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Devotional for February 4, 2018 based upon Mark 1: 29-39

What are we as God’s people to be all about?  What are we to be doing?  Since we as individuals, as well as our congregations, only have a certain amount of time, energy, and financial resources, what should we be putting our emphasis upon?  These are questions that our Gospel lesson for February 4 provides answers for.  We as Jesus’ people should be doing what Jesus did, and in these verses we see three things that Jesus did.

First, BRING HEALING.  After leaving the synagogue on Friday evening, where – as we learned last Sunday – Jesus had astonished the crowds with the authority of His teaching and where He had cast an unclean spirit out of a man, Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house, where Simon Peter’s mother-in-law lay sick in bed with a fever.  Mark tells us that Jesus went over to her, touched her, took her by the hand, and lifted her up.  Immediately she was healed.

Now it’s really interesting.  There is no indication in Mark that Jesus said anything to her or to anyone else.  He just touched her.  Nor are we told how long she had been sick.  All we are told is that He touched her.  He took her by the hand, lifted her up, and made her well.  Notice what happened next.  Immediately she got up and began serving them Sabbath dinner.  Friday night dinner.  The biggest dinner of the week for Jewish people.  Having been sick in bed – and we do not know for how long – she must have been very weak.  But when Jesus touched her, not only was she healed, her strength was restored.  She got out of bed and began serving them dinner.  That must have been her way of saying thanks.  Thank you for healing me.  Thank you for giving me a healing, which began with the Master’s touch.

And where can we find real, deep healing in our lives? A healing of our bodies as well as a healing of our minds.  A healing of our souls, emotions, and memories.  It will come not from self-help books, but from experiencing a touch.  The touch of our Master’s hand.  And what is our job as Christians?  To put people in touch with the healing touch of the Master’s hand.

Second, REPLY UPON THE POWER OF PRAYER.  Notice what happened next.  Mark tells us that “that evening, at sundown.”  Which I would interpret as at sundown Saturday, because good Jewish people would have observed the Sabbath from Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown.  By Saturday at sundown word had spread throughout Capernaum that Jesus was there, and that Jesus has the power to heal.  So by Saturday at sundown the whole city was gathered outside the door to Simon Peter’s house, looking for Jesus.  They brought their sick, hoping that Jesus would be able to heal them.

In February 2011 I went to Pakistan to visit the Christians there.  Word had spread that on a certain day at a certain time a pastor from the United States would be at a medical clinic, run by the United Church of Pakistan but in a predominantly Muslim area.  So all these people had come and were lined up for me to pray for their healing.  A lot of people had come a long way even though all I could do was to pray for their healing.  Jesus could actually heal them.  The disciples possibly had never seen such a crowd.  After all, this was right of the beginning of their three years with Jesus.

By the time Jesus had helped all of these people, He must have been exhausted, for He was fully man as well as fully God.  It probably was very late on Saturday night by the time they all had left.  And yet very early in the morning – Sunday morning – Mark tells us that “while it was still very dark, (Jesus) got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed.”  Before anyone else in the house had woken up, Jesus left in search of a lonely place.  A place where the crowds would not be able to find Him, so that He would be able to pray alone.  Having given so much of Himself to others, Jesus now needed time to be alone with the Father.  He had given so much.  Now He needed to receive.

And what do we as God’s people need to do?  If Jesus needed to do it, many, many times more do we need to do it.  Spend time alone with God.  Be refreshed and renewed through our time with the Father.  Rely upon the power of prayer.  I hope you spend time every day in prayer.

And then, third, CHOOSE PRIORITIES CAREFULY.  The next morning – on Sunday morning – when Simon Peter and the other disciples woke up, they discovered that Jesus was missing.  He was nowhere to be found in and around the town of Capernaum.  Probably at first they panicked.  Then they began searching for Him.

Eventually they found Him – out in a deserted place.  They interrupted His prayer time.  “Everyone is searching for you,” Peter told Him.  In other words, Jesus, come back.  Come back to Capernaum and stay with us.  Come back and stay where it is familiar and comfortable, and where you know you are loved and will be successful.  Come back and stay where you can keep on healing our sick and astonishing us with your preaching.  Come back and stay.  Jesus, everybody here loves you and admires you.  Everybody wants it to stay just the way it is now.  So, Jesus, come back and stay.  Let your ministry end where it began.  Everyone is searching for you.  So please, come back and stay.

So here is Jesus – in His no longer lonely, deserted place – with two paths leading out.  One path leading back to Capernaum and a life of comfort, safety, and easy popularity.  The other path leading to a life of costly sacrifice and ultimately to a cross.  One path leading to where everyone will keep on shouting, “Hosanna!”  The other one leading to where everyone will cry, “Crucify him!”

In this deserted place Jesus had to decide.  Which will it be?  Which one is more important?  Which one did He come – was He sent – to do?  Will it be the Kingdom of the Comfortable or the Kingdom of God?  Facing the question head on, Jesus decided and said, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also, for that is what I came to do.”

What about you?  God has brought you this far.  What does He want you to do next?  What should be your priorities for the coming year?  What new things should you take on?  Are you going to go back to Capernaum – where it is safe and familiar and comfortable?  Or does God want you to go on to the neighboring towns also?

If we as individuals, and our congregations, are going to choose to follow Jesus, then there are going to be those lonely, deserted places for us also.  Where we are going to have to choose between what is safe, familiar, and comfortable – our own Capernaum – and maybe what is more important.  Where we are going to have to choose between continuing to do it the way we have always done it and the way we need to do it now.

What for you as an individual – what for your congregation – would be going back to Capernaum?  And what would be going on to the neighboring towns also?

And then this passage in Mark ends by telling us, “He went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.”  While Jesus made His base of operations in Capernaum, He chose to go not just back to comfortable Capernaum, but to where He had been sent – to the neighboring towns also.

And because He did, He also came to your town.  And He is there – in your lonely, deserted places and in your moments of decision.  And He will be with you throughout the coming year, giving you wisdom and courage and beckoning you to follow.

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE