Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 8, 2015
“Jesus Comes Today with Healing” (Mark 1:29-39)
Well, look at all those people Jesus healed! On a Sabbath afternoon, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and Jesus healed her. And then that evening at sundown, after the Sabbath was ended, people brought a whole bunch of sick people to Jesus, and he healed them. So it didn’t matter if you had a Saturday Day Fever or a Saturday Night Fever, Jesus could heal you.
“They brought to him all who were sick,” our text says, “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases.” Boy, it would have been nice to have been around back then, huh? You got an achy back? Go see Jesus. Bronchitis, allergies? Run down and see Jesus. He’ll heal you. Yeah, this must have been some kind of health care system! Better than Obamacare. It’s Jesuscare, and he won’t raise your premiums.
So we may wish to have been around back then. Get in on some of those healings. And really, why can’t we have some of that today? What, did Jesus go out of the healing business? Close up shop? What are we, chopped liver? Don’t we rate as much as those folks back then? “Hey, I’ve got a friend with cancer. She could use a healing just about now. What about us, Jesus?”
Yes, what about us? Why don’t we get included on these healings that Jesus performed so long ago? Doesn’t the Bible say, “Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow”? Yes, it does. Jesus Christ is indeed the same yesterday and today and forever. And that’s why I’m here to tell you that, yes, “Jesus Comes Today with Healing.”
Now don’t worry, I’m not gonna go all Benny Hinn on you. That charlatan is just taking advantage of poor unfortunate souls with his claims of being able to heal people. Those so-called faith healers are nothing of the sort.
But that still leaves us with the problem of why no miraculous healings today. I can’t just go down to Parkland Hospital and clear the place out. I don’t have that kind of power. How come?
Well, some might say it’s because I don’t have enough faith. Or worse yet, they’ll say it’s because the sick people don’t have enough faith to get healed. If only they believed harder! Or–I get it–it must be because they have some unconfessed sin in their life. Or they’re not obedient enough. If only they would get rid of their sin and obey God and live a holy life, then God would give them their healing. Oy vey! What a bunch of high-pressure garbage! You would get that, though, with the faith healers and the holiness crowd.
No, that ain’t gonna cut it. So what about it? What is the answer to our question, Why no healings today? Well, one answer that sort of gets at it, a little bit, is this: God does provide healings today, and he does it through medicine and doctors. Well, there’s a grain of truth in that. God has indeed granted marvelous knowledge to scientists and doctors to help us with our health. That is true, and we thank God for it. There have been tremendous advances in medicine and caring for the sick. I know that back in 2003 I got one of those staph infections in my leg, and it spread rapidly, and I got blood poisoning, I had a 104-degree fever for a week, and I got pneumonia and nearly died. In just about any decade prior to that in human history, I would have died. But with the medical knowledge that doctors have today, and the advanced antibiotics, I stand before you whole today.
So there is that, God giving us our healings through advanced medical care. What a blessing! And sometimes, yes sometimes, God does a healing that we just have no explanation for. The doctors can’t explain it. The doctors did not effect it. The healing just came from out of the blue. Literally. The healing came from heaven, and there is no natural explanation for it. We prayed to God, and God mercifully heard our prayer, and the person was healed. That does happen. Or sometimes God even provides the healing without our prayer. That’s just the way he is, surprising us with his mercy. Praise the Lord.
But now I want to suggest to you something else, to go along with all the other things said so far: Why doesn’t Jesus do these healings today? I’m going to say to you that he does. Only not exactly in the same manner as he did back then.
Now if you think about it, consider what happened to all those people Jesus healed in his ministry back there in Galilee. Simon’s mother-in-law. The crowds at sundown. And all the rest. What do they have in common? Yes, Jesus healed them all. But something more. Those healings would not last. All those people who were healed–they all would, sooner or later, get sick with something else, and they would die. What, wasn’t Jesus’ magic strong enough? Was there an expiration date on his miracles? No, that wasn’t it.
Here’s the deal–and this is important for understanding all the miracle accounts of Jesus in the gospels. These healings were signs, signs pointing to the eternal blessings Jesus was bringing, the kingdom of heaven that Jesus was bringing to earth. These healings pointed ahead to the ultimate healing that Jesus was in the process of accomplishing. And that ultimate healing was not limited to the folks back then. No, it is for all of us, too. Yes, every one of us here today–Jesus loves you and me and each one of us as much as he loved those folks back then. We are at no disadvantage to the people who were healed in his ministry.
How would he do it? How would Jesus gain this healing for us all? By dealing with the root problem that causes all the misery and the illness and the heartbreak and the backache and the bronchitis and the cancer in this fallen world. Jesus gains the ultimate healing for us, the eternal healing, by dealing with the root problem of sin.
Sin. Yes, there, I’ve said it. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that this particular disease or illness can be traced to that particular sin. There’s not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence. That would be too simplistic, and it would be wrong. There are a lot of unrepentant sinners who are perfectly healthy, and there are a lot of good and faithful Christians who are afflicted with chronic illness and pain. So the sickness-to-sin correlation is not that simple.
But truly, the general sinful condition that pervades this fallen world, ever since the time of Adam, and the sinful nature that we all inherit from Adam and pass down to our children–this is the root problem that results in all the damage and disease and misery that afflicts the human family. And to fix this, Jesus had to get to the bottom of it.
Which he did. By carrying our sins in his body to the cross, Jesus Christ dealt decisively with the underlying problem. When the Son of God sheds his holy blood for the sins of the whole world, that is pretty big medicine. As Isaiah 53 says, “He was wounded for our transgression; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Do you know that? Do you know, first of all, that it was your sins for which Jesus died? Yes, your sins–of not loving God, of not hearing and heeding his Word. Your sins of wanting to be your own god, to make your own decisions about what is right and wrong. Your sins of lack of love for your neighbor. Of being jealous of your neighbor’s success. Of grumbling about those the Lord has placed in your life. Of gossip and greed. Of selfishness and unforgiveness. Yes, those are your sins that Jesus is bearing, bleeding on the cross.
But that fact–that Jesus is bearing them, that Jesus is shedding his blood for them–Christ on the cross is purchasing your healing. It’s guaranteed. It’s a done deal. Sins forgiven means curse lifted. Resurrection ahead. Healing ahead. For you. Forever. It’s as good and as sure and as solid as Christ’s own resurrection from the dead. It’s yours, through faith in him. He shares his gifts with you.
How does that happen? How do the gifts get delivered to your door, with your name on it? That’s where the ongoing ministry of the church comes in. Word and Sacrament. You’ve heard me say that a thousand times before: “Word and Sacrament.” But this is no mere cliché. No, this is God’s delivery system, Fed-Exing the gifts Christ won for you on the cross and getting them to you where you live. Forgiveness, life, and salvation. Healing of the soul, and, yes, healing of the body, too.
You know, God is not just interested in saving your soul. He has also promised to redeem your body. God is committed to restoring creation, and that includes your body, which he also created. God is going to raise up that body of yours on the last day. You’re not just going to be Casper the Ghost, floating around on a cloud for eternity. No, we believe in exactly what God has promised: the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen!
And so that is the special distinctive that God has provided in the Sacraments. In the sermon, you get the gospel preached into your ears, yes, and you hear and receive that good news with glad hearts. But on top of that, God also blesses you with the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. And what you get with them is the physicality of it all. The Sacraments are applied to your body. In Holy Baptism, it’s the water splashed over your body. In the Lord’s Supper, it’s the bread and the wine, the body and blood of Christ, which you receive into your body. Physical elements for physical people, people whom Christ has redeemed in both soul and body.
Luther gets at this in the Large Catechism. About the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, he writes: “‘I am baptized. And if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.’ For that is the reason why these two things are done in Baptism: the body–which can grasp nothing but the water–is sprinkled and, in addition, the Word is spoken for the soul to grasp. Now, since both, the water and the Word, make one Baptism, therefore, body and soul must be saved and live forever.” In the same way, Luther writes about the bodily benefit of the Sacrament of the Altar. He says: “It will cure you and give you life both in soul and in body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved.”
Both in soul and in body. And so, dear friends, rejoice that Jesus is no piker with his healings. He’s not chintzy or stingy in doling out the blessings of his kingdom. He has healing for you today, body and soul. So come to where Jesus is doing his thing. Wait, you’re already here. And so is he. Jesus comes today, with healing.