5EpiphanySermon2019

Grace and peace…

Our text this morning is Mark 1:29-39

My name is Peter. I was one of Jesus’ very first disciples; some say I was the leader of the disciples, but it was nothing official. It’s just that I was always there, and I always had something to say, including things that got me into trouble. I know that more is written about me than any of the other disciples, but I wasn’t always right. There were times when I had no idea what Jesus was doing or why He was doing it. But, you know me, I just always assumed that I was right about everything.

There was one time, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. My brother Andrew and I, along with 2 other fishermen, James and his brother John,we had just started following Jesus around. It was the Sabbath, and Jesus took us to the synagogue. There we heard Him teach, and He was amazing. We never heard anyone teach like He did, with such confidence and authority. But then He did something even more amazing. 

There was a man there in the synagogue who had a demon, an unclean spirit. While Jesus was teaching, the demon suddenly started yelling and making a great disturbance. The next thing we knew, Jesus silenced the demon and demanded that he come out of the man. Believe me, we’d never seen anything like that before. 

When Jesus was finished, we left the synagogue and went to my house where my wife and her mother could prepare a meal for us. But when we got there, my mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever. Now, fevers can be very dangerous. It was not unusual to die from a fever, so we were all very worried about her. 

When Jesus came into the house, I told Him that my mother-in-law was very sick. He went into her room, ordered the fever to leave her, and helped her out of bed. As she stood-up, the fever left her and her strength returned. Just like that, Jesus had healed her. She and my wife then went into the kitchen and prepared a fine meal for us. I was very grateful for what Jesus had done, but even more, I began to realize the amazing powers that Jesus had.

By now people began to hear about Jesus and His amazing powers. He could heal the sick and cast-out demons; He gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf; whatever physical or spiritual ailment people had, He was able to heal them. People were now lined-up at my front door, wanting to see Jesus and be healed. They would have kept coming to the house all night long. We finally had to lock the door so we could get some sleep.

When we got up the next morning, people were already starting to gather in front of the house, looking for Jesus. We looked for Him as well, but He wasn’t in the house. We finally found Him praying in a quiet, secluded area not far from the house. I didn’t understand this at all. People were all excited about seeing Him and being healed by Him, and He was there hiding in the woods.

I still don’t understand why He was in that desolate place instead of there with the crowd of people back at my house. We told Him that people were looking for Him, and that we need to get back there as soon as possible. Do you know what he said? He wants to go to other towns and villages to preach and teach and heal the sick. “Let us move on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came.”

I didn’t understand Him, none of us did, not then. But we do now. Jesus was praying in that quiet, desolate place because He was facing great temptations. He was tempted to give-up His mission of bringing salvation and God’s Kingdom to a world full of sin and evil. His mission wasn’t to be a miracle worker, or satisfy the needs and desires of those who stand in line for hours just to see Him. His mission was to bring the Kingdom of God to as many people as possible.

Jesus knew that He was headed for the most desolate place of all – Golgatha and the cross. The cross was where all of our sins, all of our guilt, burdens, and hurts were gathered together in one place. The cross was to be for Jesus the place of punishment, agony, and suffering. It was the place of death. The cross was where even His Father in heaven abandoned Him, so He could suffer the punishments of hell.

Yet out of that place of suffering and death came our salvation and everlasting life. Jesus’ mission was to bear our sins and griefs, to forgive and redeem us, and to open the gates of heaven for us so we may enter at God’s pleasure. And Jesus accomplished His mission. From the cross and His tomb, Jesus defeated Satan and his evil hords. The power of evil was crushed, the power of death was destroyed. “The Kingdom of God has come! Repent, and believe the good news!”

Now I understand. Back then I was impressed with the crowds and all the things Jesus could do if He wanted to. But I was thinking more about me than anyone else. But not Jesus, He had His eye on the prize, the empty tomb. Thankfully, nothing could deter or distract Him from accomplishing our salvation. 

*********************************************

I can see how Peter could get it all wrong at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He hadn’t watched His crucifixion yet, or walked and talked with Him after rising from the dead. But what about us? We have the advantage of knowing these things that Peter didn’t have in the beginning. How much time do we spend praying in our quiet place? How much time do we spend in prayer, and what do we pray for? 

Backat Peter’s house, Jesus healed the sick and cast-out evil spirits. And today, God blesses most of us with good health. He has given us excellent medical facilities and many good physicians to relieve our pain and suffering. America today is over-flowing with wealth and comfort, and ease-of-life. Jesus truly is our shield and protector day and night. He faithfully hears and answers our prayers, for which we need to thank and praise Him each and every day.

But we can’t stop there. Jesus’ mission was so much bigger than just answering prayers. We have 2,000 years of church history to help us understand why Jesus came and what He came to do. We have the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, to point us to the cross and empty tomb. 

He went to the desolate place for us, and from there He came back to us offering forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. Out of the desolate places Jesus brings us our eternal destiny. Amen!