Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | February 6, 2012

Sermon on Mark 1:29-39

Life’s tough…and then Jesus died.

  • Order of Service:  Word and Sacrament, CW p26
  • Lessons:  Job 7:1-7, 1 Corinthians 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39
  • Hymns: 353, 371:1-4, 93, 363

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

After capping off a Sabbath’s day teaching by casting out a demon, Jesus heads over to Peter’s house for the Sabbath supper.  The end of a long day.  Now some rest.

But just the beginning.  When they arrive at Peter’s house – Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James, and John – they discover Peter’s mother bedridden with fever.  This puts Jesus back on the clock.  They talk to Him about her, asking Him to help.  “What can you do for her, Lord?”  Well, we know what Jesus can do.  He took her by the hand.  He treated that fever like the demon He cast out, rebuking it.  And she was well again.  So well, in fact, that she ran right into the kitchen and began preparing the evening meal.  Now, finally, some rest.

Except, the Sabbath’s finally over, which means people can walk somewhere other than to the synagogue.  And they walk to Peter’s house.  The whole town.  That could mean hundreds of people.  Peter’s front porch becomes an emergency room.  Litters, stretchers, and crutches battle for space.  The demon possessed howl.  The sick moan.  The crippled groan.  Some vomit.  Some cough.  Some gasp.  Some bleed.  Some cry.  Peter peeks out the peephole.  For a moment, perhaps, he considers pretending they’re not there.  But he can’t.  Jesus washes off His hands and gets back to work.  Mark says He healed many.  Luke says He laid hands on each one.  Marvelous, considering that the almighty God could have stepped outside the door, spoken one word – “Healed!” – and then gone back in for dessert.

But instead He knelt by the paralytic’s stretcher and made his legs work again.  He touched the blind man’s eyes and restored sight.  He cast out demon after demon and shut them up just as He’d done earlier so that they couldn’t poison the well with their testimony about Him.  He rebuked each fever.  He made well every deaf ear.  For the whole city.  No doubt each miracle took a couple of minutes.  Time to talk to the person or group before the healing.  Time for the healing.  Some post-healing thanks and praise.

All who came left well.  Now, finally some rest:  a well-deserved night’s sleep for the Savior of the world.  Perhaps Peter and the others even set a later-than-usual alarm after such a busy Sabbath.  But to no avail, because long before daylight (Mark 1:35, AAT) Jesus crawled out of bed and hunted out a lonely place so that He could talk to His Father in prayer.  He seeks first His Father’s kingdom and His Father’s righteousness.  He offers up prayers and petitions for Himself and for you to Him Who could save Him from death (Hebrews 5:7, AAT).

Peter finds Him some undetermined later time.  Minutes, hours, who knows?  But he finds Jesus and says, “Everyone’s looking for you (Mark 1:37, AAT).  It’s time to get back to Capernaum.”  And Jesus responds, “No, it’s time to leave.  Let us go somewhere else” (Mark 1:38, AAT).  You can almost hear Peter, Andrew, James, and John getting ready to say, “But Jesus, there are people here, excited to hear and see you, why leave?”  But before they can speak, Jesus tells them why:  “We’ll go and start a preaching tour throughout Galilee.  That’s why I’ve come” (Mark 1:38, AAT).

Jesus wants to avoid this particular crowd.  He doesn’t want to be delayed.  He has work to do and Capernaum might shanghai Him.  Plus, He knows He’ll be back from time to time.  Easier for Peter and the others to leave now, before things get too good and comfortable in Capernaum.  So they move on.  The work continues.  And for the rest of Jesus’ earthly ministry it’s much the same.  Work, work, work, work, work.  We must do the works of Him Who sent Me while it is day.  The night is coming when no one can work, (John 9:4, AAT), He said on one occasion.  A hard life, a busy life.  So hard and busy did Jesus keep Himself, that He never really had a home:  The Son of Man doesn’t have a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20, AAT).  No sooner did He get to one place, then He moved on to the next.  Then it was religious festivals in Jerusalem.  Then it was teaching great crowds.  Then it was going throughout the more than 200 towns of Galilee.  Then north of Galilee.  Then back through Samaria.  Then Judea.  Then Galilee.  Then Jerusalem one last time.  Then beatings and the cross.

But why?  Why such a hard, tough, bitter life?  Here’s some why nots.  Jesus didn’t heal Peter’s mother because the men were too lazy to cook and to give us an example of where women really belong – preparing meals.  Jesus didn’t heal the sick and demon possessed that came to Him to earn a great reputation.  Jesus didn’t go out to pray early in the morning to earn bonus points with God.  Jesus didn’t go on His preaching tours to polish His reputation or build a following or make a quick buck or hawk his latest self-help book.  Jesus didn’t deprive Himself of so many basic comforts to teach us that we should live a monastic life of asceticism, withdrawing from society, selling everything, wearing sackcloth and ashes.

And yet, for all those nots, there’s something to be gathered here.  Americans have engrained in their heads that we work hard for a little while so that we can retire to a life of ease; the earlier, the better.  Americans also believe that we invent things to make our lives easier, so that we can be lazier.  Americans believe that if there’s challenge, struggle, or hardship, if we’re tired, something should be done to fix all that so that there are no challenges, struggles, hardships, or tiredness.  We’ll find a pill for it.  And also, not just Americans, but all people, believe that at some point things should just be easy.  An end should come to trials and struggles.

But Christ shows us and says to us that the answer to that is, “No.”  Later in Mark He tells us that the Christian’s life does indeed model His life.  After telling the disciples about the cross He’ll bear, the death He’ll die, the sins He’ll atone for, and His resurrection from all that.  Jesus goes on to say, If you want to follow Me…deny yourself, take up your cross, and come with me….If in this unfaithful and sinful generation you’re ashamed of Me and what I say, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when He comes with the holy angels in His Father’s glory (Mark 8:34, 38, AAT).

For Christ, and no less for the Christian, life on earth means bearing the cross.  It means struggle, suffering, toil, work, labor, and challenge.  Luther speaks of this in explaining the Third Petition, “Thy will be done,”:  If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies.  They will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us.  For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be missing (Large Catechism, III:65).  In other words, what my Dad tells his fifth and sixth graders every year stands true:  “Life is tough, and then you die.”

Oh, what a joyous, delightful outlook that is, isn’t it?  It’s just what you came to hear.  But let us return to Christ, to Mark’s Gospel.  Christ labors and toils and struggles through a long Sabbath and then embarks on the first of His many preaching tours all of which culminated in a final week of preaching in Jerusalem punctuated by death on the cross.  For Jesus, life was tough, and then He died.  Why?  All Christ did He did for exactly the same reason Paul said he went around preaching the Gospel for free, doing whatever it took to take it wherever he could take it:  Christ lived this hard, laborious, struggled-filled life …so that in every way I might save some of them (1 Corinthians 9:22, AAT).  So that He might save you.  So that He might die for you.  So that He might rise for you.  So that He might atone for your sins.  So that He might forgive your sins.  So that He might give you the rest you so desperately crave.  He toiled so long, He lived so hard, He died and rose, because He loves you.

This is His food, He told the disciples (John 4:34):  to preach, to teach, to tell the world about the kingdom of God.  To tell the world about the forgiveness of sins.  To tell the world about Himself.  Because in knowing Christ, we know that trouble, toil, and hardship, the cross we bear, is nothing next to the eternal glories of heaven.  Because in knowing Christ we know the only rest that matters.  How did Paul put it?  Now that we have been declared righteous through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave us access to God’s grace, in which we stand.  We boast in the hope of God’s glory.  More than that, we also boast of our sufferings (Romans 5:1-3a, AAT).

Yes, your life is tough.  Struggles, challenges, and crosses come and go in an unending, wearying parade.  Sometimes it’s more than you can bear.  But fix your eyes on Jesus.  He too toiled and struggled.  He didn’t use His divine power to ease His struggles and burdens.  Instead, He made Himself a servant and slave.  He dived into those toils and struggles until He died on a cross for you.  And then fix your eyes on what happened next:  He rose.  He went to the right hand of the Father.  He took His place as King of kings and Lord of lords.  To end your struggles.  To give you rest.  To protect your body and your soul from the attacks of the devil and his demons.  To send His Spirit to call and gather you into His band of disciples, to do what He’d come to do:  preach good news, drive out your demons, save your soul, and, in finally, put an eternal end to struggles in heaven.  Amen.

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