Mark 1:29-39 (NIV) 29 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 immediately 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.
My dear friends in Christ,
For the past three weeks we’ve talked a lot about giving. I love to see your faces as we talk about the gifts we have been given and the opportunities we have to give back. I love to see the children’s excitement when they bring their coins up and drop them in the noisy offering. Today our attention shifts a little bit, but not too far! Everyone knows what today is, right? We can’t help but know that today is Super Bowl Sunday. Minnesota is hosting the game in the bold north, and if you haven’t heard anything about it, you probably haven’t had your TV on or tried to drive in downtown Minneapolis.
Have you noticed all the giving ahead of the Super Bowl? For 52 weeks, the Super Bowl committee has been giving to local charities in Twin Cities communities. That’s not the only giving that has taken place. Maybe you heard this one on Thursday night’s news cast. Four months ago, Wyatt Mathews’ dad, Wayzata police officer Bill Mathews, was struck and killed while cleaning debris from Highway 12. Wyatt is 7 years old. He and his mom, Shawn, miss him every day. It’s tough to lose your dad when you’re 7! This week Shawn received a phone call asking, “Would Wyatt and you like to go to the Super Bowl?” They received 4 tickets. Wyatt, who is a huge Patriots fan, is really excited to go!
There’s something that giving, whether it’s money or Super Bowl tickets, can’t do—it can’t take away the reality of pain, or the deep heartache of grief. No matter how many charitable donations go to the Super Bowl host city, there will still be poverty and hunger. No matter how many tickets they give, unnecessary deaths will still occur. What can take away the hurt? What can heal the pain of a broken heart?
Our gospel for today says, “Jesus can! Jesus can heal—he can take away the hurt and the pain!” In the first 2 chapters of Mark’s gospel, Jesus began to share the good news about the kingdom of God. He called Peter and Andrew, James and John to follow him as his disciples. He amazed people with his teaching in the synagogue, and he even drove an evil spirit out of man.
After the synagogue service Jesus, James, and John went to Peter’s home. When they arrived they found Peter’s mother in law sick in bed with a fever. Without a word, Jesus took her by the hand and helped her up. She was well! The fever had left her! Jesus had more healing to do. “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons” (Mark 1:32–34 NIV). It didn’t take long for the crowds to gather. As soon as the sun set and the Sabbath ended the people came out in force, hoping beyond all hope that Jesus would take away the pain and heal their suffering. He did, and it must have been exhausting work. Jesus already had a busy day, preaching in the synagogue. Then, as the day came to an end, everyone mobbed the house. Jesus didn’t have much time to rest!
Early the next morning Jesus left the crowds behind and found some time for prayer and meditation. When the disciples found him they said, “Everyone is looking for you!” (Mark 1:37 NIV). Jesus’ reply? “Let’s go somewhere else” (Mark 1:38 NIV). Really? How could Jesus abandon all these people who needed his help?
Don’t we feel the same way? We need Jesus’ help, his healing—his miracles in our lives. How often have we prayed for a miracle for Eliana Shah? Healing for Pastor Jake? We have family members dealing with cancer, the aftermath of heart attacks, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and dementia, grief. We come to Jesus, mobbing him, hounding him, begging him, “Heal us, Lord, heal us!”
When nothing happens, do we throw our hands up in the air and groan along with Job, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope. Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again” (Job 7:6–7 NIV)? We feel abandoned. We sink into hopelessness. We tell ourselves that no one really loves us, no one really cares—not even our God. If he really loved us, if he really cared, he would place his healing hands on us and we and our loved ones would be healed.
When we feel and act this way, we’re trying to put ourselves in control. We are tempted to tell God what to do and how to do it in order to make things “right” again. We forget that we don’t see the big picture. Remember how our plans compare with God’s wisdom and intellect? “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8–9 NIV). If we are busy telling God what to do and how to do it, we have dethroned the Creator of heaven and earth. We have brought him down from the heights and made him our equal. How is that going to work out for us?
Please understand—we need to come to the Lord with our prayers and requests. We can ask him for miracles. He isn’t going to turn us away. Jesus tells us to come. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7 NIV). Remember, Jesus gives healing and freedom from pain and suffering in his own way, in his own time. Jesus probably healed hundreds of people that Saturday evening and maybe even into Sunday morning. More came but Jesus didn’t heal them. Does that mean Jesus cared more about some than others?
Showing compassion and mercy to the sick and suffering was vital for Jesus—it came from his heart of eternal love! That’s why he took the time to heal. He also knew that he had come for something more important than just using his healing hands. Listen again: “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come” (Mark 1:38 NIV).
Jesus healing hands brought temporary relief. No matter who he healed, it wouldn’t stop death’s incessant march. The people he healed would eventually fall ill again and die. That’s what sin does. That’s how it has ruined our world. Jesus didn’t come to bring a temporary solution to sin and death. He came to destroy those enemies. The only way to destroy them and offer real healing was through his Word. “That is why I came.”
Super Bowl tickets and charitable donations are wonderful gifts. The people who benefit from them will enjoy them, but then they will come to an end. The Super Bowl will be over Sunday evening. The celebrations will fade and the excitement will slip away. A 7 year old boy and his mom will still hurt and grieve.
Jesus came to bring real hope, real comfort, real salvation. That’s exactly what he did. “So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons” (Mark 1:39 NIV). Preaching– announcing the good news, “I am the Messiah, the one promised long ago!” Jesus’ words brought hope and life. He made sure that everyone knew who was speaking and where those words came from. Jesus prevented the demons from witnessing so that no one was confused about his mission. Jesus’ opponents already thought he was working on Satan’s side. Jesus made sure everyone knew that he spoke his own words, the Word of God himself!
Which of Jesus’ words bring you the most comfort? ““Son, your sins are forgiven”” (Mark 2:5 NIV). “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25 NIV). “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1–2 NIV84). “It is finished!” (John 19:30 NIV). Or, the words of the risen Savior? “Peace be with you!” (John 20:21 NIV).
Jesus’ compassion, mercy, and healing are powerful. Sometimes he performs a miracle for us and preserves life and health. When the healing doesn’t come, when the pain doesn’t dissipate, when death arrives anyway, his words are just as powerful and comforting. On Tuesday afternoon I stopped at Regions hospital to see Judy Jahnke. She was struggling for breath. Her heart was working harder than normal to beat. She was bleeding internally and her kidneys were struggling to keep up. We prayed for Jesus to heal her, but she found more relief in Jesus’ promise that he was her Savior. He had taken away her sins, and she relaxed in her victory. Jesus had gone through the pain and suffering for her. He defeated death, and she wasn’t afraid when Jesus’ angels came to take her home to heaven. Our strength lies in God’s Word—words that bring comfort, words that bring hope, words that bring eternal life!
Which has more power? Healing hands or healing words? We often want the healing hands. Sometimes we have only Jesus’ healing words. They are more than enough. We have something meaningful to say at a loved one’s bedside as they struggle to breathe. We have something eternal to share when we stand in the visitation line at a funeral. Jesus’ words are our lifeline in the middle of depression’s darkness. They winch us out of the darkness into the light. Jesus’ words are healing. Read them and experience it for yourself. Share them, and touch someone else with Jesus’ healing. Healing hands or healing words? Both are incredible blessings, but Jesus’ healing words last for eternity! Amen.