5 Epiphany proper B5                     
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 1:29-39 Sermon                                               
February 5, 2012

Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.

Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
11 "Safely Through Another Week"
364 "How Sweet The Name Of Jesus Sounds"
345 "Jesus Lover Of My Soul"
447 "Fight The Good Fight"


TEXT (vs. 29-31):  ďImmediately he [Jesus] left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simonís mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them.Ē 

            One question people have asked me over the years goes something like this:  "Pastor, do you believe in healing miracles?  Does God still heal people?"

            My immediate response is "yes."  God indeed does heal people, and he does it all the time.  Most often, we don't even give it a thought.  I know that I don't. 

            For example, every so often I'll slip a bit with my razor while I'm shaving, and I'll get a little nick on my face.  It's no big deal as far as I'm concerned, and I know with a reasonable amount of certainty that it will heal up and disappear in a very short period of time.

            And considering those times when I've shown up at church with a nick like that on my face, people don't usually say anything about it.  They might notice it at first and think to themselves, "Oh, pastor nicked himself shaving," and that's about where it ends.  Nobody really gives it much thought at all.

            We've gotten so accustomed to our bodies healing themselves that we take it for granted, especially when it's something as minor as a shaving nick, or a small bruise, or even a paper cut.  There is very little, if any concern at all that it won't heal.

            Of course there's always the possibility of infection or other bacteria getting in there and causing problems.  If that happens, then we might use a little Neosporin ointment or something like that.  But we still expect healing to occur at some point in time.

            On a small scale, we experience God's healing all of the time.  That's the way he designed us to be.  Thanks to God's ability to design, the physiology of our body is so constructed to take care of itself.  That can only be described as a continual healing miracle.

            We have white blood cells that fight infections and viruses.  Our blood is such that it will clot so we won't spring a leak and bleed to death.  Our body continues to make new cells to replace old and damaged ones.  King David writes in Psalm chapter 139, verse 14:  "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."  Our bodies themselves are great examples of God's power to heal in what we might call a normal routine fashion.  Still, we wouldn't be able to stay alive otherwise.

            Now I'm going to talk about healing on a much larger scale here in a bit, but I want to take a look at our text for this morning, which are the three opening verses of our appointed Gospel lesson for today.  Of all Jesus' healing miracles recorded in the New Testament, and I believe that there are eleven of them, this one kind of gets lost in the background.  Even so, it is still a miracle.  So let's see what's going on in this situation. 

            Simon Peter has invited everybody to his house for dinner.  Andrew his brother lived in that house, along with Simonís mother-in-law.  It was the way households in that day often were, with extended families living together.  Simonís wife would have been the one attending to the meal preparations for their guests.

            When Jesus arrives, he learns that Simonís mother-in-law is sick in bed with a high fever.  Jesus hadnít originally gone to Simonís home to heal his mother-in-law.  He was there accepting a dinner invitation.

            Now weíre not told how sick this woman was.  Our Gospel lesson says that she is sick in bed with a fever.  It might have been a simple case of the flu.  If I were to make an educated guess however, I would say that her condition was rather serious.  High fevers usually indicate some sort of serious medical issue.  I would also go so far as to say that had Jesus not healed her in the way that he did, she would probably have died from her condition.

            Jesus goes in to where she was resting, takes her by the hand, helps her up, and she is cured.  It was unceremonious and simple.  It was a healing miracle in its most basic form.  And it didnít take any recovery time either; the healing and cure were instantaneous.  She recovered immediately; and out of a thankful heart, she begins to serve her guests.  And there you have it, a miracle in just three simple verses.

            The news about Jesus spread quickly.  While he was at Simonís house, people with every conceivable malady came literally by the thousands to be healed by him.  People were regarding Jesus as a cure-all miracle drug, and not much more than that.  He had compassion on the people, and healed them.  He was in such high demand, that he had to escape early in the morning to have some alone time.  And from there, he goes to the other towns and villages, proclaiming the Gospel and healing their sick.  Our Gospel also talks about Jesus curing those people who were demon possessed, like we talked about last week.

            Okay, now to get back to where I left off.  I said that I was going to talk a bit about healing on a much larger scale.  We pretty much know that God always takes care of healing.  Physicians and surgeons can only correct things.  They have their limitations.  For example, they can set a broken leg and put it in a plaster cast.  They can even use pins and screws in the more serious cases.  But God is the one that has to provide the healing.

            Apart from this, there are those cases that I would call very miraculous, like in those cases where somebody is terminally ill and they are cured.  Without going into a lot of detail, there have been numerous instances of this.  There are those miracles that completely baffle every medical expert.  And yet they happen.  And quite often, these miracles happen following prayer.  It's like the old saying goes, "If you pray for rain, be sure to carry an umbrella."  These are the times when we just shake our head in utter amazement at how awesome God is.  Out of the billions of people on this earth, God heard the prayers for one individual person, and he answered by performing a healing miracle.  That shows his deep love for every soul upon this earth, and how much he really cares.  And more than that, it shows how personally involved he is with each one of us.

            This morning, I'm going to share a true story with you. It's an experience that one gentleman had never told anybody about, and he decided to share it with us at our police and fire chaplains' meeting this past Wednesday.  This is a testimony of his faith, and what God did in his life.

            This gentleman's mother was seriously ill and in the hospital in Sioux City.  He admitted that he wasn't very religious at the time, but he prayed for her recovery.  And as her condition got worse, he figured that praying was a waste of his time.  God just didn't care.

            The next day, his cell phone rang.  It wasn't a number that he recognized, so he let it go to voice mail.  But then it rang again, so he answered it.  There was a woman on the other end, and her English wasn't too good.  The first thing she said was, "God bless you."  He was puzzled.  "Excuse me?" he asked.  Again she said, "God bless you."

            She then went on with her story.  This was a woman who lived in Fremont.  He had never met her, nor did he know of her existence.  They were complete strangers.  She told him that in a dream, she saw a phone number.  She was then instructed to call the number, and tell the person that God had heard his prayer, and that his mother was going to be all right.  And sure enough, his mother's condition improved, and she recovered.  That literally was his wake-up call.  He knew without a doubt that God indeed does hear and answer prayer.  It was a difficult story for him to relate, but it certainly turned him into a dedicated Christian.

            God can and does work miracles.  God can use whatever means he wants to accomplish his will.  One thing we know, is that when God works a miracle, we know it is a miracle, and it is done to his glory. 

            The thing we need to remember when praying for healing, is that it is a conditional prayer.  Certainly we have faith that God can heal a person.  But we always pray like Jesus taught us in the Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done."  We have to leave such requests in the hands of God to do what he thinks is best.

            Because there are those times when God chooses not to heal someone for whatever reason he has.  And when that happens, we have to realize that it has nothing to do with the amount of faith we have or how good of a person we are.  People will get sick, and people will die.  It's a part of life.  Even with the people that Jesus healed, they eventually died.  They aren't still walking around someplace.  Jesus raised Lazarus and the Jairus's daughter from the dead.  But that lasted only for a limited time.  Their true reward is in heaven, and that's where we need to focus ourselves.

            My own father will have been dead now for six years in a few months.  As his condition got worse, I know that there were literally endless prayers made on his behalf.  Nobody wanted to see him die, especially his family.  I knew that God certainly heard all of the prayers from him and concerning him.  But the Lord's will for him was to depart this earth when he did, and inhabit his eternal mansion in heaven.  The prayer was that God's will be done, and it certainly was. 

            One thing we need to remember, is that when God created the world, he created a perfect world.  There was no sickness or suffering.  There were no vaccinations.  There wasn't even anything like an infection or a common cold.  These are signs of imperfection.

            When sin entered into the world, everything was changed.  Suddenly those unpleasant things began to be part of life.  People began to get sick and die.  And along with this, attitudes changed.  People began to commit sin and do that which was displeasing to God.  Sinful mankind became alienated and estranged from God.  His peace was shattered with rebelliousness and hatred.  If you've ever been disgusted with the way other people act and behave, just think of how God must feel about people the likes of you and me! 

            But God responds a whole lot differently than the way human logic would dictate.  Instead of showing his wrath, he shows his love.  And he did this by sending Jesus to this earth.  The Bible records only a number of people being physically healed.  But Jesus gave his very life for the sins of everybody, so that whoever would come to him in faith would receive spiritual healing.  They would receive the forgiveness Jesus won for them on the cross.               

            Sin is a disease that infects each and every one of us.  And itís here where we need to see the importance of having Jesus, who is the physician for our souls.  Sin is a problem for each of us, and it is one where we can only come to Jesus for the cure.  He tells us in Mark chapter 2 verse 17, ďIt is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.Ē

            When we come to Jesus, we find the Saviour, who is the great physician, not only for the body, but most importantly for the soul.  We come to Jesus seeking this healing when we come before him confessing our sins and desiring the forgiveness he has to offer.  We come to him in faith, knowing that he will forgive us and restore us.  We come to him with the full assurance that he loves us beyond all comprehension, and that we are restored to spiritual health through faith in him.

            When we pray for physical healing, it is a conditional prayer.  We have to leave it up to God's discretion as to how he will answer it.  Sometimes he will heal, and sometimes he won't.  In 2 Corinthians chapter 12, the Apostle Paul was suffering from something.  We don't know what it was, but it was a problem for him.  He prayed for the Lord to take it from him.  And how did the Lord answer him?  In verse 9 the Lord tells him, ďMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.Ē   This wasn't really what Paul had in mind when he prayed, but it was the way the Lord chose to answer him.

            When we pray for spiritual healing, that is unconditional.  Those blessings are always ours.  This is according to God's will.  This is best described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy chapter 2, verse 4:  "[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

            There's a lot to learn in our Gospel lesson for today.  Jesus came to this earth to save sinful humanity.  Everything he did served that purpose.  His healing miracles weren't done to impress people, but to show him to be true God and the Saviour promised from long ago.  Certainly there were people who saw him as the great physical healer or a bread king and nothing more. 

            But many did put their faith in him.  When John recorded his Gospel, he sums everything up quite well in chapter 20, verse 23:  "...so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

            When Jesus healed Simon Peter's mother-in-law, we should note what she did.  She immediately got up and served him.  We, who have received spiritual healing and restoration from Jesus, need to do the same thing.  In the spirit of forgiveness, we also need to immediately get up and serve him.  The healing he has given to us is what he offers to the world.  May the peace of forgiveness he has given to us through faith alone live through us, so that people see the working of the great physician in our lives.