Pastor Scott Andrews | January 14, 2024
We just finished the latest frenzied edition of Christmas, so forgive me as I continue to mine its wealth like the ghost of Christmas past. Post Thanksgiving, we put up trees and decorations, played the season’s special music and holiday movies, shopped and bought gifts, attended Christmas parties – the only thing missing was snow. Well, and maybe Jesus.
As Christians, we know if we get caught up in the trappings of the season, we will miss the reason for the season. We can 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 acknowledging the birthday person? Decorate, wear party hats, buy each other gifts, gather around dinner and birthday cake – and never sing happy birthday – never acknowledge the honored guest. Many do that very thing every December 25. It is the biggest birthday celebration of the year where the actual birthday Person is never recognized. Think about it – a birthday where we’re not even allowed to acknowledge Jesus at many public and governmental offices.
We have been in a study of the Gospel of Luke for a while now, and Luke does not want us to miss Jesus. For example, He told us more about the birth of Jesus than any other gospel. He wants us to know who Jesus is and focus our attention on Him. You see further, as we read bible stories, if we’re not careful, we can get sidetracked by the trappings/miracles, and miss the message. We want our own miracles – healing, exorcisms, multiply my bread and fish, control nature and make it snow, and miss the miracle worker.
Luke does not want us to miss Jesus. Having finished the lengthy birth narratives introducing Jesus, he has begun with His ministry – and right away, some rather spectacular things happen. But consider, there were likely hundreds of miracles Jesus performed during His three-year ministry. John told us, if all were recorded, he doubts all the world’s books could contain the story. So, with so many from which to choose, why did Luke tell these particular stories?
Because he doesn’t want us to miss Jesus. Remember, he told Theophilus he was writing an orderly account of the life of Christ so we can know with certainty the things we have been taught. Luke then proceeds, in carefully selected stories, to prove Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world – exactly who we’ve been taught He is. In a world spiraling out of control and denying Jesus, Luke says, you can trust the One in whom you have believed.
In that carefully researched account, Luke started with John the Baptist – the forerunner to the Messiah – just as Isaiah prophesied. And ultimately, thirty years later, John baptized Jesus, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the voice of the Father was heard from heaven, You are My beloved Son.
Jesus was then driven by the Spirit into the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan. You see, having been introduced, Satan sought to destroy God’s mission and failed miserably. Jesus then began preaching the good news, the kingdom of God is here, repent and believe the gospel. While Luke hasn’t told us yet, the other gospels tell us He has by now called His first disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John.
Which brought us to the first miracle – at least, in Luke’s gospel. It wasn’t actually His first miracle – John records the first one was at a wedding in Cana, turning water into wine. But here, Luke has a purpose. Don’t miss it, he wants us to know who Jesus is. And he doesn’t want us to be sidetracked by miracles. He doesn’t want us to miss Jesus. So, the first recorded miracle is an exorcism. That’s stunning – Satan had thrown down the gauntlet – tempted Jesus. And Jesus, having successfully resisted the temptations, now begins to invade Satan’s territory.
Jesus went to Capernaum. On the Sabbath, He 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 Luke – Jesus is different – He says and does things with divine authority. Who is this Man, what is this message?
While at the synagogue, a demon-possessed man 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 of Jesus’ miracles 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 again amazed at His authority. They were beginning to understand Jesus was different. So, don’t to be sidetracked by the miracles – they’re supposed to help us understand who Jesus is – He’s the Son of God.
Which brings us to our text today. It’s the same day, a long day of ministry. It’s still the Sabbath after the exorcism at the synagogue. Jesus then goes to Simon’s house there in Capernaum. That’s Peter, and we read in Mark it’s also his brother Andrew’s house. We pick up the story in Luke 4:38-44.
Jesus had already proven His authority over demons – in fact, as I mentioned last week, there are four specific exorcisms in this gospel demonstrating Jesus’ power over the forces of evil. Now, He demonstrates His power over sickness – there will be lots of healing stories in Luke. He will also demonstrate His power over nature – there will be nature miracles. So catch that: Jesus demonstrates His power over demons, sickness and nature. But don’t get sidetracked – if you do, you’ll miss Luke’s purpose, and you’ll miss Jesus. By the way, in the next chapter, Jesus will demonstrate His power over sin – His authority to forgive sin. And by the time we get to the end of the book, He will demonstrate His power over death when He is raised from the dead.
It’s really a fairly simple miracle today – followed by a summary of many other miracles not recorded in specifics. Here’s our outline:
- Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-law (38-39)
- Then, Jesus Heals the Crowds (40-41)
- And then, Jesus Preaches the Kingdom to the Rest (42-44)
By the way, I’ll also end by giving a few thoughts about healing today. After the synagogue exorcism, Jesus and four disciples Mark tells us – Peter and Andrew, James and John – go to Peter’s house. Now, while Peter and Andrew were from nearby Bethsaida, apparently by this time they had a home in Capernaum – makes sense – it was a bustling fishing town. Notice Peter had a mother-in-law, which means he was married. In fact, I Corinthians 9 refers to the fact Peter had a wife – which messes with Roman Catholic doctrine since the first pope was married.
This is the first of many mentions of Peter’s house. Most times, we read they went to the house, but we’re supposed to understand that’s Peter’s house. It appears to become the place where Jesus stayed Capernaum – His base of operations in His 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. Why? Well, 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. There are some early Christian symbols on the walls of the house, which was unusual, and it was a large house, which would accommodate many – perhaps the early church. I don’t know if it was Peter’s house, it’s possible – and it would certainly be like this house.
Upon arriving, they – presumably Peter, Andrew, maybe Peter’s wife – spoke to Jesus about Peter’s mother-in-law. She was lying sick with a high fever. Interesting, the other gospels call it a fever, but Dr. Luke calls it a high fever. Now, the word fever is a general term which speaks of different kinds of sickness. But, at this time, without modern medicine, a fever was serious. Remember, no healing miracles have been recorded at this time in Luke, but it’s likely Jesus had already performed some. The point is, their first response when someone was sick was to go to Jesus. What’s our first response? The doctor? WebMD? The point is, they didn’t miss Jesus.
Verse 39 tells us about her healing – no fanfare – it’s quite simple. In fact, in the gospels, there doesn’t appear to be any specific formula or procedure Jesus used to heal people. Sometimes He touched them, sometimes they touched Him. Sometimes He simply commanded – sometimes He wasn’t even present. Sometimes the faith of the person is mentioned, sometimes not. Most times, it was immediate, once it was gradual. We’re supposed to see the authority of Jesus. Don’t miss Jesus.
Well here, we read Jesus rebuked the fever, and it left her. That’s interesting, rebuked is the same word as in verses 35 and 41 when He rebuked demons. This has caused some to suggest this sickness was caused by a demon. I don’t think so – it’s just a way of referring to sickness as an enemy. Jesus had authority over the spiritual world, and the physical world. Mark says He 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 compassion.
Notice, when the fever left, she immediately got up and waited on them – the word is served them – probably speaking of domestic duties like feeding them. Don’t be bothered by that – this was her responsibility, and Luke simply records it to show she was fully healed and able to go about her duties. One minute she was sick with a high fever, the next minute she was up scurrying about the kitchen. 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. It’s a hallmark of the Christian faith – we serve Him by serving one another.
Which brings us to our second point in verses 40-41. When the sun was setting – that is, after the Sabbath ended at sunset and people were free to move about – they began bringing all those who were sick with various diseases. Mark says, the whole city gathered at the house. And why not – He had just demonstrated His power over demons and sickness in the first two miracles.
Word spread about Jesus’ authority, so great crowds of people gathered all their sick and possessed to be healed. Look at verse 40 – And laying His hands on each one of them. Again, we find the unusual description of Jesus laying His hands on sick people. That’s found nowhere in either the OT nor rabbinic literature. And He healed them. The implication is, He healed all who were brought. We are supposed to be impressed – overwhelmed – by His authority. We’ll find through the gospel narratives, it doesn’t matter what disease you had – fever, leprosy, paralysis, hemorrhaging, deafness, muteness, blindness, demon possession – even death – Jesus could heal it all.
As He cast out demons, again demonstrating His power over the forces of evil, they were shouting, “You are the Son of God!” Stop right there. Gabriel said it to Mary, the Father said it to His Son, and now, even the demons proclaim it. They knew who Jesus was. While people may be confused two thousand years later, Luke wants us to know who Jesus is. And they knew Him to be the Christ. Of course, we’re then reminded of the messianic secret. That is, He was rebuking the demons, not permitting them to speak. It wasn’t time for a premature revelation of His identity. Further, He would not have these unclean demons proclaim Him. But again, they knew who He was. And Luke wants us to know who Jesus is, don’t miss Him.
Which brings us briefly to our third point. In verse 42, we read early in the morning, Jesus left and went to a secluded place, the other gospels tell us, to pray. Jesus was a man of prayer. He was dependent on the Father through the Spirit to accomplish His mission. If true for Him, how much more, for us.
But notice, this is interesting, the crowds searched for Him, came to Him, and tried to keep Him from going away. That’s quite different from Nazareth. There, they wanted to get rid of Him, to throw Him off a cliff, in Capernaum, they wanted to keep Him. Have Him stick around. Why? Frankly, it was because He was quite the doctor. In other words, they were distracted by the miracles. They didn’t really know who Jesus was – they just liked what He could do for them.
So Jesus said to them, “I must preach [literally, proclaim good news of] the kingdom of God to other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” This is the first of over thirty references to the kingdom of God in Luke, an emphasis in Luke. I find this interesting. His purpose, His mission was to preach the good news of the kingdom. The miracles – the healings, the exorcisms were simply to authenticate His message. Did He care for people? Absolutely. Did He heal them from a heart of compassion and love? Absolutely. But His primary mission was to proclaim the kingdom. And they were so distracted by the miracles, they seemingly missed who Jesus was.
You see, later Jesus will say of Capernaum, it will be more tolerable in the judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than Capernaum. You see, if Sodom and Gomorrah had seen the miracles Capernaum saw, they would have repented. The implication is, most in Capernaum didn’t repent – that is, they didn’t receive the message of the kingdom. They just liked miracles. So, Jesus kept on preaching in the synagogues throughout Judea, likely a term used to speak of all Israel.
So what do we do with this text today? Understand, the text is not first about healing – it is about the Healer. Begging the question, do you know Him?
But, for the next few minutes, with much confusion today, let’s talk about healing. Let’s be honest, for many evangelicals, physical healing is too controversial. For some, 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. Or, they’ve taught 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.
And as a result of that wrong teaching, many have gone to the other extreme – well, there’s nothing we can do about illness – 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 know this, healing was a big part of Jesus’ ministry. Yes, no doubt it was to prove who He was and demonstrate His power over the destructive results of the curse. But, some important considerations 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? You see, we saw in verse 40 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 understand, when Adam disobeyed and ate the fruit and sin came into the world, sin brought with it a couple other things, namely, sickness and death. You know there was no sickness, no death in the Garden of Eden. But when sin came, it brought 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 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. Sin, disease and death are all part of the human condition.
But now for some good news. When the second Adam came, Jesus, 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 healing for today? You bet. But let me qualify that. We would all agree Jesus died for our sins to 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, 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 is not here in its fullness. It’s not fully here, yet. But there will come a time when it reaches its fullness, when Jesus will abolish sin once and for all. I will no longer struggle with sin when the kingdom comes in 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.
But, what about sickness? Did Jesus die so that we could be well? Certainly so. Jesus 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 will tell you, that’s because they’re in sin, and that may be true, and it may not be true. Some will tell you 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.
When Jesus came to this earth, He won. 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 enemies – the enemies of sin, 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 – that is, for my sickness right now, what am I supposed to do when I get sick – when someone in my family gets sick? I want to close with some thoughts taken right out of James 5. In that chapter, James gives 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 thoughts:
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 God can and will do something about our physical condition. I do 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 will sometimes be healed.
Last, 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. Calling for the elders to pray about a spiritual or physical sickness is not the last thing to 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 God often then uses medical treatment which 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.