Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sermon: Mark 1: 29-39 Why did Jesus come?

On this Sunday a year ago, we announced in Aghavea that we were moving to Richhill. And a similar announcement was made here. And I know that the news spread rapidly after the two morning services here and there. People in Fermanagh were ringing round to share the news (good or bad?) that we were going. People here were ringing or googling to try to find out who this new boyo was. From a worship service, the news of what had happened spread rapidly.

And that’s what’s happening in our reading this morning. We’re hearing about the aftermath of a worship service; we’re seeing how news of what happened was spreading rapidly. There were no phones, or social media, so it was word of mouth, people going to tell others, but as we’ll see, it creates quite a stir.

You might have noticed that we’ve skipped from verse 20 to verse 29. That’s because David McComb preached on that passage the other week in the evening. But to understand what’s happening now, we need a recap. It’s a bit like in some TV boxsets - ‘Previously in Mark’s Gospel...’ Jesus is in the synagogue, the local Jewish place of worship, prayer and preaching in Capernaum. And two things happened that morning to cause amazement.

First, the people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching, with authority. He spoke like no one else they had ever heard preaching. And second, the people were amazed at his authority over evil spirits, as he cast one out of a man. All this happened in the synagogue in the one day. It’s no wonder that verse 28 tells us that ‘News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.’

So in our reading we see what happened next. After church, they go to Simon and Andrew’s house, maybe for a cup of tea. And in the house, Simon’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. She’s not well. So they tell Jesus about her. They simply let him know that she isn’t well. They’ve seen what he was able to do in the synagogue - maybe he could help her too.

So Jesus goes to her, takes her hand, helps her up, and the fever left her. Jesus is able to heal and restore. He takes away the fever and instantly gives her health and strength. You know the way when you’ve been ill, you’ve spent some time in bed, it can take a few days or weeks to get fully better? Not here with Peter’s mother-in-law. she is healed, and immediately begins to wait on them. She is healed by Jesus and then starts serving Jesus.

Now that’s all been happening inside the house. But outside, it’s been a hive of activity. News has spread about Jesus and his authority to teach and heal. So everyone has come to him. Verse 32: ‘That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door.’

Can you imagine that? If everyone from Richhill was standing outside your door? Or perhaps another scene that we’ve witnessed recently, the queues at A&E, with people waiting in ambulances, on trolleys, in corridors, and anywhere else there’s a seat or a space. That’s what it looked like outside Peter’s house. The whole town is there, having brought all the sick and demon-possessed people.

So Jesus does what he is able to do to help. He has the authority to heal, and so he does it. It’s a sign of the kingdom of God, bringing order where there is chaos; putting wrong things right; bringing health and wholeness where there is sickness and disease. Verse 34: ‘Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.’

Whatever the problem, physical, mental or spiritual, Jesus was able to bring healing and restoration. But he doesn’t allow the demons to speak - they know who he is. Look back at verse 24 - the demon in the synagogue had named Jesus as ‘the Holy One of God.’ But at this point, Jesus doesn’t want people to know - because they’ll misunderstand, just as Peter does in chapter 8 when he finally realises that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.

Now, imagine that you were Peter, watching on, taking stock of everything that had happened that day. You’d reckon it was a fairly successful day. No one would need the doctor or A&E that night. The local hospital could shut because they had no patients. It was a good day. And imagine if Jesus just kept doing this kind of thing - no one would ever be unhealthy again. The solution to all the NHS problems in one go. Ok, it had been a late night, by the time Jesus had dealt with everyone, but what a night it had been!

But it seems that the next morning, more people from further away had heard about the miracle man. They too had come looking for healing. They were waiting their turn for Jesus to heal them. They had their numbered ticket from the queueing system. They waited outside the house for Jesus to come out and start doing it all over again.

But, there was no sign of Jesus. Peter was inside, thinking Jesus was already out, busy at his work of healing. But then the door started knocking. Where is Jesus? Can he see me? Can he help my relative? So Peter looks round the house, and Jesus isn’t inside. And Jesus isn’t out on the street either. Where can he be?

Peter and the other disciples go to look for Jesus, and eventually they find him. Do you see what he says to Jesus? ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ What are you doing out here, Jesus? There are more people wanting to see you and be healed by you back in the town. Come on and get started - they’re getting impatient. You’ve a job to do - to heal all those people.

It would have been so easy for Jesus to go along with what the crowd wanted. The temptation may have been there to please all these people - and after all, it would be doing good and helping people. But look where Jesus had been. Verse 35 tells us - ‘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.’ It may have been a late night, but Jesus was awake early, to check in with his Father, to pray, and seek the Father’s direction as to the next steps; to find the Father’s priorities for the day ahead.

That’s why Jesus says something so surprising in verse 38, in response to Peter saying, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ Jesus says: ‘Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’

There are things he could do right here, right now. There are people he could help back in the town. But Jesus moves on, to go somewhere else. And notice it isn’t even to heal people there. Jesus’ priority is to preach there also. This is the reason Jesus came - to proclaim the good news (as we saw back in verse 14-15).

To heal people in Capernaum wouldn’t be enough. You see, you could be healed today, but fall ill again in a week’s time. This temporary healing might be of some benefit, but only the hearing and receiving of the good news of God will bring eternal benefit and blessing. That’s why Jesus sets off to go and preach in other places. And he was assured of this priority in the time he spent in prayer with his heavenly Father.

Where is your place of prayer? Where do you meet with your Father, to re-align yourself to his priorities for your day? It might be a particular chair where you sit to pray; or maybe on your way to work (just don’t close your eyes if you’re driving!); it can be any time, whenever suits you best, early morning or lunchtime or in the evening, so long as you’re spending time with God.

And how are we following Jesus’ priority of sharing the good news? That’s our aim - to be a gospel-centred church reaching out to our community and our world with the love of Christ. So how are we doing? Are the people of Richhill being reached? Are the people of the world being reached?

Could you get involved with a summer mission project? Could we plan for a church team for 2019?

Why did Jesus come? So that people would hear and respond to the good news. Have you heard the good news for yourself? If not, that's your first and greatest need. Then the next priority is to share it with others. It’s the reason Jesus came - to share the gospel, the good news far and wide.

This sermon was preached in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday morning 11th February 2018.

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