Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Epiphany 5

"Healing, Hope, Restoration"

Mark 1:29-39

February 8, 2015

Today's Gospel reading speaks about healing. Jesus not only restored Peter's mother-in-law to full health but also all who were brought to Him. We all face illness and affliction. What happens if you're not healed? The TV preachers claim that if (always watch out for that little word "if") you truly love Jesus with all your heart and really believe and pray hard enough, then God will give you the best. The best of health, the best of things, the best of life are all yours if you sincerely invite Jesus to be Lord of your life. Ok. You did all that and you still weren't healed. Now what?

In today's Gospel Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law and many others. Why them and not you? [Mark 1:29-39] And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Here's the interesting part. The fever has incapacitated Peter's mother-in-law. She is not the one asking for healing. We are not told her faith made her well. We don't even know if she believed Jesus was the Messiah. The healing comes from the compassion and mercy Jesus.

Healing comes from God. So, what happens if you don't get healed? The TV preacher types claim Jesus promises health, wealth, comfort and ease. They tell you that Jesus wants you to have the best right now. If you would only strengthen your faith, pray harder and really believe your problems would disappear. The catch is this. It's all up to you. If you don't get the healing you want, it's because you either don't have enough faith or the right kind of faith.

Why do you listen to these misguided people who make Jesus out to be a liar? Affliction is part of life. Listen to what the Lord says concerning our life on this earth, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." [John 16:33] 

The reality is that affliction, suffering and trouble are part of life. When they come, you're (1) not going to like it, (2) may never know "the reason why," and (3) chances are there's not going to be an instantaneous miraculous healing. You may experience only partial healing or perhaps no healing at all. In the end, it has nothing to do with the intensity, the sincerity or the fervor of your faith. It's all determined by God will, plan and mercy.

Don't be intimidated when people challenge your faith. Don't buy into their line, "If . . . you have enough faith, pray hard enough, and REALLY believe, then God will give you what you want." Yada, yada, yada. The logical conclusion to this train of thought is if they believed all that, then they'd never get wrinkles, grow old or die. How many times have you heard one of those preachers saying, "poor old Bubba," if he really had enough faith we wouldn't be burying him today."

Suffering isn't limited to those who are afflicted. Look what happened in the Gospel reading. It was not only those who were suffering but their friends and families who were also drawn to Jesus. In times of affliction and distress we draw closer to God. Do you suppose all of these people would have been drawn to Jesus if they'd all been perfectly well? They would have seen no need of Him. There are times when the Lord uses and allows suffering to draw us to Him.

Consider how the Lord used St. Paul. He had an affliction that really bothered him. You'll remember he prayed three times for the Lord to remove the affliction. In the end, his answer was "no" to the request for healing. That "no' was accompanied with the Lord's assurance, "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul could state boldly, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [2 Cor. 12:9]

The TV preachers claim there's something wrong with your faith if you're not healed. So, what was wrong with Paul's faith? Nothing. Maybe the Lord loves you too much to remove your affliction because He has other plans.

Don't feel bad if someone accuses you of having little faith. Faith is not your bargaining chip with God. Faith is God's gift to help us cope with the challenges of life and faith. Faith draws us to pray. Prayer is important. After taking care of everyone, Jesus went off by Himself to pray. In this time with the Father, He was strengthened and rejuvenated. His quiet time with God gave Him the energy He needed to face the challenges of ministry.

Pray that in the time of affliction the Lord will (1) hold you in His love, (2) use the courage and patience He gives you as a model for others and (3) help you persevere in faith until the time of affliction is completed.

After Jesus healed the crowds, He needed time to Himself for spiritual refreshment and restoration. Restoration comes in two ways. There is physical restoration. This is seen in the many healings and miracles Jesus did. But, often, we overlook the far more important restoration, which is spiritual. Too often, we see people who were healed walk away from the Lord without even a word of thanks. In the end, their physical restoration was of only fleeting value. What's needed in spiritual restoration.

Our Lord gives us His example of quiet prayer. It is in the solitude of our private time with God that He brings us spiritual refreshment and restoration. He brings us His peace that passes understanding. He helps us cope with whatever afflictions we are dealing with in a positive way. He brings us the blessed assurance of His abiding presence in our lives and He bestows on us the grace to live as His people in the world.

Today the Lord comes to you in the assurance of His Word. He also comes to us in the sacrament to touch us with His presence. He comes to you. He comes to give you the promise of forgiveness, strengthened faith and grace to live as His child. He comes to bring us the most important healing we need, the healing of our souls. For even if your physical suffering lingers, you have been healed and made whole in the Lord. Amen.


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