Mark 1:29-39 (CEB)

Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law

29 After leaving the synagogue, Jesus, James, and John went home with Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. 31 He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them.

Jesus’ ministry spreads

32 That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered near the door. 34 He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him.

35 Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. 36 Simon and those with him tracked him down. 37 When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you!”

38 He replied, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” 39 He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.

This is the word of God for us the people of God.  Thanks be to God.

Raised Up

“Everyone loves it when Jesus shows up. His presence makes a difference. Things happen. Mother-in-laws are healed. The sick are cured. Demons are cast out. Lives are changed. This is true not only in Capernaum in Jesus’ time but also for us here and now. He comes to our house as surely as he went to the house of Simon and Andrew! But what do we do when Jesus sneaks off, and we feel all alone?” (Rev. Michael K. Marsh, “Searching for Jesus,” Feb. 5, 2012).

In today’s scripture, we continue right where the story ended last Sunday.  Jesus is at the beginning of his ministry.  He had been teaching in the synagogue, and he had cast out a demon in a man who had yelled out during his teaching.  And now James and John go home with Simon and Andrew.  When the disciples arrived at the house, Simon’s mother in law was in bed with a fever.  A fever in the days of no antibiotics and no Tamiflu is no small thing!  So the disciples told Jesus about her illness right away.  d Jesus’ response is immediate and simple.

He went to her.

He took her by the hand.

He raised her up.

Then the fever left her, and she served them.

“Everyone loves it when Jesus shows up. His presence makes a difference. Things happen. Mother-in-laws are healed. The sick are cured. Demons are cast out. Lives are changed. This is true not only in Capernaum in Jesus’ time but also for us here and now. He comes to our house as surely as he went to the house of Simon and Andrew! But what do we do when Jesus sneaks off, and we feel all alone?”

You may have noticed in today’s scripture that Jesus sneaks off.  First he heals not only Simon’s mother in law, but the whole town had gathered at his door; he had healed many and thrown out many demons.  But early in the morning of the next day, Jesus sneaks off to a deserted place.  And the disciples had to search for him, and they tracked him down and found out that he was alone…. praying.

Sometimes, Jesus heals us.

Sometimes, though, it feels like Jesus has snuck off and abandoned us.

I want to share my story with you.  Because I experienced both in a short period of time.

On July 27, 2010, at 3 am I woke up – wide awake— to hear a strong, deep voice saying:  “Make disciples of Christ.”  After weeks of wrestling with God and with myself about the meaning of these words, and after many miraculous happenings, I realized God was calling me into ministry as a pastor.  But just weeks after accepting God’s call into ministry, I began having some problems with my eyesight.  And I learned that I had developed a fungus in one of my eyes that caused bleeding behind my retina.  The symptoms were similar to macular degeneration which some of you may be familiar with.  I couldn’t see in that eye – there was a black spot blocking my vision, and my vision looked like this.  When I looked at a graph like that the lines were wavy instead of straight.  My depth perception was gone in that eye, which made it almost impossible to drive or read, and very hard to recognize faces from a distance.  Walking on uneven surfaces was difficult for me.  I had trouble even putting dishes in the cupboard.

The retina specialist who diagnosed me wanted to give me a series of shots in my eye.  These shots were of a medicine that was approved for use in colon cancer, not even approved for use in the eye.  He said I would have a 90% chance of my vision not getting worse and a 50% chance of it getting better.  I took the first shot and waited, and I questioned God.

I had said “yes” to God’s call to ministry, and look what it had gotten me!  I was half blind.  How was I supposed to answer God’s call to be a pastor if I couldn’t read or drive or see people’s faces.  I was furious, and I wondered if I was wrong about the voice I heard calling me to “make disciples.”  I had thought that Jesus had shown up in my life, but now he had snuck off and was hiding. And it seemed like a very cruel trick to me!

But as I prayed and thought about my experience, I came to know in my knower what God had been asking of me.  I knew I wasn’t wrong – I knew I had hear that voce.  God wanted me to be a preacher for some reason.  So I decided to obey God, even if I didn’t understand.  I decided that I would move forward with the ministry process; that I would obey God’s call, even if I had to do it as a blind person.  I decided I would either be a blind pastor who could be a witness to God, or I would be a healed pastor who could be a witness to God.

So, I called the mentor who had been assigned to me for the ministry process and set up our first meeting.  That is when the most unbelievable experience of my life occurred.  Exactly two weeks after the first injection in my eye, and exactly one week after meeting with my mentor, I was sitting at my computer with two pairs of glasses on and my nose pressed against the screen trying to read the words.  As I checked my email and responded to the messages, I realized that I could not see any of the words as I typed them.  No matter how I turned my head, I could not see the letters I had just typed.  I was terrified and cried out to God – don’t let this happen to me God.  Tears came to my eyes, and my friend came in to see what was wrong.  She came in and calmed me down.  When I turned back around, I realized I could see again.  And I could see pretty well.  Then lights started flashing in my peripheral vision; it made me dizzy.  I actually thought that the blindness was moving to my other eye.  So I printed out the graph.  And I looked with my good eye – the lines were straight.  I looked with my blind eye, and the spot that had blocked my vision seconds before was virtually gone and the lines were straight.  And when I went outside the sky was the brightest blue – and I realized, I had not even noticed that I couldn’t see the sky.

But here’s the most amazing part.  I was to lead a Bible study that night.  It was a study about the life of Paul.  And you are not going to believe this, but the Bible study lesson that day was the story of Saul on the road to Damascus in the book of Acts.  You may know that story.  Saul was a persecutor of Christians, and as he was walking along that road to continue his persecution, the Lord Jesus appeared to him and said, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  And Saul was blinded and had to led down the road to the city.

But then God told a man named Ananias to go to Saul and lay hands on him and to heal him.  But Ananias argued with God because Saul was this enemy of the faith – he was killing Christians and now God was asking Ananias to heal this evil man.  But Ananias finally obeyed when God told Ananias that he had chosen Saul as God’s instrument to take the message of God’s love to all the people.  So Ananias went to Saul, he laid hands on his eyes, and Saul’s blindness was instantly healed.  And the Bible says it was as if scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he began preaching that Jesus was God’s son.

And my eye was healed instantly.  It was as if the scales fell from my eyes that day just like Saul.

This Bible study on Paul was chosen six months earlier.  There is no way that any human could have orchestrated that this Bible study, with this particular lesson on Paul’s healing would be my lesson on the very day that my eye was healed in an instant –  like Paul’s.

I share this story with you so that you will know that the healing power of Jesus is truly available in this world.  Jesus can heal our bodies.  But I think it’s very mysterious and unexplainable because everyone is not healed; there’s no rhyme or reason for who is and who is not healed – and even after we have been healed, we continue to suffer and experience pain.  Our bodies ultimately give up on us!  But that does not mean that Jesus has abandoned us.  Because maybe Jesus has just snuck off to a quiet place to pray.

Maybe, we really aren’t alone in our struggles.  Maybe we can actually experience our greatest healing when we are in a deserted place.  Maybe it is through struggling with our faith when we are forced to, that Jesus suddenly appears to heal us in ways much deeper than physical healing.  I’m not afraid of deserted places any more because I know that Jesus is there, too.

May Jesus come to us this very day.

May he take us by the hand.

May he raise us up.

And may we respond by boldly serving him.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.