“The Jesus Vaccine” (Mark 1:29-39)

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 7, 2021

“The Jesus Vaccine” (Mark 1:29-39)

Have you gotten the vaccine yet? That’s a question that’s been going “viral” lately (yes, pun intended). Have you gotten the vaccine? Everybody’s talking about that, because the vaccine is supposed to protect you from the virus–the Coronavirus, Covid-19. And so, people are lining up at the various vaccination sites in order to get the shot–or two shots, as the case may be. There are a couple of different vaccines available. The two I’ve heard about are the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer. And so far, the results sound encouraging. The numbers I heard Friday are these: The Moderna vaccine is currently posting a 94.1% efficacy rate and the Pfizer vaccine is showing an efficacy rate of more than 90%.

But, dear friends, those results are not nearly good enough. Because that still means that anywhere from six to ten percent of people who get the shot get the virus anyway. And if the Coronavirus doesn’t get you, something else will. So far, I have not heard of any vaccine that can prevent you from succumbing to something. As a famous surgeon general once said, “We all will probably die with something sooner or later.”

Well, actually, let me take that back. I do know of something that can and will prevent you from dying. And I’m here today to tell you about it. It’s called “The Jesus Vaccine.” The Jesus vaccine. It’s not 90% effective. It’s not 94.1% effective. No, the Jesus vaccine is 100% effective, and against all causes of death, Coronavirus included.

The Jesus vaccine. Now first let me tell you what I do not mean by that. When I was thinking about this the other day, I googled the words “Jesus” and “vaccine.” And what I discovered was that there were some people who were protesting the Covid vaccine, saying that they don’t need it, because, as their signs said, “Jesus is my vaccine.” Now that is taking it too far. I’m not saying that everybody has to get the vaccine. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have some hesitancy or reluctance to get it. I understand that.

But these protesters saying, “Jesus is my vaccine”–it’s like they’re suggesting that just because they are Christians, they’re not going to get the virus. And that’s wrong. Being a Christian does not make you immune from disease. In fact, I know of a number of Christians, even fellow pastors, who have died from the Coronavirus. Jesus did not prevent them from getting the virus and dying from it. It’s not that they didn’t have enough faith. They did have faith. But they’re human, and humans get diseases and die. That’s a fact.

So how can I say that “the Jesus vaccine” is 100% effective and will keep you from dying? Here’s how. Because Jesus has the desire to heal you from disease and death, and he has the power to do it. We see that in our text today from Mark chapter 1. “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.” Or later that day: “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.” So, Jesus certainly has the desire to heal and the power to do it.

Then how come not all people who would like Jesus to heal them get healed? Well, not all people back then got healed either. There were plenty of Israelites back in Jesus’ time who did not get healed. Maybe they had no one to bring them to the door where Jesus was doing his thing. Maybe they were living in a town that Jesus did not get around to visiting. Or maybe, like Simon’s mother-in-law, who got healed of a fever that day, later on she got sick with something else, and then she died. The point being, all those people that Jesus healed still ended up dying.

So why did Jesus do those healings, then, if they weren’t going to last? What Jesus was doing was demonstrating the final outcome of the mission he came to accomplish. The journey Jesus was taking, the ministry he was carrying out, will result in the perfect healing of both body and soul. These physical healings were an advance installment of the final fulfillment. They were a sneak preview, of sorts, of what is to come. Therefore, Jesus didn’t have to heal every single person who was sick at the time. Nor does he need to do a miraculous healing for every Christian who is sick today. Jesus has done enough healings, though, the ones recorded in the Bible, to show that this is what is in store in for all who trust in him. Jesus came to announce and usher in the kingdom of heaven, and in this kingdom there will be complete and total healing, in body and soul, for all believers.

Disease and death, physical maladies, sickness and sorrow–these are alien intruders in the paradise that God created. These ailments and illnesses are the result of our sin, humanity’s rebellion against our Creator. They are part of the curse that we brought upon ourselves for disobeying God’s command. Man was not meant to die. But all of creation–including our bodies–has been damaged by our fall into sin.

This is why we get sick and die. Because of our sin. Oh, not that this specific sickness is directly the result of that particular sin. But just generally, we get sick and die because we are sinners, living in a fallen world.

And if Christ had not come, if we were just left to our own devices, we would die eternally. And that’s the Big Death. To perish eternally under God’s condemnation and judgment, to suffer God’s wrath and punishment–that’s what you and I were headed for. And justifiably so. For you and I have sinned against God. We have broken his commandments, repeatedly. And what we have earned by our sins is death. Death with a big D.

But Jesus came to remedy that. He came to get to the root of the problem. We could not rescue ourselves. Only Christ could. Only Christ Jesus, the very Son of God come in the flesh, could do that big job. And he has.

What was needed was a man who would keep God’s commandments. Jesus got that right. What was needed was a man who would take the punishment for our sin. Jesus did that by dying on the cross. And because he is God’s own Son, what Jesus did is big enough to cover all sinners. His righteousness gets placed in our account. Our sins are cleansed by his holy blood. By his holy wounds, we are healed. By his resurrection, we are assured that we too will rise from the dead.

This is why I can say that Jesus will keep you from dying eternally. Because the Big Death has already been taken care of. Only the small death remains. This is why Jesus could say: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

So, unless Jesus comes back first, you and I will die. It may not be a virus, but something will cause us to breathe our last. But that death will not be the big one. You and I who trust in Christ will never die that death. Instead, we will enjoy everlasting life.

The fact that Jesus came to heal our bodies and not just our souls is vouchsafed to us in the sacraments. The sacraments are God’s way of telling us that he has redeemed our physical bodies. The sacraments apply God’s healing mercy to our mortal bodies.

Luther gets at this in the Large Catechism. About the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, he says: “‘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.”

Likewise, 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.” Friends, today, when you come up to this altar, you will be taking into your body the life-giving body and blood of your Savior. And this is why the early church father St. Ignatius could call the Lord’s Supper “the medicine of immortality,” the antidote against dying, “that we should live forever in Christ Jesus.”

And this is why today I am calling this sacrament “the Jesus vaccine.” In fact, the whole gospel is. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the great Physician of body and soul. Take the Jesus vaccine, the gospel medicine, and no virus, no disease, no death will be able to shut you out from eternal life. Have you gotten the vaccine? The Jesus vaccine, I mean. With this one, the efficacy rate is 100%.

Published in: on February 6, 2021 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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