Sermons


Listen to the sermon with the player below, or, download the audio

+ + + In Nomine Jesu + + +

Please join me in prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Influenza fatalities are mounting among the young and old, as the epidemic sends people to hospitals in what could end up being record numbers, and, only about halfway through the flu season, pharmacies are experiencing spot‑shortages of anti-flu medicines (NBC). Some people are going to their doctors when they could stay home, and others are staying home when they should go to their doctors. Humanly speaking, some concern is warranted, of course, and reasonable precautions do seem to be in order. Our struggles with the flu epidemic may have come to your mind as we heard today’s Gospel Reading, which tells of Jesus’s healing Peter’s mother‑in‑law of her fever and countless others who were sick with various diseases. Considering today’s Gospel Reading this morning, we may do well to ask and answer the question, “What kind of healing are we looking for from Jesus?”

Coming immediately after last week’s Gospel Reading about Jesus’s astonishing teaching and amazing exorcism in a Capernaum synagogue on a Sabbath day (Mark 1:21-28), this week’s Gospel Reading tells how Jesus immediately left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew. There, Simon’s instantaneously and completely healed mother‑in‑law served them a Sabbath Seder, and, after the Sabbath day was over, the whole city brought to Jesus all who were sick or oppressed by demons, and He healed them all and cast out many demons. But, the next morning, Jesus went out early to pray, and, when everyone was looking for Him, He exhorted Peter and the other disciples to go with Him elsewhere, that He might preach there, for that is why He had come.

Some Bible commentators make much out of the behavior both of the crowds and of Jesus. They read between St. Mark’s Divinely‑inspired lines both that the crowds only cared about temporal physical healings and exorcisms and that Jesus did not want them to know Who He was and, seemingly contradictorily, did not want to heal them but only to preach. While I think such interpretations can go too far, nevertheless, as I mentioned, we may do well to ask and answer the question, “What kind of healing are we looking for from Jesus?” Do we only or mostly want Him to heal our flu, to cure our cancer, or otherwise to stop the in‑this‑world‑inevitable signs of aging? Or, are we primarily concerned about the forgiveness of sins that He offers in this world, so that we can have eternal life in the next? While looking for physical healing in the present is not in and of itself sinful, we can sin by looking too much for physical healing in the present and not enough for physical healing in the future.

To be sure, the various diseases that Jesus both healed that day and heals in our day are related to sin. In general, such sickness, plagues, and other calamities result from not listening to and otherwise heeding God’s laws (Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 7:15; Oepke, TDNT 4:1091). In some cases, specific sicknesses may even result from specific sins (John 5:14; 1 Corinthians 11:30’ Oepke, TDNT 4:1095). And, we know that the end result of sickness and sin is the present and eternal death that we all deserve on account of both the original sin we inherit and our actual sins that follow.

Yet, God does not want us so to die, but God wants to forgive us so that we might live eternally. So, God calls and enables us to repent: to turn in sorrow from our sin, to trust Him to forgive our sin, and to want to do better than to keep on sinning. When we so repent, then God forgives our sin. God forgives our sin of wanting present healing more than eternal healing. God forgives all our sin, whatever our sin might be. God forgives all our sin for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ.

As we sang in the Hymn of the Day (Lutheran Service Book 398), the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater Son, came in the time appointed to begin His reign on earth, to break oppression, to set the captives free, to take away transgression, and to rule in equity. For, our souls, condemned and dying, are precious in His sight. Out of God’s great love and compassion, out of His mercy and His grace, the Holy One of God came in human flesh to destroy the unholy work of the devil (1 John 3:8). On the cross, Jesus bruised (or “crushed”) the serpent (the devil’s) head (Genesis 3:15). There, Jesus not only took our illnesses and diseases, but there He also was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed (Matthew 8:16; Isaiah 53:4-5). Jesus takes us from death to life, by suffering in our place, by paying the penalty for sin that we deserved. Showing the victory Jesus has won for us, His miraculous healings and exorcisms flow from His preaching His Gospel of salvation and those miraculous signs are intended to create faith in Him unto the salvation that He brings.

Jesus’s preaching and the accompanying signs did not stop with Him. In today’s Epistle Reading (1 Corinthians 9:16-27) we heard the Divinely‑inspired St. Paul tell the Corinthians of the stewardship of preaching the Gospel entrusted to him, and elsewhere we find St. Paul also healing a fever like that suffered by Simon’s mother‑in‑law (Acts 28:8). The Word forgives now and heals eternally—whether that Word is read or preached, accompanied with the touch of water (as in Holy Baptism), accompanied with the touch of a hand (as in individual Holy Absolution), or accompanied by the eating of bread that is Christ’s Body and the drinking of wine that is Christ’s Blood (as in the Sacrament of the Altar, our Sabbath day Seder, as it were). Baptism, especially with its rescue from death and the devil, Absolution, and the Supper—all are the Word in visible forms. They are the miraculous signs of our time, intended to create faith in Jesus unto the salvation that He brings.

Notably, after the fever left Simon’s mother‑in‑law, she began to serve Jesus and His disciples. She served according to her vocation, and we each serve according to our individual vocations. The Word of Christ sets us free, “and we exercise our freedom in loving service to others” (COW). Simon’s mother‑in‑law and the others whom Jesus healed still died later, as will we, unless He returns first. In the meantime, we also support the ministry of the Word however we can, and we bring here those who are in need of it. We pray for physical healing in the present, but we conform our will to God’s, and we are content with His answer to our prayers, even if that means only physical healing in the future. We let whatever afflictions we experience prepare for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison; God’s grace is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 4:17; 12:7-10; Oepke, TDNT 4:1095). And, we have the sure and certain hope of that future healing that is the resurrection and glorification of our bodies.

This morning we have asked and answered the question, “What kind of healing are we looking for from Jesus?” Though at times we may sinfully seek present healing too much, and though we do sin in other ways, as we daily repent and live in God’s forgiveness of sins, we know that He ultimately grants us that forgiveness and the future healing of eternal life. Then, the description of today’s Old Testament Reading (Isaiah 40:21-31) will truly be fulfilled. For in this life, even people like New England’s superstar quarterback Tom Brady—whether or not it happens today on Super Bowl Sunday, some day—will faint and be weary and fall exhausted, but those who wait on the Lord—on that last, great day—will renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

+ + + Soli Deo Gloria + + +