The Heart of Jesus
The Scripture that the teaching is based on is Mark 1:29-39. We are looking at Mark’s gospel account. We’ve noted that throughout the gospel, Mark makes clear that Jesus is the King; that he is Lord. We pick up the story Mark has been telling with verses 29-39 of chapter 1. Follow along as I read from God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 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.
35 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. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ 38 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.’ 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. 
This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
Prayer of Illumination:
Holy Spirit, pour out upon us wisdom and understanding, that being taught by you in Holy Scripture, our hearts and minds may be opened to receive all that leads to life and holiness. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
We often talk about our values as what we have a heart for. We say, “I have a heart for teaching”; “I have a heart for music”; “I have a heart for” fill in the blank. While we often talk about having a heart for something, what we do and say often reveal what we really have a heart for.
If we say, “I have a heart for teaching” but spend all of our time watching Law and Order and football games, that reveals what we really have a heart for. If we say we have a heart for helping people but during our free time we just relax and go on vacation that reveals what we really have a heart for.
Jesus has just called his first disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Then he went and preached in the synagogue as one with authority. While he was still in the synagogue, he exorcised a demon out of a man. As we examine this passage, we’ll see that Jesus has a heart for physically healing people and spiritually healing people.
A Heart for Physical Healing
We read in verses 29-31, “And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.”
Jesus has just finished preaching for the first time at the synagogue in Capernaum and Simon invites him home for Sabbath dinner. Can you imagine, hearing Jesus’ first sermon and then having lunch with him? You could ask him to further explain what he said or ask him to teach on something else. That’s probably what Simon has in mind when he invites Jesus over for dinner. He probably wants to ask Jesus some questions about his sermon and maybe some other questions.
But when they reach Simon’s house, they find out that Simon’s mother-in-law “lay ill with a fever”. The first thing we notice is that the Apostle Peter was a married man. He had a mother-in-law who lived with him.
We need to note that because some argue that ministers of the gospel – even the Apostles – need to be single. They come up with these fanciful ways of explaining away the fact that Peter had a mother-in-law. They argue that he was married before but by this point his was a widower. There’s not any evidence of that in the text.
It would have been culturally expected that Peter marry. That was how it was. Marriage was an important cornerstone for the society to function. Paul even notes that other than him and Barnabas, the other Apostles had wives.
As soon as the five men reach the home, they’re told that Peter’s mother-in-law “lay ill with fever”. Fever wasn’t connected with the flu or other illnesses. The ancients considered fever an ailment in and of itself. The fact that she was laying down doesn’t mean she was on her deathbed. She was probably only incapacitated.
When Simon went to Jesus and told him that his mother-in-law was sick, he did something that revealed his heart. “And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her”. Look at Jesus’ compassion. This isn’t a life-threatening illness; it’s an inconvenience. But he still goes to her and heals her. Jesus has a heart for healing people. He has a heart for undoing the effects of sin.
Notice, “he took her by the hand”. He didn’t need to actually touch her. He heals the centurion’s daughter from miles away with a single word. But more often than not, at least in Mark’s gospel account, Jesus heals people by touching them. Jesus takes her hand, and as he helps her up the fever leaves her. His heart is for healing people; his heart is for undoing the effects of sin.
Once Simon’s mother-in-law is healed, “she began to serve them”. The response to experiencing the grace found in Jesus Christ is to serve. Don’t misunderstand this and think that a woman’s place is in the kitchen cooking and serving. That’s not what this or the rest of Scripture teaches. Scripture teaches that the appropriate response to grace is to serve. The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of service for others.
Last week when we were examining the call of Jesus, one of the things we noted was that the call to follow Jesus was progressive. We said that over time we begin to reflect Jesus’ character and ways. Serving is one of the characteristics of Jesus. He says that he came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).
The truth is that if we have experienced the grace found in Christ, if we have experienced healing from him even in small ways, we should serve. If you’ve experienced the grace of Christ, then you should be serving. You should be serving here at MPC; you should be serving your wife or your husband; you should be serving in this community. Service is a fruit of experiencing grace; service is a result of the healing found in Christ.
“That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 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.”
No doubt that the town had heard about the demon Jesus cast out in the synagogue. Those who were there probably told everyone they knew. They saw something miraculous and couldn’t keep it to themselves. As soon as the Sabbath was over, they took “all who were sick or oppressed by demons… And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons”.
Most of these people were using Jesus. They wanted to be healed; they wanted their demons to be exercised. They didn’t care about Jesus’ message. They wanted to treat him like a genie; something to make their lives better. And yet Jesus healed all of them. His was heart is to heal people; to heal his creation.
Notice, there is a difference between sickness and demon possession. Some people deny demons and demon possessions. They say that demon possession was just sickness and the ancients didn’t know any better. They did. They knew there was a difference between sickness and demon possession. And Jesus healed both the sick and the demon possessed.
Sometimes we wonder why there was so much demonic activity during Jesus’ lifetime? I think at that time, Satan was throwing everything he had at Jesus. He was throwing in all of his reserves to stop Jesus from undoing all the bad work they had done.
We often only talk about Jesus as saving us from our sin. He does that. He most certainly saves his people from their sin. But Jesus’ work is to also redeem creation. A few weeks ago, we talked about the fact that sin, shame, sickness, and death came into the world when humanity rebelled against God when we looked at Genesis 2-3.
While Jesus came to save his people from their sin, he also came to redeem creation. His work is to undo the effects of sin on all of creation. We’ll continue to see this in Mark’s gospel. While Jesus is working to undo the effects of sin, while he has a heart for healing, we won’t experience complete healing until Jesus returns and he makes all things news.
That is our hope. Our hope is that one day Jesus will return, he will re-create the heavens and the earth, our bodies will be free from the corruption and damage of sin, and we will be with our God for all eternity. On that day, we will experience the healing of Jesus.
A Heart for Spiritual Healing
“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. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ 38 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.’ 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”
Just as work was getting busy, Jesus disappeared. Before anyone was up, he “departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed”. When it was still dark, that’s in the pre-dawn darkness Jesus got up and left the city of Capernaum for a desolate place, literally the desert. He went out to pray.
There’s an importance in prayer. If prayer is important enough for the Son of God, how much more important is it for you and I? The busier Jesus got, the more he prayed. When you get busy, do you carve out time to pray? There’s a power in prayer; a power to transform us and align our wills with the will of the Triune God.
Tim Keller, the former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, has a book on prayer. In the introduction, he writes about the importance of prayer. He shares about how he came to understand the importance of prayer. Keller had spent the first ten years of his ministry pastoring a church in Virginia before accepting a position at Westminster Theological Seminary near Philadelphia. While he was teaching, his presbytery began planning for a plant in New York City. Ultimately they asked if he would be willing to plant a church in downtown Manhattan.
This was back in the 80s. At that point in time, New York City was a mess. Christians were leaving the city in droves; crime was at an all time high. And he was being asked to plant a church there. Keller began to realize that if he was going to survive he needed to pray more. Without prayer, Keller knew that he would burn out. Prayer is an important aspect of our spiritual lives
We’re not told here what Jesus prayed, but from other parts of the gospels we know that he taught his followers to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:9-13).
The essence of prayer is orienting ourselves to God and his ways. The first part of the prayer is adoration of God. When we pray, that should be our starting place. We should start with adoration of God. Prayer should start with adoration and worship of God. That’s the essence of prayer. The essence of prayer isn’t “give us this day our daily bread”. The essence of prayer is adoration of God.
Eventually, Simon and the others found Jesus. This might have taken the better part of the day. Remember, Jesus had gone out of the city to the desert without telling anyone. It probably would have taken a couple of hours to find him.
Once they find him, Simon exclaims, “Everyone is looking for you”. There’s a mild rebuke from Simon to Jesus. The implication is “business is booming, let’s keep it going. Keep on healing people”. How does Jesus respond? He responds by saying, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also for that is why I came out”.
Jesus shows his heart is for preaching the gospel. He won’t be some sideshow act; he won’t be a genie to be used by people. His heart is to preaching the gospel and see people come from the kingdom of rebellion to the Kingdom of God.
Yes Jesus has a heart to heal people. But the healing he brings isn’t just physical. The healing he brings is holistic, physical and spiritual. So he goes from town to town preaching his message that people need to repent and believe the gospel.
While we don’t often experience the miraculous physical healings of Jesus today, they’re few and far between, we can experience the spiritual healing of Jesus. Every week we hear the message of Jesus to repent of our sins and to believe the good news that Jesus has born our consequences. We hear it in our liturgy with confession and pardon. We do that so we experience the spiritual healing found in Jesus.
Jesus’ heart for preaching the gospel was evident and was passed down to the Apostles and then to the pastors after them. That’s why every week I ascend these steps and I explain a passage of Scripture in light of the person and work of Jesus. I’m not going to come up here and tell you funny stories or heartwarming anecdotes. I ascend the steps to proclaim his message; to teach what he taught.
Preachers don’t preach to show off. Our goal is not to show off our learning or ability to string words together. Our goal is to apply the healing balm of the gospel; it is to bring spiritual healing to the people Jesus has entrusted to us. That’s why we preach; that’s why we explain Scripture.
The gospel is the balm that we need for our spiritual healing. You want to find peace for an anxious heart, apply the gospel. You want to find unconditional love, apply the gospel. You want to find forgiveness, apply the gospel.
The heart of Jesus is to bring healing. Physical healing will come with his return when he makes all things new. Spiritual healing comes with the gospel and we believe it. His heart is to see us healed.