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It was the Sabbath day and Jesus took Simon, Andrew, James and John, the four fishermen he had recruited, to be His disciples, to church with Him. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. For all the times that these four men had gone to church, they had never seen anything like what they saw on this Sabbath Day.
A man with an ‘unclean spirit’ stood up in the middle of the service, interrupting Jesus in the middle of His during his sermon, saying, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God.”
We Lutherans are not so used to people interrupting the service like some churches are. For some other churches, it is perfectly normal to hear people shout, “Preach it brother” and “praise the Lord” and “Amen,” during the sermon. In fact, in those traditions, if the congregation is too quite and unresponsive, the preacher will ask for some feedback. “Can I get an ‘amen’? Such things would leave the typical Lutheran pastor in total confusion and render him paralyzed.
Jesus is obviously not a Lutheran. He is neither flustered nor flabbergasted at the rude interruption of one of the parishioners. In perfect stride, He says to the ‘unclean spirit,’ “be silent, and come out of him.” And with “loud crying and convulsing,” it does.
And the congregation is not Lutheran either. Everyone immediately realizes that something very extraordinary has just happened. There is an outbreak of conversation which I picture something like our ‘greeting’ before worship. “’What is this? A new teaching and with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’
Trust me, I am not asking you to be more ‘vocal’ during the sermon or the service than you already are. You get your chance to speak and sing those words that are in ‘bold print,’ and that’s enough. We are, after all, Lutherans.
But I do hope that you realize that something just as extraordinary happens here as happened in there. “Unclean spirits” are cast out by the authority of Jesus. He commands them to come out of us and by His authority they do. It is once the Divine Service is over and we return to our lives in the world that we are free and encouraged to talk about what happens here every Sunday. “And at once his fame spread everywhere through all the surrounding region.”
It’s has been my experience over the years, that some of the most important ‘pastoral’ work that I do, is done immediately after the service. Someone wants to speak with me. There are people that I really want to speak with. And sometimes this means that I miss getting my cup of coffee at Fellowship, which I don’t mind it at all. (Unless Sharon has made her ‘baklava.’)
It seems like it was that way for Jesus too.
“And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever.”
Peter’s mother-in-law had the flu and she was too sick to go to church. “And immediately they told him about her.”
I wonder what they told Him about her. Did they try to warn Jesus not to get too close to her lest He catch whatever it was that she had… not realizing that the whole reason that He came down from heaven was to ‘get close to us,’ and that He would most certainly catch more from her than just her fever. He would catch all of her sin, and come down with a good case of ‘crucifixion unto death,’ all because He got too close to her, and to you too.
Or, having seen what they saw in the Synagogue, did they tell Him about her hoping that He might use His authority to take away her fever from her.
Whatever they told Him about her, Jesus went right to her. After all, “it’s not the healthy who need a physician but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12). And the Doctor had come all the way from heaven just to make this house call.
“Knock, knock.” “Whose there?” “The kingdom of God is at hand.” God’s eternal plan to redeem the world was moving unstoppably towards its goal and the eternal destiny of the world rests on this one man, Jesus of Nazareth.
AND HERE HE IS FOR THIS ONE WOMAN. AS IF HE HAD COME INTO THE WORLD JUST FOR HER.
“And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her…”
When the ‘unclean spirit’ came out of the man in the synagogue there was “loud convulsing and crying.” But here, the action is so simple, so quite. No drama. He comes to her bedside. He holds her hand. She sits up. And the fever is gone. No shrieks, no crying. No “thaink ya Jesus.”
“And she began to serve them.”
Literally, the text reads, “and she began to DEACONESS them.” Peter’s mother-in-law is the first ‘deaconess’ in the Gospels. In response to the love of God in Jesus Christ who visited her in her time of need with His divine authority, she simply gets up and puts on a pot of coffee and fixes lunch. It’s all very Lutheran.
“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 would have come earlier, but remember, all of this was happening on the Sabbath Day. Under Jewish law, going to the doctor on the Sabbath Day was forbidden because it was too much work to get there. And even if they had gone, any good Jewish doctor would never have treated them on the Sabbath Day because it was too much work to do.
Today, we know better. Today we know that the Sabbath is the day that all the sick come to the doctor to be healed. And the Doctor is always in and ready to heal you. Today, it’s not the coming to the Doctor that violates the law of God, but the staying away.
And so, as soon as the sun set, which marked the end of the Sabbath day, they all came and lined up at the door of the house where He was. They had been to church and seen Jesus’ ‘authority’ to cast out the ‘unclean spirits.’ After worship, the went home and got sick ‘mothers,’ ‘fathers,’ ‘friends,’ ‘neighbors,’ and brought them to Jesus. “Come with me to see Jesus. He can heal you.” That’s just what friends do.
“And He healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons.”
Just try to picture the scene. Jesus moving down the long line of people, one at a time, placing His hand on them, blessing them, curing them, cleansing them, healing them. And each one a new person. Not just because they were healed of what ailed them. But because the “KINGDOM OF GOD” had come to them, and touched them, and blessed them, as though He had come into the world JUST FOR THEM.
I wonder how many of those “gathered at the door” that evening became ‘deaconesses’ and ‘deacons’ in response to God’s love for them?
There may not have been a lineup at our door this morning. (I’m sure it was just because of weather.) But we have come here for the same reason as they went there. We have come to see Jesus because we are sick with a sinful fever.
He touched you in your baptism, individually, by name. He healed YOU, cleansed YOU, took away your sinful fever, as though He came down from heaven JUST FOR YOU.
But you got sick again. And so you come back to the Doctor to be healed again. “I forgive you all of your sins,” and again, you are healed. “Take eat, this is my body given for you.” “Take, drink, this is my blood shed for you,” and again, you are cleansed.
The prophet Isaiah speaks for the Lord saying, “Surely he has taken our illness…” And yet, we still get sick. But the day is coming when we will be well NEVER TO GET SICK AGAIN.
“Surely He has borne our diseases…” And yet, there is still cancer. But the day is coming when we will be clean, and no disease can touch us.
These extraordinary things that Jesus does, are just ‘signs’ pointing to the goal that lies ahead, just the appetizer before the main course arrives.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”
It had been a busy night. But He is up before the sun and any of the disciples and off to a solitary place to pray. Literally it reads that “he departed and went OUT TO A DESERT PLACE.” The desert is where He had been tempted by the devil. “And the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give to you, if you will fall down and worship me.’”
Fame, popularity, success. All very tempting. “The whole city was gathered together at the door.”
“And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.”
What they mean is, ‘you should not be here, Jesus. You should be there.’ Great things were happening. This little group of four fishermen and their Rabbi had suddenly grown into a full-fledged ‘movement’ with enough enthusiastic supporters to at least win the primary if not, carry Him all the way to the throne.
“Then Jesus said to the devil, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”
The healing that He came down from heaven to bring TO YOU can only be administered by the cross. All cures are nothing but temporary patch jobs apart from His suffering and death on the cross and resurrection on the 3rd day.
“And He said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came.”
• He does not want the acceptance of men and women, because He has the acceptance of His Father in heaven.
• He does not want the praise of the people, because He already enjoys the praise of the angels and archangels.
• He does not want to be crowned, King of Israel, because He is already the King of the universe.
All He wants is to heal you. Just you.