During this Epiphany season we’ve been meditating on the Gospel of Mark. Mark is the shortest of all the Gospels. For example, Matthew is 28 chapters long, Mark is just 16. Mark’s Gospel is short and punchy, presenting Jesus to us in a series of snapshots.
So far we’ve seen Jesus the teacher. Jesus the enemy of demons. Jesus the chooser, selecting His representatives and not the other way around. We’ve seen Jesus stilling the storm and His disciples doubts about God’s love. Last week we saw Jesus feed the 5,000 illustrating that God wants to give to us, not take from us.
Today Mark presents Jesus as the Powerful Healer.
Mark 7:31-37 (NIV)
31Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
33After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). 35At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
May the Spirit of God open now our ears to hear and our minds to comprehend. May our hearts be led to trust Him more firmly, and may our mouths sing praise to Him. Amen.
It’s quite obvious that Jesus healed people because He loved people.
“14When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14 NIV).
“32Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
33“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”
34Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” (Matthew 20:32-34 NIV).
“40A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured” (Mark 1:40-41 NIV).
Jesus did these healings in a personal way. He was there. The sick were there. He healed them with a touch. But there were other times when Jesus healed with just a word. Did you notice from our reading today how Jesus did this strange thing, He put His fingers in the man’s ears and put His spit on the man’s tongue? But that wasn’t what healed the man. When Jesus said, “Be opened” THEN the man was healed. It was the word that did it there.
And sometimes Jesus healed at a great distance, without a word. In the section immediately before our sermon reading Jesus cast a demon out of a woman’s daughter. The daughter isn’t present. Jesus just tells the girl’s mother, “…you may go; the demon has left your daughter” (Mark 7:29 NIV).
So, if Jesus could heal at will, why didn’t He just heal all the sick people in Israel, or the world, (snap) just like that?
An here’s another odd thing. Jesus actually told people NOT TO SPREAD THE WORD about His healings! Didn’t He want people to know what He was capable of?
I would suggest to you today that Jesus didn’t heal people in a “wholesale” way for a very important reason. HIS MINISTRY WASN’T ALL ABOUT HEALING THE SICK. That was PART of His ministry, but it was not the main point. Jesus’ ministry was all about the MESSAGE that He was preaching. Above all He wanted people to know how heaven is reached – through the Savior that God sent.
Jesus’ miracles of healing were done out of love for the sick and needy, but the main purpose of these miracles was to validate THE MESSAGE that He preached. The message of sin and salvation.
Look at it this way. When Adam and Eve sinned the first time, the ANCIENT DISEASE CALLED SIN entered the world. With sin came symptoms like blindness, deafness, paralysis, aids, flu, muscle pain, back aches, allergies, etc.
Sometimes Western medicine gets black labeled as “only treating the symptoms”, not the inner physical breakdowns that cause the symptoms. But really, all human medicine is only treating the symptoms, the symptoms of sin. Eventually the disease of sin brings us all to the grave.
Every time Jesus healed someone’s illness or deformity, He was treating a symptom. But Jesus wasn’t only interested in treating symptoms. He came to kill the disease.
Now, if we were writing the story, maybe we’d have the Son of God invent a time machine so that He could go back and stop Adam and Eve from sinning. But God’s plan was different.
The problem with sinners is that the God of Justice has to punish them. If He didn’t He wouldn’t be just. He’d be like a corrupt judge that lets a case go without justice being served. The sentence for our sins couldn’t just be dismissed.
So, God the Son became Human so He could take the punishment for our sins on Himself. While Jesus was being crucified He was also experiencing the horrific punishment due for every sin. The ones you committed yesterday. The one’s you’ll commit tomorrow. All have been suffered for already, by God’s sinless Son.
During His ministry, Jesus treated the symptoms of sin so that people would believe that He was here to kill the disease.
Jesus once said,
“26What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NIV).
We could also say, what good is it if I live a healthy life, free from hunger or disease, only to die and spend eternity in Hell, separated from God?
The snapshot of Jesus that I see here is “Jesus the Powerful Healer”. But if we only see Him as a physical healer, we’ll have missed the point. He released many from the symptoms of sin, but He provides release from sin itself FOR ALL PEOPLE through His sinless sacrifice on the cross.
As individual Christians we can set people free from the effects of sin by giving. We can give to food banks and feed the hungry. We can give to charities that support the poor. Many have supported relief efforts in Haiti by simply text messaging ten bucks with their phone.
We can also set people free from the symptoms of sin directly. We can help someone to find a job. We can give someone who is homeless a place to stay. Or we can simply lend a listening ear and an encouraging voice to someone who needs it. We can pray to God for people we want to help. We can do these things, just as Jesus did, out of compassion.
But we must not fail to also treat the greater disease of sin. We can’t only treat the symptoms. Jesus didn’t come to be our Aspirin. He came to be the cure for sin. He came to lead us to Heaven, where symptoms and sin have no place.
The apostle Paul once wrote,
“16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:16 NIV).
Through faith in Jesus, the antidote to sin courses through our veins. Your sins stand forgiven because of Christ. Let’s share that medicine with our family and friends.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.