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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Mark 1:29–39

James T. Batchelor

Epiphany 5, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Feb 8, 2015 

Todays Gospel picks up in the middle of what has already been a long day for Jesus.  The verses leading up to todays Gospel tell us that Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath.  He began teaching on the reading of the day when a demon possessed man interrupted Him.  Jesus then drove the demon from the man with the authority of His word.

Now, as was the custom of that time and place, one of the members invited the teacher to a meal in his home.  That is how Jesus came to be in the home of Simon.  This is the same Simon whom Jesus had already called to be a disciple.  Later on, Jesus would give Simon the nickname of Peter.

When they arrived in the home, they expressed their sadness that one member of the household was not able to meet with them.  They quickly informed Jesus that Simons mother-in-law was bedridden with a fever and could not be with them.

Jesus went to the woman and took her by the hand and the fever left.  She stood up and began serving the meal.  Jesus healing was immediate and complete.  The woman didnt even need a period of recuperation after she recovered from the fever.  She was healthy enough to serve the meal.

Well, Capernaum is not that big of a town.  The word got out.  Jesus had driven a demon out of a man in the synagogue and then gone to Simons house and healed his mother-in-law.  News like that travels fast.  As soon as the sun went down and the Sabbath was over, the area around Simons house filled up with people who wanted healing.  Mark describes it this way: the whole city was gathered together at the door. 

Jesus provided relief for those who came.  He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.  Given that the healing did not start until sundown, it is reasonable to assume that the ministry to these people lasted late into the night.  The next day promised to be even busier with healing and teaching.

The only thing is that when the next day came, they could not find Jesus.  Jesus was gone.  Mark tells us where Jesus went.  Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  Instead of making Himself available to all the people who needed Him, He was off having quiet time in prayer.

Whenever a Gospel account tells us that Jesus went off and prayed by Himself like this, we should stop and think.  You see, the Gospel accounts often tell us that Jesus went off to pray like this when He was under severe temptation.  Perhaps the best example of this is the Garden of Gethsemane where the Gospel writers recorded the actual words of Jesus prayer [Mark 14:36] Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. This was a time of temptation to abandon His mission by avoiding the cross.  He could have walked away from it all the beatings the shame the crucifixion the death.

Another example of this is after the Feeding of the Five Thousand. [Mark 6:46] After he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.  He prayed because the five thousand wanted to make Him king so that He could feed them free food every day.  He could have been their king been popular had a lot of followers and so forth.

The temptation in todays Gospel was for Jesus to continue His healing ministry in Capernaum indefinitely.  There were great crowds flocking to Him.  He was popular.  He had the power to recreate a small version of the Garden of Eden right there in Capernaum.  Simon would have been happy to convert his home into a medical clinic and Jesus could have lived out a long and happy life healing people in Capernaum maybe get married settle down start a family.  There didnt have to be any torture or crucifixion.  Jesus could have set up shop as the popular healing rabbi of Capernaum.

But that is not what He came into this world to do.  He did not leave His throne above and take up human flesh in order to be popular, or famous, or wealthy, or powerful or anything like that. Instead, He came to overcome sin, death, and the power of the devil.  He came to open heavens gates to us.  He came to do his Fathers will and bring eternal life to all people.

So Jesus went to the empty places away from the people.  That is where He confronted His most severe temptations away from the crowds, but not alone for He prayed to God the Father in heaven.

Jesus never gave in to temptation.  He remained faithful to His mission.  He remained [Philippians 2:8] obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  He carried the entire burden of the worlds sin to a hill just outside Jerusalem.  There He allowed a crucifixion squad to nail Him to a cross.  There He hung with all our sin, our burdens, our hurts bearing down on Him.  It is place of punishment.  It is our punishment that He endures.  It is a place of agony and suffering.  It is a place of death.  It is a place where even God the Father in heaven abandons Him to the evils of hell.  Because Jesus never gave in to temptation, He could cry out in triumph just before He died and say, It is finished!

Yet this was not the end for our faithful savior.  The grave could not hold Him, for out of a desolate tomb, a grave, a place of death, Jesus rose from the dead.  Not even death could hold Him.  He had defeated Satan and death on the cross.  Now He lives forever more celebrating the successful completion of His mission.

When Jesus went missing, Simon got together a search party and looked for Jesus.  Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, Everyone is looking for you. They wanted Jesus to come back and continue healing people. 

Jesus had other ideas.  He said to them, Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out. When the time was right, Jesus would go to Jerusalem in order to give Himself up as a sacrifice on the cross.  Until that time, the main purpose of His ministry was preaching.  The healing and other miracles were a sign of His authority, but they were not the main mission.  The healing and other miracles were there to serve the main mission of preaching.

You see, as marvelous as it was that Jesus went about healing people, it is His preaching that delivers the Kingdom of God to them.  Jesus could go about giving away free food, healing the sick, and even raising the dead.  None of this would bring the Kingdom of God to one soul.  Instead the Holy Spirit has promised to work through the Word of God through preaching.  It is as the Holy Spirit said through the Apostle Paul: [Romans 10:17] Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Todays reading from the Gospel ends with these words: Jesus went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.  With His preaching He was bringing forgiveness, life, and salvation to those places.

Now, almost two thousand years after the events in todays Gospel, Jesus still gives Forgiveness, life, and salvation through preaching.  Even though Jesus has long ago ascended into heaven, His preaching continues.  Before He ascended into heaven He appeared before His disciples [Luke 24:4647] and said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Our Lord Jesus continues to bless us with good health just as He did in Capernaum.  Only now He gives us medical facilities to alleviate our pain and suffering.  He even gives us wealth and luxury that even kings could not imagine in ancient days.  Jesus is our shield and protection as we live day-by-day.  He has answered our prayers, and we need to thank Him for these blessings.

But what a sad thing it would be if we stopped there.  We have two thousand years of Church history and teachings to help us see what Jesus came to do.  We have the Bible to read and study as over and over again it points us to the cross and Jesus resurrection.  We have Bible classes to teach us why Jesus gave his life for us.  We have artwork and jewelry that take us to the cross. Look around.  Our worship services lead us to repent of our sins and confess our faith in Him.

Jesus still gives the forgiveness that leads to eternal life.  He has opened heavens gates.  We already have eternal life even if we only see it dimly.  We have this all because Jesus did not give in to temptation, but remained faithful to His mission His mission to the cross to take away all our sins.  Amen

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