Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | February 24, 2013

2013.02.24 The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus – The Healing Ministry Mark 1: 21 – 34

 Central United Methodist Church

The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

The Healing Ministry

Pastor David L. Haley

Mark 1: 21 – 34

February 24th, 2013

 

“Then they entered Capernaum. When the Sabbath arrived, Jesus lost no time in getting to the meeting place. He spent the day there teaching. They were surprised at his teaching—so forthright, so confident—not quibbling and quoting like the religion scholars.

Suddenly, while still in the meeting place, he was interrupted by a man who was deeply disturbed and yelling out, “What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you’re up to! You’re the Holy One of God, and you’ve come to destroy us!”

Jesus shut him up: “Quiet! Get out of him!” The afflicting spirit threw the man into spasms, protesting loudly—and got out.

Everyone there was incredulous, buzzing with curiosity. “What’s going on here? A new teaching that does what it says? He shuts up defiling, demonic spirits and sends them packing!” News of this traveled fast and was soon all over Galilee.

Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and Andrew’s house, accompanied by James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. He went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them.

That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn’t let them say a word.”– Mark 1: 9 – 13

Not all of you – but surely some of you – have had the fantasy I have had: to walk through an intensive care unit, to lay hands on the patients, and to make them well and whole. Actually, I would be thrilled if I could do that just for those of you who are ill here in our own congregation. Because when we do such things, in whatever way possible, we continue the healing ministry of Jesus as described in the Gospels.

It is the healing ministry of Jesus that we think about today as we continue our Lenten series, The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus, produced by Adam Hamilton, pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, KS.

But unlike Adam Hamilton, who sometimes preaches 45 minutes, I have only a few minutes to introduce the video we are about to see, and note some of the issues it raises, especially in regard to healing.  Otherwise I might be the one in need of healing, after you work me over for keeping you here into the afternoon.

Last week we began our journey, joining Jesus out at the Jordan River, where he was baptized by John the Baptist. In doing so, we remembered our own baptisms. Then we followed Jesus out into the wilderness, where he was tested and tempted by Satan. In honesty and humility, we acknowledged how – at times – we struggle with temptation, and are tested, hopefully not failing – but becoming better people, and better followers of Jesus in the process.  Just as Jesus’ baptism and temptation were defining experiences for him, so are such experiences for us.

So what happened next? As we shall hear, after those experiences, Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth to make his debut. We can only imagine, after all he had been through, how pumped and ready for that he must have been.  And then we are shocked, to hear that it went badly, with his own townspeople, the people who had known him since he was a child, turning on him, throwing him out of the synagogue and out of the town, with murderous intent. An angry mob is never good sermon feedback.

Jesus then left Nazareth and went north about 24 miles, to a fishing village on the sea of Galilee called Capernaum. Can you imagine what a long, lonely, and humbling walk that must have been? After his baptism, after his temptation, he went to the people who knew him and hopefully loved him, and they rejected him; can you imagine how much that must have stung?

Since we know so little about Jesus’ life, we don’t know if he’d been to Capernaum before, but it seems quite likely. Perhaps he had already met the fishermen Simon and Andrew, James and John.  Maybe he just liked the Sea of Galilee; I can understand that.  What would Chicago be without Lake Michigan? (colder in the winter; warmer in the summer)

After he settled in, Jesus did what he always did.  He went to the synagogue, where – unlike Nazareth – they liked his teaching, were amazed at it.  One day though, events turned in a direction he may not have anticipated.  As he was speaking, a man possessed with a demon interrupted him. “Shut up and get out,” Jesus said, not to the man but to the demon, and the demon did.  Leaving the man well and whole, just as I wish I could do in an intensive care, or a psychiatric unit.  Everyone was dumbfounded!

Depending upon which Gospel you read, things progressed quickly; don’t you wonder if Jesus was as surprised as the people he miraculously healed? He went back to Simon Peter’s house, which – as you will see – was likely where he lived – and Simon Peter’s mother in law was ill with a fever.  For better or worse, Jesus healed her. It turned out for better, because she jumped up from her sickbed and made dinner. Not only compassionate, but convenient!

Then it got out of hand.  Mark 1:32 tells us that after that, Jesus had to work overtime: “That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits.”

There are many healing stories in the Gospels, which are, in some cases, extreme, even comical. For example, in the next chapter – a few days later – Jesus was teaching in Simon Peter’s house, and some men came bearing a paralyzed man on a stretcher.  Since they couldn’t close to the place because of all the people, they climbed up on the roof and cut a hole through the thatched roof, lowering the man down. How do you think Peter felt about that?  Don’t you think even Jesus had to laugh? In fact, it says, “Impressed by THEIR bold belief, Jesus said to the man, “Son, I forgive your sins.”

So – briefly – what are we to make of Jesus’ healing ministry?

The most important thing it shows us Jesus’ compassion for people, not just for their souls, but for them completely: mind, body, and spirit. Because of who Jesus was, it reflects the heart and mind of God as well: even when we suffer and are sick, God has not cursed us, but if anything loves and cares for us even more than when we are well.

Therefore all of us who follow Jesus seek to show compassion on all who suffer and are ill in any way. Through the centuries Christians have founded orphanages and clinics and hospitals to care for widows and orphans, and for victims of famine and disease and war, even as we still do.

It is for this reason that many of us who seek to follow in Jesus’ footprints have found ourselves in surprising places: such as hospitals and hospices and nursing homes and clinics. Many of you are healthcare professionals, and I know one of the ways that you follow Jesus, is as you care for people, with skill and compassion. It’s definitely been an important part of my life, as I have cared for people, not only as a pastor, but when I worked in an emergency room, as a chaplain, and as a firefighter-paramedic. Through such ways, I got to live out my fantasy of caring for people, not just spiritually, but body, mind, and soul. Through such experiences, I too have been changed, and shall be forever thankful.

As for the question of how did Jesus do it?  Let me tell you: I don’t know. As Adam Hamilton says, “It’s complicated.”  Certainly, in the ancient world, their understandings were limited. When they reached the limits of their knowledge, they attributed illness to demons or spirits. Some of the things they attributed to demons, we recognize: fever, skin diseases, epilepsy, or schizophrenia, to name just a few.  And, in fact, we occasionally still use such language: do we not say, of addicts or alcoholics or schizophrenics, “He/she could never escape his/her demons.” Surely we could say that of Adam Lanza, for example, who committed the Newtown massacre.

As for how Jesus did it, if only we knew, we could save a fortune on health care expenses and a big part of our country’s economic problems.  Maybe Jesus was a faith healer.  Maybe it was the placebo effect, that if one believes a medicine is effective, it is, even if it is just a sugar pill.  Maybe it was the mysterious power of God, working through Jesus in a unique way, unrepeatable way.

What I do know is this: we wish we had Jesus’ power to make people well and whole today. In fact, some of us do, through the care we give to others, whether professional, pastoral, or personal. And even if we may feel like we don’t or can’t, what we can do is be a stretcher-bearer, like those men in the story.

Adam Hamilton puts it this way: Everyone needs at least four friends who will be your stretcher-bearers, who – even if you call them at three in the morning – will be there for you.  And the only way you can get such friends – stretcher-bearers – is to be a stretcher-bearer for others.  At the very least, will you consider carrying on the healing ministry of Jesus in such a way?

Let’s go now with Adam Hamilton to Capernaum, where Jesus did these mighty works.

[Note: In worship, I used the 10-minute excerpt contained on The Way DVD.  For the reader, I recommend you use the link below to view Adam Hamilton’s longer version, as originally delivered to his congregation on March 4, 2012 and may be viewed here:

http://www.cor.org/worship/sermon-archives/show/sermons/Jesus-Healing-Ministry-in-Capernaum/

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