To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen
Do you ever read the gospels or hear the stories from Jesus’ life and ministry and think to yourself, “Man, I would love to have been there for that!” Think of all you’d see, all you’d hear. Sit yourself down on that grassy plain, shoulder to shoulder with over 5,000 others and watch from a distance as Jesus gives thanks for a boy’s lunch. And you hardly have to wait for more fish and bread than you know what to do with. Stand next to the Son of God with tears streaming down his face, listen to him ask for the stone to be rolled away, and hear him shout, Lazarus, come out! Then watch the burial cloths fall off and see the once dead man walk out of his tomb alive. Park yourself in the upper room with the rest of Jesus’ fearful followers on that final Thursday night. Your heart races, your emotions are a mess, but Jesus makes it so plain, so comforting, that you can’t miss it. In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you. I could keep going, but I think you get the point. “I would love to have been there for that!” To be a part of it, to hear what Jesus says, to watch what he does, to receive what he gives. I’d love to be there! But I wasn’t…
Maybe, as 21st century believers, we feel like we’ve been short changed because we weren’t physically present for any of those things. I think it’s especially a temptation when we look at a section of the gospels like we have before us today. Luke tells us about it. Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people. Look at all those people Jesus helped and healed in Capernaum! He didn’t stop after preaching in the synagogue. Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever, but then Jesus showed up. Who knows how many people in that small town were suffering, whether from a physical ailment or a spiritual torment, but then Jesus showed up. He helps. He heals. I would love to have been there for that!
Can you imagine, as the sun sets over Capernaum, lining up in the streets with everyone who had a physical ailment and having Jesus know exactly what you needed and heal you without your saying a word? That bum knee – better. The aggressive cancer – gone. The crippled legs – made strong. Man, I would love to have been there for that! If there’s one thought you have when you hear about Jesus’ miraculous healing, it might be, “I wish I could’ve been there.” If there’s two thoughts you have, the second one is probably this: If only Jesus would show up and work a little of that healing today! I could use some of that help and healing – so could you. You know someone who’s sick. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, you knew someone who was sick, because it seemed like Jesus didn’t show up. You know what it’s like to wait eternal days for a phone call that tells you one of two words: “benign or malignant.” You’ve felt the discomfort and fear of waking up at night wondering if you’re going to be alright. Have you ever heard about one of Jesus’ miraculous healings and wonder why he doesn’t just walk into Ascension/Via Christi and clear the whole place out?
Before we put Jesus on trial for failure to perform his job according to our standards, let’s take a step back and remember something. The miracles of Jesus all served a purpose. Yes, they helped the people who were healed, fed, and raised from the dead. Yes, they served to undergird the message he was preaching. Every sick person and diseased soul was marched in front of Jesus and he helped them, not just to satisfy their need for temporary relief, but to point ahead to something else. This is what the miracles of Jesus are all about – with one person at a time, undoing the damning curse of sin and pointing ahead to his perfect restoration of all things, brought about by the greatest miracle of his own resurrection. Do you want to know the dirty little secret about all those people Jesus healed and helped? Thye might get sick again, and even if they remained perfectly healthy until their dying day – they’d have just that – a dying day. So, what gives? Does Jesus’ miraculous power have an expiration date; did he not heal them thoroughly enough? The healings and even the raising of the dead we read about in the gospels didn’t serve as an end to themselves. Those whom Jesus healed and raised would find themselves in a coffin one day. Instead, Jesus’ miracles always point us to something greater, something fuller, something eternal. With his miraculous healings, Jesus is powerfully demonstrating that the Kingdom of God is at hand – God’s plan of salvation is happening in Jesus and his work. So, here Jesus’ miracles of healing point us to his ultimate healing, the forgiveness of our sins and our place with him in heaven.
Even now, as we read about the miraculous healings, don’t think, “Man, I would love to have been there!” Instead, realize that you already are. You’re standing in line, waiting for your turn. It might seem like the line is long and that you’ll never get your chance, but from the front of that line come cries of joy from blind people who see and from the lame who leap. With each joyful cry, your hope builds and by faith you see what Jesus is up to – pointing you to his perfect power for you. Whether that means he’ll heal our physical bodies in there here and now; whether that means our ailments will only dissipate in the glory of heaven; or whether his gift is strength to endure until that day comes, we know that Jesus works miracles, both then and now, for his people – even you. Take comfort in this - Jesus knows exactly what you need, when you need it, and how he’s going to give it. He knows because, like no one else, he acutely feels your pain. Isaiah had it right when he said, Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. With every miracle from his hands and every word from his mouth, he proves it.
Jesus does the same thing for you. Did you notice how he brought about these miraculous healings and exorcisms? With a word. He binds himself to a word for you. Jesus frees those who are held captive by sending away the thing that holds them – whether a demon or a fever or any kind of sickness, Jesus breaks the chains with a word. He doesn’t need to perform some magic ritual, he simply speaks a word and reality occurs. To the fever he says, “Be gone,” and it is. To the cripple he says, “Get up and walk,” and off he goes. To the dead and buried he proclaims, “Come out,” and out they come. And here’s the beauty of that word – there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” miracle. Each individual soul receives individual attention from the Great Physician of body and soul. Did you catch that? When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Laying his hands on each one. How long would that take if the better part of a village came your way? What would you say if you were Jesus? Come back for healing during business hours…make an appointment…it’s getting late (with hand on the doorknob). But what does Jesus do? He demonstrates his infinite patience and individual care for each and every human being.
Jesus does the same for you and me. There is no problem too big and no need too small to escape his notice or his desire to help. Have you considered how Jesus uses that same intimate and personal touch when it comes to the gospel? God so loved the whole wide world – that’s the truth. God so loved you that he sent his Son to save you – that’s the point. Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of the world – absolutely. Jesus bled and died on Calvary to pay the debt you owed. The gospel is universal in scope and individual in application. Have you ever noticed that? Jesus died to forgive every sin – yes! But from the mouth of your pastors or your Christian friend comes the healing balm straight to your wounded soul – in the name of Jesus, I forgive you. The gospel is universal in scope and individual in application – Repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of your sins is the call that goes out to the whole world, but it doesn’t stay out there in the ether. Instead it’s delivered through a hand cupping cool water and pouring it out over your head in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The gospel is universal in scope and individual in application – Jesus gave his body and blood to pay the price for sin. Yes he did, and that very same body and blood doesn’t linger out there in space, but is delivered to you, placed in your hands and on your lips, so that you have plainly what Jesus says, the forgiveness of sins. In every miracle, we see Jesus’ precise attention to the individual – even individuals like you. The Son of God comes to meet every need of every sinner.
Once again, it seems fitting to ask the Epiphany question: What is Jesus doing here? Hanging out in a small town synagogue, taking time for Peter’s mother-in-law, rubbing shoulders with the sick and demon possessed – what’s Jesus doing here? What is glory like that doing in a place like this? He tells us, I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God…because that is why I was sent. He doesn’t say, “I must heal more people,” or “I must put on a show so everyone will know who I am.” He says, “I must preach the good news.” What was all-important in Jesus’ ministry was proclaiming the reality of the kingdom of God – the good news that God’s plan of salvation was happening in Jesus and his work. And he feels so strongly about it, that he says he must. This raises the interesting point – what does Jesus have to do? What’s necessary for him? He is completely free, bound by no necessity, yet he makes one thing absolutely necessary for himself – proclaiming the good news to you. Jesus binds himself to a word – for you. And he even takes it a step further - when it came to your sin, what did Jesus have to do? Well, your sin wasn’t his problem – but he made it his problem, because he’s the only one who could take it away forever.
If you heard the account of Jesus’ miracles today and thought, Man, I would love to have been there! I get to tell you, you were and you are. That powerful word of Jesus that healed the sick is the same powerful word that proclaims your sins to be forgiven and heaven to be your home. The powerful word of Jesus that drove out the demons is the very same word that tears you away from the devil’s dominion and brings you safely into the kingdom of God. The powerful word of Jesus that brought the dead back to life is the same word of the gospel that God’s Spirit uses to breathe eternal life into your death. Rejoice, because you are there. Rejoice, because Jesus is here. Satanic forces are destroyed. Sickness is trounced, disease is healed, and the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed to people – even people like you and me. So marvel with me - Jesus binds himself to his healing word of promise for you.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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