Mark 1:29-39; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Sermon Good News
Good morning. I know it’s a been a little while since we’ve heard two scripture readings in worship, but these two texts play very nicely with one another; they shed light on how we’re supposed to live into our call as Christians, as disciples.
Over the last few Sundays, we’ve heard about some of Jesus’ first acts of public ministry as they’re described in the Gospel of Mark. In last Sunday’s lesson, Jesus preached at a synagogue, and then cast out some demons. Today’s lesson begins as Jesus is leaving the synagogue. He goes to the home of Simon and Andrew, two of his disciples. There they learn that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick, and Jesus heals her.
In our translation, Jesus “came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.” She was healed. Sure, it’s a big deal, but our English translation doesn’t do it justice. The Greek verb that’s translated as “lifted up” is the same verb that’s used to describe Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Simon’s mother-in-law doesn’t just recover from a fever, she’s restored to life!
Earlier in this first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we’re told that “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’” (1:14-15). Jesus is not preaching repentance so that people may one day qualify for a place in heaven. No. Jesus is proclaiming a new reality that is just dawning, just breaking into the world.
Jesus proclaims this new reality and he shows it, too. Proclaiming the Kingdom of God requires Jesus to address human needs in the present. We see this in the healings that take place in this chapter. In last week’s lesson, we heard the story of Jesus casting an unclean spirit out of a man at the synagogue. Today, we hear that Jesus has raised Simon’s mother-in-law from her sick bed—she was very nearly dead.
To drive the point home, Mark tells us that, after the healing, “the whole city was gathered around the door.” The city in question is a small fishing village called Capernaum. I’ve heard that its population may have been as many as 500 people in Jesus’ time. So maybe this was hyperbole or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the whole village was there. The text tells us that Jesus “cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.”
Here’s the part that I find really interesting. After Jesus finishes tending to the people of Capernaum; after he goes off to pray and renew himself; after all that, Jesus tells the disciples, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”
The mission is to go out from that place, to preach and teach and heal. Jesus doesn’t ask the disciples to build him a school or a hospital or a church. No, Jesus tells the disciples it’s time to move forward, time to reach new people. It’s time to go out and find more sick people, more people who haven’t heard the good news.
I don’t think we’re living into Jesus’ example. And I don’t just mean us, the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Freehold; I mean the whole Church, with a capital-C, or at least most of the churches here in this country. We want the people who are outside our walls to have a change of heart and come back to church. We want to attract people to our buildings and show them how friendly we are.
Every interview I’ve had for any position—whether as an interim pastor or an installed pastor—has included some version of the question: “What are you going to do to bring new people into this church?”
This is the obsession of every congregation. We spend so much energy trying to figure new ways to get people to come into our churches, when the answer has always been outside of our walls; the answer has always been, meet people where they are, then preach, teach, and heal. Then move on and find more people. Proclaim the good news.