Summary: Christ’s ministry in Mark’s Gospel is one of word and action; preaching and healing; offering people health and salvation. This, too, is the ministry of the church.
Sermon for 5 Epiphany Yr B, 9/02/2003
Based on Mk 1: 29-39
Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat, Alberta
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
The story is told of a man who went to his doctor to ask if he could help him with his snoring problem. “As soon as I go to sleep,” the man explained, “I begin to snore. It happens all the time. What can I do doctor to cure myself?”
The doctor then asked, “Does it bother your wife?”
“Oh,” the man answered, “it not only bothers her but it disturbs the whole congregation.”
I hope this doesn’t happen to you in church today!
In a more serious vein, this little story does have something to teach us in relation to our gospel today. In both the story and today’s gospel we learn that one person’s behaviour does have profound consequences for others. Just as the man’s snoring disturbed a whole congregation; so too, Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry had some very profound consequences for those who received the gospel message and were healed by Jesus. This passage in Mark’s gospel today gives us the opportunity to ponder the healing work of Jesus. In this gospel, approximately one-third of it is comprised of Jesus’ healing miracles. For Mark, Jesus often combines his words with his works, his actions. Today’s passage reminds us all, that the ministry of Jesus and of the Christian church is both a ministry of preaching the gospel and healing people of all manner of illness and disease caused by sin and evil. I believe that we, particularly as Lutheran Christians need to take the healing ministry of Jesus more seriously. It is no accident that in the New Testament Greek, the word “to heal” also means “to save.” Jesus saves people through healing them of physical, mental, emotional and other diseases and illnesses. In so doing, he is demonstrating the power of God and of the gospel to the world.
In the Bible, healing—every case of healing—is the symbol of redemptive grace and a manifestation of it. Healing and salvation are constantly associated… (Jer. 17:14) (Ps. 103:1-3).
When Solomon, having completed the building of the Temple, is addressing to God his magnificent prayer of consecration, he asks God to succour them with His blessing in all their troubles—calamity, disease, and sin… (I Kings 8:37-39).
Isaiah prophesies the end of both disease and wickedness… (Isa. 35:5,6,9).
When the disciples of John the Baptist are sent to ask Jesus if He is indeed the Christ, He replies, in evident allusion to these prophecies… (Matt. 11:4-5). Jesus performs His miracles of healing in order to relieve the suffering of those who appeal to Him, but He always performs them in order to show forth God’s power as well… (Luke 9:2).
The gift of healing played a large part in the primitive Church (I Cor. 12:9). Professor (Viktor von) Weizsacker of Heidelberg has pointed out that it was regarded as being as valid a proof of apostolic authenticity as the ‘sound doctrine’ (Tit. 1:9). …the Bible does not set supernatural over against natural healing. It does not even distinguish between them. It accepts all healing as God’s gift. 1