As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (Mark 1:29-39 NIV)
Last week we looked into Jesus’ teaching, how the devil desires to disrupt the receiving of God’s word in our lives. Even amongst the exercising of great and holy power, it was Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom that was the focus of His ministry.
This week we look at Jesus’ power amongst His calling to preach and pray. The temptation to focus on something other than Jesus’ true purpose still exists in our text today. If the people receive His healing of their illness and oppressions yet never receive His kingdom message in their hearts, then the the healing of their temporary, physical body is their only reward. Let’s look at it.
To sum it up: Jesus leaves church with His friends and heads to Peter’s house—who’s also called Simon. Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever and in bed. Jesus goes to her, helps her up, and her fever leaves. She even feels good enough to serve something up during their visit. Now, after the sun went down and the Sabbath was over, people found out where Jesus was staying and they took all their sick to Him for healing. Jesus shows compassion and alleviates their pain. But notice what Jesus admits next. After spending time in prayer, the others come to find Him because there are more people to be healed. Jesus tells the disciples that it’s time for them to leave and go to other towns so that He can preach because that’s why He came.
I would venture to say that this news is particularly disappointing to many people who read this passage. Most people want proof of God’s existence and examples of God’s power. Let’s look at those two things and at how our scripture for today responds.
1) First, the existence of God is best seen and experienced through relationship. There’s many people who desire to know God or see proof of our religion but the only way they are ever going to experience it on the level the Scriptures talk about is through faith, in trusting God and depending upon Him for our needs. That dependency is best expressed through a life of prayer. When we pray, we place ourselves at God’s mercy, calling out to Him in both praise and petition. Prayer is God’s gift to us so that we can stay ever connected to Him, with intimacy and life.
Jesus slips away from the disciples and the crowds, choosing His early morning as sacred time and sacred space. He goes to a solitary or deserted place, free from distraction and disruption and prays to God. Its in moments and places like this where the relationship everyone desires to have with God is forged. Without the commitment to prayer, God will remain a character in a book called the Bible or an idea that others understand but you do not. But through a devotion to prayer, we open up our hearts and let God in—to love us, heal us, forgive us, direct us, and challenge us.
2) Second, the power of God is best seen in His word. When the good news of God’s kingdom is preached in truth and sincerity, it plows the fields of hearts and minds that are open to hearing its transforming message. But when we seek the power of God apart from the message, from its proclamation, we desire signs and wonders instead of truth. The seeking of power has more to do with what we want and less to do with what God desires.
The power of God is seen in the truth that is revealed in Jesus’ preaching. Remember from last week, as the demon interrupted Jesus’ teaching, that the devil desires to stop the word of God from being planted in our hearts and taking root. If that seed of faith can be planted and the roots take hold, then there is salvation and hope to be experienced. This is what we want for the world, for the seeds of faith to be planted and take root for their salvation.
The preaching of truth and of salvation may come from the pulpit, it may come from your willingness to read scripture on your own or study it diligently in Bible study groups; it may come from the example of saints past and present, who preach the gospel with both their mouths and their witness. But this is what Jesus came to do, to preach. He has not come to wow the world with tricks and gimmicks. Christ has come to save us and we are to proclaim that salvation from the mountain tops, to all the world, and to invite them through the compassion and mercy of God to eat at the table of eternal life.
Now, do not think that I look down on miracles or healings. I believe that they have their place and that God uses such things to point us all toward the kingdom of God. The power that is worked in our very presence here and now is a foreshadowing of things to come; of the healing and the life that God is granting through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Simply know that miracles and healings have their place and that they are to be understood as examples of the Kingdom-come.
So I encourage you today, to see the proof of God’s existence through drawing close to God in prayer. I want you to see the power of God in the preaching of His saints and His witnesses, who declare the kingdom of God is near and even hasten its coming by doing the will of God; a will that desires all people be drawn unto Him.
Pray and preach; preach and pray; and may God bless you as you grow deeper in God and speak good news to all. Amen.