Sunday, February 5, 2012
OUR FOCUS THIS MORNING will be on verses 32-34. "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, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was."
The world is filled with broken people, but when they are touched by Jesus, life happens. Healing of mind, body, or spirit happens, AND The assurance that things will be all right grows. As Christians, we are the beneficiaries of this blessing, and the instruments of it as well.
A pastor was preparing to leave the congregation where he had served faithfully for seven years. Both he and his parishioners were in tears over the parting. Gifts were given, embraces shared, kind and complimentary words offered:
"Pastor, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your service to the Lord here."
"Pastor, your faithfulness has been an inspiration to us."
"Pastor, God has truly blessed us with your ministry."
But of all the gracious and kind comments made, the most moving, the most impressive was this: "Pastor, we knew that no matter how bad things were, no matter how difficult things became, if you were present, somehow it would be all right." No pastor could hear anything more uplifting and affirming than this.
Multiply that sense of reassuring presence a hundred- fold and it begins to convey something of the assurance that those who were sick or poor or broken by life must have felt in the presence of the Good Pastor, Jesus Christ. When Jesus was around, these people just knew that things would be all right. Healing would happen.
Life comes to life in the presence of God. Elijah breath- ing life into a dead boy's body. Isaiah telling us to wait upon the Lord for renewal of strength. Paul doing whatever it takes to elicit the life-giving blessings of the gospel in the churchgoers of Corinth. Jesus healing the sick and broken. Again and again, the message is the same: wherever God is, wherever Jesus is, life comes to life. Things will be all right.
Mark writes, "That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases" (1:32-34). What a blessing it must have been to be a beneficiary of the new life God brings through Jesus Christ.
The people came to Jesus in the evening after sunset because it was the Sabbath - from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. The Jewish leaders had proclaimed that it was against the law to be healed on the Sabbath. The people didn't want to break this law or the Jewish law that prohib- ited traveling on the Sabbath, so they waited until sunset Saturday. After the sun went down, the crowds were free to find Jesus so he could heal them.
Some of the healing that Jesus performed dealt with the removal of demons whom Jesus would not allow to speak. Why didn't Jesus want the demons to reveal who he was? BE-CAUSE By commanding the demons to remain silent, Jesus proved his authority and power over them. He wanted the people to believe he was the Messiah because of what he said and did, not because of the demons' words. Jesus wanted to reVEal his identity as the Messiah according to his timetable, not according to Satan's timetable. Satan wanted the people to follow Jesus around for what they could get out of him, not because he was the Son of God who could truly set them free from sin's guilt and power.
HOW WONDERFUL TO KNOW THAT The life-giving blessings of Jesus' touch are not limited to the narrow band of men and women who knew him in the flesh two thousand years ago. THAT We don't have to celebrate from afar, BUT CAN Look within. We too have joined the ranks of those first men and women who were touched by Jesus and given new life. For us this newness of life may not have come through physical restoration from infirmity, but it surely has come through spiritual restoration from sin.
And this new life places upon each of us an obligation not just to be beneficiaries, but also conduits - individual pipelines, if you will, through which the loving and life-giving spirit of Christ can flow into the lives of others in need. Paul understood this. That's why he became, as he put it, all things to all persons, so that he could offer to others what was offered to him, namely, newness of life in Jesus Christ.
It is incumbent upon us to follow this example. Wasn't this the duty that Christ was placing upon us over and over again in the Gospels? "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Mt 7:21). And in one of his last parables, that of the sheep and goats, didn't Jesus promise God's reward to those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned?
YOU AND I can convey life to others in the name of Jesus. What we must keep in mind, however, and it is crucial for us to do so, is that we can be effective only insofar as we our- selves remain connected to the source of life, WHICH IS God Almighty. After Jesus poured life into those who were sick and broken in Peter's hometown, Mark tells us he withdrew to a solitary place where he could be alone with God in prayer. Why did Jesus do that? He did it to ensure that God's Spirit continued to flow unabated into his soul, from where it could be dispensed to others as the need arose.
Yes, Jesus took time to pray. Finding time to pray is not always easy, but prayer is the vital link between us and God. Like Jesus, we must break away from others to talk with God, even if we have to get up very early in the morning to do it. How is your prayer life? Are you deliberate about making time to have a little talk with Jesus and to tell him all about your troubles?
One of the great missionaries of the 20th century was Mary Reed. As a young woman she determined to bring life to the women of India in the name of Jesus. For eight years she worked under difficult conditions THERE, until her health began to collapse. She was sent to the Himalayas to recup- erate, and while there she discovered a colony of 500 lepers living without help or support. Some time later she returned to India, but within a year her health failed again, and she was sent back to America.
Much to her dismay and to the confusion of the doctors, her health continued to fail until one day she realized what was happening. The pain in her fingers, the spots on her face - telltale signs that she herself had contracted leprosy. In- stead of decrying her plight she returned to India where she could work with a community of lepers and bring to them the life that Christ had brought to her. And so, in Chandag, India, a settlement and a hospital for lepers grew as a result of her efforts. A single woman. A soul filled to the brim with the life of Jesus Christ. A servant of the Lord who brought life to those who were broken in body and spirit by a dread disease. A woman who knew the power of prayer and the need to keep in close contact with God.
Unfortunately, we cannot bottle god's power, as much as we would love to be able to put it in a vial so as to inject it whenever someone gets ill. But, we can see jesus in the work he does among us. Sometimes it is in bringing healing of various sorts. Sometimes it is preaching words of promise or challenge. Sometimes it is placing people in our pathways whom we can serve just as mary reed served the lord. Some- times, it might even be casting demons out in jesus' name. whatever his worK among us, we can see jesus when our eyes are turned to these epiphanies.
A teacher of first and second graders in vacation Bible school taught the children that we are Jesus' hands and feet in the world. Then he asked the children where Jesus lives today. The response was nearly unanimous, "Jesus lives inside us." One little boy was puzzled, however. Looking at the large picture of Jesus on the wall he said, "I'm small and Jesus is big. If Jesus lives inside me why isn't he sticking out somewhere?" Good question. Truth is, if Jesus lives inside us, if we are filled with his life, he does stick out somewhere, bringing health and well-being to others.
Wherever Jesus is, all things end up all right. Healing happens. Life comes to life in the presence of God. May we be not just the beneficiaries of this blessing but may we be the instruments as well.
Lord Jesus, we are gathered here today because we want to see you more clearly, love you more dearly, follow you more nearly. We long to gaze into your face, to understand your ways, to hear clearly your summons to us. Yet your way is not always clear to us. We debate among ourselves just what you would have us do to be faithful followers. Give us patience to let you disclose yourself to us on your terms rather than ours. Enable us to wait for you, to allow you to rearrange our expectations of you. Give us the grace to let you be who you are for us rather than whom we would have you be. For you are God, and we are not. You are Savior, but not always on our terms. Give us the humble wisdom to let you be you - and in turn, for you to heal, forgive and help us be who you intend us to become. Amen.