“Where Is the Healing?” (Mark 1:29-39)
Every year during the Epiphany season, we get Gospel readings in which Jesus is doing the activities of his public ministry. We see Jesus busy with things like preaching, teaching, and healing the sick. For example, take the readings from Mark 1 we’ve had these last few weeks. Two weeks ago we heard Jesus preaching, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Last week Jesus was in the synagogue teaching, and “he taught them as one who had authority.” Now this week we see Jesus healing the sick, healing Simon’s mother-in-law–in fact, doing a whole lot of healing: “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases,” it says.
So in his ministry Jesus was very much engaged in these activities: preaching, teaching, and healing. But this raises the question: Is Jesus still doing these things today? Preaching? Yes, Jesus still today is preaching to us, proclaiming the gospel of God. To be sure, he does it now through his preachers, for he says, “He who hears you hears me.” Alright, so there’s the preaching. What about teaching? Yes, same thing. In Bible class, the Lord opens our minds to understand the Scriptures, so that we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So preaching and teaching–yes, Jesus still is doing these things today, through the ministry of his church.
But then that leaves healing. And now we’ve got to ask: Where is that going on today? Has Jesus given up on the healing part? Was that only for back then, and that’s it? Is there nothing for us today? And so our question this morning: “Where Is the Healing?”
Where indeed is the healing? Certainly we could use some. We’ve got people sick with various diseases too, you know. Maybe you yourself have been battling sickness. Maybe the members of your household. Perhaps you know people–friends, relatives, coworkers–who are afflicted with various ailments. Diseases of the body: cancer, stroke, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, rheumatoid arthritis. Diseases of the mind: Alzheimer’s, Asperger’s, autism, bipolar disorder, clinical depression. The list goes on and on. Do you know people with any of these diseases? Do you have any yourself? So where can we find the healing we need? Has Jesus gone out of the healing business?
Jesus certainly was doing that sort of healing back then. Look at today’s Gospel. Jesus goes to Simon Peter’s house, and Simon’s mother-in-law is lying there sick with a fever. What does Jesus do? He goes in where she was, takes her by the hand, and lifts her up. And her fever goes away. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. That evening they’re bringing to Jesus all sorts of sick people, with all sorts of ailments. And Jesus heals them.
“Well, good for them,” we might say, “but what about us? Where is the healing for us?” Now there are guys running around today, ready to take advantage of people’s desire for physical healing. These are the faith-healers, so called, or you could call also them the charlatans. The hoodwinks, the bamboozlers, the frauds. I’m talking about supposed faith-healers like Benny Hinn and the like. They prey upon the weak and get them to think they’ll be able to give them a healing–for a small “love gift,” of course. And if you don’t get your healing? Why, it’s because you don’t have enough faith! You’ve got to believe harder! And send in another love gift, too, and we’ll send you this special prayer cloth.
Well, these frauds are not the answer. But if they’re not where we can go for healing, then where can we go? Of course, we can take it to the Lord in prayer, and we do that. We do pray for the sick. We do that in the general prayer of the church, and we do it in our own individual prayers. We pray for those we know who are suffering with this or that illness. And the good Lord, in his mercy, always does hear our prayers, and he answers them according to his will and for our own good. Our heavenly Father knows what’s best for us. Sometimes what is best is that he heals us, relieves us of our sickness. Sometimes God delivers the healing through the skill and care of doctors. That type of healing, too, comes from God, and we give God the thanks and glory for healing through medical means.
But what about when the healing doesn’t happen? What if we or the people we love stay sick? Why no healing then? We’ve prayed. We’ve tried the medical means. And still no healing. Has God abandoned us? This is what perplexes us. This is what causes us sorrow and angst.
First of all, here is why you can be sure that God has not abandoned you. God sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you, to save you from your sins. Look to the cross, and you will see the God who loves you. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” So if God loves you that much, surely he loves you in the midst of your sickness and infirmity.
And Jesus is on the way to that cross when he sets out on his public ministry. The healings he performs are thus signs of what his sacrifice on the cross will accomplish: total healing, the complete restoration of our body and soul in the kingdom of God. Jesus is ushering in the kingdom of heaven here on earth, and these healings are advance signs of the ultimate result.
Now think of Simon’s mother-in-law. It says that when Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up, the fever left her, “and she began to serve them.” But what happened to her after that? Eventually she got sick again with something else, and she died. Simon’s mother-in-law is not up waiting on tables today at the Capernaum Café. She’d be over 2,000 years old, if she was. No, even though she was healed of her fever, eventually she died. Same with Simon. Same with the people Jesus raised from the dead–Lazarus, Jairus’s daughter. They died too. So where is the healing that lasts? Of course you know the answer: It is in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. God is committed to our complete and total healing. The healing of our body and soul and the restoration all creation. It will happen. It will come. When Jesus comes again.
Until that time, we wait. But we wait in hope. We wait with the sure guarantee that there is healing in store for our bodies. Where can you find that guarantee? In the sure and certain means that God has provided. In the Word. In the Sacraments. These are the things you can count on. They come from God, and they have his promise attached.
Where can you find healing? Today I especially want to point you to the sacraments. For in these means of grace, God is particularly showing that he has redeemed our bodies, not just our souls. Think about it. The sacraments come into contact with your body. The sacraments are the gospel applied to your physical body.
Take the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, for example. The water is splashed over your head as the Word of God is spoken. “Hannah, Sarah, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” God is claiming your whole person, body and soul, to be his beloved child forever.
Likewise, at life’s end, in our funeral service, we remember the Christian’s baptism as we lay that body to rest. Having been buried with Christ by baptism into death, “we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” And Christ’s resurrection is a physical, bodily resurrection. We confess the resurrection of the body, and Holy Baptism bestows God’s pledge to raise us up bodily, whole and sound.
Luther explains it like this in the Large Catechism: “‘I am baptized. And if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.’ For that is the reason why these two things are done in Baptism: the body–which can grasp nothing but the water–is sprinkled and, in addition, the Word is spoken for the soul to grasp. Now, since both, the water and the Word, make one Baptism, therefore, body and soul must be saved and live forever.”
And then there is the Sacrament of the Altar, the Lord’s Supper. Christ’s body and blood placed into your mouth. Another physical, tangible means of grace. Another way God is telling you he will heal your body.
The early church fathers recognized this. St. Ignatius called the Sacrament “the medicine of immortality,” the antidote against dying, “that we should live forever in Christ Jesus.” And again, Luther picks up on the physical nature of this sacrament also, praising the bodily benefit of the Sacrament of the Altar: “It will cure you and give you life both in soul and in body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved.”
Dear Christians, Christ has redeemed you in both body and soul. He forgives your sins by his death on the cross. He foreshows the resurrection of your body by his own resurrection from the dead. Jesus has not given up on the healing business! He has healing for you, dear brother, dear sister–perfect, total, everlasting healing.
Where is the healing? Where can you find it? Look to the cross, where Christ forgave your sins. Look to your baptism into Christ, the pledge of your resurrection. And look to the blessed Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, where Jesus vouchsafes your full and final healing. Where is the healing? Right here. For you.