Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (B) preached on Sunday, February 7, 2021, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.
Today’s Gospel reading picks up immediately after the events from last week’s. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum and the people there recognized Christ’s authority in His teaching. And then they saw His authority when He healed a man possessed with an unclean spirit, ordering the demon to come out of him, and it did. Naturally, because of this, Jesus became famous. His name spread throughout the region, and it spread fast.
That very night, the whole city came looking for Jesus. After He left the synagogue, He went to Peter’s house, and there the crowd met Him. They heard about His miraculous exorcism, they heard how He healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and they were in need of their own healing. They didn’t come looking for Jesus because they believed He was the Messiah. They didn’t come looking because they desired absolution for confessed sins. They didn’t come looking because they wanted a worship service or Sunday School or Bible Study. No, they came looking because they wanted relief from their aches and pains. They came looking for some sort of comfort in the face of physical ills. They came looking for what we’d call a better life. And the same is true today.
Many people who look for Jesus today do so because they want a better life here and now. And there are many health and wealth preachers out there who will tell you that that’s exactly what Jesus wants for you. He wants you to be financially successful. He wants you to live in a mansion and enjoy a life of leisure. He wants you to be healed of all disease, to never physically suffer anything ever again. He wants you to be...happy. But these preachers are liars. No matter how good they make us feel, they’re not speaking the truth of God’s Word. Nowhere in the Bible does God say He wants you to be happy. Yes, Scripture talks about everlasting joy and rejoicing; but does joy equal happiness. The disciples rejoiced in their sufferings, being persecuted for Christ’s name, but were they happy about it?
To be perfectly honest, Jesus isn’t all that concerned with our happiness. What He cares about is your holiness. What He cares about is you being rescued from sin and death. What He cares about is your everlasting life with Him in the paradise of God’s kingdom and not eternal damnation in hell. That’s His concern. That’s why He came. And that’s what all His healings pointed to.
That Sabbath night, Jesus spent the whole evening healing the sick and casting out demons. On the day that was supposed to be set aside for rest, Jesus worked. It must’ve been exhausting for Him taking all those ills upon Himself. The whole city came, wanting Him to fix their lives. Being 100% man, while at the same time 100% God, He needed rest, quiet time to pray. So He got up early that next morning and went to an isolated place. But there’s little rest for Christ. Simon and a few others came looking for Him. There were more people. More people were looking for Jesus.
You’d think this would be good news to hear. Surely Jesus wants people to come looking for Him. I know, as a pastor, if someone came to me and said they were looking for Jesus I’d be ecstatic. In a time when it seems like no one is searching for Jesus, anyone with the slightest interest in hearing the Gospel is greatly welcomed. But Jesus didn’t go back. Instead of following all church growth wisdom and continuing to do what was getting people in the doors, He didn’t go back to heal the rest of the people. He didn’t go back to teach in that synagogue again. Instead, He told Peter it was time to move on to the next town, so He could preach there also.
It’d be fair to say that the people of Capernaum were probably a bit disappointed when Jesus didn’t come back that next day. It’d be fair to say that Peter and Andrew and the rest were probably a bit confused. But Jesus knew what He was doing and why He’d come. He wasn’t there to be a Miracle Max or a Mr. Fix-it. He’d come for the Kingdom, it was necessary to move on. He had to preach the Gospel in other synagogues. He had to forgive the sins of other people. He had to confront the devil and cast out other demons. He had to face death and continue walking towards the cross. He had to do this, not just for the people of Capernaum, but for all people, for you and me.
God’s grace is enough for all of us. His mercy is enough for everyone. His death has paid the price for all our sins, and not just our sins, but the sins of the whole world. This is why He came. He didn’t come just to fix the here and now. He didn’t come to fulfill our earthly dreams and desires of this life. He came to give us new life in His Kingdom; a life that will be free from all pain and ills, a life that is free from all tears and sorrows, a life that is free from all death.
It wasn’t wrong for the people of Capernaum to bring their aches and pains and ills and afflictions and demons to Christ. And it’s not wrong for us to bring these to Him either. But it is wrong to believe that Jesus has only come for these. To do this is to ignore His death on the cross, the most important thing Christ has done for us. When we turn to our Lord in times of physical suffering, and our bodies are healed and strengthened, praise be to God. But if our afflictions remain and we continue to endure suffering, that doesn’t mean God has abandoned us or He doesn’t care. The Lord never abandons His own. He never leaves you alone. During these times He continues to be with you. He gives you His Spirit to endure. Trusting in Christ and His salvation it’s for the good times and the bad, and it’s this trust that enables us to endure all the bad, to continue living the lives He’s called us to live, lives of faith, service, and love.
After Christ healed Peter’s mother-in-law, she wasn’t given a life of relaxation and leisure. The first thing she did was get back to normal life, serving where she could. This is what we do. When we turn to the Lord seeking healing and He provides it, we thank Him, and then we get back to life. We continue to serve Him and others. We share the love of Christ with those in our lives, our families and friends, co-workers, fellow citizens, even strangers. Our Lord has served us, and so we serve others. This is what we’re called to do. We’re called to live according to the righteousness of Christ that we’ve received. We’re called to live the new life we have in Him.
Jesus didn’t come to give us the best life now. He came to give us His life. He came not to heal all our diseases, but to heal our disease of sin and death. He came to clothe us with His righteousness and to give us the life that never ends. The kingdom of God isn’t some fairy tale life. You will endure suffering, physical ills, sadness, mourning, and pain. But the grace of God in Christ is sufficient. The grace of God is enough to carry you through. The grace of God is enough to bring you into His everlasting life. In Jesus’ name...Amen.