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Gospel: Mark 1:29-39 (NIV)
- Hymn: CW 836 “I Walk in Danger All the Way”
- Psalm: 103B “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven”
- Hymn: CW 850 “It is Well with My Soul”
- Hymn: CW 867 “Afflicted Saint, to Christ Draw Near”
5th Sunday after Epiphany February 4, 2024
Mark 1:29-39 Pastor Ryan Wolfe
Jesus Displays His Power and Purpose
1. We see his power in the things he did
2. We see his purpose in the choices he made
When we started our Epiphany series walking with Jesus from his baptism at the river Jordan up to the Mount of Transfiguration, we said we’d learn a lot more about this Savior who was born in Bethlehem. For the last two weeks we took a bit of a detour, as we considered his love in calling us to be part of his family and the purpose he gives us as his witnesses to the world. We only have one more Sunday after this until the season of Lent begins, and today our attention turns firmly back to seeing who Jesus is.
Today as we see Jesus and the disciples in what looks like just another healing miracle and just another teaching moment, we find Jesus displaying both his power and his purpose. Maybe it’s even more striking because this is just something Jesus did all the time. We see Jesus’ power in the things that he does. And we see his purpose in the choices he makes.
In the verses before this Jesus had been teaching and casting out demons in the northern city of Capernaum. He amazed the crowds with his power over disease and demons and he taught with authority they had never seen before.
Jesus didn’t stay in Capernaum to enjoy the adoration of the people though. (Remember that for later because we’re going to come back to it again.) Instead Jesus and the disciples left and traveled east along the Sea of Galilee and then north until they came to Peter and Andrew’s home town of Bethsaida. It’s here that we realize that the power Jesus displayed to crowds of strangers is power that he uses for his disciples as well.
When they arrive they find that Peter’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. Now there are a couple things we learn here, but first let’s get one side point out of the way. Yes, Peter had a mother-in-law. And that means he was married. Jesus didn’t ask the disciples to “put away” their wives in order to follow him. In fact, Peter wasn’t the only Apostle to be married. In 1 Corinthians 9 the Apostle Paul is talking about his right to expect financial support from the congregation and he writes, “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?” Apparently not only were some of the Apostles and Jesus’ own brothers married, but they took their wives along with them as they went out and preached the word. God’s command for the leaders of the church is not that they be single and celibate, but that they be faithful. May God give his church faithful pastors, married or not.
But as I said, that’s just a side point. Our focus here is on Jesus’ power. And his power is clear in this account from beginning to end. See his power over illness. This isn’t a new teaching or something you haven’t heard before. But that doesn’t mean we always remember it. Over Christmas break my family had the same bug that went through so many of your families too. It went from my wife to one kid and then the next. Thankfully it wasn’t a big deal but while I was prepping this sermon I realized that going to God for help was about the last thing we did. It was soup and rest and medicine. It’s so natural to try to fix it on our own instead.
And while that’s a pretty minor example, I think it reminds us of a common not-so-minor problem. Life gets tough and we forget that we are followers of the one who controls all things. How many times do we have to see Jesus heal the sick, or cast out demons, or calm the storm before it gets through our thick, sinful heads? Jesus has power! And he’s promised to use it for us to work in all things for our good!
At least Simon Peter remembered that. Verse 30 says, “they immediately told Jesus about her” The first thing Peter did when he learned his mother-in-law was sick was to go to Jesus. How much simpler would our lives be if we would take our needs to Jesus first. It makes me think of the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus. You remember it, “oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to him in prayer.” Prayer is our way of asking Jesus to come into our house and take care of our families. We see Jesus’ power in accounts like these, and prayer is God’s way of giving us access to that power.
Verse 32 says that in the evening, after sunset, the whole town gathered at Peter’s door and Jesus healed all kinds of diseases and cast out many demons. To see Jesus clearly this Epiphany you need to see him not just as a friend and brother, but as the divine Son of God with power over all things too. Whatever your worry is, Jesus has the power to deliver you from it. The next time you’re in trouble, the next time you’re lonely or afraid, the next time you need something, anything – take it to the Lord. His answer may not be immediate, it may not be the way you want it, but it will come. And when it does it will be exactly the answer you need. That’s the promise of our powerful Savior.
Here at Peter’s house though, we see Jesus purpose as well as his power. It would have been easy for Jesus to tell the crowd that night to come back the next day. Jesus had spent the morning teaching in the synagogue. He had walked all the way to Bethsaida. Any of us might have been tempted to put our feet up, lock the door, and have a quiet night to ourselves. Not Jesus. He shows his purpose in coming to Bethsaida by setting aside his needs and serving the people. As we watch Jesus we learn that there is never a time we can’t “drop in on him.” He’s never too busy or too tired to listen to you.
But there wasn’t just physical healing going on that evening; there was spiritual healing as well. Jesus helped the many demon-possessed people there by driving out the evil spirits that had taken up residence in them. This obviously demonstrates Jesus power over Satan and his minions but it also demonstrates Jesus’ loving forgiveness. Demon possession is not a random thing. You don’t get possessed just because you walked past the occult section at a bookstore. In our country today, Satan seems to prefer to work from the shadows. He captures more souls here by letting people think he doesn’t even exist. But talk to enough pastors and they’ll tell you that the occult occurrences we do come across seem to usually come by the invitation of the people involved. A person rejects God’s Word, spurns God’s love, and seeks mysteries and truth from Ouija boards and tarot cards and those willing to tap into Satan’s power. Jesus could have said to those demon possessed: “You made your bed, now lie in it,” but he didn’t. Instead by driving out their demons Jesus was really saying: “I forgive you. I want you as my child.”
Isn’t that what Jesus says to us this morning? We may not be possessed by demons, but we are possessed by sin. Addicted to pornography, alcohol, or entertainment. An attitude of pride towards everything and everyone around us. Or just the natural selfishness that looks out for our own interests first. As surely as they were captured by demons, we are captive to some sin. But Jesus says to you today, “I forgive you. I want you back. I’ve brought you back.” But don’t take my word for it; take God’s word for it – the word of love and forgiveness he spoke at your baptism. There is no sin-stain, no matter how filthy, that can withstand the cleansing flood that is baptism. And that baptismal flood has also broken sin’s fingers so that even though a certain temptation may have hold of you now, you can escape it as you would from a pair of broken handcuffs. Just remember what baptism has made you: God’s child, not Satan’s.
We also see Jesus’ purpose in what happens in the dark hours of that night. Before it was even light, Jesus left Bethsaida and went to a solitary place to pray. He didn’t stay with his disciples. He didn’t remain in the town where he could have been hailed as a hero. He went to be with God. And when the disciples find him and tell him that there was a crowd already waiting for him back at the house, Jesus says: “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” Jesus hadn’t come to set up a health clinic in any one town to keep everyone physically healthy.
He hadn’t come to be adored and revered as a miracle worker. He came to take care of sin, once and for all. Jesus came with power that no one else had, but he used that power for a purpose no one else could ever meet. And in his victory over sin, we brought victory to us. This is Jesus, and we see him clearly. He came to serve and save. May we serve him in all we do. Now on earth, and forever in heaven. Amen.