Text: Mark 1:29-39
The Gospel reading this week picks up from the text last week where Jesus was teaching in the Synagogue in Capernaum. Everyone in attendance was astonished that Jesus taught with direct authority and not with the quotations of the scribes. He spoke directly for God, as He had been anointed for that purpose by His Father, so we learned in Isaiah 61 this last Advent. Jesus demonstrated His authority as the Holy One of God by casting a demon out of a man, commanding it to be silent and come out of him. At once Jesus’ fame spread throughout Galilee.
Today we pick up that evening as Jesus left the synagogue. Beginning with Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus healed many sicknesses and cast out many demons. He provided deliverance from illness, disease, and the devil. All of these things have the same root source: sin. In delivering the people from these afflictions, Jesus gave evidence of the real reason He took on flesh – He came to deliver us from the powers of sin, death, and the devil by His death on the cross. By His death He shattered the hold that sin and its effects had over us and now strengthens us with His Means of Grace.
The text begins, “Immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” Immediately after Jesus threw a demon out of a man in the synagogue, He left and entered the house of Peter and Andrew. Peter’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and they bring word of her to Jesus, knowing that He can heal her. Jesus approached her, and taking her by the hand, raised her up. Immediately the fever left her. This word for “left,” is ἀφίημι, which is also the word for forgiveness. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Mark connects the forgiveness of sins we have in Christ with physical healing. There was more than just healing going here. Sickness and ailments are the result of the Fall into Sin. Scripture says that sin was introduced through the Fall, and death through sin. Various sickness are the result of a broken world.
We see the connection between forgiveness of sins and healing ahead a few verses, in Mark 2. Jesus heals a paralytic man by saying to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Some of the scribes scoff at Jesus, saying that no one can forgive sins but God. Jesus said, “’That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’” The man got up and went home. Jesus forgave the man His sins, but what do people latch onto? The healing, of course. And so, in our text we read that at sundown people brought Him all who were sick or possessed by demons. It was such that the whole city was gathered at the door. Jesus, ever compassionate, had mercy and healed many who were sick and cast out many demons. And yet, the healings were not the real reason that Jesus came.
Mark continues, “Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he 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.” Jesus rose very early in the morning to withdraw from the crowds and pray. As Jesus was fully human, He may have needed time to rest and rejuvenate, and especially to be in prayer with His Father. But there may also be another reason He withdrew, and this comes out in saying that Simon and those who were with him searched for Jesus. This is actually the word for when you would hunt something, or someone. It’s like looking for something eagerly or searching for it because you want something from it.
Jesus wanted to keep people from latching onto the wrong thing. The crowds of people had been accustomed to there being so called “faith healers,” from time to time. And now, here is Jesus healing people to a degree and on a scale previously unheard of. He heals everything completely. Peter’s mother had been beset with a fever, Jesus touched her, and all of a sudden she was up and caring for the group – completely healed. The crowds saw Jesus healing, and they wanted it, too. If not for themselves, then for those they knew. But they didn’t quite get the real reason why Jesus came, and neither did the disciples at this point. They wanted to take what Jesus had rather than receive what He freely gives.
That’s something that we can relate to, a trap we can fall into as well. Our lives are filled with wants. We all have lists of wants and needs, and sometimes the wants begin to carry the day. We want a new truck; we want a new TV. The sin inside us then takes it to a new level and we carry our selfish wants into the church. I want better, easier hymns. I want something more relevant to me and my life. I want a worship service tailored to outsiders. I want commune anywhere, because I deserve the Lord’s Supper. Or maybe that is going too far. Sometimes, even in church, our selfish desires and ambitions drive us. We do the things we want to do, not always the things we’re called to do. Our natural tendency, even in these things, is to take, rather than receive. This is getting close to the reason Jesus came.
The text goes on, “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.’” Jesus says, let’s go on so that I can preach elsewhere – for that is the reason I came out. The real reason why Jesus took upon Himself our mortal nature was to redeem our fallen race. Jesus came to preach the forgiveness of sins through His active obedience of God’s Will in place of our failure, and His death on the cross as the once-for-all-time payment for our sin. He who had power over sickness and demons, suffered on our behalf to secure our redemption.
These healings and exorcisms give us a picture of the forgiveness we have in Jesus. His forgiveness is not just a Band-aid. It’s not something that we just put on a cut or scrape to cover up until our body heals itself. Rather, it is a complete reality changing forgiveness. Through His death, by the gift of faith, Jesus has transferred us from the realm of darkness into His marvelous light. The Church Fathers referred to this as something called recapitulation. This means that Jesus is restoring creation to what it was created to be. This we will see fully at His return. But we get glimpses of it in these healings. Being forgiven their sin, their bodies were restored from the effects of sin in the world.
So what was the reason that Jesus came out? According to Jesus in our text, it was so that He could preach the forgiveness of sins. For some, this was manifested in the healing of their bodily ailments. This was a foretaste of our future in the heavenly kingdom where there is no sickness or decay. The real reason why Jesus came was to deliver us from the powers of sin, death, and the devil. He did this through His death on the cross as the payment for our sins. He gives us that forgiveness freely through the gift of faith and in the Sacraments until the time when we will be with Him in heaven, where there is no crying, or mourning, or pain.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mk 1:29–31.
 Mk. 2:5.
 Mk. 2:10–11.
 Mk. 1:35–37.
 Mk. 1:37–38.