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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Feb 4, 2018 SERMON ARCHIVE
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN.
The text for our meditation this morning is the Gospel Lesson for the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany, Mark 1:29-39. There we read these words:
And 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. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed 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. And 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." 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." And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN
In this Gospel Lesson, Simons mother in law was totally immobilized on account of her sin. She "lay ill with a fever." Which means she lay ill with the effects of sin. You see, a fever is a mark of sin just as certainly as harmful words or loveless actions are marks of sin.
What I mean is, people can know from your words and your deeds that you are sinful, but they also learn you are a sinner from the fact that you catch a cold, run a fever, wear glasses, walk with a cane, or get diagnosed with a disease.
Every flaw in your health, from the smallest paper cut to the most invasive surgery- every flaw in your health declares to the world that you have sin, and that death will come to you on account of sin.
This woman in today's Gospel was not yet dead, but she was as good as dead. Her fever had robbed her of all strength. Even if she desired to serve her Lord, she had no strength for it. She was capable of nothing. She had nothing but sin and death.
What did Jesus do for her? The same thing He does for you! Jesus miraculously gave this woman new health and strength by which she rose to serve her God. And immediately they told [Jesus] 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.
It is important for you to know that St. Mark did NOT say Jesus took her by the hand and healed her. St. Mark certainly could have said that if he wanted (compare 1:34), but he did not want to say that. St. Mark has very carefully written in today's Gospel, "[Jesus] took her by the hand and lifted her up."
In the Scriptures, this word "lifted" is quite frequently used to describe how people recover from illnesses. This word is also a resurrection word. God uses this word "lifted" to describe how people come back from the dead. Later in St. Mark's book, your Lord's own resurrection is described using the same word you heard in today's Gospel.
When the grieving women came to the Lord's tomb on Easter Sunday, an angel declared to them, "He has been lifted up; He is not here" (Mark 16:6). "[Jesus] came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her."
This "lifting up" of Simon's mother-in-law is very good for you precisely because it is tied to the resurrection. This "lifting up" is important for you because it provides you with a good analogy for thinking about your own faith and health and life, given to you by your loving God:
1. Simon's mother-in-law was immobilized by her fever and her fever was caused by sin. It is not unfair for us therefore to say that sin had immobilized Simon's mother- in-law. The fever was the tool, but sin was the cause.
Fever or no fever, you also were once totally immobilized by your sin. You were once as powerless as this woman in today's Gospel. You were once imprisoned by the same universal rule that likewise held her: "that of himself man is nothing, is capable of nothing, and has nothing except sin, death and damnation."
2. But now the story of this woman's being lifted up by Jesus has also become the story of your own salvation. Jesus did not merely reach out His hand and heal this woman. Acting in a way that prefigures the resurrection of all flesh, Jesus "took her by the hand and lifted her up,"snatching her away from very the brink of death.
What is your Baptism, if not a miniature resurrection from the dead? In your Baptism, Jesus washed away all your sins (Acts 22:16). In this washing away of your sins, Jesus removed from you those things that cause your death. I do not think it all that far off to say that, at your Baptism "the fever left [you]."
What are the absolution and the preaching of the Church, if not your Lord's own Words of resurrection and life, in Whose presence you now stand? Each time Jesus proclaims His forgiveness to you, He is again assuring you that He has reached out His hand and lifted you up from the fever and death of your sins.
What is Holy Communion at the Lord's altar, if not Jesus' act of lifting you up in the same way He lifted Simon's mother-in-law? At Simon and Andrew's house, the lifting happened when Jesus took this woman by the hand. Here in your Lord's house, Jesus lifts you by lip and tongue and jaw as He serves you His eternal meal of immortality and life.
Look at what an old lady now could then do: "The fever left her, and she began to serve them." Where she was once pinned down and powerless under the weight of fever, sin and death, Jesus raised this woman up to new health and strength. Where once she could do no good thing for her Lord, she then rose to serve both Him and those dear loved ones who are with Him.
Please notice: St. Mark does not tell us that Jesus made this woman young or beautiful or powerful or perfectly healthy in every way. Jesus "took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her." Jesus removed from this woman the thing that prevented her from serving Him, and He allowed everything else to stay where it was. Even her sin remained inside her, but it was no longer allowed to deter her.
It is not hard to imagine her pinning her gray hair back into place as she headed off to the kitchen. Her hands were still knotted and bent from years of labor. She would still die eventually. She could look in the mirror and see that she was not exactly a picture of health and youth, but even so, she believed by FAITH that she was healthy and able to serve her God.
Why did she believe this? Because Jesus "took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her."
This Gospel teaches you to look at your own body in the same way. Do not look at your body in terms of what you can see in the mirror. Look at your body through faith, as Simon's mother-in-law did. That is to say, judge your body and its serviceability to God, not by what you can see or feel, but by what you believe.
Some of you might feel yourselves young and strong and healthy. Give it a few years. You will learn your lessons in aging soon enough. On the other side of the calendar, some of you can no longer see yourselves as young or strong or healthy. Grey whiskers fill the sink when you shave. Crows have been marching the perimeter of your eyes. Some of you suffer from chronic pains that pin you to a chair for days at a time.
Just remember, as with Simon's mother-in-law, Jesus has already lifted you up and He continues to lift you up, even now in these later years fitting you for service to Him. Your Lord Jesus does not want you to lose heart in the face of your advancing age or illness. You will face your impediments, to be sure. Simon's mother-in-law did, too, and Simon's mother-in-law eventually died.
Today's Gospel is a good way for you to learn to rejoice: "Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Christ Is Risen.
|Christ Is Risen|
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