Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hey Jesus Do Something About My Mother In Law (aka Jesus Heals) (Close Encounters Of The Jesus kind part 3/ Mark 1:29-34)

AS we are looking at a passage where Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law and I though we could start by telling a few mother in law jokes. But then I realised that church is a very mother-in-law rich environment so they might not go down too well. I did search the Internet for some son in law jokes but I couldn’t find any.. I did find one however: ‘Behind every successful man is a good woman and a surprised mother in law’. And here is another

“ A man was really struggling to know what to buy his mother-in-law for Christmas so he decided that he would buy her a plot in the local cemetery. The next year he didn’t buy her anything for Christmas and when she complained he replied well you haven’t used what I brought you last year”

As we look at this passage today we see that Simon wasn’t that kind of son in law, he cared for his wife and her family. Simon’s mother in law had a close encounter of the Jesus Kind and was healed of a fever and returned to full health. This led on to many more healings in the town of Capernaum and as we encounter Jesus in the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God that Mark wrote we too I hope will know the reality that Jesus heals.

 Jesus had been at the synagogue in Capernaum where he had astounded the people with the authority of his teaching and had delivered a man of an unclean spirit. In Mark’s typical fast paced narrative style we are told that right away Jesus went to Simon’s place.  Simon’s mother in law was ill with a fever and Jesus goes up to her and raises her up off the bed and the fever breaks and she regains her strength. While it was the words of Jesus that had freed the man of his unclean spirit in the synagogue here it was through an action of Jesus laying hands on her and lifting her up that she was healed. In Christian healing we follow Jesus example by praying and laying hands on the sick hoping that Jesus will heal. 

Both these miracles took place on the Sabbath which we will see latter in Marks’ gospel will lead Jesus into conflict with the Pharisees. They were miracles that occurred out of necessity however after the sun had gone down and the Sabbath was over people brought their sick and family members suffering from unclean spirits to Jesus at Simon’s house and he healed them.  The healings and deliverances were not just one off unique events but were typical of Jesus ministry. Jesus heals.

Traditionally Mark has been connected with Simon Peter and in this event we catch a glimpse of Simon’s personal memories. The healing of his Mother-in-Law would have had a great impact on him and his family and so Mark has recorded it. We are told that right away as Jesus came into the house he was told of her illness, I jokingly titled this sermon “Jesus please do something about my mother in law” and that may have been taken the wrong way but Jesus was informed of her illness out of concern.

Probably your also thinking that when she is healed that it’s just typical of those men to get the mother in law up to get the meal ready and wait on them. But firstly it shows us that she had regained her complete strength, she has been restored to health. Secondly, the word wait on tables is the same word we use for minister. She does this as a way of showing her gratitude and her faith in Jesus. Just as we all in gratitude for what Jesus has done for us want to serve him so she does. Strict Jewish Rabbi’s would not let women serve them at the table but Jesus accepts her service not out of cultural expectations but as a sign of her devotion and gratitude.

Again for Mark the healings are designed to show us first and foremost who this person Jesus is. That’s the focus of Mark’s gospel. Jesus has the authority not only over the demonic as we looked at last week but also over disease and infirmity We are to see that in Jesus the kingdom of God has broken into the realm of man and sin and darkness are defeated and all the consequences of those things problems with unclean spirits, illness and disease are also to be put right.  The passage we had read out to us today from Isaiah points to the hope that the prophet talked of when the kingdom of God would come and in Jesus miracles and healings the hope of the kingdom is shown. Later we will see that hope in the outcasts being included into the people of God: in salvation.

When we say that disease and illness are a result of sin it does not mean that people get sick because they have sinned rather death and decay, illness and afflictions are a result of our fallen human condition, we live in a fallen world and even the good suffer the consequences. When Jesus came not only did he deal with the root problem our separation from God through sin but also its consequences as well.  Does this mean everyone will be healed? No it doesn’t while the Kingdom of God came with Jesus we await its consummation when Jesus returns. Then we will see an end to these things not now, as it says in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26.

Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be defeated is death. 

However as we look at the gospel and the rest of the New Testament we see that Jesus heals and he delegated this authority to heal to his disciples in his name. In Mark 6: we read of Jesus sending out the twelve to proclaim the kingdom of God and as they went and proclaimed they cast out many unclean spirits and anointed the sick with oil and they were cured. Christians also anoint people with oil sometimes when they pray for them today. In Acts we see that Jesus disciples saw God heal people through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul and Peter had similar experiences to Jesus where people would bring all the sick to them to be healed. The spirit used these events to show the truth of their proclamation of the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus heals. IN James chapter 5 we are told that the prayers of the righteous accomplish much and if anyone is sick they should call the elders to lay hands on them and anoint them with oil.

Some people have taken this passage to mean that only really holy people can pray for others and see them get healed. In the catholic tradition it is one of the proofs when they make someone a saint. However when it says the righteous it’s all who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, because we have been made right with God through faith not our own holiness. In fact in the passage in James the example that is given is Elijah in the Old Testament who prayed and it didn’t rain for three years and then prayed and it did rain. James tells us that Elijah that hero of the faith was a human being just like us. It’s Jesus who heals by the Holy Spirit.

It can happen as we pray for people today and well. I remember when I was working at St Columba in Tauranga an elderly women with a degenerative disease came to a service we had with a women called delirious winders She was prayed for to be healed. A week or so later one of our elders went round to visit her and she said watch this and went into the bathroom and started standing up onto her tiptoes and back down again holding on to the towel rail. She did about twenty of them and the elder didn’t really know what she was seeing. The women explained that before the prayer service she had struggled to even do five of these simple exercises that the physio had set for her. She would be exhausted and have to go have a rest. She continued to improve. One day we were very concerned because she seemed to get worse again but she when she went to see the doctor he said that she was suffering from side affects of the drugs she was on and as she was so well she didn’t need to be on such a high dosage. She didn’t evert run a marathon after that but there was a great increase in her standard of health for the rest of her life.

There are also times when people tragically don’t get better and they die. I’ve shared with you the story of Belinda a girl in our youth group at Titirangi who had leukaemia and twice she went in to remission when we prayed for her, which was unheard of, and finally she did have a third relapse and die. You all probably have people close to you who you have prayed for who have not got better.

Like we talked about with demons last week there are a lot of excesses that have put people off the idea that Jesus heals through our prayers.  Some people are fakes and charlatans, some people are showmen and the shouting and dancing round that seem to accompany such prayer put us off. We live in a time when we are once again inundated with alternative medicines and quacks who claim to heal and we don’t want to be associated with them. We live in a time where we want and even expect ‘healing at all costs’ when we expect miracles from scientific medicine or from God or anyone just as long as we overcome the illness. I don’t know if that is healthy.

In Jesus day they didn’t have the medical science that we have and even the fever that Simon’s mother in law had could have been fatal. We don’t know what it was by the way. Know we do have an amazing medical science. Perhaps in the midst of all this our overt need for God has decreased we pray for the Holy Spirit to be with the surgeons and doctors as they treat people. In New Zealand we don’t realise just how much of the healing arts have Christian origins. In the US and Europe a lot of the hospitals and clinic were established by churches and Christian groups because Christians were concerned about seeing people get well. Our public health system hides then in our country although we still do have the catholic hospitals. Presbyterian Support in the Bay here is at the forefront of plaietive care in new Zealand, not healing but working to care for the dying. Jesus healing ministry has lead many Christians to work in the health fields and in many third world countries it is the Christian missions that are at the forefront of providing medical care.

I have a friend who is very involved in Mission work in the Sudan, in particular with the tribes in the south of that country that are persecuted by the more powerful Muslim tribes in the north. One of their church leaders came to speak in New Zealand and shared how when the western doctors were taken away from the region they found an increase in the number of people who were healed when they were prayed for. Again in desperation they turned to God and God was gracious to many of them. Like with Simon’s mother in Law they discovered that Jesus heals.

John Wimber was the founder of the vineyard church moment in Anaheim California and he is also known for the books and seminars he wrote on the healing ministry. He talks about the horrible track record he had when he first decided that the Holy Spirit was calling him to pray for the sick to be healed. He had come from a denomination that believed that healing and miracles were for the first century only and not for today but as he had read and studied scripture he had felt the spirit prompting him that Jesus heals even today. He started to pray for people and they seemed to get worse, but after a while he saw some significant healings take place. I always remember his comment when asked by a reporter about what he did, he said that more people got healed now he prayed for the sick to be healed that when he didn’t because he believe in it.

In the end our focus is that of the gospels it is to look to Jesus. To encounter and know Jesus, God’s son who has power over sin and death. Today I want to invite you to have a close encounter of the Jesus Kind: To meet with Jesus again in a new and fresh way in the midst of your real world.

Here are some questions that I hope will act as a doorway to meet with Jesus like the door the people of Capernaum gathered round to encounter Jesus and receive wholeness and healing. Is there something in your life that you need to bring to Jesus for healing? Is there someone in your life that you want to bring this morning to meet with Jesus the healer that he may touch them and make them whole?  Do you want to recommit yourself to serving Jesus in response to what he has done in your life? Jesus heals.  

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