“Miracles don’t happen” Have you ever heard somebody say that? “Miracles can’t happen!” some people say. “Science has disproved miracles” some people say – which only shows they don’t really understand the limitations of science.
I believe miracles do happen. I believe that the Bible accounts of Jesus’s miraces are true exactly as they are written. They really happened, just that way. Mark’s Gospel takes ten chapters to cover Jesus’s ministry for the three years up to the beginning of his last week in Jerusalem. And in those 10 chapters nearly half of the verses are concerned with Jesus’s miracles. Anybody who takes the accounts of miracles out of the Gospels and not only are they accusing the Gospel writers of being liars but they are left with more problems than they solve.
I have no problems at all with the idea of Jesus working miracles. George MacDonald said, “The miracles of Jesus were the ordinary works of His Father. Wrought small and swift so that we may take them in.” God working on a small enough scale for us to see. The God of the Bible is Creator of Heaven and Earth, and Jesus came to proclaim that “the Kingdom of God is on hand”, that God’s rule as King was beginning. So we would be very surprised if Jesus Christ the Son of God did NOT work miracles! Of course he did! This week let’s look at three such events in the first chapter of Mark.
Simon Peter’s Mother in Law
So many parts of Mark’s gospel show signs of eyewitness testimony. Early church tradition tells us that the source for so much of what Mark wrote down was none other than Simon Peter himself. That is why this story is so vivid.
V 30 Simon’s mother in law was in bed with a fever. You won’t hear me telling mother-in-law jokes. But let’s notice that Simon Peter had left his fishing nets immediately Jesus called him to follow, even though he had a wife (who interestingly gets a mention by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9) and consequently a mother in law as well. When he came to recall miracle stories, Simon Peter’s mind went straight away to the day Jesus healed his mother in law.
They told Jesus about her. This was Jesus’s first miracle. The disciples hadn’t seen any miracles of healing before – only Jesus’s authority in casting out evil spirits. But still they instinctively knew that Jesus would be able to help – and they were right. So they asked – and those who bring their problems to Jesus are never disappointed.
So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. There were no elaborate rituals, no magical potions or spells. That is not how God’s miracles work. Just a simple practical action which released the love and healing power of God into that woman’s body. There’s no “formula” to healing miracles, just the love and the power of God.
The fever left her. Here was a miracle! We don’t know how serious that illness was. It could just have been a high temperature and a headache – but people in Jesus’s time and in tropical countries today are used to battling on with symptoms like that for much of the time. The fever could well have been life-threatening. But no matter how major or minor the illness, God cares for us. When God made the world there was no disease, in heaven there will be no sickness, and Jesus had come to bring God’s healing and wholeness to all who asked him.
And she began to wait on them. Here was the woman’s natural response in gratitude for what God had done for her. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Jesus only healed the woman so that she COULD wait on them. God doesn’t heal and bless and save us in order that we will do anything for him. God heals and blesses and saves because he loves us and He hates to see anybody suffering. It’s all about God’s love and God’s grace!
All the sick and demon-possessed
The day had begun with Jesus teaching in the synagogue. That led on to Jesus bringing deliverance to a man who was possessed by a demon. We’ll come back to the problem of demons and the ministry of deliverance another day. And then Jesus brought healing to Simon Peter’s mother in law. It’s not surprising that news of Jesus’s miracles got round very quickly. So just as the day was drawing to a close and the disciples were putting their feet up for a well-deserved rest, they were interrupted.
v.32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon possessed. There were too many to mention each by name. Simon and Andrew probably knew all their names, and to Jesus each one was an individual, a person with a need, not just a statistic. God cares for each and every one of us as individuals, not just as part of the crowd. But there were too many for Mark to record by name, because as we read
v.33 The whole town gathered at the door. It’s estimated that Capernaum was half a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide. There were probably several hundred people gathered around that small hut.
v/34 And Jesus healed many who had various diseases. Many – every sick person who was brought to Jesus was healed – all who came, and they were many. They were healed of various diseases, too many different illnesses to record separately. No sickness is beyond the healing power of God the Creator.
He also drove out many demons.
The distinction between sickness and demon possession is usually clear and obvious. What we would call today mental illness is NOT demon possession, although sometimes the symptoms are similar. The fact is that if the problem is demonic then neither doctors nor psychiatrists can do anything at all to help. Only the authority of Jesus Christ can drive out demons and set people free – only God can help!
But he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Some people have this mistaken idea that Jesus healed people and drove out demons to prove to people that he was indeed the Son of God, the Messiah. That is NOT correct. The demons did have supernatural knowledge that Jesus was Son of God and Messiah, but Jesus did not want that to be revealed too soon. Jesus was not bringing healing and deliverance to prove anything to anybody. Those miracles were the Kingly Rule of God breaking into the world, the Good News in action, putting right the hurting in the world dues to sin and driving out the devil and his demons. Miracles were expressions of God’s love and power. And God is still a God of love and power and so we should expect still to see miracles of healing and deliverance in the world today. We should pray for healing and expect to see God healing people! His touch has still its ancient power.
So Jesus moved on the bring healing and deliverance to other villages too, which brings us to another story.
A many with leprosy.
v.40 A man with leprosy came to him. This was some kind of skin disease, not necessarily what we would diagnose as leprosy today. But this skin disease carried the same stigma. It set the sufferers apart from the rest of society, made them outcasts. They couldn’t enter houses, and had to shout, “unclean, unclean” to keep other people from coming close to them. So here was a man who was desperate.
And begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Look at this man’s faith! He knew Jesus had the POWER to heal him, the only question in the man’s mind was whether Jesus would be WILLING to heal even a leper like him. The man was unclean in a Jewish ritual sense, condemned and set apart by the Jewish Law. Did God’s Kingly Rule and God’s healing extend so far as to reach even a leper?
v.41 Jesus was Filled with Compassion. Everything that Jesus did was out of LOVE for people who were suffering. He wasn’t aloof to suffering – Jesus cares!!
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. Although touching a leper would make him ritually unclean too, Jesus showed God’s love in that simple act of touch.
I am willing, He said, be clean. Jesus WAS willing! God’s love extends to every kind of person. To the outcasts even more than to the respectable folk. Sometimes we pray, “Lord, if it is your will, heal this person.” God so often says, “I AM willing.” Too often the problem is that we are too afraid to ask!
v.42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
The miracle came instantaneously. In almost all of Jesus’s miracles, the effects were immediate. We don’t always see that today, sometimes healing comes gradually as a process. The healing is still from God, even if surgeons or doctors or nurses or psychiatrists or therapists or medicines have a part to play. The healing is still an answer to believing prayer.
In one sense, this story now has a sad ending. Mark 1:43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
The man didn’t follow Jesus’s instructions, and the publicity which resulted actually hindered Jesus’s teaching and preaching. But still this reminds us that Jesus did not perform miracles to draw attention to himself or to prove he was the Son of God. That attention was the opposite of what Jesus wanted. And it also reminds us that God’s healing isn’t dependent on our obedience, either before or after the healing. I suspect that Jesus knew exactly what the man was going to do, but still healed him anyway. We don’t earn healing by doing good deeds and we don’t lose that healing by disobedience. It is all about grace!
Jesus brings healing! Simon Peter’s mother in law. All the sick and demon possessed in the whole village of Capernaum. And along the road, an outcast suffering from leprosy. Those healings were not to prove who Jesus was or to prove that his message was true. People were responding to Jesus’s preaching before he had healed anybody.
17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
People were already leaving their nets and following Jesus. People were already amazed at Jesus’s teaching and his authority. The miracles weren’t to prove Jesus’s teaching was true. All Jesus’s miracles were expressions of God’s love and power, the Good News in action, evidence of the transforming power of God. Miracles happened then and miracles will still happen today – because His touch has still its ancient power!