Take Yet another Look at Jesus
A pastor friend of mind doesn't use sermon titles. His secretary told him people were complaining. He says, "Okay the title is "Jesus." Next week the secretary asked for the title. He said, "'Jesus,' and that will be the title for every sermon I preach." That's not bad. The people would, should and must see Jesus especially during Epiphany when the focus is on the fullness of God's glory seen in Jesus. So today we take yet another look at Jesus.
In this text, we clearly see Jesus' divinity. After the synagogue service, Jesus goes to Peter's home. Peter's mother-in-law is ill with fever. What does Jesus do? He heals her completely. The insert is wrong. Jesus didn't take her by the hand and help her up. That's what we do to help someone with fever. No the text really says, "Grasping her hand Jesus raised her." Her fever didn't break leaving her wasted. No, she was healed and began to serve the meal.
After sunset the Sabbath was over, and people came in droves to Jesus. The whole town was there. We again see Jesus' divinity. He heals all manner of diseases. The full spectrum of human suffering and sickness was laid at Jesus' feet. In Homer this word for sickness always represents the visitation of an angry god. The word carries the idea of an illness that is severe, dangerous, and even violent. Jesus healed them all.
Jesus was no charlatan "lengthening" legs, curing invisible nerve disorders or healing deafness by slapping people in the head. No, palsied limbs were made whole; blind men saw; lepers were cleansed, and demons were driven out and silenced. Paul cast out demons in Jesus' name. Jesus does it in His own. He is God. The demons must obey His command to leave and be silent even as wind, waves, sickness, sin, and death must obey Him.
You clearly see the divinity of Jesus in this text, but just as clearly you see His humanity. God can't be hungry. God can't need food. Yet, what do we see here? Jesus eats. Maybe that's no big deal to you but it should be. Jesus knows the pain of hunger, the indigestion when food doesn't agree, and the weakness that comes from going too long between meals.
We see Jesus' humanity in that He eats. We see it even more so in that He sleeps. Yes the text says, "Jesus got up." What does Psalm 121 say about the Lord who keeps Israel? "He neither slumbers nor sleeps." Yet, here is Jesus sound asleep, exhausted after an entire day of preaching, teaching, healing, and casting out demons. Try to get your head around God the Son who from all eternity has neither slumbered nor slept, sleeping like you do after a very long day.
Even if you think you can get your head around that, you sure won't be able to get it around why Jesus gets up. He gets up to pray. Jesus gets up in those dark hours when everything looks and feels darkest to go off to a lonely place to pray. You should not think that Jesus prays differently than you do. Jesus is true man and prays as such.
We know from Gethsemane how intensely Jesus prays in a time of temptation. And that's what this is. Later on Jesus will feed the 5000 in this same town, and they'll try to make Jesus their king. Then too Jesus will go off by Himself to pray. Now, Peter is about to come to him joyfully saying, "Everyone is looking for you." You're a hit Jesus. The people love you. You can be their king without going to that horrible cross, without suffering, without dying. Yes, Jesus could be king without the cross, but He could not be Savior. The acceptance of the crowd is but another way of Satan whispering, "I can give you all the kingdoms of the world without the cross." This is a grave temptation, so Jesus prays.
And this bothers most of you. If Jesus is true God who's He praying to? Himself? You think what you're stumbling over is the doctrine of the Trinity, but what you're really falling over is the mystery of the incarnation, specifically the humanity of Jesus. Yes, Jesus is 100% true God, but He's also 100% true Man. Even as God the Father does not eat but Jesus does, and God the Father does not sleep yet Jesus does, so God the Father does not pray but Jesus does. Jesus is that fully, completely human.
See not just Jesus' divinity and humanity, but see what He does as the God/Man. As true Man, Jesus can bear our griefs and sorrows. As true God, Jesus has the power to carry them away from us. As true Man, Jesus can face down the demons in our place. As true God, Jesus can drive them away and muzzle their voices. As true Man, Jesus knows what it means to be overwhelmed by sickness, tempted by demons, and in need of food and sleep. As true God, Jesus can deliver us from sickness and demons and give us our daily bread and sleep.
Of course, this doesn't always happen, does it? We're not always saved from sickness, sometimes we die from it. Sometimes the demons of doubt, fear, guilt, and worry neither leave us nor shut up. And while all of us have daily bread, sometimes that bread only gives us indigestion, and as far as sleep, sometimes the lament of Job rings true, "When I lie down I think, 'How long before I get up?' The night drags on, and I toss till dawn."
Where is the God/Man now? What good did it do for God to take on my flesh and blood, my duty under the law, my sin, and their punishment if with Job I still say, "I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me?" In our text I see Jesus willing not sickness but health for people. He wants their life not oppressed by demons but served by angels. Then how can I His brother, His sister, His child say with Job, "My eyes will never see happiness again?"
Well, first take comfort in the fact that your pain, sorrow, doubt, or fear is not unique among the people of God. Job knew it; Moses felt it; David lived it, and Jesus endured it. When you're feeling, living, and suffering like Job, you should not conclude that God is not listening, has cast you off, or doesn't care. Why do you think God has recorded for you the thoughts, pain, and doubts of Job? To show you He indeed listens to them and doesn't cast people off because of them.
But you should conclude something else on the basis of our text. Not only does Jesus mean life to be health not sickness and angelic not demonic, but most importantly Jesus means for life to be eternal not temporal. Eternal life is not this life extended by health or made better without demons. Such a life would still be unredeemed. Such a life God didn't want Adam and Eve to have. So Genesis 3 tells us He cast them out of the Garden "lest they stretch forth their hand and eat from the tree of life and live forever." Eternal life is not a long, happy life but a redeemed life.
See in this text why Jesus came and see the hard things of life in another light, in the Light of the world, Jesus. Note why Jesus says He came. Not to heal all sickness but to preach. Think of the all of people who had heard Jesus was in Capernaum healing and casting out demons. See them starting out the night before carrying sick children, leading troubled spouses. Everyone is looking for Jesus! Years of being plagued by painful sickness or a foul devil are about to be over. But Jesus says, "Let us go elsewhere, so I can preach there also. This is why I have come."
Jesus came so I could preach to you that the sins that stab your conscience and that the devils throw in your face have been forgiven. Jesus came so I could preach to you that though death will come for you, you will not die, but live. Jesus came so I could preach to you that though you have worries, fears, sicknesses, and doubts, you still have the Jesus who succeeded in redeeming you on the cross. Jesus didn't come so I could heal you physically, emotionally, or even spiritually. Jesus came so I could preach to you that He has redeemed you and no physical, emotional, or spiritual pain, oppression, or affliction is going to stop you from going to heaven.
Take another look at Jesus; see that He came into this world to preach and not to please the crowds. The disciples constantly had problems understanding this. They thought that in order to do His work, Jesus had to please people. When the numbers were down they worried. They warned Jesus when He was offending people, but Jesus would only go on to say more offensive things. Jesus didn't come into the world to please people but His Father in Heaven. And His Father was well pleased with Him when He kept the law perfectly in our place and took our sins as His own. So, though Capernaum wasn't pleased and neither were the disciples, His Father was, so Jesus left.
God the Son didn't become the Son of Mary to do everything people think He should. I think Jesus should heal all of you suffering with sickness. I think Jesus should deliver you from the demons that plague you. I think Jesus should make you old people young and you troubled people happy. I can give you a dozen reasons why this would make sense, be good for you, and for our church. But Jesus didn't come into the world to do everything I think He should. He came to do what was needed to save us.
He still comes today for that purpose. So rather than coming as a fountain of youth for old people, He comes in a Baptismal Font to drown our old man and give birth to the new man who lives forever. Rather than coming in words that heal your sicknesses for awhile, He comes in Words that forgive all your sins forever. And rather than coming to wow us with power, He comes in lowly Body-Bread and Blood-Wine to give us life not just for today but for eternity.
While you might not like what you see when you look at your life here, take yet another look at Jesus; you can like the life you see there. Not only can you like the life but the suffering, sickness, sadness and even death you see there. Because Jesus redeems, sanctifies, and blesses even such apparently evil things to the glory of God and the good of His people. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Epiphany V (20060205); Mark 1: 29-39