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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
Title:The Kingdom Comes With Lasting Wholeness for God's People
Text:Mark 1:29-34 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 2:1-2
Hymn 7:9
Psalm 31:1-3
Hymn 21:3
Psalm 81:1-5

Reading: Isaiah 53
Text: Mark 1:29-34
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,

Today, we’re continuing with our series of sermons on Mark. In the passages we’ve looked at so far, we’ve seen how the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to us in the early days of his ministry. The Gospel begins with the last Old Testament prophet, John and then continues with the baptism of Jesus – his anointing with the Holy Spirit. Jesus begins his official ministry by prophetically preaching and calling disciples like no one else has ever done. Last time, we heard about the day God came to the synagogue in Capernaum – it was on the Sabbath, the day of freedom. The Lord Jesus came with freedom in his teaching and in his casting out a demon from a child of the covenant. We saw that we have a mighty Saviour worthy of our worship and adoration! So not surprisingly, when we left off last time, news about him had spread over the whole region of Galilee.

As we come to our passage for today, I want to begin with something from Tom Wright’s popular little commentary on Mark. He tells of a disaster at sea, perhaps it was real, perhaps it’s just a story – he doesn’t say. There was a ferry, filled with cars and tourists. After the sun had set, the ferry set sail but somehow someone had forgotten to properly close the doors on the car deck. As the ferry made its way into the open seas in the dark of night, the water became rough and the waves grew higher and higher. Before long, the ferry began to capsize. Once people realized what was happening, panic set in. People were screaming and the upper decks were awash with pandemonium. All of a sudden, one man took charge. He wasn’t a member of the crew, but he spoke with a clear and authoritative voice. He gave orders and as a result many reached the lifeboats. However, below decks were even more people. They were trapped. The only way to rescue them was for him to form a human bridge with his body. Holding on with one hand to a ladder and with the other to part of the ship that was nearly submerged, his efforts allowed even more people to reach safety. At the end of the ordeal, it was discovered that though so many lives had been saved, the man himself had drowned. In using the authority he took on to save others, he had given his life.

It’s a similar scene we see unfolding in the seaside town of Capernaum. Here on the shores of the sea of Galilee, we see Jesus of Nazareth, not one of the recognized rabbis or scribes of the Jews, speaking and acting with authority. He has preached before and is likely still preaching about the coming of the kingdom. But he not only speaks in general terms, he also speaks concrete words of deliverance and salvation. In that way he acts for God’s people who’ve been enslaved and whose lives have become a nightmare. In the process, the Lord Jesus is also losing his own life. As we read the Gospel of Mark, it’s essential to keep in mind that what we have in the first 15 chapters is all part of his humiliation. He is on his way to Golgotha. This is the road of suffering – and the end result is the coming of the kingdom which brings lasting wholeness for God’s people. That’s our theme as we look at verses 29 to 34.

Now before we launch into a closer look at those verses, I want to note that you’ll get the most out of this sermon if you have your Bible open in front of you. For many of us it’s a habit to close our Bibles after the text is read. But you’ll find that you get more out of the sermon if you have your Bible open and follow along as we move through the passage together. And actually, that’s something that holds true for all sermons, not just this one.

When we left off last time, the Lord Jesus was in the synagogue in Capernaum. Keep in mind that it’s the Sabbath. He left the Synagogue along with the four disciples and they went to the house of Simon and Andrew. Simon, also known as Peter, evidently lived with his brother, and then possibly also with his mother-in-law. It’s the mother-in-law that is the focus of this first section.

Mark tells us that she was laying in bed with a fever. The word that’s used there in the original for fever doesn’t give us any detail about what kind of fever. It could have been malaria, but we can’t say for sure. It may or may not have been life-threatening. Nevertheless, the disciples were concerned about her. So concerned that they told the Lord Jesus about her. Now let’s pause here and consider why they told him.

Keep in mind what had just happened at the synagogue. A demon-possessed man, a member of the covenant, had been set free. The Lord Jesus had delivered him. Now we have Peter’s mother-in-law with a fever. There is a connection between the two people. Some of the Jewish rabbis considered fever to be demonic in some sense. In our world, fever has a medical explanation. In the world of the New Testament, many of these things were considered to have a spiritual connection. The disciples had just seen the Lord Jesus deliver a man from the oppressive power of a demon. They knew that he had power and authority over these sorts of things. So, it would only make sense, then, that they would tell him about Peter’s mother-in-law. After all, if the Lord Jesus could deliver the demon-possessed man, surely he could also do something about this fever which may also have some demonic connection!

And he did. He goes to her, he takes her hand and he helps her up. He does all this with his characteristic compassion and gentleness. And the result is: the fever left her. Unfortunately, our translation leaves out an important word here. It’s that word that Mark often uses: immediately. The word is used at the beginning of our passage. It gets translated there with “As soon as…” It’s used in verse 30 when the disciples tell Jesus about Peter’s mother-in-law, here too the NIV leaves it out. And then it’s also left out in verse 31 when it literally reads, “immediately the fever left her.” Why is this word important? Because it portrays the power of our Saviour to us! The fever didn’t leave her in an hour or two. The fever didn’t leave her the following day or week. She was healed immediately! The Holy Spirit wants us to read this and stand in awe of our Saviour and his power.

You see, part of what God wants to do with this passage is wake us up to the fact that too often our conception of Christ is too small. We think of him in far too limited a way. We not only underestimate his power and that of his Spirit, we also sometimes underestimate the extent of his salvation. In the sweet by-and-by, he brings salvation for our souls, but he really doesn’t have that much to do with the here and now and our bodies, this physical existence. So often, we’re practically Gnostic in the way we think about Christ. Maybe you’ve heard of the Gnostics and Gnosticism [spell “Gnostic”]. We don’t have time to go into all the details of what Gnosticism was all about, but it was a spiritual movement after the time of the apostles. Elements of it were already in existence in the time the New Testament was written. Simply put, Gnosticism was a mix of Christianity and pagan mystery religions. It was very eclectic and took on different forms in different areas and at different times. One of the defining features of Gnosticism was the setting up of matter and spirit against one another. Matter is evil and has to do with Satan. Spirit is good and has to do with God. So, when we speak about man, man’s flesh and body are essentially evil. It’s man’s spirit or soul that is good. This influenced Christians who would otherwise be orthodox. Christians would come to see Christ as the saviour of the soul, but his work had nothing or little to do with the body. The soul is redeemable, but the body is just a shell and either cannot or will not be redeemed. That view shows the influence of Gnostic thinking.

Many Christians today still think this way. Without realizing it, they regard Christ as half a Saviour because they only think that he came to save their souls and not their bodies. What they forget is that Jesus Christ himself is sitting at the right hand of God at this very moment with human flesh and blood. It’s a glorified body, but it is flesh and blood like you and I have. Jesus Christ at this very moment has a brain, a heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. He has arteries, veins, glands and every other component of a human body that you can think of. He is the first fruits of our resurrection and he is the proof that our bodies are destined for glorification because he redeemed them! When we live in the new heavens and new earth, after the resurrection of the dead, we will have glorified bodies. And these bodies will be those we have today, they will still have brains, hearts, lungs, and so on. The body is not evil! When God created it, he said that it was very good! Yes, it fell under the curse of sin, but Jesus Christ has redeemed it. Think of what we confess in the Heidelberg Catechism, that we belong with “body and soul” to our faithful Saviour! Brothers and sisters, never, ever take those words for granted: body and soul. By not taking those words for granted, we give more glory to Christ!

While the disciples may have thought his healing of Peter’s mother-in-law was some sort of deliverance from demonic oppression, the Lord Jesus knew that this fever had to do with the brokenness of the human body. She had a fever because she lived in a world affected by the fall into sin. We know it as well. Christ was restoring her body to wholeness. This too was tied into the coming of the kingdom. It pointed forward to the coming of the kingdom in all its fulness. For when the kingdom fully comes, our bodies will be restored to what they were created to be. When we fix our eyes on Jesus here in this passage, we have hope in our hearts even as our bodies are breaking down. You know, all of us are dying, though some of us perhaps in more obvious ways. We may not think of ourselves as dying, but we are. Unless the Lord returns, there will be a funeral for each one of us. Not a nice thought perhaps, but it is realistic. As our bodies die, we know the kingdom comes. There is suffering and brokenness in this world, but when we see Jesus in our text, we rest our hope fully on the grace that is to be revealed at the return of our Saviour. He is a full and complete Saviour and his resurrection body is the guarantee that his salvation is the full package deal! What an awesome Saviour we have, what a hope he gives us!

What kind of a response does this redemption find among God’s people? Well, just look at our passage there in verse 31. When Simon’s mother-in-law was healed, what did she do? Right away, she began to wait on them or to serve them. “Them” here obviously includes the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus and those disciples whom he called to follow him.

Do you see a familiar pattern here? This is the pattern found in Paul’s epistles. He lays out God’s salvation and then he describes the service which will inevitably follow. The Heidelberg Catechism follows the same pattern. Our life of grateful service is built upon the foundation of God’s salvation in Christ. It’s a thoroughly Scriptural concept and it’s found here as well. Christ brings wholeness to Peter’s mother-in-law and so she’s set free to serve him and others. He does the same for us. The gracious gift of salvation comes from God so that we too would serve him and others with our whole life. We’re saved to serve!

All of that happened on the Sabbath day. As we read it in Mark, the Lord Jesus chose to begin his healings and exorcisms on the day that commemorated Israel’s liberation from Egypt’s slavery. In this way, he is the new Joshua bringing Israel into the Promised Land of freedom, a land of milk and honey, a land where there is renewed fellowship with God.

Now the amazing thing is that he doesn’t stop with the Sabbath day. Verse 32 tells us that evening came and the sun set. We might easily gloss over this detail. However, we need to keep in mind that when the sun set, the Sabbath was over. It was a new day of the week in the Jewish calendar. The Sabbath was officially from sun-set to sun-set. If you remember, that’s why the body of Jesus had to be taken down from the cross so quickly.

So, the sun sets and the Sabbath is over. That’s why all these people came rushing over to Jesus. There were restrictions on how far one could travel on the Sabbath. There were restrictions on what you could carry on the Sabbath and so on. But once the Sabbath was done, the people could carry on as they normally would. Having heard about Jesus’ reputation, they brought to him all the sick and the demon-possessed. In fact, Mark tells us the whole town gathered at the door of the house of Peter and Andrew. Of course, we recognize that there’s some hyperbole going on here. It’s not necessarily the case that every last person was there – the point is that it was a huge crowd. As far as Jewish towns go, Capernaum was quite large – probably several thousand people lived there at this time.

Many of them crowd around the door to the house. And the Lord Jesus didn’t disappoint them. The Holy Spirit tells us that he healed many who had various diseases and he drove out many demons. Now we might read that word “many” and wonder if that means that there were some who were not healed or some whose demons were not driven out. As if it was possible that he tried to heal them, but he couldn’t. Well, there could have been those who couldn’t make it to the door of the house for whatever reason. Chapter 2 tells us of another healing in Capernaum. But we also need to keep in mind that the word “many” could also mean “all” among the Jews. So, this word “many” in no way at all detracts from the glory of Christ in this passage. In fact, that word exalts Christ before our eyes and ears!

Now let’s take a step back and consider what’s happening here in the broader context. First of all, the Sabbath is over. But the healing and the freedom that the Lord Jesus came to bring just keep on going! For those who believe in him, this is the beginning of the eternal Sabbath! He brings wholeness that doesn’t just belong on one day, but that lasts through the whole week. He is the Saviour to whom the Sabbath pointed, but he goes far beyond the Sabbath with the salvation and freedom he brings. This is the Saviour of God’s people for every day of the week.

Second, even while this healing and freedom is coming, the Lord Jesus suffered. This was the eternal Son of God through whom all things were made. When all things were made, they were declared to be good by the Father. Then came the fall into sin. Sin brought disease and death into the world. Sin brought demon-possession into the world. Sin brought the need for a Saviour. As the crowds gathered at the door, the Lord Jesus must have been saddened by what sin had done to humanity and in particular, to these people, to God’s own people. All these people broken and wounded – some perhaps because of their own foolishness, but many also who’d been victimized. Seeing and experiencing the brokenness of a world captive to sin and its effects was part of his humiliation. Being there among God’s people and taking on the very flesh that was suffering – that was part of his suffering. And do you know why this matters for us? Because it drove him to the cross for us! Seeing all this brokenness, he knew why he had been sent by the Father into the world. He knew what he had to do. He could give healing in the temporal sense, for the here and now. But all those people who were healed eventually died. There was something more and much, much greater. His healing and exorcisms served a bigger purpose, bringing him to the cross where he would bring lasting wholeness for God’s people in every sense of the word, physical and spiritual.

And that’s why the last verse of our text tells us about what he did with the demons. Like with the man in the synagogue, he cast them out. But Mark tells us that, as with the other demon, the Lord Jesus did not allow them to speak. The reason is given as simply that they knew who he was. In other words, they knew, like the other demon, that he was the Holy One of God, he was the Messiah long-promised to crush the head of the serpent. God allowed that first demon to speak, but now these ones must be kept quiet. Remember what Luther said: even the devil is God’s devil. These demons are on a tight leash and they can only do as much as they’re allowed to. In this we see the sovereign Christ and we see the sovereign plan for our redemption. That’s evident in the measured revelation of Jesus’ identity. Though he allowed the first one to speak, the Lord knew that having the demons speak from here on in would not fit with the plan of redemption. Once was enough. In this too, he works all things for the good of God’s people!

Here we see Christ showing what the coming of the kingdom means for his people: freedom and healing. He comes into the house of Satan, ties up the bouncers and the strong man himself and then robs him! What power and authority! What love! Here we see Christ revealed as the glorious Saviour we’re called to worship! Here we see Christ revealed as the one who fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 53. A man familiar with suffering, a man who took our infirmities and carried our sorrows. As we continue going through this gospel, we’re going to see even more of this Saviour and we’ll be filled even more with praise. But for today, God calls you with his Word to think on the power and love of your Saviour as it’s revealed here. Believe in him for the salvation of body and soul from sin and the effects of sin, including disease in whatever form it’s found! And then think also about the implications this has for how we speak with others who may not know the Lord Jesus in a saving way. When we talk about what Christ has done for us, do we restrict that to what he’s done for our souls? Or do we glorify him as the Saviour of body and soul? Do we portray him to others around us as the One who breaks all the bonds of sin and death where ever the curse is found? We have a glorious Saviour, brothers and sisters, and so when God hears our prayers for opportunities to speak about him, let’s speak about him in all his glorious power. Filled with his Spirit, taught by his Word, we’ll bring yet more glory to the God of our salvation.

The Lord Jesus is for his people. When you read this text, can there be any doubt about it? He is for us. He is for you. Christ was delivering life from the curse of sin. He continues to do so today and he will do so until the kingdom comes in all its fulness. With thankfulness, love, and worshipful hearts, let’s all eagerly look forward to his great day. AMEN.

For Further Reflection and Discussion

[this can be inserted in your liturgy sheet or church bulletin]

  1. What day of the week did verses 29-31 take place on? Which day did verses 32-34 take place on? What difference does this detail make for how we understand the text?
  2. What does Isaiah 53:4 have to do with this passage? Compare Matt. 8:16-17.
  3. How does the end of verse 31 tie into the Heidelberg Catechism and your life?
  4. When Mark writes that Jesus healed ‘many’ who had various diseases, does that mean that there were some who weren’t healed? Why or why not?
  5. Why would the Lord Jesus not let the demons speak? How do we make sense of this?
  6. How does this passage lead you to worship the Lord in a more meaningful way?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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