September 27, 2023

Jesus Heals & Prays

Prayer for Illumination:

You who formed us, named us, and gathered us, open our ears to hear your message. You who give power to the faint, help us understand your message. You who uplift, strengthen, and heal, inspire us to proclaim your message. We pray in the name of Christ, who is the Message. Amen.

There are four Gospel books that tell us about the birth, life and ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These Gospel books have 4 different viewpoints of the same story. It is like the Holy Spirit has placed four different cameras in 4 different angles around Jesus.

Especially the first three Gospel books - Matthew, Mark, and Luke - are called the Synoptic Gospels, meaning “giving an account of the events under the same general aspect”, because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording.

The Gospel of Mark is the shortest book in the Gospels, targeting the gentile believers in Rome as its audience. Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark doesn’t record the birth story of Jesus - no angel, no shepherd, no escape to Egypt. Instead, Mark begins his account by focusing on the fulfillment of Old Testament Promises in John the Baptist, who prepares Israel for the coming of the Messiah to his people.

It also portrays Jesus as the servant who tirelessly serves the sick and ministers for the needy, so ‘what He did’ was more emphasized than ‘what He said’. Another uniqueness of this book is that it moves very fast. You will find a lot of "and", "now",  and "immediately" Overall, Mark is an ‘action-packed’ gospel book.

Today’s Scripture lesson is on Ch 1, but it already covered the baptism and temptation of Jesus, the calling of the first disciples, teaching at the synagogue in Capernaum, and driving out an evil spirit from the evil-possessed man.

Today’s text begins, ‘as soon as they left the synagogue’. After teaching at the synagogue on the Sabbath and driving out an evil spirit, Jesus and his disciples came to Simon Peter’s house. By the way, this story is found in all three Gospels, even though it’s mentioned very briefly - in 2 verses. That means, there must be an important lesson God wants us to grasp.

V 30 says that the disciples told Jesus about the illness of Peter’s mother-in-law. We can assume that Peter’s mother-in-law had been in bed with a fever for quite a while. We don’t know the extent of her illness, but Luke, a physician, seems to emphasize the seriousness of her illness by describing her situation as “suffering from a high fever” in the Gospel of Luke.

Nowadays, we can just take Tylenol or Advil for a fever, but this was not the case in ancient days. People easily died from infections or fevers.

After witnessing Jesus’ unordinary exorcism, they, especially Peter, had the courage to ask Him to come to his humble house, hoping that Jesus might be able to heal her. The disciples didn’t have a clue who Jesus was yet. They kind of expected that He could be the Messiah whom they and their ancestors had been waiting for but had no idea who He truly was and what He was capable of.

So, when Jesus came in, they - Peter, Andrew, James, and John - told Him about her and probably took Him to the room where she was lying down. When Jesus saw Peter’s mother-in-law in bed, He went to her, took her hands, and helped her up.

When I was growing up, I often suffered from high fevers from tonsillitis, and I have vivid memories of my parents trying to lower my fever all night. They put a wet towel on my forehead and tried to keep me hydrated. So, I can understand a little bit how Peter’s mother-in-law might have felt.

Imagine you’re Peter’s mother-in-law. You’ve had a high fever for days and you haven’t been able to sit, eat, or do anything. You wake up from noises and open your eyes. You find a man standing beside you. He stretches His hands and holds your hand. Then He starts pulling your hand to help you sit.

As He lifts your body, you feel all the fever, all the heaviness, aches, everything that binds you is lifted up. You feel like the heavy chains that were pressing you down are lifted.  You can finally breathe. The fever has left you.

I’m sure that some of you have been in her situation. It could have been physical sickness, the emotional weight of the burden, mental illness, or spiritual bondage. When you felt that you were being pulled down and down to the bottom of the sea, Jesus came to you, held your hands, lifted you up, and helped you stand. He raised you up from a pit.

After being healed, Peter’s mother-in-law showed her gratitude by serving Jesus and His followers. She began to wait on her guests right away. She didn’t say, “I need some time to recuperate, so get out.” Or “I went through a lot, and I need you to care for me until I fully recover.” She at once began serving the Lord and His disciples. Her actions stand as an example to all of us.

As I was meditating on the story, I remembered a woman whose husband passed away. After the funeral service, we all gathered for a reception. She started serving the guests. She, without doubt, believed that her husband was with the Lord in heaven, where there was no more pain or sickness. Even though she missed her husband, she felt relieved because he didn’t have to suffer anymore. And serving others was the expression of her gratitude. I was touched by her faith and servanthood, putting others first while grieving.

After a full day, it was finally evening, but Jesus still didn't have time to rest. V 32 says, “After sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons.”

Why did people wait until sunset? Because of the Sabbath rules. They waited and waited until the Sabbath was over. V 28 says “News about him - the news about Jesus driving out the evil spirit - spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”  And by now, people were already talking about how Peter’s mother-in-law had been healed. So, as soon as the sun set, people began bringing their loved ones who were sick to Jesus.

Jesus was always surrounded by the people who demanded something from Him - His touch, healing, teaching, signs and wonders, or bread. He had so much compassion for them that He filled their endless demands.

Some of you might feel overwhelmed by all the demands. You are already tired from your physical health, and your weekly schedule is filled with doctor’s appointments and this test, that test, family gatherings, volunteer work, and so on.

On top of that, your minister asks you to read the Scriptures, come to Bible study, to do this and that. And especially our leaders … They have emails to respond to and a to-do list. Maybe that’s why people go on camping trips or escape to cottages to get away from all the busyness.

Then, how could Jesus cope with the endless demands? Was it possible because He was extroverted? Was it possible because He was only 30 years old? Or because He was God? He was fully God but He was fully human. He felt tired, hurt, angry, hungry, and thirsty. I’m sure that Jesus was stressed out from constant demands and being physically crowded.

But He had a secret source of His energy and power. What do you think that was?  PRAYER. V35 says, “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.”

Can you imagine? He spent all day teaching, healing, and driving out many evil spirits without much rest. He deserved a full day or at least a half-day rest the next day.  But He got up early in the morning while it was still dark to pray.

A close friend of mine wakes up at 4 or 5 a.m. in the morning and goes to an early prayer service every day. She has lived a hectic life, working, studying, volunteering, giving rides to her 3 children, and caring for her husband who is sick. Even though her day was crazy, she never stopped going to the early prayer service. When I asked her how she could do that, she said, ‘I pray to survive. I pray to live because prayer is the source of my strength.”

When you look back at your life, when was the last time you really felt spiritually fulfilled? When you first accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior; when you were baptized; when your day was filled with important church responsibilities;  when you had a good discussion at the Bible study classes; OR when you had (or have) a personal devotion time, quiet time alone with Jesus regularly?

I can tell you from my own experience. Prayer is the source of your strength. The sweet hour of prayer brings you joy, peace, relief, comfort, healing, and satisfaction. As you pray, as you talk to the Triune God, the Spirit of God helps you develop a personal and intimate relationship with God; fills you with inner peace and calms you from anxiety; helps you to make the right decision; leads you to experience the miracles of God.

Prayer helps you become more like Jesus; Prayer helps you align your will with God’s will. It also leads you to pray for those who need your prayers - not only your immediate family members but for your neighbours, your friends out far, the long-forgotten relatives, and even the persecuted Christians in the world. The Spirit of God literally takes you around the world to pray for them.

On top of that, when you pray, the Spirit of God reminds you of your purpose. When Jesus was praying in a solitary place, Simon and other disciples came to Him and exclaimed, “Everyone is looking for you!”  Peter was saying, “What are you doing here alone? Everyone is waiting for you to come and heal them, and show them miracles. You are now famous. No time to waste.”

But Jesus said, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” After the prayer, after the time alone with the Father, Jesus was reminded that the reason He had come was not to settle down in Capernaum, performing miracles. His coming had a more grandeur purpose.  (pause)

As a church, what can we learn from how Jesus’ day looked like? Jesus preached, healed a man who was in torment from an evil spirit, healed His disciple’s mother-in-law, healed the sick in the whole town, slept a little, got up early when it was still dark and prayed, and went to another place to teach, preach, and heal.

Even though our church is relatively small in number, I don’t think our church is small in faith. I am quite amazed at how you are all eager to pray for one another and for your friends.  You have a heart of Christ, a loving and compassionate heart for others. And I’d like to encourage you to pray to God to enlarge your territory of caring.

Brothers and sisters, as Peter’s mother-in-law began to wait on her guests as soon as her fever was gone, and as Jesus came as the Servant King, let us serve others in whatever way we can.

But most of all, find somewhere quiet and have a consistent prayer time with the Lord asking His will for you, asking what He wants you to do in your daily life. So that you find strength, purpose, peace, and joy to live another day given by the Lord. Remember, work and prayer go hand in hand.

Let us pray.

Father God, thank You for paying special attention to the prayers of each of us. You cherish the time with us. Help us find pleasure in Your presence and enjoy spending time with You. So we don’t feel prayer is a burden or duty but we find prayer time is a sweet hour with You, our gentle Father. We love You and we love being with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.