I celebrated a milestone. On Thursday, August 8th, 2013 I was officially 13,000 days old. That’s 1857 weeks and one day. Or 427 months. Or 35.6 years.
I’ve learned a lot in my 30s. It has truly been the most productive and spiritually challenging decade of my life – so far. But I’ve learned something else about being past the midway mark of my 30s – my body is not what it used to be. It’s not as easy to recover from things as it was when I was in my 20s. I’m not alone though… did you know the average age for retirement from the NHL is 28 years old? Gordie Howe made it the longest at 51 years old, but most players don’t play into their 30s, and I think I know why.
I’m no athlete, but I know that every now and again some part of my body decides it’s going to hurt – for basically no reason. My knees will hurt, or my elbow will hurt, or something else, and I’ll think, “That’s never happened before… what’s that all about?” I used to be able to go outside in the winter, in Edmonton, with nothing but shorts and a t-shirt, I now find myself looking for my extra-thick socks and driving with gloves on.
I used to just jump in and start playing sports, but now I have to make sure I stretch before or I won’t be able to walk for a week. I talk to my dad about it a while ago – he’s 56 – and he tells me that it doesn’t get any better from here on in. Actually, he seems to take some sort of perverse pleasure in telling me about all the horrible things I can look forward to.
Jesus’ Heart for the Sick
On the topic of health, today we are going to talk about the healing ministry of Jesus as we read about a couple of His miracles. What I want to zone in on today is Jesus’ attitude towards the sick and what it teaches us. We looked before at the big question, “If Jesus can heal anyone from anything, then why do people get sick?”, but now I want us to look at Jesus’ heart for those who are suffering.
Review: Jesus’ Authority
Let’s start a quick review. We said last week that in this section Mark is introducing two important themes that will help us understand the life and ministry of Jesus. Those themes are: The Authority of Jesus and the Opposition to Jesus. If you read chapter 1 this week, you will have already learned about Jesus’ spiritual authority as God says to Him, “You are my beloved Son”, and then demonstrates it by casting out demons. We read of His moral authority as He faces weeks of harsh, spiritual temptation by Satan himself, and comes out the victor. We read of his teaching authority as He preaches “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” We read of His positional authority as He tells various men to drop what they are doing and follow Him. And now we read of his natural authority, or His authority over nature, as He heals people from all manner of sicknesses and physiological problems.
Please open to Mark 1:29 and let’s read from there:
“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.”
Let’s skip down to verse 40:
“40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.”
Just before we read about Jesus’ healing of many people in the house of Simon and Andrew we learn that He is in Capernaum (vs 21) and has just cast out a demon simply by commanding it to leave the person. There was none of the usual incantations, words, or power struggles. He wasn’t merely repeating the traditions of other people, but was in fact showing that He had a supernatural authority, one that no other teacher had, and was therefore someone who should be listened to when He taught.
The people were amazed at this and the news about this unique and powerful man spread quickly throughout the area. It was the Sabbath, so after their time in the synagogue, the crowd dispersed and went to their homes, but they were anxiously waiting for sundown when the Sabbath would be over and they could seek out this miracle worker.
Fever – God’s Fire
Jesus left the synagogue and went to Peter’s house for the evening meal. When they got to the house they discovered that Peter’s mother-in-law was sick (vs 30) – we read in Luke (4:38) that it was with a very high fever.
My children sometimes get fevers and they can be scary things. Too high and they can do real damage to the body. Today we can just give someone Tylenol to get rid of a high fever, and we know that it is the body’s natural way of killing off whatever is infecting it. However, according to scripture, under the Old Covenant, fever was said to also have other causes, which put a very interesting spin on this story.
Leviticus 26:16 (and Deut 28:22) says that one of God’s punishments for disobeying God’s Law, could be a high fever. It says,
“…if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache….”
This isn’t necessarily a cause and effect event – as though every time someone breaks God’s Law they get a severe fever – but it is one of the ways God shows His judgement and causes the person to seek repentance. Sometimes our physical sicknesses are directly connected to an unrepentant heart. We’ll cover that more next week.
It was believed that if a person had a fever then they were under a judgment from God – God’s fire was in them – and that only God could put it out. So consider what Jesus was showing His disciples when He came into the house, was told about a woman who had a severe fever, and whom everyone would have believed was either oppressed by demons or was under a curse from God. Only God could cure her – and Jesus did.
Look at what it says Jesus did: “…he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” Jesus showed His physical and spiritual authority again by simply helping the woman up. She was immediately cured and able to serve the family again.
And how Jesus did it was just as remarkable. This event is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and each one tells the story from a different perspective. “In Matthew we read that Jesus touched her hand. In Mark, He helped her up. And in Luke He spoke to the fever, and it left her.” (L.A.C.)
As far as we can tell, Jesus never said anything to anyone, but simply got up and went to her bedside. In other healings there is dialogue and discussion about the illness, the person, the spiritual nature of it… but not here. There may have been no witnesses. Jesus is in a private residence, says very little, and seems to go to her by himself.
His concern wasn’t to show his power to anyone, but simply to show mercy to someone He cared about. He didn’t preach her a sermon about her sin. He didn’t use her as an illustration about demons. He didn’t use her to teach something about Himself. He simply touched her and healed her.
She was flat on her back, terribly sick, and then Jesus reached out and touched her and she was completely better – as though she never had a fever at all. And then she went on to serve the evening meal, just as she had planned. Her healing was immediate and complete – showing His absolute power over His creation.
Jesus Heals Many
This leads to the next story, in verse 32, where as soon as the sun went down and Sabbath was over, Jesus is inundated by people. The law was that on the Sabbath no one could travel or carry anything, so they had to wait until the first start was shining in the sky to signify that Sabbath was over and it was a new day. Can you imagine an entire city full of people staring out their windows into the sunset all waiting to see the first star so they could grab their sick relative and bring them to Jesus? What a powerful picture of what a life is like that has been touched by Christ.
And what we learn about Jesus’ supernatural authority is just as powerful. It says that “…he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.” [Again, that’s an important distinction which we will talk about next week.] This wasn’t just one kind of healing, but all kinds. There were no surprises, no confusion, no apologies – just overflowing power and mercy for those who came to Jesus that day. Jesus isn’t limited in what he can do for people.
Let’s move on to the next story in verse 40 and gather a few more insights.
According to the previous verse he has left Capernaum and has set out onto the road preaching in synagogues, casting out demons, and performing healings. As He’s traveling, Jesus comes across a man who is suffering with leprosy.
The word “Leprosy” in scripture isn’t just used for one type of disease, but all sorts of skin diseases such as psoriasis, burns, baldness and patches on the skin. God takes two chapters in the Law of Leviticus (13-14) to detail the different kinds of “leprosy” the priests would have to deal with so they could identify the physical signs and decide how to treat it – sometimes by washing, other times by isolation, or even being removed from the community.
If you were a leper, the toll it took on you was not only physical, but also emotional and spiritual. The leper that Jesus comes across was declared “unclean” and was most likely removed from the community forever. Just going near the person had consequences. He would have been living as a social outcast and anyone who were to come in contact with them would be considered “ritually unclean” and wouldn’t be able to go to the temple for a time. This disease like, seemingly every disease or problem at the time, was considered a punishment from God, and carried with it the stigma of being under divine judgement.
So not only were you in physical distress, but you lost your family, friends, and your religious community. Some people even took to throwing rocks at lepers to show their judgement of them and keep them at a safe distance. Therefore many lepers, and this continues today, were forced to live in colonies. Most would die there, but if the leprosy went away, then they could come back to the priest who could declare them to be clean.
The man who came to Jesus showed a lot of courage as he approached this group of travelers. They might have rejected him, yelling “unclean, unclean!” at him as they saw him in the distance – or even hurt him by throwing stones. But he approached anyway. Somehow he had heard of Jesus’ miraculous healing power and was compelled to come to Him.
“Make me Clean”
His first words to Jesus are not the ones we would think he would start with. He says, “If you will, you can make me clean.”. His need wasn’t just for release from his disease, but to be restored to his home, his family, his synagogue, his life, and his God. He didn’t need to be simply healed from a disease – he needed to be completely renewed.
I’m reminded that when we come to Jesus we need the same thing. It is so short-sighted to say, “Jesus I need you to heal my marriage, or my addiction, or whatever problem.” The people who really understand the power of Jesus, and the Gospel of Salvation come to Him like this leper and say, “I’m undone. I’m physically messed up, emotionally ruined, spiritually filthy and unclean. I don’t just need one problem fixed – I need to be completely remade. I don’t just need the touch of a great doctor – I need someone who can rebuild every part of my life.”
That’s the condition we come to Jesus in. And He has the ability, the power, and the supernatural authority to accomplish that kind of healing.
“Moved with Pity”
Look at Jesus’ response: It says that Jesus was “moved with pity.” Other translations say “filled with compassion.” I believe that Mark includes this detail because he wants to point out the motive behind what Jesus is about to do next.
The word “pity” is the Greek word SPLAGCHNIZOMAI which literally means “moved, as to one’s bowels.” It’s a word that describes something deeper than what we would call “pity” or “compassion” . It’s a feeling that incorporates a person’s whole being. The bowels were considered to be the place where love came from. We would use the word “heart”.
Have you ever had your “heart ache” for something? Ever been so moved that you feel it inside your stomach, your chest hurts, your eyes fill with tears, your fists clench, your knees buckle? Some translations even use the word “anger” or “incensed” to try to describe the power of the emotion Jesus felt.
His compassion was directed towards the leper, his anger was towards the disease and pain that this man had been through, and the sin in the world that brought such devastation. Anger at the people who lacked compassion, and pity for the one that needed it so much.
I’m amazed at how deeply Jesus feels for the person whom He is healing and restoring. I’m amazed at how Jesus must look at each one that comes to Him to be saved, restored and renewed by believing in His sacrifice on the cross. He feels our pain, knows our suffering, is angry at the sin that condemns us, and is driven by a deep love to do something about it.
Jesus “Touched Him”
And them Jesus does something remarkable that would blow the minds of all who would witness it. He touched the man. He breaks with the legal customs of the day and actually touches the leper – who was fully and immediately healed and made clean.
What an act of compassion. Jesus’ powerful feelings for this man compelled him to not only heal him, but to do something more. This man probably hadn’t been physically touched in a very long time. No, when people saw him – even his loved ones – they would recoil in fear and revulsion. Jesus, instead, does something very personal and very special, meeting not only the physical need of healing, but beginning his emotional healing by being the very first one to touch him. I think that tells us a lot about the heart of Jesus.
I see such a parallel to our own salvation here. Jesus not only deals with our deepest need for spiritual healing, but also works on our other needs to. We read in scripture that when we are saved He sends to us the Holy Spirit who is our comforter, our guide, our conscience, and our direct connection to God. Salvation is not a onetime event, but a lifetime journey with Christ who is there the entire way, meeting our spiritual, physical, and emotional needs.
Let’s look at one more section in verses 43-44 where Jesus does something peculiar. He tells the man to follow the law and show himself to the priests so he could rejoin the community, but also tells him not to say anything to anyone about being healed!
This shows us something else about the heart of Jesus – His motives. He doesn’t want fame, popularity, or accolades. He wanted the man to keep quiet. And it’s not like this man didn’t understand. The word for “sternly charged” is the word EBRIMAOMAI which is the same word that is used to describe threatening someone – and the word that describes when a horse lets out an angry snort. Jesus couldn’t have been more clear! “Don’t tell anyone except the priest!”
Why? Because even though part of being the Messiah was about bringing people physical healing, His main mission wasn’t just to heal disease – again, that would be short-sighted. His main mission was to spread the gospel of repentance and salvation and deal with the greater issue of sin. It takes the rest of the book of Mark for the reader to really figure this out.
Jesus is concerned about why people come to Him. I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it a million more – God is interested in our motives, not just our actions. He is far more concerned about why we do something than the thing that we do. If people come to Jesus just so they can get a surface problem fixed, they will be missing out on their true need – to be free from the consequences of sin! What a terrible thing to meet Jesus and only walk away with a physical healing, but not a spiritual one!
It is like so many people who come to church wanting to make friends, to sing songs, to feel better, to make their parents or spouse happy, to get business contacts, to bolster their reputation, to assuage their consciences and feel better about themselves. The ones who walk the aisle once in their life so they can check off the box, be ok for heaven, and then live their life without a second thought towards Jesus. The ones who miss out on spiritual blessings because they don’t pray or read scripture regularly. They are missing out on who Jesus really is and what He desires to offer them!
But, this guy doesn’t listen and instead goes all over the place telling everyone what happened. We don’t even know if he went to the priest or not. This messed up Jesus’ ministry plans so that He could no longer even go into the synagogues around Galilee. Jesus wanted to preach and teach the good news, but now one man’s disobedience messed up that plan. Now the crowds would come to him hindered from hearing His spiritual message because all they could think about was being physically healed.
They didn’t want to hear the primary message of the Kingdom of God – that of eternal salvation from sin – but they only wanted the secondary things – temporary solutions to temporary problems. It is my hope that I never fall into this trap and start praying and desiring secondary things, when what Jesus wants for me is so much greater.
Conclusion and Application
Let’s close with a few conclusions and applications from the passage today:
Let Us Be Moved To Compassionate Action
First, Jesus has compassion on people who are physically, spiritually and emotionally hurting. He is “moved with pity” towards them. He experiences, understands (Heb 4:15) and is moved by people’s pain. We may think of Jesus sitting up in the sky looking down at us uncaringly, but that’s not true. He knows us individually, cares for us specially, and is even emotionally effected by our pain and suffering.
In the same way, we who have the heart of Christ within us should have compassion on those who are sick and hurting. Today, age and sickness come with stigma. It is our normal, human response to move away from physical sickness and disease, mental illness, emotional displays, spiritual pain or rebellion, but that is not a godly response. In our society today, if you are sick, or even older, then you are invisible. If you can’t contribute , then you have no value. If you need help, then you are burden.
Jesus doesn’t see it that way. Jesus gets involved. He touches the untouchable. He takes time to be with the sick and the outcast. He speaks directly to them – not just of them. He uses His resources to meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. His anger burns towards people who have no pity. And, if we are followers of Jesus, then we must go where He goes, do what He does, love whom He loves, and hate that which He hates. How can we show the love of God to the suffering? We are the hands and feet of Jesus, so what practical ways can we meet the needs of those who God has given us to serve around us?
Let Us Address Spiritual Matters
Second, we must remember that physical healing wasn’t Jesus’ primary goal. He had the divine power to heal people, and could have been the most popular man in the world through a healing ministry, but instead He pursued His greater mission to glorify God through preaching the Gospel and being the atoning sacrifice for sin through His death on the cross.
He cared for people’s physical problems, but didn’t get stuck there. He knew the bigger picture and has given us the same mission. The most pressing need of the people around us is not physical, it is spiritual. We must never forget to address their spiritual health as we meet their physical needs. What good is it to help someone physically if they are still condemned to hell?
We must pray that God changes our hearts so we feel compassion for those who are suffering. Then we must pray that God gives us the ability and strength to help them. Then, as we show them love, we must pray that God opens the door so we can give them the message of the salvation through Jesus Christ.