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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Jesus Restores Broken People
Text:Mark 1:29-45 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Miracles
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-09-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 147:1,6                                                                              

Ps 6:1,2                                                                                                          

Reading – Isaiah 53; Mark 1:21-45

Ps 103:1,2,6,7

Sermon – Mark 1:29-45

Hy 25:1,3

Hy 68:1,4,5,8

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, sickness is a part of this broken life. We might get a bad cold and have to miss school, or get the flu and stay home from work. Quite apart from passing illnesses like these, others have to deal with sickness on a daily basis. Some brothers and sisters suffer with chronic conditions like diabetes and MS, or with migraine headaches, arthritis, and more.

What do we do with sickness? We try to handle the symptoms, of course. We go to the doctor or the naturopath, we get tests done and take medication. We also pray for healing, and we ask God to give us the strength and health for our daily calling. But how to understand the place of illness in our life? Why do we get sick? And what if we pray, and God doesn’t give healing? Does it mean maybe that we’ve sinned, that God is punishing us?

Hold onto those questions as we turn again to Mark’s Gospel. It’s a section that gives us a glimpse into a typical day of Jesus’ ministry. Sometimes you can watch these “Day in the Life” videos, as cameras follow around someone famous, and you can see all the interesting things that they’re normally busy with. That’s kind of what Mark gives us, as Jesus ends his Sabbath day in Capernaum, rises early the next morning, and begins his ministry activities again. On this typical day, what do we see Jesus busy with? Healing sick people. Preaching too, but lots of healing. 

What’s the meaning of these healings? We will see how these miracles say something profound about what Jesus came to do. It’s the beginning of his restoring a broken world, and it’s a restoration that you and I can share in by faith. I preach God’s Word to you,

 

With many healings Jesus begins to restore a broken people:

  1. what it means to be sick
  2. what it means to be healed

 

1. what it means to be sick: The synagogue service had ended with a bang, for there’d been that commotion with the man and the unclean spirit. Jesus put a quick end to the yelling and He relieved the poor man’s suffering, as the spirit is sent away. Now the service is over. Mark says, “As soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John” (v 29). Why do they go there? Apparently it was a Jewish custom that the main Sabbath meal came immediately after the service—like many of us will enjoy a nice lunch after this morning’s worship.

On this particular Sabbath they will be visiting the home of two of Jesus’ disciples. But it so happens that Simon’s mother-in-law is there too, probably so that she can be cared for. She is sick in bed with a fever. Now, you can get a fever today when you have the flu or an infection, and there’s medication that can pretty quickly bring the temperature down. But in Bible times, a fever was hard to handle. There were lots of household remedies, but most were unreliable at best. And an unchecked fever can be dangerous.

As they come into the house, the disciples “told Him about her at once” (v 30). Take notice of that. Already the disciples understand that Jesus can help. He hasn’t healed anyone of an illness yet—not that Mark has told us, anyway—but the disciples know something about Jesus’ ability, his authority. It’s really the instinct of faith, isn’t it, that these men take it to the Lord? There’s a difficulty you meet in your day, there’s a concern on your heart—the instinct of faith is to tell the Lord about it at once, because He cares for you.

Notice also that Jesus’ first healing will be granted to a woman. The fact is, as a woman in that time she had a lower social position than any Jewish man. But this doesn’t matter to Jesus.  In Mark we’ll see that his compassion extends to all people, irrespective of their position, from the outcasts of society to the most prominent leaders.

It’s the Sabbath day, and Jesus is likely tired. Preaching is tiring, and confronting that unclean spirit probably drained him too. Like any person He needs rest and needs prayer (as we see later in our text), yet Jesus is willing to help Simon’s mother-in-law. Throughout his ministry, He’ll be called upon to spend himself for others. Whether in public places like that synagogue, or in the privacy of this home, Jesus will use his strength to help others.

And once He does, it can’t be kept secret. Healing one person brings forward twenty more people who need it. Casting out one demon only means that more unclean spirits will appear and want to challenge him.

So as the day ends, many people come to where Jesus is to seek healing. We read that in verses 32-33, “At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door.” Mark doesn’t tell us how exactly they were sick, but it was probably a wide range of illnesses and ailments. Health care was basically non-existent, so lots of very treatable conditions ended up being chronic and causing permanent physical damage: people were crippled, and blind, deaf and mute, afflicted in any number of ways. Like the emergency department in the local hospital: a bit of everything, and everyone anxious to get help.

The long line-up of sick people begins to form in the evening, Mark says. Remember that it had been the Sabbath day, so everyone waits until the sun goes down and the day of rest is officially over. The law said it wasn’t allowed for a person to carry any burden through the town, so these people want to be sure that it’s OK to bring their loved ones to Jesus.

As the crowd gathers, we can ask about the real reason they’re coming. Do they come because they love Jesus? Because they already know that He’s the Saviour? Or do they come just because they want something from him, and they want him to fix their problems? Mark doesn’t tell us enough to know for sure.

But we can understand the temptation, because we face it too. When our life feels like a mess, or when things are troubled—when we’re sick—we make earnest prayers for help and grace. So we should. But what about all the regular days? What about when things are fine, and we feel strong? “For every one prayer that goes up to God in days of prosperity, ten thousand go up in times of adversity.” It might be understandable, yet the focus is often on how God can meet our most immediate needs. Then we overlook the real problem that we all face, and the real purpose of what Jesus came to do.

Because what does it mean to be sick? As Jesus looks at the crowds gathering at the door, He’s not just concerned that they’re unable to lead a normal life. His purpose in coming isn’t to make them productive members of society. As Jesus starts healing, He’s looking past the symptoms, to the real cause of all this suffering.

Sickness shows that life is broken. Serious or mild, every sickness and ailment does this—it reveals that things are not as they should be. God’s original intent for this life has been lost, his good design for us and creation have been compromised. Instead of peace, there is disorder. Instead of wholeness, there is brokenness.

And it’s all because of sin. We’re living in a world that has been estranged from God the Creator, a world that’s groaning and that’s under his curse. Sickness reveals in a very obvious way some of the effects of the fall into sin: weakness, suffering, even death. We can’t blame God for any of this, because we know that sin deserves his wrath. Because of sin, we have no right to expect a life of ease and comfort.

Now, I want to clarify something important. This doesn’t mean that if you’re sick today, it’s because you’ve sinned. Jesus himself said this wasn’t true when He was asked in John 9 about the blind man. There’s not a direct link between what you’re suffering now, and how you’ve broken God’s law in some specific way. Sure, it’s sometimes the case that we have to deal with the fallout of our own sin. But it’s a cruel claim that those who suffer the most deserve it the most. No, we get sick because of the fundamental disorder of sin. Sin has damaged us in body and mind and spirit.

The same thing is shown when people are possessed by demons. Notice how they’re grouped together with the sick in verse 32; illness, blindness, captivity to the devil—it’s all part of the same picture: sin’s destruction of God’s good gift of life—the epidemic of the curse.

Can you start to understand then, why Jesus will heal people? He wants to restore what’s broken in this world. He wants to fix what has been wrecked. Delivering people at the physical level is just the beginning. It points to what He will do comprehensively and permanently by his death, when Jesus takes away the curse, and He puts everything right.

But first: someone else joins the queue of those seeking help. Mark tells us that “a leper came to him” (v 40). Back then, no disease was regarded with more terror than leprosy. It was also considered incurable—a hopeless condition. This is an illness in which the nerves in infected areas lose their ability to sense pain. As a result, a person with leprosy doesn’t realize when he’s been injured, like when he’s been burned or when he’s cut himself on something sharp. Because he doesn’t feel it, the wound never gets a chance to heal, and it gets infected. Over time, infected body parts (especially feet and fingers) start to die, and they fall off.

We should realize, however, that the term “leprosy” in the Bible describes a whole range of skin disease, also less severe than what I’ve described. Other kinds of “leprosy” in the Bible saw people covered with white and uncomfortable scales, or blisters and skin lesions.

In the Old Testament, a person with any kind of skin condition like this was unclean. To be unclean wasn’t a sin in itself, but for the Israelites it was a symbol for sin, because to be unclean is to be outside the place of blessing. For instance, if you were unclean you were not allowed to approach the presence of God at the tabernacle or temple. Some of those who were unclean—including those with leprosy—also had to live alone, away from other people, so that their illness wasn’t passed on. This was a life not only of physical pain, but of mental anguish: always on the outside, looking in.

So the leper in Mark 1 shouldn’t even be here. He shouldn’t be part of this crowd, and he shouldn’t be approaching Jesus. As he came to the front, you can be sure it would’ve made everyone around him cringe, even get angry at him. But he’s desperate for help, and he just wants to see Jesus.

If you think about it, each of us is a kind of spiritual leper. We might be totally healthy, in the prime of life, but when we’re living in our sin apart from Christ, we’re dying—we’re dead already. It might look like we’re alive, but any sin that we haven’t repented from is killing us. And our sinning makes us unclean. I don’t just mean those times when we feel dirty after sinning—sinning always makes us dirty. Like those who were unclean in the Old Testament, unforgiven sin prohibits us from coming near to God. How do we dare approach God? There’s a fundamental separation between Him and us. Our sin so often alienates us from other people too—it puts us on the outside of fellowship, and it wrecks relationships that should be good. Spiritual lepers we are, in great need of Christ to restore us and make us whole.

So this leper comes to Jesus, “imploring him, kneeling down to him and saying to him, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean’” (v 40). He knows that Jesus can heal, he’s confident in his ability, but he can’t demand it—the critical question is whether Jesus is willing. It’s up to Him: if this man is going to be healed, Jesus must have mercy.

It’s another picture of the faith that God requires of us. In our guilt and misery, we have no claim on the LORD’s help. He has every right to chase us away. But He says that if you’ll live, you must simply put your trust in Jesus as the one who has power to save. In humble prayer, appeal to Christ for help, that He will cleanse you.

 

2. what it means to be healed: Jesus’ work on that Sabbath day will not be done until He heals Simon’s mother-in-law. It’s not clear if she is a follower of Jesus, or if she’s blessed by knowing someone who is. At any rate, Jesus comes to the feverish woman, takes her by the hand, and lifts her up. Notice how Jesus again shows complete control, total authority. All that He has to do is stretch out the hand, pull her to her feet, and the fever is gone.

“And she served them,” Mark notes (v 31). Just a little comment, but it’s very telling. This healing is immediate and it’s complete. In normal circumstances, how do you feel after a fever? Tired. Worn out. Even when it’s passed, a person has no energy for a couple days. Not so for Simon’s mother-in-law: one moment there’s flushed cheeks, burning skin, sweating—then it’s gone. Not only is her temperature normal, but she’s able to help serve the Sabbath meal.

What does this first healing mean? We can call this salvation, in miniature form. A person in danger of dying is delivered by Jesus and is given new life. Christ’s power is so great that the change is immediate, and her status is radically altered. He brings her from weak and helpless to strong and active.

And then think about how the healing has a real-life impact: this woman is now ready to get to work! The first good work that she finds, she does: she starts loving her neighbour, and serving them. Isn’t this how it should be for all who are restored by Christ? If your sins have been forgiven, if the Holy Spirit is renewing you, rise up immediately, and begin to work. You don’t have to recover from sin. You have been saved to serve, to walk in that newness of life.

It continues that evening. As the line-up outside the door gets longer, Jesus “healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (v 34). In whatever the condition they came to him, however sick they were—even those possessed by unclean spirits—Jesus sends them away changed and renewed.

When Matthew describes this same series of events in his Gospel, he points out how it’s a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He says that all this healing happened “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, ‘He himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses’” (8:17). You recognize that as a quotation from Isaiah 53, about the work of the coming Messiah, that He will carry the burden of our sin and curse.

Now, when we read about Jesus healing in Mark 1, or about the Messiah “taking our infirmities” in Isaiah, we’re quick to say that this doesn’t always mean physical healing for God’s people. We know that the LORD can give healing, and sometimes He does, but we also know not to expect this in every case. Some of us have had to live with illness for a long time, and for some it’s not likely to ever change. So we might struggle to understand. Why won’t Jesus heal today, like He did back then? Why doesn’t He bear our sicknesses, and take away all the suffering that it brings?

Remember that Jesus is the kind of physician who’s able to look past all the symptoms. He knows the root cause of all this sadness and pain in front of him, and the cause isn’t an infection, or a virus, or a genetic mutation, or anything else physical or even mental. We said it’s the disastrous effects of sin in this world, how sin ruins everything: from the mind to the body to the spirit. And Jesus will deal with all of this. He’ll start dealing with it in these first weeks of his ministry, where He shares in the suffering of sinners.

It’s so evident when Jesus heals the leper. Many in the crowd have started to back away from him, to plug their noses and avert their eyes. But not Jesus. He is “moved with compassion” (v 41). The Greek word for his compassion describes being moved deep within—literally, from his intestines. This miserable man affects him: He wants to help him.

Jesus is moved, and He “stretched out his hand and touched him” (v 41). To this man despised by everyone, Jesus reaches out. Keep in mind that a touch like this would’ve transferred uncleanness from the leper to Jesus. But that doesn’t stop him. He identifies with the man, and shows that He’s willing to share in the shame of this disease, like He shares in the shame of our sin. And when they touch, it’s not uncleanness that is shared. It’s cleansing! For Jesus says in answer to the leper’s request: “I am willing; be cleansed” (v 41). And at once the leprosy leaves him, and he is healed.

Jesus then tells the man: “Go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded” (v 44). The Old Testament laws are still in effect, and Jesus honours them. Passages in Leviticus spoke about skin diseases like this, and what a person was to do when they’d been healed. It called for the gift of two clean birds. Through the sprinkling of the blood of the one bird, a person could be officially certified as clean. And that was a big deal. Then a person could be reintegrated into society, able to live among other again. It also meant he could visit the temple again, draw near to God in worship. From being lost in despair even that same morning, this man has suddenly been restored.

And as dramatic as that is, what the man receives is only the beginning. Jesus will do better than take away scaly skin, He’ll do more than restore a person’s sight. Jesus can do much more than take away cancer or relieve your chronic pain—He can do even more than raise the dead. Healings and exorcisms and resurrections are just the start, for they’re only one aspect of life. Jesus wants to make us whole in every way, and deal with our fundamental problem. He sees our sin, and He’s not disgusted—He is deeply moved, and He wants to help us.

But to do that, we need much more than the sprinkled blood of a small bird. Jesus’ own blood will be poured out. It’s poured out because He identifies with us. He took on all our sin, and all the punishment we deserved. He took our sin, and He gave us his holiness. By his death He saves us from misery, and by his resurrection He delivers us from death. He restores us: not only to fellowship with God, but also to fellowship with other people. We don’t have to be separated from one another anymore, not when Jesus has become our peace.

As the chapter winds down, Jesus’ work continues: “He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee” (v 39). The message of his continual preaching is linked to what’s happening with his healings: He’s announcing the good news of the coming kingdom, and his miracles reveal the true power of that gospel. When we’re joined to Christ by faith, we receive definitive healing from our sin and guilt. He gives the thing that we need more than anything else.

Until Christ comes again, the world will continue to groan. We will continue to groan, and many things will stay broken. When we’re sick, we may sometimes get healing, and sometimes we won’t. We might be healthy today, but if we live long enough, we’ll all have to deal with the sadness of suffering and death. If we live long enough, we will all die.

But in life and death we know what Christ has done. What He started to do in his healings, what He accomplished in his death and resurrection, He’ll bring to a perfect finish. He will restore all things, even the earth that we live on, and the bodies that we inhabit. In the words of Revelation, there will come a day when there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, and no more death. That’ll be the total restoration, the full salvation we’ve been waiting for: transformed bodies, made like Christ’s glorious body; permanent freedom from sin; and allowed to dwell in the presence of God forever.

As you await that marvellous day, take your sins to Christ in confession, and receive his forgiveness. As you await that marvellous day, take your burdens to Christ, and receive his strength. Bring your brokenness to Christ, for He will make you whole.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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