No Longer Bedridden In The Condemnation Of Sin

Text:  Mark 1:29-39

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Season of Epiphany will be ending next week with a big, bright bang of glory, as we hear about Jesus going up on a mountain where He will be transfigured, that is to say, lit up like the sun with total and complete glory in the presence of Elijah and Moses. 

From next week’s Transfiguration Sunday, we will then descend deeply into the valley of Lent, as we march closer and closer to the dark day of Golgatha, that is, as the mission of Jesus takes us to the place of the Skull.  Yes, at the cross, the great mission of God will be accomplished on our behalf, as Jesus will be beaten, crucified, bloodied, buried, and raised again. 

Today though we have one more Sunday of Epiphany left where we get to see Jesus doing what Jesus does.  And what does Jesus do today?  What does this last Sunday of Epiphany have in store for us? 

In today’s Gospel reading we hear that Jesus left the Synagogue where He had just cast out an unclean spirit and then goes to the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Keep in mind though that Jesus is no ordinary prophet or meager carpenter, but the Son of God who speaks with authority and exerts authority.  Indeed, He is the God-Man King; where He is, you will find the Kingdom of God and where you find the Kingdom of God, there you will find the King.  Therefore, according to our Gospel reading from today, the Kingdom of God goes “into this lowly, little world of Peter’s house . . .  Here is one mightier than [all] the unclean spirits”[1] coming into this dim and lowly house. 

Now, even though this house was most likely an average home during that day and age, there is something unique about this house that is worth mentioning.  Otherwise stated, the Kingdom of God will soon meet a specific set of circumstances inside this house.  These circumstances are a bit troubling.  Sickness dwells within the walls of the house.  More specifically, it is a house where Peter’s mother-in-law has been sick with a high fever, a fever so high that she has been restricted to a bed.  It is most likely the kind of fever that makes one shake all the way down to the bones; the kind of fever that makes one break out in a sticky sweat and ache in every joint imaginable. 

One can imagine Peter’s family members when Jesus and the disciples entered the house:

‘If there are not enough chairs, we can sit on the floor.  If we had known you were coming!  And everything is such a mess!  It has been enough taking care of the sick mother-in-law, you know the bother she can be, and these fellows have been no help at all, off listening to some preacher . . .”[2]

Jesus though, disregards all of the circumstances and makes His way not to the kitchen for a snack or to the relaxing portion of the house, but rather He makes His way to where the quarantined woman lay.  That is to say, He goes to the place where sickness lay, where the warmth of a fever and the stuffy air dwells.  Jesus comes to her; she does not come to Him.  Keep this in perspective!  The great King and the Kingdom of God go into a feverish flu infested area to be with an extremely ill woman.  At that point in time there is “nothing more important in all the world than for Jesus to be there for the sick woman.  With all of Himself, He is there just for her.”[3] 

But there is more!  The Gospel reading says that Jesus took the sick woman by the hand and lifted her up.  Yes, do not overlook this phrase talking about the physical actions of Jesus in reference to the sick woman.  “He came and took her by the hand.” This is no small detail, for Jesus has a way of stretching out His hand and touching those who are dirty, sick, detested, on the fringe, and unclean.  Indeed, in this profound miracle, Jesus took this feverish sick woman by the hand and lifted her up out of the pain, out of the chills, out of the tossing and turning nights; she is granted complete and instantaneous health.  He does it all from start to finish, to and for her.   

This is the way that it is with the King and the Kingdom of God.  Notably, the Kingdom of God and this King Jesus stepped into the dirty waters of sinners to be baptized, He stretched out His hand to touch leapers, He ate with sinners, He rubbed shoulders with tax collectors, and here in our Gospel Reading He approaches and grabs ahold of a sick woman. 

In case you didn’t notice, these actions are loaded with theological implications!  Otherwise stated, what we are seeing during this Epiphany Season is that the Kingdom of God and the King come for fisherman, the sick, those burdened by unclean spirits, lepers, tax collectors, and so forth.  Seriously though, the movement of the Kingdom and the King is towards ragamuffins, misfits, scoundrels, and lowlifes; it is a movement towards sinners.

You, who have ears, listen.  Just as Jesus came to the sick woman with all of her crackling aches and pains, He comes to all of humanity the same.  This is who Jesus is.  This is what the Kingdom of God does. 
…into the waters of the dirty Jordan River to be baptized with sinners and for sinners.
…into the midst of Galilee among sinners to proclaim a message unto repentance and faith.
…into the house of a sick woman to grant healing.
…into the unclean zone of lepers to make clean.
…into a world of sinners, darkness, and pain to forgive.
….into the darkness of death where a cross stands.
This is the way it is with Jesus.  This is what Jesus is about and what He does.  He does not hesitate to touch those with whom He interacts, especially those that are sick, those plagued with leprosy, and even those who are dead.  The presence of that which is dreadful to mankind does not eliminate or prevent His presences from drawing near. 

The Holy One of God who was there as a servant for the sick woman; the Holy One of God who was there for the lepers and for the all the other dirty, sick, unclean misfits of the day; the Holy One of God who was there as a servant on the Cross for you, me, and the entire world, is also among us this morning as well.

Consider for a moment our Divine Service.  Each and every Sunday we begin our service by confessing that we are sinners and that we have sinned in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  There is nothing flashy, attractive, or fun about this confession.  It is the raw deal.  It is a matter-of-fact way that it is with you and me.  It is an offensive, crass, jarring moment of our service each week.  With all of this stated, what is actually happening during the portion of the service is that we are essentially confessing and agreeing with the scriptures that we are rotten damn sinners of the law.  While this should be enough for the Lord to cringe and take a step back and possibly leave the vicinity, it is rather the opposite.  Like the woman sick in the house, Jesus comes to us poor miserable damned sinners of the law in this Divine Service with a word, “I forgive you all of your sins!”

Jesus, comes to this house—this sanctuary—and seeks you and me; He seeks sinners so that He can forgive.

Yes, Jesus came for sinners, Jesus loves sinners, Jesus comes only for sinner and Jesus dwells only in sinners.  “As Jesus was for Peter’s mother-in-law so it is FOR YOU from Him as gift. Are you pure and holy? Then you don’t need Jesus [and you don’t need to go to church.]  Only to those who are unworthy, who are in need, who can do nothing except receive from Him does He come. His water, His word, His body and blood are for sinners only. No worth of your own. No worthiness.  [Church is for sinners only.]  Only the worthiness of the One who comes, who raises you up to gladly be His disciple no matter what your unworthiness”[4] is what matters.

This is Jesus, the savior of sinners who serves you and me. 

Do you fear death and the grave?  If so, look to your baptism. There the Lord washed you, placed His name upon your heart and head.  There you can know that the Lord was not bothered by you but reached out to you and held you firmly in His name and cleansed you by the lavishing water flood.  Indeed, at Jesus’ baptism He was with sinners like you and me taking sin upon Himself making your baptism a blessed flood. 

Is your heart heavy and do you feel your own weakness?  If so, the Lord’s Table of Communion is especially for you.  It is a blessed meal that you have been invited to.  It is a blessed meal that is for those who hunger and thirst, those who are poor in spirit, and those who mourn.  It is a meal prepared for you, where you receive comfort, strength, and forgiveness unto everlasting life.

Do you doubt whether you are truly forgiven?  Do you doubt if those skeletons in the closet are ‘really’ forgiven?  If so, hear the good news that Jesus not only drew near to the sick woman, but boldly drew near to your sin at Mt. Calvary.  He joined you there with all of your sins—past, present, and future—bore them declaring, “It is finished,” then died in your stead.   What is said about Jesus in Mark’s Gospel and what Jesus does for Peter’s mother-in-law is what is done to and for you.   Thus, even though the law condemns you as poor miserable sinners along with your pastor, in and by Jesus you are completely and totally forgiven! 

Christ Jesus lifted the woman up from her illness and He lifts you up from the condemnation of your sin, for He Himself was lifted up on a cross.  It was and is all done for you, for Jesus is a friend, savior, and Lord of sinners.  Indeed, in Him you are no longer bedridden in the condemnation of your sin, but lifted up unto Him; clothed in His righteousness, forgiven by Him, and declared His perfect and beloved saints!

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 57.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Donavon Riley, Mark 1:29-31 Sermon (Personal Email).

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