Jesus' Power Over Suffering and Need
December 5, 1999 Gospel of Mark
C. His Power over Suffering and Need
It is not only sin and the evil forces that entice sin that hold us in the bondage of fear.
It is also the effects of sin and evil that causes sickness, disease, paralysis, and hunger.
There is much human suffering, if not directly from our own sins, then from living in a fallen world subject to the curse of sin.
Jesus ministers in power to these needs as well, lifting us up from our fallenness and helping us to see the provision of total healing in him.
1. His Ministry of Healing from Sickness (1:29-31)
As soon as Jesus left his first speaking engagement in the synagogue at Capernaum, Mark records Jesus’ first healing miracle (1:29-31).
It just happened to be the mother-in-law of Simon, one of Jesus’ first disciples. He cares first for his own.
They went to the home of Simon and Andrew for the Sabbath meal, but this woman of the house who would serve them was ill with a fever. A fever was viewed as an illness in itself.
Jesus in willing compassion went to her, helped her up, and the fever left.
We see that because she immediately began to serve them that her healing was complete.
Aside from his compassion on her, the purpose of her healing was to be able to serve.
Our response is to serve Jesus who has this divine touch and power.
Coming to Jesus we should not fear the sickness or the disability it causes.
He enables our service and gives us purpose. He helps us up.
His fame as a healer spread quickly because that evening (1:32-34) many more gather at the door for healing from all kinds of diseases.
2. His Ministry of Healing from Disease (1:40-45)
The press of human need was so strong that Jesus went away to pray.
He felt that he must minister to a wider audience and went on into Galilee where a leper came to him begging to be made clean if Jesus was willing (1:40-45).
A disease was more serious than a sickness because it had an identifiable course leading to a certain end, usually fatal and often debilitating.
This disease in particular was feared all the more because it carried a social stigma that seemed to be even worse than the disease itself. It is like being found unacceptable.
It is indicative of the uncleanness we find ourselves in before God.
The leper was like a living corpse. Its cure would be viewed like raising the dead.
The leper came with the right attitude in humility on his knees, leaving the choice of healing to Jesus. There are times when God may not choose to heal.
But Jesus is filled with compassion and willingness and touches the untouchable.
He pronounces him clean because he is now cured and tells him to go to the priest as a testimony.
The reason for this is that the priest has no power to heal, only to pronounce clean or unclean.
It will be observed by the priest that Jesus has the power of God not only to pronounce cleanness but to effect the healing that makes cleanness possible.
There is no human disease or condition beyond hope in Jesus’ power.
Jesus tells the leper to not tell anyone else.
Jesus does not desire this kind of publicity yet, but he does require our devotion and urges respect for the law.
The first place of our testimony should be in our place of worship. And when we stay close to God in worship, we need never fear uncleanness again.
But the leper did not do as Jesus said. He talked freely to others.
Even though Jesus stayed out in lonely places, people came to him from everywhere because they had found a healer.
He did not desire to be a celebrity healer, but he was a soul healer because he had power to deliver from fear of every human need, including disease.
3. His Ministry of Healing from Paralysis (2:1-12)
Another level of human suffering is paralysis.
It is extremely frustrating because the mind can plan action but the body cannot carry it out.
Fear itself can be paralyzing.
Back in Capernaum (2:1-12) at Simon’s house, Jesus is preaching to a sell-out crowd.
Four men wanted to bring their paralytic friend for healing.
They couldn’t deal with the crowd so they used resourcefulness in raising up a hole in the roof and lowering him down in front of Jesus.
Sometimes no matter how much we want to be healed we cannot help ourselves.
Others must stand in the gap for us in coming to Jesus. And he himself stands in the gap for us before God.
Jesus equated their resourcefulness with faith. It makes us ask how much we really want to be healed.
Jesus equates this man’s paralysis with sin for a divine teaching moment, pronounces him forgiven, and tells him to take up his mat and walk home.
The roof is again raised in praise. Jesus has power over every infirmity.
We see here that true faith will gain an audience. It will not be disappointed.
Where are we in the crowd that comes to Jesus? Are we on the fringe or will we come as close as we can get?
Like those who sat in judgment on his forgiveness of sin, are we smug and self-satisfied?
Or are we one of those who helps another into his presence?
Maybe one day we will be one who dangles on the rope entirely dependent upon his healing and deliverance.
There is no need to fear. Jesus won’t drop you – just lift you up and help you walk in forgiveness of sins.
4. His Ministry of Healing from Physical Affliction (5:25-34)
Human suffering need not be just that which is debilitating. It can be that thorn in the flesh that hinders us even if it doesn’t stop us.
Such is the case of the woman with bleeding for twelve years (5:25-34).
This woman had a female problem that no doctor could cure and it took all her resources to find this out.
She too was at the end of her rope because she only got worse.
We can imagine her embarrassment to the point we can understand that she didn’t want to tell Jesus her problem but only sneak up on him to touch his cloak in the crowd.
Her faith drew healing power from him and she was healed.
Her problem was so severe that she immediately knew she had stopped bleeding.
But no one sneaks up on Jesus. The disciples were amazed that Jesus knew someone had touched him.
We can touch him or he can touch us, either way faith heals.
He is not ashamed of our bodies or our problems. He is a true doctor.
He freely heals. But he wants to emotionally touch this woman who had faith that she might know better the source of her faith.
It has its effect and she falls at his feet in fear that she has somehow stolen this healing, and she is still embarrassed by her problem.
She tells him the whole truth as it should be and finds the rest of her healing that she would have missed except that Jesus heals completely. He delivers from every fear. She goes in peace.
5. His Ministry of Providing for Daily Needs (6:30-44)
The disciples had just returned from the commission that Jesus had sent them on to preach and to heal (6:7-13). On that mission they were to be entirely dependent upon God’s supply.
Now they return to Jesus to report but the crowds are so pressing that they withdraw by boat to a quiet place (6:30-44). But it isn’t quiet for long since the crowds find them.
Jesus has compassion on them and teaches them and it gets late in the day with no food to be had.
The disciples are concerned for the people so Jesus tells them to deal with it.
This is a teaching moment for them because they will soon discover that the same Jesus who sent them out to preach in dependence upon God is the same God they can depend upon now.
So at Jesus’ instruction they gather the five loaves and two fish they can find. Jesus gives thanks to God and there is a divine multiplication to feed 5,000 to satisfaction with leftovers men (women and children would significantly increase this number).
In dependence upon God we need never fear for our daily needs. But we must use what we have and give him praise for it.
To be fed physically our hunger must first start in the spiritual realm.
The context of this miracle of provision is repeated in 8:1-10 with a different situation of seven loaves of bread and a few small fish to feed 4,000 men with leftovers.
But this time the crowd was with Jesus three days rather than just one.
They were able to leave having been satisfied physically as well as spiritually. Whenever we meet with Jesus we are satisfied.
6. His Ministry of Restoring Speech, Hearing and Sight
(7:31-37) (8:22-26) (10:46-52)
Not all deafness and muteness is caused by demonic presence as in 9:17ff. It can also be a physical problem.
Imagine the suffering that impairment of these senses can cause. The person so afflicted feels less than normal and wants to be like others around him.
The ability to see and speak and hear are primary to God’s communication with us.
We can’t understand preaching unless we can hear.
We can’t praise God audibly and teach others about him unless we can speak.
We can’t read his Word or observe his miracles unless we can see.
Time after time in Scripture we are challenged by whether we have eyes to see and ears to hear (8:18).
It is another sign of our fallenness whether we fail to do so by will or by helplessness.
Presumably those who have these disabilities want to communicate with God as well as man and put us to shame who have our capacities and don't use them.
Some friends of a deaf and mute man bring him to Jesus in the region of the Decapolis (7:31-37).
Knowing that the hands of Jesus held healing, they ask him to touch the man.
Graphically, Jesus puts his fingers into the man’s ears and spits and touches his tongue and cries out, “Be opened!”
He is healed and proves it by plain speech. Jesus’ power is confirmed to the amazement of the crowd.
He could have spoken the word of healing without touch. He could have healed at a distance.
The graphic representation here is to center the obvious source of power on the person of Jesus himself. It is Jesus who enables us to hear God, praise God, and even see God.
And here he creates such a stir that the more he told them not to tell about it the more they told.
They proclaim that he does everything well.
In Bethsaida we see another example of Jesus’ touch. This time to restore sight to a blind man (8:22-26).
People bring the man and beg for Jesus to touch him.
He takes him by the hand out of the village and we see again the graphic action of the spit and the touch, but this time on the eyes.
This time Jesus wanted to be alone, so the touch is not for the understanding of the crowd but for the man himself.
Uniquely, this healing takes place in stages. At the first touch the man sees shapes. At the second touch he sees clearly.
This seems out of character for Jesus’ ability.
But it shows that our ability to see often comes slowly, like that of the disciples when we connect this with the previous discussion Jesus has with them after the feeding of the 4,000.
The problem is not him, it is us.
In that discussion, Jesus tells them to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod since they test him for a sign from heaven. Their yeast is faithlessness.
But the disciples make a connection with their lack of bread on the journey, even after the feeding of the 4,000, and fear he is upset about bread.
So Jesus reminds them of their own lack of faith that bread mattered even now.
He asks whether they have eyes to see or ears to hear and whether they still do not understand.
Even Peter who makes the good confession that Jesus is the Christ in 8:29 reveals his failure to see clearly when he attempts to rebuke Jesus in 8:32 after Jesus plainly explains his Passion.
Jesus rebukes Peter in return and says he only has in mind the things of men and not of God (8:33).
It is hard to be delivered from the things that cause us suffering and fear when we can’t see his power clearly.
Now when the disciples and Jesus leave Jericho on their way to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, they meet another blind man, Bartimaeus, begging alongside the road (10:46-52).
He cries out for the mercy of Jesus, calling him by his Messianic title, Son of David.
He will not be quiet no matter how much he is rebuked and cries out all the more.
This is quite fitting as an introduction to the triumphal entry where many would soon shout (11:10), “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
Here is a man who cannot see and yet he sees clearly by eyes of faith. And his eyes of faith will soon be opened fully to see first hand the Lord in whom he believes.
Jesus calls him to himself and the man jumps to his feet and came to the beauty of Jesus’ voice. Jesus asked him what he wanted as if he didn’t know.
But the point is that we too must want to see, even as the man so answered.
This time there is no touch. Jesus said, “Go, your faith has healed you.”
And the man followed Jesus probably with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem along with the others who could see with eyes of faith.