probably one of those 24-hour bug things.  A little rest, some chicken soup, a couple of aspirins, and she’ll be fine.”

Yet there is Jesus, in the little house, completely there for this woman with the flu.  He comes to her bedside, bends down, takes her by the hand and lifts her up.  At that very moment, it’s as though there was no one else in the world but this woman.  And there is no doubt as to why Jesus is there.  He is there for her.

He gently lifts her up by the hand, and the fever leaves her, without so much as a Word.  He sure makes it look easy, doesn’t He?  Simply a touch and the fever is gone.  Then she gets up from her sickbed and begins to serve them.  Puts the water on and makes some coffee and sets out some sandwiches and cookies.  Nice, but hardly the stuff of headlines.  As miracles go, this is an unremarkable one.  Almost not even worth reporting, really.  Actually, I’m more surprised to find out that Peter is married and has a mother-in-law than that she recovered from her fever after a visit from Jesus.   People recover from fevers all the time.  

About a year ago, I got home from work in the morning knowing I wasn’t feeling well.  Within a few minutes, I was in bed, shivering with fever chills under a pile of blankets.  I spent the whole day in bed.  Slept for about 16 hours, only waking up to take some more cold medicine and drink some more liquids. 

By the next morning, I was feeling fine again and ready to meet the day.  A miracle?  That’s not what we would usually call it.  I can assure you that I prayed for healing, as best I could, with the blankets piled on top of me—but you probably wouldn’t classify it as a miracle, would you?  Nor did I, to tell you the truth.

But the text would have us rethink and repent.  We’re caught in our own little version of what is called materialistic naturalism—the notion that natural events always have a natural cause.  It’s a basic assumption in the natural sciences today.  It’s one way to keep the idea of a Creator out of the creation and the curriculum.  Nature is natural, and therefore nature must have a natural cause.  Of course, it doesn’t really explain how everything can start out from nothing, but hey, that’s about as far as you can go if you want to leave God out of the picture.

Now that may be a bit over your head… or off your radar screen… or out in left field… which are all ways of saying: “So what?”  Unless you’re arguing with a Darwinist or speaking to the school board about science texts, it may not mean all that much and you may not care all that much.  But when it comes to the sneezes and sniffles, the colds and flus, and possibly, for some—even the cancers and clogged arteries—we’re pretty much materialists.  We’ve been trained by science and medicine to see natural causes as the ultimate cause, the final word on health and healing.  If the fever breaks and the flu goes away and we regain our strength to serve, then it was the pills we took or our immune system or the vitamin B shot.    

No, I’m not saying don’t go to the doctor, don’t take your prescriptions, or don’t watch your diet and exercise.  These are all gifts of God.  Use them!  But remember, these are instruments in the kit of the Great Physician in whom there is life and health.  The healing may come through medicines, miracles, or even the natural healing processes of our wonderfully designed bodies; but all healing comes from Jesus, the Incarnate Word through whom we are made and in whom there is life.  Jesus comes today with healing.

Notice that it’s all the same to Jesus—whether it’s a case of the flu or a case of the demonic.  He treats it all the same way–with His touch and His Word.  Every disease—whether the demons or the viruses, the life threatening or the simply annoying—is a sign of the Fall… the disorder of God’s ordered creation… the groanings of a world subject to futility, decay, and death.  Every illness—including those little colds and flus—are signs of our own death, mirrors of our mortality reflecting the harsh reality that we are natural born children of Adam subject to Adam’s death.  Every healing—including the little ones when the fever breaks at the end of the day—is a little resurrection, a small reminder that the One who suffered for our sins on the cross is our health and strength.  “He has taken up our infirmities… By His wounds we are healed.”  Jesus comes today with healing.

As happens in small towns, word of Jesus’ healing soon got around.  By sundown, when the Sabbath had ended, people started coming from all corners of Capernaum to Peter’s house.  They were all over the front lawn and up the driveway, trampling down the bushes and flattening the flower beds.  People were carried on mats or draped over the shoulders.  Demonized people spit and cussed and foamed at the mouth.  People lay helpless with horrible, disfiguring, contagious diseases. The front lawn looked like a trauma center… an episode of ER.  It looked like hell—that’s what it really looked like. 

The whole city was gathered together at the door of the house of poor woman who had just been cured of her fever.  And Jesus heals them all.  He heals their broken bones and their runny noses and leprosy.  He silences their demons and casts them out.  He patiently works into the wee hours of the night.  The Great Physician on his rounds, making house calls, working to the point of exhaustion.  Touching.  Healing.  Casting out unclean spirits with little more than a word.  Going from one person to the next.  One person at a time—much as He continues to come among you today.  Jesus comes today with healing. 

Christ Jesus gave up Himself into death on the cross as payment for all of the sins of the world, in the place of every man, woman, and child who has ever or will ever live.  There is not one sin, one sinner, that His holy, precious blood did not redeem.  And yet He applies this gift personally, individually, to each one—in Baptism, as the water is poured on you.  In the Absolution, as hands are touched to your head and words of life and forgiveness are put into your ears.  In the Supper, where you receive with your mouth the gifts of His sacrifice, His own Body and Blood, touching you, taking you by the hand, lifting you up from the fever of your sin and death, raising you to a life of grateful service.  All of it “for you”—as personally “for you” as Jesus was for Peter’s mother-in-law that Sabbath day.

Early in the morning, before sunrise, Jesus arises and goes off to a quiet place by Himself to pray.  You would think that Jesus would ride this wave of celebrity.  The crowds are great; the word is out.  The opportunity is ripe, and you’ve got to strike while the iron is still hot.  But Jesus goes off by Himself to pray.  The disciples go looking for Jesus and tell Him what He already knows:  “Everyone is looking for You,” they say.  

And then Jesus says a remarkable thing: “Let’s go to the next towns, so that I may preach there also, because that is why I came.”  He leaves all those diseased and demon-possessed people behind in Capernaum and goes on to the next town!

  Couldn’t He heal them anyway?  Like a general absolution?  A corporate healing?  Just wipe out all disease in Capernaum first, and then push on?  Certainly!  But Jesus doesn’t do that.  He leaves them the way they are—suffering, searching for Jesus.  He goes on from one town to the next, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.  To preach is why He came.  Jesus comes to preach.  To preach that the kingdom of God has come in His coming.  That’s what the miracles show.  They are signs of the new creation, signs of the resurrection, sneak previews, not the main event.  Jesus comes to preach.

Preaching.  That’s number one on Jesus’ priority list.  Preaching, not healing.  And that’s kind of hard for us to understand, isn’t it?  At least when it goes from the abstract to the concrete.  Until it touches our lives where the rubber meets the road.  Healing we like.  Miracles we like.  Quick fixes we like.  Preaching, well… that’s another matter.  We generally don’t ask our pastors how many hours and days they prepare for preaching.  We’re more worried about other things: problem solving, programs, vision, leadership.  But not preaching.  Not real Law and Gospel preaching.  Yet Jesus said that’s why He came—to preach.

Our priorities are upside-down.  We expect all the wrong things.  We want Band-Aids from God.  A quick fix.  Something to make me healthy, wealthy, and wise.  We want answers to all our perplexing questions.  We want healing for our diseases.  We want our demons silenced.  And all Jesus wants to do is preach.

So why did He even do the miracles?  They’re a “sign” that reveals who Jesus is.  He is the active agent behind all healing—the Creator and Redeemer of the world.  Simon’s mother-in-law would probably have gotten better on her own.  But even if Jesus had never visited her house to bend down at her bedside, her healing would have still been by Jesus.  Jesus was simply showing Himself for who He is—our Creator and Redeemer, the One who made us and the One who saves us.  Every healing, no matter how it happens (no matter on whom it happens) is the work of Christ.  The miracles simply leave out the middle man—the doctor, the HMO, or the big pharmaceutical company—and point directly to Jesus.

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 disease is to die, and to drop all of our diseases and demons into the black hole of His death.  The way He heals us is not to give us Band-Aids and bromides, but a death and resurrection.  Death and resurrection is the way that Jesus brings healing and life. 

The miracles just point the way to Jesus.  They are not an end in, and of, themselves.  Faith in Jesus is not faith in miracles.  It is faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ.  Faith that is born of miracles needs miracles to keep it going.  True faith given by God trusts even when the road seems the darkest.

The fact is, Jesus didn’t kneel down at every bedside, as He did Simon’s mother-in-law.  Nor did He cast out every demon and heal every disease.  Sometimes He just pressed on to the next town with His disciples, and maybe you weren’t one of the lucky ones.  But that didn’t matter.  Because every healing, when it comes, however it comes, comes from Jesus.  And every prayer for healing is answered positively in the resurrection from the dead.

I tell people that.  I’ve done so at their bedside and I’ve done so at the funeral for their loved one who has died from sickness.  It isn’t God’s desire that you are sick.  Nor does God cause disease.  It is a consequence of sin.  But I also tell them that when we pray for health and healing of a Christian, that prayer is always answered “yes.”  The only thing we don’t know, and the only thing we can’t say, is when or how.  Perhaps you might be like Simon’s mother-in-law and simply rise up from your bed and head straight for the kitchen.  Or you may spend a few days in bed before you rise.  Or maybe months.  Or you might die first before God grants that healing in the resurrection.

Jesus didn’t come to put a temporary bandage on our wounds.  You know what happens to bandages; they wash off in the next shower.  Jesus came to heal our wounds ultimately and finally, once and for all.  He came to preach, to proclaim the kingdom, to suffer, die, and rise and so to deal decisively with the cause of disease and death. 

In His death and resurrection, Jesus took all creation with Him.  He bore not only our sins on the cross; He bore our sicknesses, our frailties, our weaknesses.  He defeated the devil and demons that hound us.  He defeated death itself. 

And if He leaves things as they are for a moment, if He leaves a few devils lurking around, and a few diseases uncured for the time being, the victory remains.  Christ has conquered death.  And He gives us the victory.  And there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from God’s love in Christ—not the devil and his demons, not terrible accidents, not cancers or bullets or viruses or whatever else.

The fact is Peter’s mother-in-law would get sick again.  There would be other colds and flus and fevers.  One day, she would die from one of them.  The medical report and her obituary would read that she “died of natural causes.”  Again, that naturalism of ours.  Death by natural causes, as if death were nothing more than the natural order of things.

But the ultimate cause of death is anything but natural.  It is the unnatural wages of our sin, the chaos of our rebellion, the disorder of our humanity living in denial of God and making gods out of ourselves.  All those diseased and demonized people whom Jesus healed would one day die of something.  But they would know, as Peter’s mother-in-law would know, whom to trust in the day—the One who touched them with His healing touch, the One who silenced their demons with a Word, the One who hung on a cross in the darkness and rose from the dead in the early morning.  They would know that though they die, yet in Jesus they would live; and living and trusting Jesus, they would never die forever.

One day you will die, too.  And there won’t be any easy answers or quick-fix miracles.  But Jesus will be there as He always is.  He will reach down to you and take you by the hand, and raise you up from your grave.  And then all those prayers for health and healing you ever uttered, and all the prayers that others prayed for you, will find their “yes” and “amen” in your resurrection.  Jesus heard them all—all those sighs and groanings and prayers.  He heard them.  And He’s already done something about them.  He died and rose from the dead, and took you with Him.

  You know that.  Now believe it.  Jesus comes today with healing. 

There was an interesting change in the post-communion blessing with the new hymnal.  Have you noticed it?  “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.  We used to say “in the true faith,” but now we say “in body and soul.”  

While I greatly appreciate the old and its emphasis on right believing, the new is a reminder that Jesus came to deal with your death and conquer it… that what is good for your soul is also good for your body… that He is the ultimate Source and Cause of your own health and strength… and that there is a coming Day when you will finally realize and receive this in your own body.  On that Day, Jesus will bend down to your grave, take you by the hand, and awaken you from death to life just as He once raised Peter’s mother-in-law from her sickbed.
But you don’t have to wait to see Jesus.  Jesus comes today with healing.  You’ve been touched by God in the water of your Baptism.  You hear the Word of His preaching.  You receive His Supper, what the ancient church called the “medicine of immortality.”   In these means of grace, you have His Word of promise to you.  You have healing.  You have eternal life.  You are forgiven for all of your sins.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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