Sunday Sermon: The Healing Ministry of Christ | Mark 1:29–39

The Healing Ministry of Christ | Mark 1:29–39
This morning we’re going to look at the healing ministry of Christ. What did it look like? What did He model in it? What was the point behind it?
His Power in His Healing Ministry
His Prayer in His Healing Ministry
His Purpose in His Healing Ministry




The Healing Ministry of Christ | Mark 1:29–39
Shaun Marksbury | Morning Service | 19 February, 2017

Heavenly Father,
We thank You for Your healing ministry, and I pray that we would see it with greater clarity as we study.

I. Introduction
A fifth-century church was constructed over the supposed residence of Peter, based on second-century graffiti, and excavations have uncovered a residence there.  One commentary notes the following: “In the 1970s and 1980s a house that may have been Peter’s house was excavated in Capernaum beneath a fifth-century church dedicated to Peter.”   So, those who lived closer to the time of Christ and Peter possibly remembered where his house was, and they built a church atop the location.

The house underneath indeed seems to be the genuine location of much of this passage.  We’re continuing to track Jesus and His disciples on this Sabbath day that started back in verse 21.  The synagogue service gets out, and we here learn about Peter and Andrew’s home life.  This has been their dwelling since they followed Jesus north to Capernaum (cf. John 1:44).  

One interesting point here is the fact that Peter was married, and that he took care of his mother-in-law.  According to 1 Corinthians 9:5, his wife accompanied Peter on his journeys, but, unfortunately, tradition “relates that she suffered martyrdom” (Hiebert, The Gospel of Mark, 53).  Perhaps his father-in-law had already died, so he and his wife take care of her mother, with the help of his brother Andrew and possibly his wife.

We read, of course, that she has a high fever on this day, and the situation looks serious.  As such, the disciples take the issue to Jesus, believing Him capable of doing something.  They had just seen Him cast out a demon, and they had already seen Him in action in Judea (Jn 2:13–4:4).   Not only does Jesus cure Peter’s mother-in-law, but Jesus heals essentially every ailing person in Capernaum!

This morning we’re going to look at the healing ministry of Christ.  What did it look like?  What did He model in it?  What was the point behind it? Let’s look at the power, prayer, and purpose in His healing ministry.

II. His Power in His Healing Ministry
29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 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. 

What we see in His ministry is unlike anything we see with any other ministry on earth.  We see that He has complete authority over sickness and trials, banishing it whether it be natural or supernatural in cause.  We also see His person and power as completely sufficient.  Let’s first look at His authoritative power.

A. He has complete authority over sickness
Peter’s mother-in-law was bed-ridden, and again, it appears that the condition was serious.  Luke the physician notes that she had a “high fever” or a “great fever” (Lk 4:38).   This was a feared condition in an age without modern medicine.  As one commentary notes, the burning fever
was, and still is, very prevalent in Galilee.  The Talmud actually lays down the methods of dealing with it.  A knife wholly made of iron was tied by a braid of hair to a thorn bush.  On successive days there was repeated, first, Exodus 3:2, 3; second, Exodus 3:4; and finally Exodus 3:5.  Then a certain magical formula was pronounced, and thus the cure was supposed to be achieved.  Jesus completely disregarded all the paraphernalia and popular magic, and with a word of unique authority and power, he healed the woman (Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, 37).
Jesus doesn’t need incantations or talismans, even those mystically linked with Scripture readings.  Indeed, He doesn’t even need to speak or to make contact.  When Jesus healed the centurion’s servant in Luke 7, He wasn’t even within proximity to that person.  He has complete authority to heal.

Even so, there’s a level of care as He approaches her bed and touches her.  He wants to heal her in this way, so He takes her hand and lifts her up.  As He does this, the ESV says, “the fever left her,” though it would be better to say it forsook her.  This is a sudden and complete shift in health!

I imagine everyone in the house began making some noise!  The people of the town knew she was sick, but now, they hear this commotion.  News quickly went through the town, and they would begin bringing their sick to Peter’s door that evening for treatment (v. 32).  And He heals them just as completely and with the same care, because Luke 4:40 notes that He touched them as well.

What a contrast to modern preachers who boast that they can heal like Jesus!   We see that He doesn’t recommend convalescence, because He doesn’t need her to rest or to follow up with future treatments.  He heals her so completely that she immediately gets out of bed and serves them!   If someone truly healed like Jesus today, he would empty hospitals.

I don’t want to pick on anyone, but, at the same time, I get upset with these false teachers using God’s Word to take advantage of other people.  Sure, they’ll share stories of healings of a biblical caliber taking place, somewhere—the paralyzed walk, the dead being raised—but every time you ask for evidence, it’s conveniently missing… in an age when everyone walks around with a camera in their pocket.  Today’s healing services are a pale and powerless imitation of what we read here.

Let me tell you—no one in Capernaum was smirking, rolling their eyes, and shaking their head when Jesus began healing.  They couldn’t deny what was happening.  This is even with Jesus somewhat concealing His true identity at this time.

Christ has authority over the physical realm.  This doesn’t mean that He will heal every disease right now, especially if He has other plans.  He can if He so chooses, either miraculously or providentially through the skilled hands of others.  However, He will provide ultimate healing in the resurrection to all believers.  He raised her up from her sick bed, and Mark uses this term to also speak of both of Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of the dead (6:14, 16; 12:26; 14:28; 16:6).

Secondly, Christ has authority over the Sabbath.  Even though it’s the Sabbath, Jesus heals her.  What we will see clearly stated in 2:28 is hinted here—Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, and He as the authority to heal even now.  Everyone else waits until after the Sabbath is over to come to Him (v. 32), but He has no need to wait.  He has authority to heal because He is the Lord.

Third, Christ has authority over the spiritual health of sinners.  We’ve already hinted at that in saying that He will raise believers up in the resurrection of the dead, and we see a reflection of the Christian’s present response in Peter’s mother-in-law.  People couldn’t afford to lay in bed even when sick, and she had probably prepared the food the night before since the Jews were forbidden to cook on Sabbaths, but now she’s completely bed-ridden.  We don’t read that He needed her to serve Him or to even exercise faith in Him—for her high fever may not have even afforded her a moment’s clarity of thought.

Jesus so raises those of us born dead in trespasses and sins, those who can do nothing for their spiritual healing.  It’s amazing to see the Great Physician destroying every kind of disease, especially knowing He can do the same with sin and death.  Now believers have the life and ability to serve Him and others.  We should trust what He has done for us in this process and work out our faith.

The idea of trust brings me to the next point:

B. He has complete sufficiency for those who come
One of the ways God said to keep the Sabbath holy was to carry no burdens through the city (Jer 17:24).  The official ending of the Sabbath wasn’t when the sun first dips below the horizon, but when sets far enough that three stars become visible in the evening sky.  And the people were readying to go the second the Sabbath ended, like runners at the starting line.

We already noted that He healed those coming to Him, some walking, some being carried.  Maybe arriving in intervals, “the whole city was gathered.”  This means that Jesus eliminated sickness in Capernaum that night!  Wuest notes,
One marvels at the number of sick people who were brought to our Lord at this place. H. V. Morton, in his excellent volume, In the Steps of The Master has an interesting bit of information for us on this point. He speaks of hot mineral waters containing curative properties, that were the center of the most famous spa in the country. This was located at the city of Tiberius which was ten miles from Capernaum. He says that in the time of our Lord these baths attracted the sick from every part of the country. And so it was that in the midst of a great health resort country, the Great Physician ministered to the ailments of multitudes. 
It’s also amazing to think so many Jews in this community would suffer with demonic oppression.  Those who had been at the synagogue knew Jesus could take care of the demonized among them, so they come as well.  Perhaps this also includes Gentiles.  Perhaps it also means that Satan, knowing the time of the Messiah’s arrival approached, increased demonization to keep people deceived and blinded to the gospel (cf. 2 Cor 4:4).  Whatever the case, Jesus heals all and sets all free.

Still, why silence the demons?  Jesus also did so in the earlier exorcism (1:21–28).  Evil spirits would naturally know some spiritual truth (cf. Js 2:19), but Jesus doesn’t want or need free press from demons.  He certainly doesn’t want people listening to demons on any matter, because they need to come to Him for God’s truth that He will reveal it when the time is right.  Paul and Silas decided to do the same in Philippi (Acts 16:16–18).  God has always progressively unveiled revelation about what He is doing—Jesus’s actions are following a preordained timeline.

Don’t look elsewhere for truth; trust in the sufficiency of Scripture.  Don’t seek fortune tellers, horoscopes, or those who talk to the dead—all which God forbade (Dt 18:10–12).  Don’t place your trust in the words of men.  Seek the only trustworthy source of truth, and learn patience for questions which will be answered soon enough.

He has complete power, power that is both authoritative and sufficient.  Even so, the scene downshifts into something more serene at this point, more humble.

III. His Prayer in His Healing Ministry
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.

Remember that this takes place the morning after Christ’s long Sabbath day.  One might wrongly expect Him to sleep in, but He arises “very early in the morning.”  Reaching seclusion, (and the NASB captures the tense of the verb) He “was praying there.”  He sought uninterrupted quiet, focusing on His time with the Father.

Prayer is vital, both morning and anytime.  If the Son of God began His day in prayer, then how much more should we value it?  Indeed, He did not only start with prayer, but we read in Matthew 14:23 that He after He “dismissed the crowds,” He “went up on the mountain by himself to pray.”  Luke 5:16 is less specific on the timeframes—“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”  We cannot be definitive on the exact length of His prayer-times, but He was intentional and protective of His prayer time.

Prayer is vital, especially when others need ministry.  Jesus continues his ministry in the following verses, so He prays now.  He didn’t allow anything to overtake His communion with the Father, knowing how vital it is.  It’s easy to focus on all the work and shorten or skip prayer, but with all that needs to be done, it’s all the more important that He arises early to have plenty of time to pray.  Life will always be a balance between the needs of others and our own need to spend time with God, and our Lord models this equilibrium.

Prayer is vital only through Christ.  Understand that God isn’t obligated to hear the prayers of unbelievers (Jn 9:31) or prayers for personal lusts (Js 4:3).  Only a prayer in Jesus’s name is an effective prayer (Jn 14:13), meaning that we must pray according to His will (1 Jn 5:14).  Thankfully, Christ lived the life that we fail to live, and He intercedes for believers (Jn 17).  We must trust completely in Him for the sake of our prayers and likewise value the time of communion with the Triune God.

With that said, we see that He has complete power but He was also committed to prayer in His healing ministry.  Still, this is but an interesting account until we consider His purpose.

IV. His Purpose in His Healing Ministry
36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 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.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The apostles have not yet been named, but we see Peter arising as a natural leader here.  People are looking for Jesus, so Peter grabs some of the other disciples, perhaps those already named, such as his brother Andrew and James and John, and he begins to search for Him.

Jesus was secluded enough that they had to hunt Him down.  Even though Christ sought solitude to pray, He always allows Himself to be discovered by those who search for Him in honest worship.  Unfortunately, many were not, and they instead wanted Him for their own purposes.  He would know the difference.

We get a lot of funny ideas about the point of ministry.  Sometimes we think more people is better than fewer, and we think the point is to draw crowds with spectacle.  Because of that, we also tend to deemphasize classical elements of church services, such as preaching.  Jesus challenges our misconceptions with His singular purpose for ministry.

Christ did not come to gather a crowd.  He was the buzz, and Peter and the others are understandably excited, and, perhaps, a bit surprised that Jesus fails to capitalize on it.  However, crowds are fickle, for unscrupulous fellows sway them to evil (for instance, at the trial of Christ, Mt 27:20).  We often see Jesus turning away from crowds to keep preaching (like here) or turning them away from Him with His preaching, which brings us to the next point.

Christ came to preach repentance and belief in the gospel.  We noted back in Mark 1:15 this very fact.  He says in verse 38 that His purpose is to preach.  We see Him in v. 39 preaching throughout Galilee over the intervening weeks, perhaps months (cf. Mt 4:23–25).  In Luke 19:10, we read, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Seen in this light, the miracles are secondary to the message of the Good Shepherd, only confirming the need of the sheep to listen to His gospel call.

That’s why we can never be a church more about crowds than Christ’s ministry.  The ministry cannot drift from the purpose of the Great Shepherd.  Remember that Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Mt 16:18), not our churches or ministries.  Pray that we successfully avoid any tomfoolery as we seek to best proclaim the message of the gospel in our area, the message worthy of the Son of God’s time and focus.

V.  Final Thoughts
It’s okay to seek healing.  He cares for you as much as He cared for these people.  He’s a high priest sympathetic to the cause and plight of His people.

The question with healing is this.  Do you see Jesus as completely sufficient for all your problems?  You may even feel a bit like Job, going through a situation and not understanding why.  Is being healthy an idol in your life, getting in the way of your trust and worship?  Make Him your priority and commitment, in sickness and in health, and know that ultimate healing is available one day in the resurrection.

Dear Lord,
Thank You for that future healing.  Still, many ache with pains and questions today, and I pray that You, O God of Peace, would comfort their hearts.
If it is Your holy will, provide healing to the hurting members of this church.  May medical reports come back clean and pains cease.  If it is your will to provide healing through physicians, may that healing come through them with the utmost competence and thoroughness.  Protect and care for Your flock, I pray.
Even so, I pray that in our sicknesses, we would look to You and what You are preparing for us.  If any are sick because You seek their attention, I pray that they would give heed.  If any do not know You or are in sin right now, I pray that it does not take a major illness to capture their attention; grant them repentance I pray.
In whatever each person endures, I pray that they can come to know Your fellowship more in the process.  May You be glorified.

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