2018 FEB 4 “Searching”

SCRIPTURE   Mark 1:29-39   As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.  He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered around the door.  And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.  In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and his companions hunted for him.  When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

MESSAGE       “Searching”            Rev. James Renfrew

The opening chapters of Mark’s Gospel contain story after story about healing.  Last week it was the man with an unclean spirit screaming in the synagogue, this week it’s Simon Peter’s mother-in-law with a fever, next week a man with a terrible skin disease. Healing was a big deal in those times, everyone was searching for it, few could find it.  There were a few doctors, but they were unavailable to the 99%.  So when someone like Jesus came around everyone was drawn to him … out of curiosity or desperation.

People are searching all over for Jesus, when they find him a long line forms at his door.  When he goes off into the hills the crowds search for him there, too.  What are those people looking for?  Money?  No, in nearly every story about Jesus people are searching for healing.

Even in our advanced American society people experience great anxiety, frustration and expense in seeking medical care.  One time I had to go to the hospital with a severe glass cut.  I was spurting blood all over my leg, but I still had to speak to the finance office about payment before I could proceed with emergency care.

There is something challenging about all of these stories of healing in the Bible.  Can we draw out a distinct set of factors common to each healing story?  Is there something in these stories that will aid our own search for healing?  If you take a close look at these stories you will see that every one of them is different, and it is very hard to distill a simple formula, like A+B=C.

  1. Jesus heals some people because they cry out for help, but others ask for nothing.   Simon Peter’s mother is sick with fever and she doesn’t say a single word.  The man with leprosy comes to Jesus begging for help.  If you are in need of healing, should you shout for help or keep quiet?
  2. Jesus heals some people because of their great faith, while others demonstrate no faith at all.  In chapter two Jesus heals a man with paralysis.  The man doesn’t say a word, but Jesus is moved to respond by the faith of the man’s friends.  So, should you perfect your own faith, or just find some faithful friends?
  3. Jesus heals some people with a word, and others with a touch.  In one story, a woman with hemophilia is cured when she reaches out and touches Jesus’ robe while he is walking by in a crowd.  Jesus didn’t even know she was there, and she was healed.
  4. Sometimes, Jesus heals with mud, spit, or by anointing with oil, but sometimes with nothing more than a word.
  5. Jesus heals people in his immediate presence, but he also heals people from a distance.  In a story in Luke’s Gospel, people with leprosy call out to Jesus from way over there.  He shouts back to them, and they are healed.  Which kind of person are you, the one he comes close to, or the one he shouts at from a distance?
  6. Jesus heals people with serious that were believed to be from a demon that gets into your head.   In our time we offer medications or counseling, but in Jesus time the medical experts tried to figure out how to chase the demon away.  In old burial grounds old skulls have been excavated with a tiny hole drilled in the back.  They figure that this was a method for getting demons out of the head – drill a hole!  Ouch!
  7. Sometimes a healing seems to be an opportunity for teaching, sometimes there is no teaching at all.  After healing the man lowered through the roof, Jesus tells the crowd all about his authority to offer forgiveness.  But with Simon’s feverish mother-in-law Jesus offers no lesson at all.  He just moves on.
  8. Sometimes Jesus seems to be willing to heal everybody and anybody, sometimes not.  Today we see how everyone in Capernaum comes to Jesus’ door for help.  There are no medical receptionists to sort things out, he just heals everyone in the town, saint or sinner.  But later in the story he moves on, even though many people are still searching for his help.
  9. You can see that the healing Jesus offers sometimes goes beyond a single individual.  He seems able to cure groups and even systems of people.  Consider the time when Jesus spotted Levi the tax collector and invited himself to Levi’s house for dinner, and by the end of the day lots of tax collectors in that system of graft and greed were healed, too.  You could conclude that he’s healing a system of disease.

What shall we make of this?  It’s hard to spot a pattern, hard to define a formula of A+B=C, illness plus faith equals healing.  The only thing that these stories have in common is Jesus being nearby.  But all of the other facts differ from story to story.  Each person in need of healing is different, just like you are different from others.  Each person is complicated, just like you are complicated.   Jesus seems to know what to do with complicated people, so I trust that he knows what to do with me and you, too!

Have you ever been healed?  How was Jesus involved?  Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it takes years to understand.  Sometimes it’s a single symptom, sometimes it’s everything about your life.  If you you’re still searching, there’s still room in line to his door!


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