Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany | Mark 1:29-39 | Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law
Last week when we were here,
Jesus revealed Himself to be the Holy One of God, the Messiah, and the Lord’s Christ.
Even the demons agreed, but He silenced them all the same.
There is nothing they could have added by their testimony.
This epiphany, this revelation, this teaching and preaching
Was given on Jesus’ own authority, and not that of another.
Now, while it’s been a week for you,
Remember that it’s been just a matter of minutes for Jesus,
For His disciples, and for the crowds.
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
Jesus didn’t go to the house for brunch.
Peter’s mother-in-law is sick.
She lay ill with a fever.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you.
And maybe it wasn’t.
Maybe it was just the flu.
And then again, maybe it wasn’t.
But either way, according to many medical professionals, in the first century,
A fever like this could have easily been a death sentence.
Reasonable folks can disagree.
But one way or the other, seasonal flu or deadly disease,
Sooner or later, Peter’s mother-in-law would die.
Even after Jesus heals her this morning, still, one day, death would come for her.
So the big epiphany for her is knowing that when she draws her last breath,
She knows the One who has the power to give her new breath.
Even if her sickness weren’t deadly serious, the point remains:
Jesus still is the source of all healing, and all life.
Furthermore, it shows that He doesn’t just care about the big stuff.
Jesus cares about the little stuff, too. Even a little fever.
That’s important to know because quite often,
Christians feel like they’re the “little stuff;”
Unimpressive, unimportant, insignificant, and of little consequence –
Kind of like Peter’s mother, who, you may notice, doesn’t even get named.
How could God care about little old her?
How could God actually care about little old you?
And why would he care?
That’s a reasonable question anytime,
But maybe especially after hearing this morning’s OT lesson:
Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
How and/or why could that great big God care about poor little you –
You who He compares to grasshoppers?
The why is simple enough.
You were created in His image.
And so, God cannot despise you any more than He can despise Himself.
As for the “how,” it happened this way:
At Christmas, that great, big God made Himself very small.
Somewhere along the way, inside Mary’s womb,
He would have been the size of one of those grasshoppers.
The great, big, God “who sits above the circle of the earth,” as Isaiah writes,
He has descended from His throne, and has come now to your house, to your world.
He has seen. He has heard.
He has known from the beginning, from the foundations of the earth…everything.
All of it.
All your fevers and diseases.
All your demons.
All your anxieties.
All your lives.
All your deaths.
All your sins.
All your big stuff, and all your little stuff, too.
He knows, and what’s more is that He cares.
And so He does not leave you alone.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)
Maybe there’s not much impressive about you by earthly standards.
Even as there’s little impressive about grasshoppers.
And for your sake, Jesus makes Himself even less than that.
As we will hear from Psalm 22 on Good Friday:
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
If you want to know who God is, and what He has come to do;
If you want to know if He cares at all,
About your bigs and your littles,
This morning is your answer.
To the demons, He has come to destroy you.
To the sick, He has come to heal you forever.
To the poor, He has come to preach you into His Kingdom.
To the dead, He has come to raise you up.
“For that is why [He] came out[:]”
To be for all people, everywhere
The little, the least, the last, the lost, and the dead.
For the big, and for the little; for you, and for me.
You know this.
You’ve been baptized.
You’ve been epiphanied.
And in a moment, once again,
Bodied and Blooded here at His Holy Supper.
So, it’ll be a lot of fun to see what happens after that.
In this case, Jesus took Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand.
He healed her and raised her up.
He enlightened her and saved her.
“And she began to serve them.”
This should settle all the silly discussions about what Christians do.
“She began to serve them.”
It’s just what healed, forgiven, restored, reborn, resurrected folks like you do.
All of this is for you.
But it isn’t only for you.
Naturally, the people of Galilee would have had Jesus stay.
They would have had Him stay and heal every last one of them, day after day.
But He won’t.
Instead He pulls His disciples into the wilderness.
The healing and the exorcisms, they all point to what He has come to do;
But they are not, in and of themselves, why Jesus has come.
If they were, then our hope would be in this life only.
But Jesus is not just for them, and He is not just for this temporary healing.
He is here for a full cross and an empty tomb,
For a great big resurrection;
And not merely to put off the inevitable.
And so it is in this way that the Epiphany season has been preparing us all for Lent,
Which begins just ten days from now.
Knowing who Jesus is means telling His whole story.
The temporary healings only point to the full and final healing.
From the cross, Jesus will redeem the whole world, the whole cosmos:
Every person beyond our vision and concern;
Sun and moon and stars and sea,
Kings and nations and you and me.
There are no small problems.
There are no small people.
Even the grasshoppers have not escaped His notice.