Why Does It Hurt So Much?
A sermon based on Mark 1:29-39
Sunday, February 5th, 2017 – Pentecost 5B
"Why? Why do I have to go through this?" Do you ever ask yourself that question: "Why me? Why now?" Do you ever ask that of God. "Why the surgery? Why the back pain? Why the depression? Why the fever? Why the job insecurity? Why the problems? Why the pain? Why, God, do you allow this? Why do you send this?! Why does it hurt so much?"
In our text for this morning we hear about a lot of hurting people—people who were sick, burning up with a fever that wouldn't go away, people who were demon-possessed, harassed and controlled by the dark thoughts that wouldn't go away. And we see how, coming to Jesus, they got the help that they needed, miraculously cured, free from the demons that haunted them.
But in our text for this morning we also hear about other hurting people—people who longed to see Jesus that he might help them too—that he might take away their disease or drive out their demon too. But… Jesus didn't help them as they'd hoped. Instead he ditched them and let the demon or disease linger. And they might have wondered why? Why would he heal others but not them?!
So too, you and I often face challenges, struggles, hurt and pain. Sometimes we pray to Jesus and he helps by taking away the struggle or the problem or the pain. But other times, he lets it linger. He lets us hurt. And we might wonder why? And perhaps our text for this morning offers two answers to the question, "Why does Jesus sometimes let us hurt so badly?" First, he may let us hurt to drive us to himself. But then, when we look to Jesus for the wrong reasons, he might sometimes let us hurt to drive us to the cross. I'll explain. But first, our text from Mark 1:29-39…
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"
38 Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
I. To Drive Us to Jesus
Have you been to the Chena Hot Springs? Some people think they're pretty gross because the waters guests are invited to wade in, while quite warm, are also unfiltered. But others believe that the minerals in those unfiltered waters have healing qualities and that a long soak in the hot springs will restore health.
That's been thought of hot springs for a long time. In fact, even back in Jesus' day there was a resort in the largest city in Galilee (which, by the way, is never mentioned in the Bible and it would seem that Jesus never visited). The resort was in a city called Tiberias, named after Emperor Tiberius, and was only 10 miles away from Capernaum which Jesus made his home base during his Galilean ministry.
Well, it would seem that after Jesus drove a demon out of a man in a synagogue (see last week's sermon for that account if you missed it), that someone ignored the Sabbath rules about travel and went running south to Tiberias to spread the news. Remember the last verse of our text from last week? "News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee." (Mark 1:28)
And those crowds came running to have Jesus do what the hot springs couldn't: heal them of their disease and take away the demons that haunted them. But while they traveled, Jesus was invited to lunch after church over at Peter and Andrew's place. "As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew."
But it wasn't just for the lunch that the brothers invited the Jesus, James, and John into their home. It was for another miracle. "Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her." Literally she was "thrown down, burning up!" In Matthew's account he calls it a great fever or fire. And all three Gospels seem to indicate that she'd been like this for a while and that she might not recover with only bed rest. Perhaps Peter wondered if Jesus did the miracles just in the public eye to prove his divinity and his power, to rally the masses around him before he began his work as Savior. But would he do a private miracle seen only by a few just to help Peter and his wife and not to get any publicity?
And of course, you know the answer. "He went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them."
And while they were eating others were walking and waiting. Because as soon as the sun went down and the Sabbath restrictions were lifted, they thought it was time for Jesus to get back to work. "That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door…" And the Greek for "the whole town" could just as well be translated "the whole urban area" and could well have included the inhabitants of Tiberias and the guests at the hot springs resort. So the "whole town" in verse 32 might be talking about that "whole region of Galilee" mentioned in verse 28. They each heard the news of the exorcism that took place that morning and wanted their own miracle that evening.
And you know how Jesus responded. He got right back to work: "Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons…"
So, what about our question, "Why does Jesus sometimes let us hurt so much?"? Well, consider this: If Peter's mother-in-law hadn't been sick, would Peter and Andrew invite Jesus to their home? Would Peter's mother-in-law have ever met Jesus? Would she have become a believer? Perhaps. But if the people from all over Capernaum and the whole region of Galilee hadn't been sick or demon possessed, would they have come to Peter's house? Would they have come to see Jesus? Would they have ever become believers?
So you can see then that Jesus used their ailments, their suffering and pain—which may well have lasted many years before this night! He used those hurts to draw them to himself so he could demonstrate who he is and his power over sickness and over demons, so they could see and believe that he is the Son of God.
And they saw not only his power, but his love and care, practically pulling an all-nighter, staying up late healing and yet still getting up early for prayer. (In fact, he was so tired the next day that when he took a nap on the boat, he would have slept right through a furious storm if not for the disciples waking him.)
And I know that I've told you before that one of the keywords of Mark's Gospel is "Amazing," but another one that we find again and again in this short Gospel is "Immediately." Here it's translated, "as soon as…" "As soon as they left the synagogue…" It shows us Jesus' sense of urgency and his unrelenting pace at which he preached and healed.
That's the same loving, caring, driven, powerful Jesus that we have today. He can most certainly help us in every problem that we face every day. And he no longer needs to sleep! So maybe he lets those problems come into our lives to drive us to him in prayer. Maybe he lets us hurt so badly to keep us connected to him.
By the way, if Jesus, who is in his very nature true God himself, still needed to pray to God the Father, how much more don't we, who are so much more helpless and weak, need to pray to God for help! So maybe God allows our problems and pain, or even sends us problems and pain, so that we, like those in Capernaum come looking for him!
So, maybe instead of whining and complaining to God, "Why me? Why now? Why do I have to go through this?" we ought to be thanking him for drawing us to him in prayer again! After all, be honest: How much do you focus on God when things are going well? But when they're going badly, isn't that when you seek him out the most? He cares about you! You know he does! So go to him in prayer! That's what he's waiting for. Talk to him and let the problems and pain you face in this life, drive you to him again and again. And Jesus' response may be like the one he gave that night. He may heal you and take away the torment and the pain. He may restore your health and make you whole again.
But, then again, he may not. Though he has the power to heal in every case, nevertheless, we still have to be ready for him to say "No" to any request of ours to take away the pain. He might have something better in store…
II. To Drive Us to the Cross
What a difference a day can make. If only you'd traveled a day sooner, maybe you wouldn't have been in that accident. If only you'd sought help earlier, maybe you wouldn't be in the situation you're in now. If only you'd have done things differently back then, you'd have fewer regrets today.
I wonder if that's how some of people felt that next morning. "If only we'd have left for Capernaum sooner we might have made it. If only we'd have traveled yesterday, Jesus might still be here." Because when they made it to Capernaum and everyone was looking for him, not everyone found him. Nor would they find him back at Peter's house that afternoon. Now it was too late. Jesus was moving on.
But why? Why didn't Jesus stick around? Why didn't Jesus stay there and let the people come to him? Surely news would spread even further and more would come to him from further away. Just as people traveled from all over the Roman Empire to soak in those hot springs in Tiberias, surely they would travel from all over the world to be healed by Jesus in Capernaum. But instead, Jesus left. And he left a lot of hurting people still hurting. For them he let the pain linger. Why?
Well, I think we have two clues in this text. The first is found in what Jesus said to the demons. "He would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was." The second clue is found in what Jesus said to Peter: "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."
Why didn't Jesus want the demons spreading the news about him? Wouldn't that be good for others to know that Jesus was the Christ, the God-man who could cure any disease? And why would the demons want to get that word out anyway? Wasn't Jesus driving them out of people left and right?
Well, demons don't always tell lies to rob people of their souls. They often use half-truths and will use something good to rob people of what's best. If they could get everyone to think of Jesus just as a miracle worker, one who would solve all of their problems here on earth, but get them to ignore matters of eternity after an eventual death, well… then the demons would win. Jesus wasn't just a doctor or healer. He wasn't just an exorcist. And if that's all people saw him as, they would be far worse off in the end.
How did Jesus want people to see him? That's where our second clue comes in: Jesus said to Peter: "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."
Jesus didn't come just to heal, but especially to preach. He came to share the good news that he would conquer not just sickness and demons, but sin, death, and hell itself. He wanted to be seen as a Savior from sin, not just a healer of disease. He let people have sickness and pain to drive them to him, but he also wanted them to hunt him down for the right reason. So, Jesus didn't stick around. "He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons."
For some people the pain continued. Why? Well consider this: If Jesus just took away every earthly problem of everyone in the region of Galilee would they care about their bigger problem of sin? Would they come to know Jesus as Savior from hell? Would they be in heaven today? Or would demons be feasting on their souls? Perhaps Jesus let their problems continue and the pain linger so they would not only be driven to Jesus, but that they'd be driven to him for the right reasons. Perhaps he sent the pain to drive them to the cross to see Jesus as their Savior from sin, from death, and from eternal death in hell. In that case, what blessing the pain would be!
Maybe when Jesus went off in the dark very early in the morning to a solitary place of prayer, he was praying that he might not be tempted by the popularity to abandon the mission and just start a free clinic where he could heal and feed everyone. Maybe he was praying that the crowds wouldn't be so distracted by the miracles that they would forget about their need for a Savior from sin. Maybe he was praying for those who had been healed that they might not now forget about God so that satan would get the best of them in the end.
Well, whatever Jesus was praying for that morning, there's one big difference between his prayers and ours. You know what it is? Well, Jesus would pray to "our Father in heaven" just like we do. He would pray that God's name would be kept holy and that his kingdom would expand. He would pray that God's will would be done perfectly by himself and more and more by others. He would pray in thanks for the daily bread that God provided him by the charity of others. And he would even pray that God would help him face the daily temptation to sin and rebel against God and his perfect plan.
But the big difference? Jesus would never have to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses," because Jesus didn't have any. He never sinned like we do. He never crossed the line like you and I so often do. He never challenged God. He never whined or complained. (And if anyone knew about pain, it was Jesus.) And he remained perfect for you and for me, to give us credit for all that he's done well.
And he wouldn't just sit back and accept the admiration of the crowd and settle in to receive their praise. He had to keep going. He had to keep moving. He had to keep heading toward Jerusalem and to the cross—where he would die for every sin of yours and mine: for every complaint against God, for every prayer we've left unsaid, for every time we've refused to help someone else who's suffering and in pain.
So you and I are forgiven. Our sins are erased. And no matter what your physical health is like, your spiritual health is perfect! And maybe we know all that because of some earthly problem that drove us to Jesus in the first place.
So, if you're experiencing some problems or some pain, that's okay! Let those problems and pain drive you to Jesus. "Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Ev'rything to God in prayer!" (CW #411:1)
But at the same time, be ready for Jesus answer, even if he let's the pain continue. Let that drive you to the cross. You know that he still loves you in spite of the pain. He proved it on the cross when he took your sin away, when he defeated satan, when he won heaven for you—where there will be no more pain ever again for all of eternity.
And then let that cross move you to thank him and follow the example of Peter's mother-in-law and having been healed (at least of your sin), get to work serving him. Go do as Jesus did and help others who are hurting that you might share the good news of Jesus as Savior—not just from temporal pain, but from sin and its eternal consequences. So even if the pain lingers, we have every reason to rejoice. In Jesus name, dear friends, amen.