Text: Mark 1:29-39
Date: Epiphany V + 2/8/15
This is the sixth time we are hearing from only the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel this year. And we would hear the remaining paragraphs of this chapter if the Epiphany season were one week longer this year. Here we see Jesus beginning His earthly ministry. Baptized by John and tempted in the wilderness (of which we will hear on the First Sunday in Lent), Jesus is introduced to us by Mark as the incarnate Son of God who comes preaching, teaching, healing and casting out demons. This is what Jesus came to do, namely, to restore the fallen, dying, sinful creation to God’s original design, holy, pure and living. But this was only the beginning.
Today is the same day as we heard last Sunday, St. Mark rushing us out the doors of the synagogue where the people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching and amazed at His expelling of an unclean spirit from a man.
Before we go on, I want to make an observation on what’s primarily troubling us in these days. We have heard of Jesus casting out demons. In Bible class we readily agree that there is demon possession. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize, but other times not so. For all of the confusion about the horror we are witnessing in the Middle East these days it appears that the whole thing is, at its root, diabolical, demonic, the devil possessing individuals and covering his destructive works in the name of religion. We must hope and we must pray that good men (with a soul!) will step up and put this movement to an end.
What follows may seem a minor incident, Jesus healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. But it seems Mark included this incident to being hinting already at the greatest aspect of the gospel, that is, resurrection and new life. When his disciples told Jesus about Simon’s mother-in-law, Jesus responded immediately. Without a word, Mark says, “he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her.” The word translated “lifted her up” is one of the words used to tell how Jesus was “raised from the dead” after His crucifixion and burial! It is a resurrection word. All of Jesus’ preaching, teaching and healing was but the beginning of the salvation of the whole world culminating in the great day of resurrection.
Now remember it is the same day as the morning in the synagogue. Mark tells us, “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.” They were literally gathered around the door of the house peering in. Did Jesus come out of the house? Or did he welcome small groups of people into the house? Mark doesn’t say. But he continued to heal many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.
There will be a healing of a leper tomorrow, the next day, but here Mark includes a little interlude. That must have been an exhausting day. Who knows what time they finally closed the door and went to bed? Nevertheless, “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus departed and went out to a desolate place.” Here, by the way, St. Mark uses another resurrection word of Jesus “rising.” Now notice why He got up so early. “He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Jesus came on a divine mission. Especially according to His state of humiliation as a human man He was constantly in union with God the Father. As a man He was strengthened and empowered by the Holy Spirit always remembering his ultimate goal of freeing the whole creation from the grip of sin and death which He accomplished by His sacrificial, atoning death on the cross and glorious resurrection from the dead.
It was love for all mankind that drove Him to remain in constant communion with the Father, for His path in this world was always a desolate place, He alone knowing what He was to do “for us men and for our salvation” without us, any of us, knowing what we really need or even asking for it.
Well, eventually everyone woke up that next morning and the excitement continued. But when they discovered Jesus wasn’t there they hunted Him down. How did Simon and those who were with him finally decide to go look for Him in a desolate place? But they did. And when they found him they told Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you.”
Wouldn’t that be something today? Everyone looking for Jesus? Don’t hold your breath. And Jesus didn’t hold His either but said, “Let’s go,” “Let’s go to the next towns. I need to preach there also, for that is why I came out.” You see no one searches for Jesus except those to whom He first has come as he would eventually say, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). It is rather as the apostle Paul put it for us, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? …So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:14, 17).
For many and various personal reasons, you are here today. You’ve been here maybe for many days. We gather here in hope like those Greeks asking, “We would see Jesus.” We hope and say that for only one reason, because He, in many and various ways, has already come to you and given you the gift of faith, divine faith that seeks to grasp and hold on to the promises of God, His promise to free you, to restore you to give you eternal life.
And how personally and closely He wants you to come to Him is demonstrated especially as He makes Himself one with us sacramentally, giving us His very body and blood, His very sacrifice to cover our sin, to make us holy, to be His flesh and blood in the world today, for such a time as this.
Come, therefore. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). “Take, eat, my body given for you. Take, drink, my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Here is your true rest in the forgiveness of all your sin and new life beginning now and lasting forever in the power of the resurrection.