Greeting: Because of the tender mercy of our God, the rising Sun comes to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness, to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Text: 29) As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30) Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31) So He went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. 32) That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon possessed. 33) The whole town gathered at the door, 34) 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. 35) Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. 36) Simon and his companions went to look for Him, 37) and when they found Him, they exclaimed "Everyone is looking for You!" 38) Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." 39) So He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Introduction: Oh, how easy it is to get the wrong idea about something - and then to let that wrong idea influence the way you think about so many other things. Personally, I had a long standing problem with my understanding of the work "meek." My initial understanding of the work "meek" was that it described a person who doesn't have a lot of spirit or inner strength. Being meek was not what you wanted to be. My thinking was: "if you are meek, then you must be weak."
So I really had a hard time coming to grips with the Bible's statement about meekness. For example, Jesus' statement: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." I struggled to understand how the hymn writer could describe Jesus as "meek and mild." I thought that this must be wrong or if they are right, then I am following the wrong Savior. But later on, I took the time to study the word and I learned that the word "meek" can also mean "patient, humble, uncomplaining." Well those insights gave me a new understanding of what it meant to be meek. It also gave me a new appreciation for my Savior. Jesus is certainly not weak and without spirit. Be He truly is patient and humble.
One thing people can get a wrong idea about is the way God works - or more specifically, how God exercises His rule in the world. Some look at the hatred, turmoil, and suffering going on is some many places and they conclude that God is rather cruel or at least cold-hearted to let these things go on. Or they assume that while God may care, He is rather weak and powerless to do much about it. This kind of thinking takes hold in a person and explains why some conclude that God is insignificant and is no one to be too concerned about. After all, they reason: why take God seriously if He is disinterested or incompetent Being.
The Gospel lesson for today helps us get the right idea about how God works and rules in the world. As the Messenger of God's kingdom, Jesus shows us what the invisible God is like and how He operates in the world He made and rules over. What we see in Jesus as He ministers in the city of Capernaum is a strong rebuke to those who think that God is cruel, cold, incapable or incompetent. To the contrary, what we see in Jesus is that God is the compassionate, capable King who is mighty in His mercy for people. The words of Mark's Gospel are work exploring so that we better understand this interesting combination of divine love and strength as the mark and standard of God's rule.
1. Compassionately, He Defeats Life's Distressing Evils
As we examine the Kingdom-revealing work of Jesus, we witness someone who is tremendously compassionate as He defeats life's distressing evils. Mark tells us that Jesus and His early disciples traveled from the synagogue in Capernaum to the home of Peter's mother-in-law. They were probably going for a Saturday afternoon or evening meal. They arrived to find Peter's mother-in-law in bed. She had been stricken with a debilitating fever. When Jesus learned of the situation, He went to her bedside, took her by the hand and helped her get up. Immediately her fever broke and went away. She felt strong enough to prepare the meal for her guests. This is a picture of considerate compassion as Jesus comes to the aid of an ailing woman and tenderly heals her.
Jesus' compassionate help for others continued well into that night. After sunset, which marked the end of the Sabbath, people in Capernaum flooded Simone's house with their sick and demon-possessed family member and friends. Word about Jesus' demonstration of His powerful authority over demons at the morning synagogue service had spread throughout the city. With great patience, Jesus healed the sick of their various diseases and cast out devils from those possessed.
Here Jesus shows us that God is the compassionate Defeater of life's distressing evils. Life in a fallen world is cursed with many kinds of maladies: illnesses that affect bodies and minds, injuries, addictions. These evils are sorrowful, painful reminders of the consequences of sin. Headaches, infections, fevers, arthritis, broken bones, asthma, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, alcoholism, drug addiction - all are irritating and distressing results of a world gone wrong in its relationship with God. The pain and hurt, sadness and grief, depression and defeat sap our strength and suppress our hope as they burden our lives and the lives of those around us.
With empathetic love, God comes to deliver people from the evils that distress them. He is a concerned, caring God who desires our ultimate release from sin and evil. Now He comes to our aid and grants recovery and health. What He permits to go unhealed, He will ultimately defeat at the end of time.
In Jesus, we see one who is able to sympathize with us in our weakness, one who stands with us in all our distress, one who shares in our pain. Jesus is the proof and promise that God's rule is a rule of compassion, in which He defeats life's distressing evils.
2. Energetically, He Extends His Refreshing Relief
God is caring. He is also capable and strong. After Jesus performed so many healings in Capernaum, we find Him getting up early the next morning to pray. He seeks strength from the Father for His challenging work. Then, He announces to His disciples that He is determined to go to more places to help more people with the teaching of God's Word and the healing of their ills. Jesus shows us that God is mighty in His mercy - and that He energetically extends His wonderful relief to more and more people. Jesus has a sense of need and urgency to carry out God's rescuing work to others.
There is a debate going on in our country over the size and scope of our government. There are advocates for a more expansive government and advocates for a more limited government. You may have your opinions on this matter. I know I do. God's governing of the world is fairly well defined for us in the Bible. In God's governing, there is a balance between divine responsibilities and human responsibilities. Although responsibilities are limited, there is no limit to the people God desires to help. God's help is not just for some. It is for all. God's aid is not just for those who are close by, it is also for those who are far away. God's assistance is not just for neighbors. It is also for strangers. God works and works and works to bring His relief to others.
It is a great comfort to have a God who uses His energy to aid us. It is a great privilege to share in extending that relief to others. Our God is not weak and He is not indifferent. He is mighty in His mercy. His mercies are new and sweet to us every morning. They last all day long. How good it is to be under God's gracious rule. We rejoice that our Savior is mighty in His mercy for us and for all. Amen.