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The Promise of Healing

Old Mystic, February 8, 2009
Mark 1:29-39

Summary

The message of the gospel preached by Jesus implicitly contains a promise of healing. He announced the good news of a better future of peace and justice where we will be whole. At the present time we are in the process of being healed and we are called to participate in and contribute to the building of God’s Kingdom.


Sermon

The disciples must have been impressed when they walked out of the synagogue in Capernaum. Their new teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, was very special. The people of the town of Capernaum had expressed their surprise boldly: Jesus had authority. He had authority to teach and even to cast out demons! There was something captivating about him; something that made him different, special. It comes as no surprise that people began to follow him.

But his disciples had the upper hand; they were his followers and therefore had the privilege of bringing him into their home. They had not been with Jesus for a long time yet they had already had a taste of his power and authority and now he was there, in their home. This image has always had a powerful attraction: the meaning of Christ coming into our home; into our lives with his teaching, his authority, his power, and his presence.

And his coming into the house of Peter and Andrew did not go unnoticed; it was not just an uneventful occurrence. After all by bringing Jesus into the house—or perhaps Jesus had invited himself, they had just invited the very presence of God into their midst. How aware Peter, Andrew, James, and John were of this presence we don’t know. Yet, they brought to Jesus’ attention the fact that Peter’s mother in law was in bed with fever. And the Scripture tells us that He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

I find such a powerful symbolism in Jesus coming into the home of his followers, in his lifting up of a person who is sick, and performing a miracle of healing. And as a preacher I am tempted to proclaim that by opening our homes, our lives and families; that surrendering our hearts and souls to the presence of God through Jesus Christ, we will experience healing. I would not perhaps stress so much the miracle itself but point to the fact that by faith healing takes place; healing is possible.

Our passage read today tells us that Jesus brought healing to many more that were brought to him at sundown and concludes by saying that Jesus had the urgency—and that also involved his disciples—of going to the neighboring towns and do what he had come to do: to proclaim the good news; the message of salvation, reconciliation, and transformation of the human heart. I have no doubt that in the proclamation of good news healing is involved: Relational, emotional, social, and physical healing. The gospel is both a reality and a promise. It is a reality because even when we are still waiting for God’s Kingdom to fully come, we are already seeing signs of that kingdom among us. We live “in between the times,” as Theologian Rene Padilla once said.

Living in that tension, we are experiencing signs of healing but at the same time we continue to suffer, we see others suffer, and we are still immersed in a world with an incredible long list of diseases. Have you kept count of how many friends and family members have you lost to the horror of cancer? Is the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease increasing or is it just that we are growing in awareness of its consuming, unstoppable power of destruction? As we look into these human maladies, it is so difficult to hang on to a promise of healing.

But let us hang on to the promise! I can testify to healing. Ministering to many different kinds of people for almost 25 years I have seen miraculous healings, but also healings that many would attribute to science or the advancement of technology. Yet, who has endowed human beings with the power to seek, research, discover, and create ways to cure? Either medical or divine, I have seen my share of healings. At the same time I can witness to the pain of many who their sufferings ended the moment God called them home. Again, we live in the tension between what is already here, God’s grace, God’s love, and God’s healing in Jesus Christ, and the hope of what it is yet to come.

Let’s us hang on to the promise and let us bring Jesus the Christ into our homes, into our lives, into our circumstances. It is not surprising that in most of the Biblical examples those who were healed were people in the fringes of society. The poor, the humble, and the oppressed; those who were brought by somebody else; people who did not have the strength to come by themselves but who in their humbleness understood what it meant to come into the healing hands of the living Christ. It is not surprising that those at the margin, in the obscure and good-for-nothing province of Galilee received more healing than the well-to-do, educated, and perhaps more sophisticated folks of Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life.

Many of us may feel that in terms of healing and health we are still empty handed. We have a promise; that is what the gospel is all about. But at the same time we may be expecting some kind of healing that is taking forever to happen or it may not happen at all for us in this life. But, what can I say? Let us hang on to the promise of healing!

Our Bible story should not be understood as a promise of instant, miraculous healing for everyone as it may be portrayed by many enthusiasts. Neither should it be seen as some mythological story that never took place. I believe that we should consider the words of James, the Apostle, when he writes, Are any among you suffering? They should pray… Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up… The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Why not anoint and pray for the sick? It is a good response to the promise of healing contained in the gospel that is revealed to us in the passage.

It is a very simple revelation: one day, some time, in this life or in our life to come, healing will happen. It is a promise; the eternal shalom for the children of God is a promised state of wholeness in God’s presence. For that reason, when we think of this wonderful promise of healing, we can say that healing is a process and healing is never complete.

1. HEALING IS A PROCESS

We are in the process of being saved; in the process of being reconciled; in the process of being transformed. We are not a finished product. In fact, what we see of ourselves in this life is only a distorted image of what God intended us to be. Paul said, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully.” We have only signs of the glorious days ahead of us.

Yet, we can count on the promise of healing because, when we hold on to our faith in the Living God and in his son Jesus Christ, we are already beginning to have a taste of that healing if not a substantial transformation of our spirits, our bodies, our relationships, and our circumstances.

2. HEALING IS NEVER COMPLETE

Should healing be ever complete, then we would be whole. But wholeness is still a promise. We can be healed in many ways, after all health is a holistic concept that involves our whole being and in some way perhaps we may experience some kind of healing. Yet, is there any Christian in this world who is completely healthy, in the fullest sense of wholeness? Some would like to believe so and even boast about it. Those who are realistic, however, believe in the promise but know that for the time being they have just to hang on… to that promise.

Healing is perhaps never complete when we think of the manifold dimensions of human wholeness. One day we have a physical ailment, yet we are in good spirits. Another day we enjoy a more or less healthy body but our relationships are strained. Some other time we are physically healthy and we are getting along perfectly well with the rest of the world yet we find ourselves emotionally down. There won’t be a perfect day in this life. Only signs of healing, but signs that must be present somehow in our lives; signs of hope.

Healing took place when the sick came to Jesus. I’m also inclined to believe that not all who came were healed. But the signs were clear; God’s revelation through this passage affirms the nature of our hope: a hope of life, abundant, and everlasting. And God’s way for Christianity is through Jesus Christ. It was Jesus himself who said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” The promise stands: we will all be healed sooner or later.

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