Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, IA;
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” (Mark 1:29–39, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
You know, there’s a time in everyone’s life when they face suffering. When it happens to you, you don’t like it. Who would? The thing is that suffering is a regular and expected part of life. You know the old saying; “the only sure thing in life is death and taxes.” I think you can add suffering to that list. You know people who are suffering; I know people who are suffering. There are people suffering across the street, down the block, in the next town, state country and continent. You may be suffering yourself. You may be the only one who knows about it. But you should know that you are not alone. It is a constant in the universe. Suffering…
Think about that old testament guy, Job. He's a guy that knows suffering. He is deep in suffering. Disease has racked his body, the scabs, the worms, the sleepless nights, that’s suffering. Some of you have suffered like he is, as cancer has invaded your body, or pain from an unknown source, and the doctors scratch their heads, afraid to say what they don’t know. Afraid to admit they have no answers. Job wants his suffering to end, just like you and I want our suffering to end. But we suffer none-the-less, like Job.
You may have noticed that we’ve been reading the Gospel of Mark for the last several weeks. The Gospel of Mark, as a matter of fact, is going to be our emphasis for the whole year. Almost all of the Gospel readings will be from it. Notice one important thing about today’s Gospel, it’s still in chapter one. It all started back in December with Mark 1:1 and we are only at 1:29. We’ve already seen John the Baptist, Jesus tempted in the desert, Jesus calling some of his disciples, and Jesus casting out a demon. Mark keeps the pace going; in fact his favorite word is “immediately.”
Last week we heard about Jesus in church, casting a demon out of a possessed man. “Immediately,” Mark tells us, “Jesus goes to Peter’s house for dinner.” But, the problem is that Peter’s mother-in-law, the person who would be serving the meal is sick with a fever. It doesn’t stop Jesus, he tenderly takes her hand and she recovers. You know how you feel when the fever finally breaks? Well, she didn’t, she got up and served dinner as if she’d never been sick. News spread quickly that small town of Capernaum. By nightfall, the “whole town” has gathered outside of Peter’s doorway. They want to see this man who is doing these wonderful things. What’s more, the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town the sick and the well are standing at Peter’s door peering in at Jesus.
These are people just like you and me. Remember, suffering is a constant. They had friends with cancer, sons and daughters who were injured in accidents. There were women who had lost their husbands, and men who were divorced. These were people who saw the unknown looks in doctor’s eyes. They were human beings, just like Job, just like you and me, who had an intimate relationship with suffering. And just like us, they wanted their suffering to end. And that night at Peter’s house it seems that Jesus healed them all. Good for them.
They got what they were looking for. They knew where to go to be healed. And even Job eventually got what he wanted too. Job had a whole book of the bible of suffering. Nothing works out for him until the last six verses. So Job was healed, he didn’t have to suffer with the scabs and the worms, the people of Capernaum didn’t have to suffer because they went to Jesus. Jesus even took away the fever from Peter’s mother-in-law so that they wouldn’t have to go to someone else’s house to eat. It’s nice for all of them, but what about me, and what about you. We’ve come here today to see Jesus. We have faith in what he does for us, why do we have to keep suffering. Why are we lonely, and hurting?
I don’t know. God hasn’t given me a magic book, or visions in my dreams to make me able to tell you why you are suffering. I do know that suffering in the world is caused by sin. Sometimes we suffer because of specific sins we have done, sometimes we suffer because of the sins of other people. But, mainly we suffer because the world is broken. It isn’t the wonderful paradise that God created it to be. When human beings rejected God, and we are all guilty of rejecting God at one time or another, everything fell apart. The strongest sign of the brokenness of this world is suffering. Remember Job? In that whole book he never finds out why he is made to suffer. God doesn’t send him friends that have a magic knowledge of why his children died. The friends that come to Job just make his suffering worse. You’ve felt that too, when a friend offers suggestions at to why you are suffering. But the answer isn’t really there. Your question is “why?” and the truth is you may never know the answer.
I’d like to make a suggestion based on our text for today. The people of Capernaum looked for Jesus to help them with their suffering. And Job too, turns to God in his suffering. “Remember!” he says to God, “Remember me! I’m suffering and I can’t bear it any more.” That’s where we too should turn. “Remember me! Lord. I can’t live with this pain anymore.” Because that’s the truth, we can’t bear it, and there is nothing we can do. You see; sin will have its way with you. There is nothing you can do; pain, illness, and suffering are going to be a part of your life. What’s more, it will all eventually come to death. You can’t bear it. It is too much for you.
I’m also not going to tell you that if you have enough faith you can stand up and be strong in the face of your suffering. You see, God doesn’t require us to be strong; in fact he wants us to be weak and needing him.
We are all guilty of thinking that if we are just strong enough we’ll survive. We even say, “My faith will get me through.” When what we really mean is “I’ll get through with the strength of my faith.” But Faith isn’t strength. Faith is weakness. Faith isn’t turning into ourselves, or looking to something inside of us to get through. Faith is looking to God. It’s submitting to God. It’s Trusting in God. It’s Job saying, “Remember me!” It’s the crowd of people pushing toward Peter’s doorway, “Remember me!”
God never promises to always heal. The question isn’t “Why must I suffer?” The question is “Where is God in my suffering?” And that question I can answer. He is right there in the midst of it. God knows suffering. He understands suffering. He knows how you are suffering. When Job said, “Remember me!” When you say to God, “Remember me!” Jesus answers, “I remember. I know your suffering; I suffered just as you do. One dark night in Jerusalem, before I went to the cross, I was lonely, I was afraid of pain, and I was even afraid of death. And there on the cross I suffered for you. In that suffering I won the victory for you. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9) You don’t have to be strong. Just look to me, I remember you.”
There is more to what Jesus did for you than to be sympathetic to your suffering. His death is the remedy, the fix for the broken-ness of the world that is caused by sin. If it were only sympathy we’d be left to suffer for all eternity. But, Jesus lived and died to do more than that. He came to restore. He came to heal. It isn’t that we look to the suffering of Jesus on the cross and receive power to fix ourselves. The cross shows us that we can’t help ourselves at all. He remembers us. He dies for us. He suffers for our sin. Jesus suffering there is the only answer for those who know that they are dead without him.
You will have suffering all your life. God doesn’t want you to “buck up and be strong.” He doesn’t say to you, “If your faith were stronger you’d not have to suffer like this.” He wants you to take your suffering to the foot of the cross of Jesus. He wants you to take your weakness to the foot of the cross of Jesus. He wants you to shout to Jesus there, “Remember me!” Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.