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02.08.15 Show and Tell Mark 1:29-39 Sermon Summary

by on February 9, 2015

Many of us believe that God isn’t powerful enough to solve our problems, or that God simply doesn’t care. Today’s lectionary readings testify to a different kind of faith.

Summary Points

  • How Isaiah and the Psalm answer the human complaint that God isn’t involved
  • How Jesus fulfills the vision of Isaiah and the Psalm
  • What faith looks like on the basis of these passages
  • Questions for discussion or reflection

The people of Isaiah’s time were overwhelmed with sorrow. Their nation had been overrun by the Babylonians, their capital city Jerusalem destroyed and the Temple razed, and their prominent citizens had been exiled to foreign lands. By the time Isaiah 40 was written, the refrain heard by the prophet from the people was, “Our way is hidden from the LORD!”

How often have we felt this way? The people of Isaiah’s time might have thought that God can’t do anything about my problems—they’re too big. Or they thought God has the power, but just doesn’t care.

In his answer to this complaint, Isaiah affirms that compared to God, we are indeed like grasshoppers. God does, after all, bring out the stars every night. In the words of the Psalm, “God is great, abundant in power, and his understanding is beyond measure!” So with regards to whether God can address our biggest concerns, Isaiah and the Psalm say that God does have the power to do something.

The people of Capernaum witnessed God’s power working through Jesus. When Jesus cast out the demon in the synagogue on the Sabbath, Mark tells us the people were “amazed.” They said to one another, “He teaches with authority, and even demons obey him!”

Then Jesus shows up at Simon’s house, where Simon’s mother-in-law is sick in bed. It’s hard to imagine a more marginal character in this scene. She is a woman in a patriarchal culture, she is in bed with a fever, and she is a mother-in-law guest in her son-in-law’s house.

She might have felt like Isaiah’s Exiles. She may have been thinking, “God may be powerful, but he’s not interested in me. This Jesus may heal a religious man in the synagogue, but he won’t bother with me. Jesus might heal for publicity’s sake, but I’m no celebrity. God probably is powerful, but my concerns are too small.” If she knew Isaiah, she would have quoted, “My way is hidden from the LORD.”

Back in his time, Isaiah reminded the Exiles that, “God gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.” He gives them the image of a young athlete who will eventually tire and fail, but promises that, “Those who wait for the LORD will renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, the shall walk and not faint.”

Just so, Jesus came to Simon’s mother-in-law. He reaches out and takes her hand. He lifts her up. And what little her society allowed her to offer in response, she does. She begins to serve them.

Mark tells us at sundown, many others came to the house. Sundown begins a new day, the Sabbath is over, but Jesus is still proclaiming a message of healing. The people came with various dis-eases, and Mark tells us Jesus cured “many,” but not all. Others apparently had to continue waiting. The difference now is that they wait with hope.

Many of us are awaiting a new day. We would like the day we’re in to end. We would like Jesus to come into our Monday to Saturday lives, into the problems that are overwhelming to us, or into our “God is too big, mine are too small” problems.

Like Isaiah, Psalm 147 praises God for bringing out the stars, but also assures us: “God heals the broken hearted, and binds up their wounds.” “The LORD lifts up the downtrodden.” God even gives animals their food, so the Psalm, like Isaiah, calls us to faith and hope in God.

The next morning Jesus goes in to the darkness to a deserted place and prays. He “waits on God” to use Isaiah’s words. He puts his trust and hope in God to use the Psalm’s words. Then Simon comes to find him, to put him back to work. There are a lot more people in Capernaum who need healing.

But Jesus knows there are people in the neighboring towns also. So like the God who cares for the brokenhearted, like the Savior who heals the mother-in-law, Jesus goes to them, takes their hands, lifts them up, and heals them also.

This morning your problems might be as big as the demon possessed man. Or they might be as small as a fever. Or they might be in the neighboring towns, waiting for Jesus to arrive.

Mark wants you to know that the God of Isaiah and the Psalms has come in Jesus Christ. And he urges us that, when Jesus arrives in our synagogue, or house, or town, may he find us waiting.

Questions for Discussion or Reflection

  • Share a time when you thought, like Isaiah or Simon’s mother-in-law, “My way is hidden from God.” How did that situation finally resolve?
  • As you think about a current challenge in your life, where would it be in this story? Is it in the Synagogue, that is, a big problem like the demon-possessed man that only God can solve? Is it more mundane like the fever suffered by the mother-in-law? Are you one who is waiting for resolution, like those in Capernaum who were not healed? Or is it in a neighboring town, that is, still waiting for Jesus to arrive?
  • Jesus was very deliberate about prayer—he woke up early and went to a solitary place. How focused is your time of prayer? What might Mark be trying to teach us about prayer with this scene?
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