Jesus' Miracles Have a Purpose
5th Sunday after Epiphany
February 4, 2018
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Jesus’ Miracles Have a Purpose
Mark 1:29–39 (NIV84)
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. 32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported almost 12,000 cases of the flu this flu season that have resulted in hospitalization. That means that many thousands of people have suffered from one strain of the flu virus or another, some getting so sick they had to go to the hospital, some not recovering. And that is just the flu. What about the thousands upon thousands who have cancer or diseases affecting their heart, lungs, joints, bones, muscles and more? There are many people in our congregation, our city, our nation and in the world who are very sick.
An atheist might look at all the sickness in the world as proof that God does not exist. They might reason that if God existed he would put an end to such suffering. An agnostic might look at the diseases affecting millions and conclude that if God exists, he doesn’t care about people. Or maybe God does not have the ability to help even if he exists. What does a Christian conclude when seeing all the sickness in this world? A Christian might wonder if God can or wants to help. If Jesus can heal every sickness, why is my loved one sick and suffering? Why doesn’t Jesus heal everyone who is sick?
The Gospel from Mark today gives us some answers about why Jesus performed the miracles he did. Every miracle of Jesus had a purpose. We will consider two purposes for his healing miracles this morning. The first purpose is to heal bodies. Jesus loved people and wanted to heal their bodies from the sickness. The second purpose is the more important purpose. Jesus performed miracles to heal souls. Even more that wanting someone to have a healthy life, Jesus wanted all people to live forever with him. There is a purpose to the miracles of Jesus.
To Heal Bodies
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
Last week, we heard about Jesus preaching in the synagogue. He drove out a demon and preached the new message of the gospel to the people. Now Jesus and his four disciples go to spend the rest of the Sabbath with Simon and Andrew’s family. We don’t know much about the family life of the disciples. However, we get a clue about Simon Peter. He had a mother-in-law which means that...he was married. Being in a very hospitable culture, Simon’s mother-in-law was probably planning to prepare a nice meal for her guests and make them feel very welcome in the home. But she had a severe fever and could not get out of bed.
Jesus takes care of this problem right away. He heals the fever and she is up and serving them very soon. Of course, Jesus did not heal her so that she could serve him a meal. He heals her body out of compassion and love for her. Jesus would later turn five loaves of bread and two fish into a meal for more than five thousand people. He doesn’t need someone to serve him a meal. He actually cares about this woman whom he probably just met. So he heals her body and she, in thanks, gets up and serves.
Her immediate service also shows that Jesus’ healing was complete. Usually, we have to recover our strength after being sick. The fever may be gone but we are not immediately ready to get up and resume normal life. However, Simon’s mother-in-law recovers her strength right away because of Jesus. And she is not the only one.
That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases.
Whether it was seeing Jesus cast out the demon in the synagogue that morning or hearing that Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law, the people started lining up at the door. They waited until the Sabbath was over, when the sun went down and then brought the sick to Jesus. It has been a long day for Jesus. I know what my Sundays are like. After preaching and teaching in the morning, I can very easily take a nap if I sit in a comfortable chair and close my eyes for just a minute. Jesus preached in the synagogue, drove out a demon, healed a woman and now at the end of the day lots of people come to him for help. He could have asked them to come back tomorrow so he could get some rest. But Jesus again shows compassion. He heals those who line up at the door.
He does not heal their sicknesses and diseases to get anything from them. He does not get paid for this. He does become famous as a miracle healer but that is not his purpose. Later in this account and other times Jesus goes off by himself, away from the crowds. He heals people because he loves them. He does these miracles in this text to give physical health to the people. Jesus has compassion.
When you are sick, you can be confident of this: Jesus knows and cares about you. Christ has the ability to heal you from any disease and sickness. Pray with such confidence for yourself and for others who suffer in their bodies. At the home of Simon and Andrew, Jesus healed many miraculously. He said the word or touched them like he does many other times in the gospels and the people were healed. Can Jesus still respond to our prayers in this way? Certainly. But he can also heal through medicine, treatments, and the body’s own God-designed healing ability. When someone returns to health after being sick, we give thanks to God because he was involved, miracle or not.
But what happens when someone’s health does not improve? We must not conclude that Christ has taken his love from them. When a baby is born and is healthy, a Christian might say, “God is good.” We might say “God is good” when someone recovers from an illness. This is most certainly true. God is good. But let us not forget that God is good even when sickness, disease and injury are present. Jesus healed many out of his love for them but he has a higher purpose for healing the sick at the house of Simon and Andrew. He wants to heal their souls.
To Heal Souls
The healing miracles of Jesus did not solve people’s health problems forever. People got sick again. The daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow on Nain were raised from the dead by Christ. But they would die again. Jesus fed thousands of people at least two separate times but those people were hungry again. Jesus did not come to end all suffering on the earth. He came to open heaven to all who have sinned so people can be in that place with no more sorrow or pain.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
The crowds might have dispersed from the night before but not for long. People wanted to be restored to physical health and Jesus could have spent every hour of every day healing people’s bodies. However, Jesus knows that there is something much worse than physical suffering and death – eternal torment in hell. Jesus knows that if a person dies with sin still counting against them, that person will be wishing they were only suffering from the flu every day instead of suffering forever in hell. So Jesus does not spend all his time healing. He wants to preach the good news to many people to heal their souls.
People today are very similar to the crowds at Jesus’ time. People want to see the results of Christianity in this life. People want to feel the difference Jesus makes. People want Jesus to heal their bodies now, their finances now, their relationships now. We humans have trouble seeing past this life and into eternal life. We want the miraculous now. Jesus’ many miracles proved that he can do anything now. But most of all these miracles proved that he is who he claimed to be. He is the Christ, the Son of God. He is the Savior. He is the only way to the Father.
Sin brought all kinds of evil into this world. Sickness and disease is just a small part. In addition, sin brought death into this world. Adam’s sin means that all of his descendants are born sinful and subject to physical death as well as eternal death. Christ did not come just to cure one symptom of sin in this world, namely, sickness. Instead, Jesus came to reverse the curse of sin completely. Our sin makes us enemies of God. Jesus suffers on the cross and takes away our sins, making us friends of God. Our sin makes our bodies subject to death and decay. Jesus promises to raise our bodies to life and give us gloriously renewed bodies like his glorious body after his resurrection. By Jesus’ life and death we are justified and our sin-sick souls are declared not guilty.
This is the message Jesus wanted to bring to the towns and villages full of physically sick and sin sick people. His healing miracles gave temporary comfort to the sick. Those same miracles pointed to him as the Savior who will bring permanent healing to all who trust in him. May we always pray for the sick in this world that the Lord Jesus would heal them and/or help them to endure with faith in the God who saves souls for eternity.
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