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February 4, 2018

Sermon Mark 1:39 . . . “Bible places:  Galilee”

“Bible places:  Galilee”

Mark 1:39

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Throughout history, medicine has offered some strange and bizarre cures for diseases.

Take a sore throat, for example.  Most all of us have them from time to time.  And while, today, we might drink warm water mixed with honey, or gargle with salt water, not in the Middle Ages!  Before bedtime, the English wrapped bacon around their throat.  The Irish applied salt herring to the soles of their feet.

Or how about earaches?  That’s a problem.  For years, people took a wad of moist chewing tobacco, and stuffed it in their ear.

Then there’s memory loss.  That’s a problem too.  Some dipped garlic cloves in chocolate, and ate one to three of them a day.  Cherries and chocolate?  Yes!  Garlic and chocolate?  I’m not so sure.

And there’s more!  The ancient Chinese used fresh, hard-boiled eggs to treat bruises.  Have a cold sore?  Try applying earwax.  And shingles?  Hang a turpentine-soaked string around your neck.

Some pretty strange and bizarre cures!

But in the words of our gospel reading, from the book of Mark chapter 1, we hear of one of the best cures of all.

Please turn in your Bibles to page 1064.  I’ll start where it says, “Jesus Heals Many.”  Mark chapter 1, verse 29:  “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.”

Let’s step back for a moment to see what’s going on.

The Bible says Jesus had come to Capernaum, a tiny fishing village that lay on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  It was the Sabbath, a Saturday, so He went to the synagogue to teach and pray.

How we wish we could have been there to hear Him speak:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not murder.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you:  love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  Don’t think I’ve come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come to fulfill them.”

And when He finished speaking that day, what happened?  Two things—first, the Bible says those who heard Him were amazed, because He didn’t teach like other teachers of the Law.  And second, as He was speaking to them, a man possessed by a demon suddenly cried out, “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have You come to destroy us?  I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” Jesus shouted.  “Come out of him!”  Then the man shook violently as the demon came out with a shriek.

And just as soon as their time of prayer and worship was done, they went to Peter’s home, barely a stone’s throw away.

And what should they find when they got there?  Peter’s mother-in-law, sick in bed with a fever.

But this wasn’t just any fever.  When Luke, a physician, spoke of it, he used the words, “great fever,” “high fever.”  She was burning up, and something had to be done, or else.

But who should come to stand by her bed, but Jesus, the One who taught with authority, who cast out demons with a shriek.  And as He rebuked that fever, He lifted her by the hand, and made her whole again.  No weakness, no dizziness, no sweating or pain.  It was a miracle!

And just as soon as the sun began to set, Mark tells us what happened next.  Look at verse 32:  “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 who He was.

Can you imagine?  One person after another after another came to the door until, finally, there was a mass of crippled and diseased men, women, and children standing outside the door.

But as day turned to night, the paralyzed got up from their mats, the lame laid down their crutches, and demons fled from His presence.  That town of Capernaum was never the same again.

But He wasn’t done.  There was more work to do and more people to reach.  Look at verse 35:  “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.”

Galilee, it says.  What’s Galilee?  It’s a place of some two hundred and forty towns and villages with names like Cana, Nain, Bethsaida, and Nazareth, the home of strong, tough, peasant farmers, who longed for the Messiah to come.  It’s where Jesus called home.

These words hold some important lessons.  And one of the most important is to notice what Peter did.  He took Jesus home.

For many of us, Jesus is the One we worship each Sunday.  He’s the One we read about at Christmas and Easter.  He’s the One we trust in for the hope and promise of eternal life.  But, like Peter, don’t forget to bring Jesus home.

Isn’t that often how it goes?  We invite Him into our hearts, but not our homes.  We invite Him into our lives, but not our work.  We invite Him to our Sunday morning worship, but not our hobbies and our recreation.  But it’s only when we invite Jesus into our family, our work, our hobbies, and even our very lives, that we truly follow Him.

If you think about it, everything matters to Jesus.  He wants to be involved in every part of our lives.  He wants to help with sick mother-in-laws.  He wants to help with children.  He wants to be involved in family finances.  He wants us to include Him in every crisis.  Just like Peter, don’t forget to bring Jesus home.

And that is truly the best thing Peter ever did.  He knew all too well life and its struggles.  He had a wife, a brother, and a mother-in-law.  He had all the trials and troubles a family and a business might bring.  Still, Peter took Jesus home.

And what happened?  When Jesus came, He brought health and healing.

Tony Snow was an American journalist, political commentator, television news anchor, and a White House Press Secretary under the second President Bush.  For a time, he even had his own syndicated talk radio program called, The Tony Snow Show.

But in February of 2005, he was diagnosed with cancer.  Then, in spite of surgery and chemotherapy, it spread to his liver and took his life at the age of 53.

But while he was undergoing treatment, he found his hope in God.  This is what he said:  “Blessings arrive in unexpected packages—in my case, cancer.  Those of us with potentially fatal diseases…find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God’s will.”

What lessons did he learn?  First, he said, we shouldn’t spend too much time trying to answer the why questions:  “Why me?  Why must people suffer?  Why can’t someone else get sick?”  Instead, he said, our maladies define a central feature of our existence:  we are fallen.  We are imperfect.  Our bodies give out.

“But despite this—because of it,” he adds, “God offers the possibility of salvation and grace.  We accept this on faith so those who have been stricken will enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with all their might, to live—fully, richly, and exuberantly—no matter how their days may be numbered.

“And while we want lives of simple, predictable ease, God goes off-road.  He provokes us with twists and turns.  Yet by His love and grace, we persevere.  And the moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, you discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft.  Faith is not only the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, it also teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, and triumphs.  God doesn’t promise us tomorrow, but He does promise us eternity—filled with life and love we cannot comprehend.”

And he said, “We don’t know much, but we know this:  no matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God’s hand.”

 

Dear Lord, You are with us in all the seasons of life.  Come to us, abide with us, for You are Emmanuel.  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen

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