December 6, 2015
We have entered the frenzied Christmas season. Beginning with Black Friday, which actually began Thursday night, through Cyber Monday which was actually cyber week, we’ve put up trees and decorations, we’ve gone shopping and bought gifts, we’ll attend parties – the only thing missing is snow. Well, and maybe Jesus.
As Christians, we know if we get caught up in the trappings of the season, we can miss the reason for the season. We can actually miss the celebration of the birth of our Savior. We can actually miss Jesus. Could you imagine having a birthday party – a sweet 16 party, or maybe the big 5-0, and never acknowledge the birthday person? Decorate, wear the party hats, buy each other gifts, gather around the food and birthday cake – and never sing happy birthday – never acknowledge the honored guest. Many do that very thing every year on December 25. It is the biggest birthday celebration of the year where the actual birthday Person is never acknowledged. Think about it – it’s a birthday where we’re not allowed to acknowledge Him at most public and governmental offices.
We have been in a study of the Gospel of Mark for some time now – and Mark doesn’t want us to miss Jesus. He wants us to know who Jesus is, and focus our attention on Him. You see, as we read gospel stories, if we’re not careful, we can get sidetracked by the trappings, the miracles, and miss the message, which ultimately point to the Savior. We can even want our own miracles – healing, exorcisms, multiply our bread and fish, control nature and make it snow – and miss the miracle worker.
Mark does not want us to miss Jesus. Now, Mark does not begin with the birth of Jesus like Matthew and Luke. Rather, Mark starts with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – and right away, some rather spectacular things happen. Think about that, there were no doubt dozens, perhaps hundreds of miracles Jesus performed during His three and a half year ministry. Why does Mark tell these particular stories? Because he doesn’t want us to miss Jesus. He began with that introductory title, remember? The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And Mark then proceeds, in carefully selected stories, to prove that Jesus is the Son of God.
He started with John the Baptist – the forerunner to the Messiah – just as Isaiah has prophesied. And when John baptized Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the voice of the Father Himself was heard from heaven – introducing Jesus – You are My beloved Son.
Jesus was then impelled by the Spirit to go the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan. Having been divinely introduced, Satan sought to destroy God’s mission – and failed miserably. Jesus then began preaching the gospel, saying, it’s time, the kingdom of God is here, repent and believe the gospel. He called His first disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John.
Which brought us to the first miracle – that is, in the Gospel of Mark. It wasn’t actually His first miracle – John’s gospel records that: turning the water into wine. But here, Mark has a purpose. He wants us to know who Jesus is. He doesn’t want us to be sidetracked by the miracles. He doesn’t want us to miss Jesus. So, the first recorded miracle is an exorcism. They had gone to Capernaum. On the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue to teach – and the people were amazed at His teaching – it was different; it was with authority. This is a recurring theme in the gospel of Mark – Jesus is different – He says and does things with divine authority.
While at the synagogue, a demon-possessed man was present and the demon cried out – what business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God. Don’t miss that. This first miracle in this gospel is recorded because even the demons didn’t miss Jesus. They knew who He was. So Jesus drove the demon out, and the people were amazed at His authority. They were beginning to understand Jesus was different. In other words, we’re not supposed to be sidetracked by the miracles – they are supposed to help us understand who Jesus is – He’s the very Son of God.
Which brings us to our text today. Continuing the same day – it’s still the Sabbath after the exorcism at the synagogue – Jesus and the disciple go to Peter’s house in Capernaum. We pick up the story in Mark 1:29 – let’s read through verse 34.
And Mark wants us to know who Jesus is. Jesus had already proven His authority over demons – in fact, there will be four specific exorcism stories in this Gospel demonstrating Jesus power over the forces of evil. Now, He demonstrates His power over sickness – there will be nine specific healing stories in the book. He will also demonstrate His power over nature – there will be five specific nature miracles. Catch this, Jesus demonstrates His power over demons, sickness and nature – but don’t get sidetracked by the miracles – if you do, you’ll miss Mark’s purpose, and you’ll miss Jesus. By the way, in chapter 2, Jesus will demonstrate His power over sin and by the time we get to the end of the book, He will demonstrate His power over death. Because, Mark wants us to know, He is the Son of God.
It’s really a fairly simple miracle today – followed by a summary of many other miracles not specifically recorded. That forms our outline:
- Healing Peter’s Mother-in-law (29-31)
- Healing the Crowds (32-34)
- And then I’ll end by talking about Healing Today.
After the exorcism at the synagogue, Jesus and the four disciples who are named – Simon and Andrew, James and John – go to the house of Peter and Andrew. While Peter and Andrew were from nearby Bethsaida, apparently by this time they had a home in Capernaum, which makes sense – it was a bustling fishing town. Now notice that Peter had a mother-in-law – which means Peter was married. In fact, Paul will later in I Corinthians 9 refer to the fact that Peter had a wife – which really messes with the Catholics since the first pope had a wife.
This is the first of many mentions of Peter’s house in this book. Many times, Mark will just say they went to the house – and we’re supposed to understand he was talking about Peter’s house. It appears to become the place where Jesus stayed while in Capernaum – His base of operations in the Galilean ministry. On a side note – there was a first century house uncovered in the ruins of Capernaum – close to the synagogue – that some believe are the remains of Peter’s house. There was a sixth century octagonal church built on top of it, and when it was excavated, they found the remains of a house underneath. Apparently there are some early Christian symbols on the wall, which would be a bit unusual – and it was a large house, which would accommodate many – perhaps even the early church. I don’t know if it is Peter’s house, but it is possible – and it would certainly be like his house.
Upon arriving, they – presumably Peter and Andrew, or perhaps some servants – spoke to Jesus about Peter’s mother-in-law. She was lying sick with a fever. The word fever is a general term which speaks of many different kinds of sickness. At this time, without modern medicine, a fever was quite serious. Now, no healing miracles had been recorded by this time in Mark. But it’s likely Jesus had already performed some healings. The point is, their first response when someone was sick was to go to Jesus. What’s your first response? The doctor? WebMD? The point is, they didn’t miss Jesus.
Verse 31 tells us about the healing – no fanfare – it’s quite simple. In fact, in the gospels, there doesn’t appear to be any specific formula or procedure Jesus uses to heal people – sometimes He touches them, sometimes they touch Him. Sometimes He simply commands – sometimes He’s not even present. Sometimes the faith of the person is mentioned, sometimes not. Most times, it’s immediate, once it’s gradual. We’re supposed to see the authority in Jesus.
Well here, He came to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. This was unusual. You didn’t touch a woman you weren’t related to, and you certainly didn’t touch someone who was sick. But Jesus, unconcerned about conventional and traditional norms, unconcerned with the potential for sickness, took her by the hand and raised her up. We should see this as a tender act of mercy and grace.
Now, when the fever left her, she immediately got up and waited on them – the word is actually served them – probably speaking of domestic duties like feeding them. Don’t be bothered by that – this was her responsibility, and Mark simply records it to indicate she was fully healed and could go about her duties. And what else would you do – if you had just been healed – served by Jesus? Of course you would serve Him. It’s not a sexist thing – it’s a response of love and gratitude. By the way, we should remember Jesus told the disciples the greatest among them should serve, and that He in fact came not to be served, but to serve.
Which brings us to our second point in verses 32-34. When evening came – that is, after the Sabbath ended at sunset and people were free to move about – people began bringing all those who were ill and demon-possessed to Jesus. Think about it, why not – He had just demonstrated His power over demons and sickness in the first two miracles.
And the whole city gathered at the door – that is, the door to Peter’s house. The whole city is hyperbole – word had spread about Jesus’ authority over sickness and demons, so great crowds of people gathered with their sick and possessed to be healed. Look at verse 34 – And He healed many who were sick with various diseases. When Mark says many, he doesn’t mean Jesus healed some and left others unhealed – He healed many simply means there were lots there – and He healed many people – of various diseases. We’ll find that through the gospel narratives – it doesn’t matter what disease you had – in this book, fever, leprosy, paralysis, hemorrhaging, deafness, muteness, blindness – Jesus could heal you.
Not only that, He cast out demons, further demonstrating His power over the forces of evil. Then we are reminded of this messianic secret in Mark. That is, He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was. It wasn’t time for a premature revelation of His identity. But, they knew who He was. Mark wants us to know who Jesus is, don’t miss Him.
So what do we do with this text today? I must say, the text is not first about healing – it is about the Healer. But, for the next few minutes, let’s talk about healing. Let’s be honest, for many evangelical believers today, physical healing is way too controversial. For many, we’re not even sure if healing is for today. And then, there have been those who have said if you’re sick, it’s because you’re in sin. They’ve taught that physical healing is guaranteed to the believer – and if you get a cold or cancer, and are not healed, it’s because you don’t have enough faith.
As of result of that wrong teaching, many have gone to the other extreme – well, there’s nothing we can do about illness, disease – just part of the curse. Go to the doctor, skip Jesus. Or we’ve become cynical, come on, we don’t need healing today because we have medicine, and we don’t need exorcisms today because we understand mental illness.
But let’s face it, a big part of Jesus’ ministry was healing. Yes, no doubt it was to prove who He was and demonstrate His power over the destructive results of the curse. But, some important questions for us this morning are these – is physical healing part of the believer’s experience today? Can we expect God to meet our physical needs? If Jesus is still in the business of healing spiritual brokenness, is He still in the business of healing physical brokenness?
Wouldn’t that be nice? We see in verse 34 that Jesus healed everyone who came to Him. Some suggest He virtually eradicated sickness in Galilee at this time. Great, but what about today?
We have to go back to the beginning. You have to understand when Adam disobeyed God and ate the fruit and sin came into the world, sin brought with it a couple other things, namely, sickness and death. I think you know there was no sickness, there was no death in the Garden of Eden. But when sin came, then came death, for the wages of sin is death. And when sin came, all creation came under the curse, and in came dysfunction – to include sickness. Things don’t work right.
And so, we have had to deal with sickness all our lives. About the time we get a cure for one disease, along comes another. And even though the mortality rate in America is reaching the ripe old age of 80, it’s still a mortality rate – people still die – it just takes longer. Death – disease – sin – is all part of the human condition.
But now for some good news. When the second Adam came, that is Jesus Christ, He came to undo the results of the Fall. He came to reverse the effects of sin: to cleanse people, make them whole, call them into His kingdom, and give them eternal life. So, He came to defeat not only sin, but what sin brought in with it – He came to defeat sickness and death.
So, is there healing today? You bet there is. But let me qualify that. We would all agree Jesus died for our sins and bring an end to sin. But let me ask you, do you still sin? Of course. We still struggle with the vestiges of the sin nature. We’re still immersed in a culture of sin, and every so often, probably more than we want to admit, we still sin. But the good news is, Jesus died for my sin. And I can find forgiveness when I do sin, for when I confess, He is faithful to forgive, and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.
So this is what we have to understand: there is an already-not yet tension in the kingdom. The kingdom is here among us. Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling – right now. But, there is a sense in which the kingdom has not yet reached its fullness. It isn’t fully here, yet. But there will come a time when it reaches its fullness. Jesus will abolish sin once and for all. I will no longer struggle with sin when the kingdom comes in all its fullness. There is an already, not-yet tension in which we live.
So also with death. The last enemy to be destroyed, Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15, is death. Jesus has already given us eternal life. But, do Christians still die? As far as I know. But there is coming a day, in the fullness of the kingdom, when we will no longer taste death. It, along with sin, will be abolished.
What about sickness? Did Jesus die so that we could be well? Certainly so. Jesus has destroyed all the enemies of the fall – sin, disease, Satan, and death. We’ve already seen Jesus exercise authority over the forces of evil. Do Christians have authority over demons, even Satan himself? Yes. But does that mean we’ll never face their attacks? No. Paul tells us our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the forces of evil. We have to put on the armor of God – we’re in a battle – we’ll still face the fiery darts of the evil one. But the good news is this – while we’re in a battle, the war has already been won.
So, the question remains, do Christians still get sick? The answer is, yes. Some would tell you, that’s because they’re in sin, and that may be true, and it may not be true. Some would tell you that if you just had enough faith, if you were in the will of God, you would never be sick – and that, my friends, is simply not true. We live in an already-not yet tension of the kingdom. It is here. There is physical healing available to believers, because of what Jesus did for us at the cross. But, we can’t demand healing just like we can’t demand a perfect, sinless, death-free, glorified body. We still struggle with sickness, just like we struggle with sin, and death.
Let me give an illustration of this truth that comes out of World War II. On June 6, 1944, something very significant happened – it was called D-Day. The Allied Forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. Historians tell us that for all practical forces, the war was over – the Allies had won. But it wasn’t till almost a year later, V-Day, that the fighting stopped. In fact, they tell us more people were killed after D-Day and before V-Day than at any other period of time during the war. While the war was over, the fighting wasn’t. While victory was assured, there were still battles to be fought.
That’s a lot like the Christian life. When Jesus came to this earth, it was like landing on the beaches of Normandy. God through Christ won the war. He stuck His banner in the ground and said, Satan, this is my turf now. The kingdom of God has come. Through His death for sin on the cross, and His resurrection, the battle has been won. It is finished. Sin was defeated, death was destroyed, sickness was healed. But, while the war is won, there are still battles to fight. And so we still deal with the enemies – the enemies of sin, disease, sickness, Satan, and death. But the good news is, victory is assured. So, do Christians still sin? Yes, they do. Do they still die? Yes, they do. Do they still get sick? Yes they do.
But… if there is a sense in which we live in the already part of the kingdom – if there is a sense in which Jesus’ death on the cross dealt with the results of sin – if there is a sense in which He died for my sickness right now, what am I supposed to do when I get sick – when someone in my family gets sick? What do I do? I want to close with some thoughts taken right out of James 5. In that chapter, James gives us some clear instructions about what to do if Christians get sick. He writes:
14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
I don’t have time to talk about all the truths in that passage, but let me close with two:
- Number one, we are told to pray for healing when people are sick, and the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. The fact is, we are to do something about sickness – we are to pray a prayer of faith, believing that God can and will do something about our physical condition. I believe that physical healing is for today. Jesus died to deal with every aspect of the human condition – sin, death and disease. And the kingdom is here, and the prayer of a righteous man is effective. That’s not a guarantee that we’ll never be sick – but it is a promise that we can and sometimes will be healed.
- Lastly, the instruction is given to call for the elders of the church, who will anoint you with oil, and pray for you. We do that here at Alliance. Calling for the elders to pray about a spiritual or physical sickness is not the last thing that should be done – it is the first thing. It is not what should be done as a last resort when nothing else works, it is the first thing, knowing that God often then uses medical treatment that follows to provide healing.
All that to say this as we close: Jesus still deals with the brokenness of the human condition – spiritual, emotional, and physical. We want to pray for spiritual, emotional, and physical healing. And if today, or any day, you need prayer, we stand ready to do that with you.