Download or listen to the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany: “Not Satisfied” (Mark 1:29-39)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus were here today? Wouldn’t it be great if He were here doing the things He does in the Gospels? This is an election year. You hear occasionally from people of various political parties that it would be good if some president or another were president today. Maybe Ronald Reagan, or Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. And if that particular president were president today, things would be so much better in this country. But we know it’s probably not true. I sometimes get the impression that that’s how we think about Jesus. We think it’d be great if He were here, but we fear it might not be true. Isn’t that sometimes why we pray “Thy will be done”? To let God off the hook? Just in case He doesn’t come through with what we think is best? On the other hand, if this Jesus in the Gospel of Mark were here…the Jesus who goes out of the synagogue, where He has just cast out an unclean spirit. He immediately goes into the house of Simon’s mother-in-law, they tell Jesus that she’s lying in bed with a fever, and He reaches out His hand, lifts her up, and the fever is gone. No long period of recovery. She is instantly whole and healthy, and she immediately begins to serve them.
Apparently the report spreads through the town, because by the time the sun goes down people are crowded around the door of the house. The sick, the suffering, the dying, the demon oppressed and possessed. And Jesus heals them; He casts out the demons. At some point, Jesus gets up and goes out to a desert place to pray. It’s not too long before Simon, and probably Andrew, James, and John, come searching for Him. Simon says, “Everyone’s looking for You.” But Jesus says, “Let us go on from here; let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may preach there also. For this is why I came out; this is why I came out of the house, out of the town, into the desert to pray: to go on to the next towns.”
Maybe we don’t want this Jesus after all. He might come here, heal a few people, and then move on. And isn’t that at the heart of modern doubts about God? Why does He seem to heal some people and not others? Why doesn’t Jesus heal everyone in Capernaum, or everyone in the Middle East, or everyone in the world? Why doesn’t He put an end to the devil’s work now? Surely you’ve asked those questions, either about yourself or about those you love. And we are very humble about it: all we want is just a few more days, a few more years with our loved ones, a little better health, a little more peace of mind. Is that too much to ask, Jesus?
But Jesus is not satisfied with giving people a few more hours, days, weeks, months, or years. He is not satisfied with a little more health for people who are dying. So He goes out of that town, and out of the next one, and the next, and the next, until He gets to Jerusalem. He goes there to do what you will all do: He goes there to die. And He dies for the same reason you and I will die: because of our sin. And His life is cut tragically short. I mean, think of all the good He could have done if He hadn’t been crucified at 33 years old. It’s really too bad. But He apparently didn’t think so, since He repeatedly told His disciples that that’s what He was going to do. He was going to Jerusalem to die. But He was not satisfied with just dying. He wasn’t satisfied with descending into hell to tear its gates from their hinges. He rose from the dead on the third day, body and soul, God and Man, to make sure that His healing was not only for a few people. He rose to make His healing universal. Not just for your body; and not just for your soul. Jesus doesn’t think in terms of soulless bodies or bodiless souls. He rises from the dead to heal people. And He goes out from that grave to go on to other places, places like this, with people like you.
The people may not be beating down the doors, but Jesus is still doing His work of healing. He is here today. He still baptizes people to save them body and soul. He’s still speaking His Word of forgiveness, still giving you His Body and Blood for your body and soul. Now, maybe you or your loved ones are sick today, and you wonder if God is going to heal you or them. I don’t know whether He will heal you temporarily. But I guarantee you, I promise you in the Name of Jesus, that if you belong to Christ, He will heal you. The day is coming when you will see Him face to face, and on that day, there will be no more sickness to heal. No more demons to cast out. No more sin and death to defeat. There will be no more breast cancer to cure. In that day, in that creation, there will no longer be an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days (Isaiah 65:17-20). Jesus will not be satisfied, until He brings you safely there.
And if He should grant you a few more hours, a few more days, a few more years, He does it for the same reason that He raises Simon’s mother-in-law from her bed: she gets up in the strength of Jesus’ Word, in His life, and she begins to serve those in the house. Jesus does not heal you in this life so you can cross off the items on your bucket list; He heals you so that you can get up from your bed every morning and serve your neighbor. You can go out from this house, in the strength of Jesus’ forgiving Word, with His Body and Blood—His life in you—and serve your neighbor: your family, those around you, in the place where God has put you, to serve those whom He has given to you. That’s for this life. But Jesus will not be satisfied until you stand in the new creation, in the Resurrection, in Him forever, whole and healthy.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 2/4/12