The Purpose Driven Jesus
Remember The Purpose Driven Life? The Evangelical Baptist book that drove many Bible Classes, including Lutheran one's, in the early 2000's? Where is all that now? Church's driven by the theological soup of the day have long since moved on to the next day's flavor. But plain as day in our text Jesus states what His purpose is and the purpose driven Jesus gives the Church, His Body, Her purpose and the members of His body, us, ours.
Jesus purpose was to heal. Our text says, "That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons," Mat. 8:17 says, "This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'" When John the Baptist's has his doubts and sends his disciples to ask Jesus if He the Coming One or should they look for another, how does Jesus respond? "'Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised,'" (Lk. 7:22). Jesus cites as proof He is the Messiah, the promised Christ, in that He heals.
Confessional Lutherans don't emphasize or focus on physical healing; I've run across a few who've had weekly or monthly anointing services. I've had those diagnosed with serious illness head that direction. But in the main we're more about forgiveness of sins, but we have to take texts like ours seriously. Jesus is told about Peter's sick mother-in-law, and He goes right then and heals her. Disease, sickness, death is not natural to the human condition. In but 10 days, again we'll be reminded that we "are dust and to dust we shall return". And that is because of sin. We die because we're sinful. Most can get that. Well, we get sick because we're sinful. And as Jesus came to die our death so He came to take our infirmities and carry our diseases. From perfect Eden with it's Tree of Life that we sinners lost access to, Jesus leads us, takes us, carries us to the Tree of Life in Heaven whose leaves, Revelation 22 says, are for the healing of the nations.
The purpose of Jesus is to heal and the purpose of Jesus is to pray. Heb. 7:25 says of Jesus that He lives to intercede for us. We use that expression, don't we? "I live to.do this, do that" or "I live forthis or that." Well Jesus lived a perfect life for you. Name all that you are suppose to be and are not, and see Jesus there. He lived for me, in my place, as the perfect kid, father, mother, sister, brother, person, disciple, etc. And He died the damned death sinners were promised they would die. All the terrors of conscience, guilt, hell, and judgment the stuff that fuels are nightmares Jesus suffered for us. He suffered all that till death so that after being raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father He could live to intercede for you. 1 John puts it in even stronger language. When we sin, Jesus is our Advocate, our Defense Attorney, before the Father (2:1). What defense could there possibly be? 1 John 2:2 tells you. Jesus advocates for us as the wrath-removing Sacrifice He is. "You can't be angry at him, Father. Remember I suffered, bled, and died in his place. I've satisfied your wrath."
Our text specifically says that Jesus got up while it was still dark. One commentator places it from 3-5 AM (Nicoll, 1, 347). Mark records 2 other times Jesus prays. They are special times too. After the Feeding of the 5,000 (Mk. 6), when the satisfied crowd wanted to make Him king (Jn. 6:15), Jesus sent His apostles away from that temptation, dismissed the crowd, and then went up alone on the mountain to pray. Then in Gethsemane when He said His soul was overwhelmed to the point of death, He went off to pray taking His 3 special disciples as witnesses and prayer partners. They slept; Jesus prayed (Mk. 14). This is the only time we know what Jesus prayed. Matthew says He prayed 3 times: "'My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done'" (Matt. 26:42).
From this account, we can conclude some things about Jesus at prayer. His recorded prayer times, like ours, were at times of trouble, difficulty, temptation, uncertainty. The first 2 times were at the height of Jesus' popularity. "The whole town gathered at the door." "Everyone is looking for You," Peter and his companions excitedly tell Jesus. And it's a full year before Palm Sunday when the 5,000 are fed, yet already tens of thousands of people would crown Him king without suffering, sighing, bleeding or dying. And then in Gethsemane when the filthy, disgusting, boiling hot cup of God's wrath against a world's sins is being handed to Him, He tells His Father what He wants but bows to His will.
These accounts of Jesus' praying really have to do with our prayers. In times of sickness, trouble, affliction, despair, or maybe when pestilence is said to stalk the land, or maybe when the Powers that God instituted seem not to be God's servant for good, we pray. We pray desperately, fervently, anxiously. Well, the point of Mark's 3 recorded instances of Jesus at prayer is that Jesus is right there with you. The fact that you are driven to such extremes in prayer is not proof that God is far from you, has abandoned you, or isn't listening to you. Jesus was driven to such extremes. Hebrews 5:7-8 apply here: "In the days of His flesh, He offered prayers and pleas with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was the Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered."
This passage is difficult, but it shows a few things. Jesus knows how you feel when you are driven by fear, pain, sorrow, despair to prayer. While you cannot plead your reverence as the reason your prayers are heard, You can plead His. And finally if the Holy Son of God could learn through prayer and the Gethsemane prayer is the one being referenced in Hebrews then certainly us fallen sons and daughters of God can learn through prayer. And that leads us to the Lord's purpose above all else. The purpose that drives Jesus life that when pressed, when troubled, when unbeliving, we say, or at least I do, "O that." Jesus says in our text that His purpose in coming was to preach to herald.
The texts I cited earlier for proof that a purpose of Jesus coming was to heal, I quoted selectively. I stopped the Luke quote before Jesus says lastly and emphatically that John's disciples saw: "the good news is preached to the poor" (Lk. 7:22). And I skipped altogether the account of Jesus preaching His purpose in Nazareth. "The Spirit of the Lordhas anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Lk. 4:18-19). And notice in our text while the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon possessed, the text says He healed many and drove many demons out. Our text happens in Capernaum, a city of commerce and military. There were many people to be healed and exorcized and Peter and his companions expect Jesus to come back with them. Nope, though everyone is seeking Him and many are suffering, Jesus says, "Let us go somewhere else--to the nearby villages--so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." Jesus say let's go to towns so small they don't deserve to be called that. That's what this Greek word for villages used only here means. "Rather than return to Austin let's go to Thrall."
Jesus' purpose was to herald, that's what the Greek word translated preach' means. The earliest reference as to what Jesus heralded is recorded by Mark in verses 14 and 15 of this chapter, "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, heralding the good news of God. The time has come," He said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.'" Rather than heal every person, drive out every demon in Capernaum, He said, "The purpose I have come for is to herald repentance and Gospel in Nowheresiville." So, rather than heal us of every ache and pain, deliver us from every affliction and problem, drive away every evil spirit twisting our tails and laughing with delight, Jesus without fail heralds to us: "The kingdom is here. Your sickness, your demons, your problems hasn't stopped it from arriving or driven it away. Repent of misbelief, unbelief, despair and other great shame and vice, and believe that I have rescued you from death and the devil and have given you eternal salvation."
Remember it's the Devil who does everything possible to keep Jesus from the cross. He offers Him all the kingdoms of the world; He can be the great Bread King of Israel or the Healing King of Capernaum. No downside there. No bleeding, sighing, damning or dying needed. No bearing your guilt, shame, worry, and fear. But Jesus purpose is not to deliver us from God's wrath for a time, to chase devils away from us for awhile, to give us a peaceful easy feeling now. His purpose is nothing less than satisfying God's wrath against sins and sinners forever. His purpose is to defeat devils and death for good. All the deliverances and healings He did in His pre-cross ministry were to point to what the cross would achieve for us and our salvation forever. They were proofs that He was the promised Messiah and no one was to look for another.
Paul lists in 2 Cor. 12:12, the things that mark an apostle: "signs, wonders, and miracles." In 2 The. 2:9 the same Paul says the work of Satan is "displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders." The things I long for, lust for, in trying times, in difficult times Satan himself can do. What he cannot do is preach the Gospel of the forgiveness of my sins. What he can't do is give his incarnate Body as Bread and His incarnate Blood as Wine for me to eat and drink for life now and salvation in eternity. O Satan is capable of using water to drown my body but he can't use Water to drown my Old Adam and give birth to a new. These are the purposes that drive Jesus' ministry, and my life, death, and resurrection. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (20210207); Mark 1:29-39