I was pretty excited about my sermon last week and then Mother Nature decided to make a very loud entrance into our neck of the woods. I don’t want to repeat much of what I had written for last week, but I do want to reiterate some points.
The Gospel of Mark tends to move very quickly in its actions. Many things in Mark happen “immediately.” Mark is also what I like to call the “Readers Digest” version of the Gospels. We don’t get a lot of details. It’s not super frilly. So the details that we do have and the stories that we do have are even that more important. Last weeks reading (that you would have heard) told a story of a man possessed by demons. This week we get another story of healing. I think it is crucial that we notice that some of the first things that Jesus is doing in his ministry is healing people. The healing that happens in this week’s reading is a bit more controversial because Jesus heals a woman.
At the time of Jesus, women were second class citizens and seen as property. Simon’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. In our current day context, a fever may not seem like that big of a deal. Most of us would take some tylenol or ibuprofen, try and stay hydrated, and maybe crawl back into bed. A fever doesn’t have the same death sentence it used to. In fact my own mother used to tell me (when I was sick) “it’s good you have a fever dear, that means your illness is leaving your body.” I don’t know if there is any scientific proof of this, but it made me feel better and maybe it made my mom feel better too.
Already in this first chapter of Mark, we’re learning about this Jesus character that will die on the cross for us. He heals a woman from a fever. Again, while that may not seem a big deal to us anymore, by doing this, Jesus enters into 2 taboos: he actually touches someone who is sick (what if she was contagious?!?) and he actually touches a woman! It’s clear we’re encountering the rebel Jesus! I’m a fan of rebel Jesus.
What I want to talk about and what I want to invite you to think about today is healing. Could Jesus had offered Simon’s mother-in-law some kind of elixir and said “here, drink this and you will be better?” Of course he could have, this was the same Jesus that turned water into wine. If he wanted to heal people with potions and elixirs he could! But what he did instead was touch her. He healed her with touch. He didn’t just throw something at her and hoped that it would work. No, Jesus gave her what she needed and most likely what she wanted.
I have a theory about us, friends, myself included. When we are in need of healing, we are so very hesitant to ask for it because asking for healing means making ourselves vulnerable. Asking for healing means asking for help. Asking for healing means bearing our scars to one another and to ourselves. And asking for healing means risking the shame that we think will come with others knowing our secrets.
I’m not talking about “basic” healing needs: the common cold, a flu, a broken arm, etc… The normal things we see a doctor about. The kind of healing that I am talking about takes time, takes work, takes energy, and most importantly, it takes vulnerability. And if there’s one thing I am quite certain about, it’s that we are quite stubborn when it comes to vulnerability. The kind of healing I’m talking about starts at the foot of the cross and can only be accomplished when it is Jesus in complete control of the lives we finally choose to surrender. It’s healing that is (honestly) really scary but totally worth it.
We live in what I call a “get rich quick” society. I use that term a lot even when it has nothing to do with money. When people get sick, they often want a “get rich quick” idea: pills, a liquid, a perscription, whatever will get me better in 5-7 days so I can function again. Want to see better? Get lasik! Want to be thinner? Drink this magic shake, take these pills, do this exercise for only 30 days and lose 50 pounds! Want to look younger? Use this cream, get these injections, use this make-up, get this procedure done! Are you understanding what I’m getting at?
So much of what is ailing us cannot be fixed with pills, or procedures, or diets, or creams, or even with the right pair of jeans. So much of what needs to be healed cannot be seen (and often we don’t let it be seen). We spend so much time trying to fix our outside to hide what needs to be healed on the inside. Loneliness, isolation, confusion, anger, distrust, and unbelief cannot be fixed with a pill. Can you imagine if you went to your doctor and said “doctor, I’m quite mad at my sibling/spouse/friend/etc… and I’m not ready or able to forgive them, but I also need to move on. What can you give me?” Seriously, if you do this, invite me along to your appointment because I want to see the look on the doctor’s face. This type of healing, friends, can only be done by Christ and it is going to take time and vulnerability.
When our sins are forgiven (every single moment of every single day, by the way) Christ is freeing us from the power of our sin. We are freed from the sin that has control over our lives. In turn, we are then freed for service to Christ and to one another in Christ’s name. You cannot begin to heal and you cannot begin to be freed from your sin until you actually believe that you are forgiven. Grace is not wasted on you. I want to make sure you hear that message loud and clear because it is powerful. Grace is not wasted on you.
But it’s not enough to be healed. We can’t keep this grace to ourselves. You’ve probably heard of the concept of “pay it forward.” The concept is someone does something nice for you so you in turn do something nice for someone else. Except the thing is with God’s grace, we don’t deserve it, we don’t earn it, but we most certainly need it. Once we have received that grace, its to us to go and be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. That means when someone is hurting, someone is in pain, let’s not be so quick to spring to action with a band-aid when what people really need is Christ.
And we should do the same thing with ourselves. We want to be healed and we want to be healed quickly. But sometimes what we really need is to turn to Christ. No pill, no cream, no diet will fix some of the things that really ail you. I am having my helpers pass out a little something for all of you to take home today. Place this in your wallet, or your car, or somewhere where you may see it. It’s a band-aid with a cross on it. I am giving you this because I want you to remember where healing comes from. When your soul hurts, when your heart feels broken, when your spirit is being challenged, when darkness is too much, when the demons are speaking too loudly, don’t reach for a band aid, don’t reach for a pill or elixir, travel to the foot of the cross and start with Christ.
With Christ, we can be healed. Yes, there are times when medication is great–even life saving! But for other ills, we need to have the saving touch of Christ. This means we must be willing to make ourselves vulnerable. This means we must be willing to show others our scars. This means we have to admit where we have fallen short and sinned. And it means we must believe with every fiber of our being that we are forgiven. And that, yes, grace is for us. Grace is for you. And, it is never ever wasted on you.