February 5, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“That evening at sundown they brought to [Jesus] all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.”
Jesus continues His miraculous deeds in Capernaum. That is the heart of the Gospel Reading for this day. The morning that began with Jesus’ teaching with authority and driving out an unclean spirit in Capernaum’s synagogue continues with further deeds to benefit those who needed aid. Mark tells you that the venue for Jesus’ deeds moved first from the synagogue to the house of Simon and Andrew: “And immediately He left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.”
But not all was well in Simon’s house: “Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever….” The symptom of illness that even you know of centuries later was present. Simon’s mother-in-law needed healing. So what actions do her children take? They don’t ignore the problem. Neither do they overlook the person who has the ability to help. The Gospel Writer records their actions: “… and immediately they told Him about her.” Simon and Andrew disclosed the problem that this woman had. They tell it to the One who had shown authority and ability by His actions in the synagogue.
So what does Jesus do about this problem? “And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” Jesus’ actions show that He has both the ability and the desire to help. He encounters the disorder that afflicted Simon’s mother-in-law. He engages it and overcomes it. The illness that drove this woman to bed is removed. And new ability is given in its place. No longer is she under the illness’ burden. Now she can be active. Now she can serve Jesus, the One who has healed her, and those in His company.
But the Gospel Writer speaks about further events in Capernaum. Jesus’ actions were not limited to the aid of only one woman. What happened in Simon’s house for one person was done for many more. Like Simon and Andrew who informed Jesus of their relative’s illness, the others in Capernaum bring their loved ones to Jesus to receive His aid. Simon’s house becomes a hospital of sorts: “That evening at sundown they brought to [Jesus] all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.” Jesus’ presence is recognized as beneficial. His ability is known. The people believe what they have seen and heard. And they want those close to them to be helped by Him. But they do not know how long He will be there. So even as evening draws the day to a close, the people bring their invalids to Jesus to receive His aid.
There is an urgency seen in these people of Capernaum. It is an urgency found in those who know their plight, who know the problems they have. And when there is a chance for their situation to be reversed, they make the great effort to be where that help can be found. They are driven to it. That’s what was happening in Capernaum.
What is it that draws the people to Jesus? It is the showing of His identity by His words and works. What Jesus says and does displays His authority and ability. Jesus shows Himself to be the Lord. But that showing is not only a raw display of power; rather, it is a display of power to benefit others. Jesus’ actions match up with the description of the Lord given in the Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah: “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Who are the faint and the ones with no might in Capernaum? They were “all who were sick or oppressed by demons.” And what does the Lord do for them in Capernaum? “He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.” His actions restore their strength and gives them power. There was nothing in the people of Capernaum that could overcome their afflictions. But the Lord’s presence in their village gave them restoration. Their belief in Jesus’ identity drives them to His presence to receive that aid. And that faith is exactly what the Lord wishes to see among His people.
The incident in Capernaum is paradigmatic for the Church. Who are you gathered here? Why have you come? What do you desire? What has driven you to this place? The question can be asked of Jon and Jamie who carried their little daughter Hailey this morning: What did you desire to receive here? These were the questions that faced the people of Capernaum. The answers to these questions will reveal your faith, what you know to be true about yourself and the Lord.
You have come to receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation that Jesus provides. That is what He has present for you here. That’s what Jesus is giving out in this venue. Such gifts are made available for you because of who Jesus is and what He has done. Forgiveness, life, and salvation are available for you because Jesus has lived without sin, has overcome death, and has overthrown the tyranny of Satan. His righteousness shown through perfect obedience to His Father’s will and through the compassionate acts He has performed is made to be yours. His resurrection from the grave has shown that death is not all-powerful and that immortality is the rightful state of mankind. Jesus’ mastery over the demonic demonstrates His true dominion over all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.
It is this almighty Lord who makes Himself present here for you, so that you can receive benefits from Him. He does not want to hear you say: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.” Those are the words of the people who do not recognize His presence. They are the words that come from those who do not avail themselves of His aid. Such statements are of doubt and despair. The statements recognize plight, but do not see the help that is present to overcome it.
But the Lord works to ensure that this is not your fate. He has put into your presence the help that you need. He does so by bringing it to your town. Even as much as Capernaum was blessed to have Jesus present with them, they were not His only audience. Remember how the Gospel Reading ended: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him, and they found Him and said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for You.’ 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 out.’ And He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” Jesus brings His aid to other locations, other places where people are in need of it. That’s what you see happening in the Gospel Reading, but also what you see happening here in this place. The Church becomes a hospital of sorts, the place where Jesus brings His healing to sinful people.
Do you need Jesus’ aid? Yes, because you are not perfect. Yes, because you are afflicted by conditions beyond your control. Yes, because you know that you cannot overcome death and the grace. Yes, because you know that human ability is great, but is not supreme. And so you have come to be aided by Jesus. You have come to receive what Jesus makes present here with the preaching about Him and His works. You have come to be helped by the One who “gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.”
Your faith has driven you to this place to receive Jesus’ help. You believe what you hear about Him. You trust in what He says about what takes place when His words are spoken and received. This faith draws you to Jesus’ presence. Knowledge of sin drives you to receive forgiveness. Knowledge of mortality drives you to receive everlasting life. Knowledge of affliction drives you to receive salvation. You know that your condition needs to be remedied. And so you come to the One who can provide that healing with His words of power being proclaimed to you, His words of power connected with water and washing you, His words of power joined to bread and wine and distributed to you.
And yet, you don’t only benefit yourselves. Certainly, you come to receive the assistance that Jesus has for you. But like the people in Capernaum, you also bring others to receive it. Simon did not keep the plight of his mother-in-law secret from Jesus: “…immediately they told Him about her.” The people who witnessed Jesus’ actions in the synagogue did not keep the knowledge of His abilities to themselves: “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.” There is a movement of people to where Jesus is present with His gifts. So it was in Capernaum, and so it is here today.
You first were brought to His presence, but you have also brought others to Him. Some of you have carried children to receive Jesus’ actions, like Jon and Jamie carried Hailey here this morning. Others of you have brought spouses or future spouses into the faith. There are people here who have invited friends and acquaintances to receive the benefits that Jesus wishes to give out in this “next town” that He visits. This happens because Jesus helped you, so that you are now able to serve Him, just as Simon’s mother-in-law was. The greatest service that you do is to rightly believe and speak about who Jesus is and what He has done, so that others may also receive the benefits that He has won for them and desires to give them. It isn’t a service that must be done far away, but takes place in your own hometowns, just as it did in Capernaum and the other cities of Galilee.
So on this day, you can celebrate that another person has been added to the number of people who have been helped by Jesus. You can be glad that you yourselves have received His forgiveness, life, and salvation. And you can rightly rejoice in the Lord who has done this for you: “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor His pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His steadfast love.” Yes, the Lord’s delight is in you who know the truth about your condition, but even more so who trust in Him and His help that overcomes it, urgently coming here to receive it.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.