Alfred Place Baptist Church

1:29-34 The Lord Christ’s First Miracle Of Healing

Mark 1:29-34 “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”

We all know that the first miracle of Jesus took place before he began his public preaching, perhaps a year earlier than this healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. It had occurred in Cana of Galilee at a wedding feast where the Lord turned water into wine. But what happened here in the home of these brothers in Capernaum was the very first miracle of healing to be wrought by our Lord.

1. HOW RARELY DO WE FIND MIRACLES IN THE SCRIPTURES.

The Bible covers four thousand years of history, and the number of miracles performed by men of God are few, and far between. The Church of Rome has canonised tens of thousands of men and women, making them saints, solemnly announcing to the world that those people have left purgatory and have finally got to heaven. One of the qualifications for being pronounced a ‘saint’ by the Vatican is that a miracle has been performed by that person in answer to prayer being made to that saint for supernatural healing. So miracles in the church of Rome both through their saints and at their places of pilgrimage are fairly commonplace. They are not commonplace in the Bible.

Again what has been happening in India this month? Thousands of people have been flocking to a church building in southern India. “A good thing,” you say. But why? To hear the gospel preached? No. A woman called Sheela Antony had prepared traditional Indian flat bread, called chapati, and gave some to her children. Her daughter refused to eat it saying it was burnt. Then Mrs Antony picked up the chapati and noticed the burn mark on the side of the bread. “It looks like Christ!” she cried, and when she showed it to her neighbours they agreed; “It looks like Jesus!” She took it to her parish priest George Jacob and he immediately pronounced that it was a miracle. He put the chapati in a glass case, it was shown in national television and soon thousands of people, including many Muslims and Hindus began to make the journey to Bangalore to see the chapati: “We believe in miracles. Devotees are feeling blessed at witnessing it,” said Father Jacob. 20,000 people are now besieging the Renewal Retreat Centre to catch a glimpse of the ‘miracle chapati’, which is just a burnt piece of bread. (The Times, 18 November, 2002). Fascination with miracles is no evidence of faith in Christ. “An unbelieving and adulterous generation is always looking for signs,” said the Lord Jesus when he refused to perform any miracles for the people. So-called ‘miracles’ are also very common in the religions of the world, but they are not common in the Bible.

From the completion of the creation until the moment when Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh, a period of thousands of years, no miracles are recorded. Then there stretches out a period of half a century when a number of divine miracles both of judgment and deliverance take place. They begin with the plagues of Egypt and they last until Jordan is crossed and Joshua’s sun stands still. Another sixteen hundred years of redemptive history pass by, and then there are the miracles of Elijah and Elisha both of deliverance and judgment which last for a decade or two. In Babylon Daniel performed no miracles although there were mighty acts of God manifested there. Then another 900 years pass before our Lord appears and miracles are again confirmed. So we have about 4,000 years during which there were three brief periods where there were miracles. Noah performed no miracles though he served God mightily and was a preacher of righteousness for a century. Enoch walked with God, but he did no mighty works. Abraham, his son and his grandsons performed no miracles; Joseph did no miracles in Egypt; Samuel performed no miracles; David, the greatest of the kings of Israel, wrote the 23rd psalm and other inspired writings, but he performed no miracles; Isaiah was the wonderful evangelical prophet, but he performed no miracles, and neither did Jeremiah and Ezekiel nor the other prophets. Hezekiah’s reformation was not accompanied by miraculous gifts. The reformers, Ezra and Nehemiah, performed no miracles. God gave no such gifts to those men. All this, of course, is history and it is saying to us plainly that miracles were few and far between during the mighty works of God in Bible times. The periods when God restored miraculous gifts to Old Testament leaders were not times of unusual blessing. They were not connected to revivals of religions.

When the Son of God, the promised Messiah appears and begins his public ministry a flood of miracles is immediately let loose especially on the province of Galilee, from the first ones at the wedding in Cana and the healing of this older woman of her fever right through to the very end, that is, to the night before Golgotha when the Lord Jesus restored Malcus’ ear, cut off by Simon Peter’s sword. There was never any waning of Jesus’ power nor of his willingness to answer those who came to him for help. As many as thirty of Jesus’ miracles are described for us in the four gospels. The total number is far greater. We are told in verse 33 of many anonymous sick and dying people whom the Lord Jesus healed in Capernaum. There are also those words of John informing us that, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” (Jn. 20:30). So miracles are rare in the Scriptures themselves, but there is a superabundance of them in the ministry of Christ and his apostles.

2. THE LORD JESUS NEVER WENT LOOKING FOR PEOPLE TO HEAL.

Christ didn’t knock on people’s doors and ask, “Anyone sick to be healed today?” Healing wasn’t his primary role. The healings must not overshadow his main ministry which was preaching. In the aftermath of his healing Peter’s mother-in-law the crowds gather with their sick at the place in which he is staying, and he heals them all. The next day he rises early, goes somewhere quiet and prays. His four friends can’t find him. They look for him and when they find him tell him with some anticipation that a big crowd of people are waiting for him. To their surprise Jesus announces that it’s time to move on and he disappoints those folk with all their need: “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come'” (v.38). Nothing must detract from, challenge or replace his preaching to the people. Christ never held a healing mission.

So the Lord Jesus never went searching for the sick. They always had to come to him. So it was when Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, we are told “they told Jesus about her” (v.30). It was their automatic response. He had turned water into wine – they had seen it. He had delivered a man from an evil spirit – they had seen it. Now there is another problem, and so they told Jesus. They had no thoughts of sighing “It’s God’s will!” and going on with their lives and leaving her in her raging fever to live or die . . . as God willed. They applied to the Lord Christ. There is a simple old gospel hymn that asks these questions and gives on word of advice:

“Are you weary, and heavy hearted?
Tell it to Jesus.
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus.

“Do you fear the clouds of sorrow?
Tell it to Jesus.
Are you anxious about tomorrow?
Tell it to Jesus.

“Are you troubled at the thought of dying?
Tell it to Jesus.
For Christ’s coming are you sighing?
Tell it to Jesus.”

It was a wonderful comfort to these two sets of brothers and the woman’s own daughter to have Jesus there under their roof when sickness struck. “They told Jesus about her;” of course they did. Wouldn’t you? What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! The Scripture says when John the Baptist died his disciples took up his body tenderly. He was only thirty-three years old and they carried his body away and wrapped it in grave-clothes. Herod had ordered his executioner to cut John’s head off. Such barbarity: it might have been our own 21st century. Those young men buried his body honourably . . . and then they went and told Jesus. It was all over. John was already dead, but they went and told the Lord. I am applying this event so very simply, telling you that you don’t need to keep your fears and your sorrows bottled up within you. Tell it to the Lord. You have been backsliding for many years, and feel you are a real hypocrite to be praying for, say, your mother’s serious illness at a time like this. I am saying, just go ahead and talk it over with him.

Sometimes that is the best pastoring you could ever have, talking over something in the Lord’s presence. Some light begins to shine and some burdens begin to be lifted when you tell Jesus. He tells you that he numbers the hairs on your head. He certainly cares whether you have a headache. If the Lord made your arms and legs, then he cares if they hurt. Tell him about it. He formed your child in your womb and gave that baby its first breath. He says, “Let the little ones come to me.” So tell him everything about the children and their health, or that maybe they are being bullied in school, or that their teacher seems to pick on them. Tell it to Jesus. Because as Joseph Hart reminds us:

“Prayer was appointed to convey
The blessings God designs to give;
Long as they live should Christians pray
For only while they pray they live.”

But we don’t only pray. You sometime have the misfortune of hearing some silly people saying that if they had enough faith and really believed in divine healing they would do away with the doctor, and do away with drugs, and simply tell Jesus. Is that faith or fanaticism? It sounds like fanaticism to me. What would you think of a so-called Christian who wouldn’t go shopping for food, or go to a clothes shop for clothes but had ‘the faith’, they claimed, to be divinely fed and clothed? Faith or fanaticism? Fanaticism. The person who says, “Well, if I’m going to be healed then I’m going to be healed. I don’t need a doctor or drugs.” That is just as foolish as saying, “If I’m going to survive I don’t need to go to the supermarket for food, and Peacocks for clothes. God will keep me alive and warm.” God uses means. He uses food and clothes which we purchase by the six days in which we labour. He uses the electricity company to give light and heat to our homes which we pay for by our six days of labour. He uses teachers to inform and educate us. He uses mechanics to repair our cars. He uses doctors to help us to understand our own bodies and minds.

So we don’t think that it is sub-Christian to go to a doctor with our concerns. It is not a matter of showing little faith, but it’s wrong when we fail to tell something to Jesus. There were two sisters whose brother Lazarus was sick, and all their attempts to keep him warm and give him some respected medicines did not produce any improvement in his condition. They sent a word to the Lord, “Listen! He whom you love is sick!” They expected the Lord to heal him just as soon as the message got to him. They noticed the time and they knew it would be a few hours for the messenger to reach Jesus, and then they started popping into the room where Lazarus was so ill anxiously awaiting to see the improvement. They knew that Jesus had healed the centurion’s servant simply by a ‘flash of the will that can’. So they told Jesus and they waited in hope. They waited many hours and all the time their brother was getting weaker. Then Lazarus died. In other words, telling Jesus of our loved one’s sickness doesn’t guarantee that they are going to be raised up. In this chapter at the beginning of Mark’s gospel we are told that the disciples found the Lord on the next day, and told him that there were a lot of sick folk who wanted to see him. They told Jesus about all these needy people, and Jesus surprised them by saying, “We’re moving on. Let’s pack up and go.” Can you imagine Peter protesting and telling the Lord that there was a leper there, and a sick child, and a blind man, and an old lady in a lot of pain, and yet Jesus shook his head and left town. How many of the people that Jesus healed became ill later and died? Every one of them. How many of the people Jesus raised from the dead later died? Every one of them. Everyone is going to die, and there is no promise that every time Jesus is told that someone is ill that that sick person is going to recover. If that were the case nobody would ever die, but we know that God has made an appointment with every one of us to meet him at our death.

When we tell Jesus about loved ones being sick then that same Jesus in heaven is also praying and he is saying, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (Jn. 17:24). I am praying, “Lord, don’t let her die,” but the Lord is praying that she may go home and be with him in glory. Then I have to submit, and say “If it is possible let this cup of suffering and death pass from this house, nevertheless not my will but thine be done.” Shall dust be so dear to us that we fall out with our Lord about it? So Jesus didn’t take the initiative in this woman’s healing. They came to him and told him about it. We are told that there was an immediate response: “So he went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them” (v.31). “What’s this?” she said, “the great rabbi is here in the house and I’m lying in bed perfectly well and my daughter hasn’t got the food going? What will he think of us? Poor hosts indeed.” And soon the smell of charcoal burning, and the sound of pans being filled and put on the fire, and the odour of newly cooked food started to fill the house.

3. THE MIRACLES OF THE LORD JESUS ARE SIGNS.

The miracles of Jesus are defined by three words. One is the word ‘wonder’ and that means when people saw the miracle it took their breath away; Peter and Andrew and James and John were afraid when they saw that healing. “Who is this that even the winds and waves obey him?” they later asked. There was no rational human explanation for the event. You could bring scientific tests to bear on it, and if you could look it up in an encyclopaedia you were still left wondering. Secondly, there is the phrase ‘mighty work’ that literally means ‘power’, in other words, our own human resources were utterly impotent to accomplish this act. God’s power alone could do it. The third word is that which John in his gospel prefers, and it’s the word ‘sign’. That original Greek word has been taken up in our English word ‘semaphore’ that is, communicating to people to a distant place which you can see through a telescope by the position of your arms, and so by signs – ‘semaphore’.

That word ‘sign’ is a most helpful key to understanding miracles because it is saying to us that they are not just weird and wonderful events that make you sigh and cry such things as, “Who’d have believed it? What a surprising world we live in. Truth is stranger than fiction.” The miracles of Jesus are interpreted events. They have explanation and application, not only to the people who were immediately involved but people living thousands of miles away and centuries later. The Interpreter is the same one who performed the signs. By his word he interprets his actions. So we must ask, of what are Christ’s miracles signs? Of what is this healing of Simon’s mother-in-law a sign?

i] It is a sign that attracts attention to Jesus as Lord.

Consider the advertising industry. There is a billboard, a great placard, and it is there to attract everyone’s attention to a certain product. It is an attention-getting device. So it was when Jesus healed Simon’s mother. In an hour everyone had heard of what had happened and that evening after sunset all the sick came to that home to be meet Jesus. But more than that, all Capernaum, the healthy as well as the sick, came there: “the whole town gathered at the door” (v.33). They had heard him preach that morning, and had been amazed, but it was not the sermon that had brought them to fill the street outside his house. It was the miracle that did that. For that action there was no human explanation. He was Lord of the leprosy virus, of the eyeball and the eye socket, of germs, of brain-damage, of skin complaints, of cancerous cells, of the ear and the tongue, of the nose and throat, of paralysed joints, of congested lungs, of genes and molecules, of the womb and of degenerate heart disease. There was in fact no human place or condition over which he did not have total mastery. What a man! I must get to know more about him.

So here is a scene placarded before us. Think of it on a huge advertisement. A man is portrayed as leaning across a bed with an outstretched hand and he is lifting up an older woman who has been ill and she is obviously surprised and feeling much better. You see that scene? There is one word under it: ‘Lord!’ The Christ there in Simon Peter’s mother-in-law’s home of sickness in Capernaum is the Lord of the universe.

Consider what it means for these four men. Jesus is in the process of making them fishers of men. He has asked them to leave all and follow him: “Yes, break your parents’ hearts. You must leave the family business, and your own wife’s company to follow an unknown country preacher.” That sort of request would have been unthinkable morally unless Christ had a status commensurate with God’s. To leave the dead unburied, forsaking houses and lands, abandoning fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, taking up our crosses and laying down our lives – Jesus’ demands taking precedence over all other commitments? Think of it! Unless he is God no man can demand such a sacrifice from another human being.

Consider what it means in relation to his teaching. They have heard him speak, just the day before this miracle, and what has struck them has been his authority, how he sat there teaching that congregation and repudiated, innovated, clarified and stipulated all in his own name: “But I say unto you.” Who is this who speaks in this way? The one they now learn to be also the Lord over disease and sickness:

“Who is He to whom they bring
All the sick and sorrowing?

” ‘Tis the Lord! O, wondrous story!
‘Tis the Lord!, the King of glory!
At his feet we humble fall –
Crown him! crown him, Lord of all!” (Benjamin R. Hanby, 1833 -67).

He has come preaching throughout Galilee that the kingdom of God is imminent because the King himself has arrived, invading the territory of the Enemy to rescue his people from sin and its consequences. What Christ represents is a very powerful King indeed with absolute sovereignty and dominion. God’s love for the world is not fragile, or vulnerable and indecisive. It is in a position of dominance. He can move heaven and earth if he wills. Every demon is at the end of his chain. Sickness turns tail and flees whenever he chooses to banish it. The healing of Simon’s mother-in-law and the thousands of healings that follow it declare Jesus is the comprehensive and final Lord. In other words, anything belonging to Almighty God himself belongs to Christ. So the sign drew attention to Jesus as Lord. Of what else is the healing of Simon’s mother a sign?

ii] It was a sign that declared that Jesus Christ is able now to transform us.

Consider again how, when we see an object advertised on a billboard, that sign is saying, “This product is available now.” It is making an offer: “You too can have this. It is in the shops now. It is in the dealer’s showroom now.” That is what a sign is saying. When I was a boy I would have books after my cousin Bobi. Those books had been published before the war during the 1930s and they carried advertisements for objects that were not available to me. I was reading them during the Second World War, and at that time there were no longer chocolate bars sold for a penny from slot machines as I saw advertised in those old books. I dreamed of what would happen when peace came again. So there were in the Old Testament promises of wonderful blessings that would come one day. Hearts of stone would become hearts of flesh. No longer would men teach their fellow men but God himself would teach them. The Spirit of God would be poured out on all flesh. The lion and the lamb would lie down together, and the earth would be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. Men dreamed of when that time would come. What a blessed age.

The healing of Simon’s mother-in-law and all the other miracles of healing are saying that that age is beginning, that if Christ is able to do this to one woman, or to ten lepers, or to everyone who is brought to him then the new order is here and now. The new creation is beginning, and all this is available through Christ. He is triumphant over death. He resurrects from the grave Lazarus. He stops a funeral procession and raises the son of the widow of Nain. He raises Jairus’ daughter from her deathbed. He himself rises on the third day. Who is more relevant to you today? Some of you are sick: many of your friends and family are ill: all of us are dying. Is that the terminus of existence, the coffin, the grave, the skeleton, the dust? We live a brief and uncertain life and we die – and that is it? Here is One who spoke as no one else spoke, made stupendous claims, and performed mighty miracles. This One lives who brought back from dying this sick woman, and he is here today and he can become your own Lord. He make you a new creation, a part of the new heavens and earth over which he will reign. So the miracle is saying the living Lord is available to transform us. What else did this miracle signify?

iii] It was a sign that pointed forward to what Jesus Christ will one day do.

Consider again a road-sign erected by the highway department. It points the way ahead; it tells us what reality lies before us. We take steps accordingly. We become a little less reckless, and more watchful. So it is with a miracle like this, wrought by the Lord Christ alone. It gives us some anticipation. It is ‘eschatological’ – that’s the buzz word. One miracle-sign should do that, but what if there are hundreds and hundreds of signs, one after another, after another, after another, all saying this one message, that the living God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the end of the journey? Then we keep lifting ourselves up, finding new hope and determination to live the new elevated life. That is the consequence of reading the gospels, and this is one purpose of the miracles of Jesus. The healing of Simon’s mother-in-law says to us, “Let’s tell you about your future.” While the effects of sin on our bodies are to weaken us with disease and threaten us with death, here is One mightier than disease and even than the grave. Christ is infallible, authoritative, and certain.

Every week more than a million people in the world die, 56 million a year. A generation ago there was widespread excitement that the threat from infection had been contained. That view, in this age of new viruses and super bugs, is now laughable. The contribution modern medicine makes to the global sum of human happiness is small. Doctors have good reason to be modest about their achievements. Don’t look to them for deliverance and hope. They would shrink from such expectations. A new book on medicine appeared last week reviewed by the editor of the Lancet in the Times (13 November 2002). Written by an American surgeon with this thoughtful and suggestive title, “Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science,” (Atul Gawande, Profile books, 2002, ISBN 1 86197 413 2) it suggests a new covenant between patient and doctor based on three things, fallibility, mystery and uncertainty. This American physician tells his readers, that’s what we doctors have to offer our patients, and if at times we can prolong their lives a little, and take away some pain, then that’s a bonus.

How different is the Great Physician. Don’t you all need him? Before us there lies one certainty about the future, that death, and resurrection and judgment are ahead of us all. This Jesus was the one who spoke to grieving Martha and he said to her, “‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him. ‘I believe that you are the Christ the Son of God, who was to come into the world'” (Jn. 11:23-25). Then that One who makes this preposterous claim that he is the resurrection and the life confirms it by delivering Lazarus from death. Here alone is infallibility, authority and certainty. It is in the Son of God.

So there are these selective and provisional signs – that’s all the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law is, one of Christ’s signs – but what it signifies lies before us just around the corner. Something big is looming up ahead and it’s connected with this Jesus, and this is where you are headed. Get ready for this! Believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of your sin. Fill your lives in the midst of sickness and dying with hope in him: “what we will be has not yet been made known” (I Jn. 3:2). But it’s going to happen. He lives who healed this lady. He lives to heal all of us who will go to him from our sin, sickness and death.

Let’s go back to this sign, Mark has given us the barest sketch; an anonymous woman delivered from an unknown disease by the Lord Jesus. But we are giving this sketch an astounding title. We are calling it, “The Day of Resurrection.” Because she lived by Christ’s power we shall live too, a company of people more than any man can number. The dust of each one of them will be visited by the Lord. He will come and breathe into their nostrils the breath of life and the dead shall live. We can believe that that mother and her daughter (Peter’s wife) were amongst the 500 who believed on the Lord Jesus. They were his redeemed flock, and to them he appeared on the hill of resurrection before he ascended into heaven. She had probably believed in her resurrection because that was orthodox teaching, but she had also known his quickening power entering and lifting her up in a special personal way. She had believed in the resurrection because this is what Jesus her Lord had taught her. Now she believed it because she saw him who had been crucified, was dead and buried, risen again, and talking with her and all her family and friends in Christ. The earnest of that had been given those few years earlier when she knew his saving power transforming her life.

It all began with this little sketch in Mark’s gospel of a woman being raised from her sick bed. It ends with a vast canvas of the world giving up its dead as all the dead hearing this Saviour’s voice and coming alive. C.S.Lewis asks us to picture a woman thrown into a dungeon. There she bears and rears a son. He grows up seeing nothing but the dungeon walls, the straw on the floor, and a little patch of the sky seen through the grating, which is too high to show anything except sky. This unfortunate woman had been an artist, and when they imprisoned her she managed to bring with her a drawing pad and a box of pencils. As she never loses the hope of deliverance, she is constantly teaching her son about an outer world which he has never seen. She does it largely by drawing him pictures. With her pencil she attempts to show him what fields, rivers, mountains, cities, and waves on a beach are like. He is a dutiful boy and he does his best to believe her when she tells him that the outer world is far more interesting and glorious than anything in the dungeon.

But all she is showing him is little sketches, and one day he says something to her that she can’t quite figure out. Finally it dawns on her what he is thinking. She gasps and says, “You don’t think that the real world is full of lines drawn in lead pencil?” “What?” he says, “No pencil marks there?” All he can see is this sketch, and that sketch, and yet another of the sketches which his mother draws each day. He has come to think that those signs are the realities themselves. That is like going to Aberystwyth for the first time, and when you see the sign on the edge of town saying ‘Aberystwyth” you stop there, and sit down under the sign and think you have arrived. It is only the sign. The reality lies further down the way. This first healing miracle of Jesus in this room in a home in Capernaum is only a sign. But what wonders it signifies.

The boy in the dungeon couldn’t imagine a world of waving treetops, light dancing on a lake, coloured three-dimensional realities that were not black and white. The only reality for him had been the fascinating sketches of his mother. He couldn’t make the connection with the glorious reality to which they were pointing. The mother could wish that her spirit could come inside the mind and soul of her son and make her signs realities of beauty and glory, but as a mere creature she couldn’t do that. God can do that. He can come really inside us. His Holy Spirit uses these miracles of Jesus to make the Son of God glorious and, through him, the future becomes a wonderfully blessed hope. For some of you this story in Mark chapter one is just a sketch, and its eternal realities are hidden from you. They will be always hidden until the Spirit takes this scene and shows to your mind and affections the true implications of the power and grace of Jesus Christ.

4. THE MESSAGE OF THE MIRACLES.

What do the miracles of Christ say? Three things: let us take one step back in the life of Christ, and remind you of his very first miracle a year earlier, the turning of water into wine.

i] Jesus Christ is Lord of Creation.

This is one of his creation miracles and it announces that he is creation’s Lord. He has almighty power over the elements and the dynamics that exist in his creation. The winds and waves obey their Master. A tree withers, and a herd of pigs leap to destruction in a lake. Loaves and fishes multiply. Jesus walks on the sea. These creation miracles are a series of road signs coming up on us with alarming frequency as we journey through the New Testament, and they shout at us, “Do you know what’s ahead? Be prepared!” There is going to be a new creation and there the raging disorder and wild chaos we now see all around us will be no more. I am talking about famine, flood, volcanic explosion, mad cow disease, erosion, the despoliation of the forests, the annihilation of the fish stocks of the oceans, foot and mouth disease, pollution, dust bowls, and drought. All that will give way to abundance. That one little sketch of water turned to wine is a sign of a vast canvas of a new heavens and a new earth redolent with the righteousness of Christ. What the prophets have longed for, the earth filled with the glory of God, we now have in Capernaum in foretaste. It is available in the Son of God. The creation is no longer under its ultimate lord, the curse, but a new Lord has appeared, and he is going to restore it to what it was when God first made it, but infinitely more glorious. What abundance Christ makes in Cana of Galilee – 120 or 180 gallons of the best wine. Plenty, fruitfulness and joy are all symbolised there. No more curse, and no more barrenness. It rejoices in Christ’s fertilising power. All of creation will find its rest in Christ. That is the reality, and it is signified in a little sketch of a man helping a host in his embarrassment in a wedding when he has failed to provide enough wine. Christ is the Lord of creation.

ii] Christ is the Lord of the New Creation.

There is the first of many healing miracles of Christ in the upper room, when this middle-aged woman is healed and then every single sick person is healed who gathers around her door that evening, when the Sabbath is over. These healing miracles are telling us that this Great Physician is the Lord of Creation for he is the Master over human sickness. The prophets had said, “It’s going to come, a day when the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the lame would run, and the dumb would sing,” and from Capernaum this message goes out that that day has dawned, and the power of sickness is being provisionally broken. The Lord reserves the right not to heal everybody. He moves on to another town and leaves behind in Capernaum many other sick folk – unhealed. But he has given a sign that a new day has dawned for this groaning and travailing creation. He can heal any man or woman of any disease at all because he is the giver of eternal life and the Lord of the New Creation. The curse of the fall is going to be removed from men working in the sweat of their brows, and women giving birth with their labour pains. In the new heavens and earth there will be no more sickness or pain or death. We await the consummation. Jesus is Lord of glory.

iii] Christ is the Lord of Glory.

There is the third kind of miracle in our text as again the Lord drives out and silences many demons (v.34). Even the fallen angels are subject to his authority. The devils know who he is, for once they worshipped him in heaven before their rebellion. But the time is not apposite to announce to the world his identity, and they are not fit heralds for the King. If he has set aside angels’ preaching for him he will certainly silence demons. But this is not the time to announce his identity. He has a work to do in Galilee which would be restricted if Messianic expectations were rife, because the people had a totally false view of the work Messiah would do. He must first teach them the nature of true Messiahship. So he puts muzzles on demons like mangy curs. What awe that creates in those who see it: “He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him” (v.27). Ever since the serpent tempted our first parents believers have longed for a time when the devil would be conquered. They had yearned for a time to come when he would be cast out of his dominion, bound in chains, thrown into the bottomless pit and be falling, falling, falling for ever, disappearing further and further away from the new creation, tiny diminishing specks, the devil and all his hosts, eternally outside that glory, never to trouble it again. He will never assault the gates of the New Jerusalem.

So the Lord Christ, king over men, angels and demons, has arrived and begun to set Satan’s slaves free. The Messianic kingdom is present. Jesus is the Lord of glory and has come to little Capernaum. The healing of Simon’s mother-in-law says that the one who raised her up is Lord of Creation, Lord of the New Creation and Lord of Glory. But is he your Lord? You say Yes. Do you do the things that he says? Why do you call him Lord, Lord and not do those things? Bow before him. Do not serve this Lord with your lips only, but with your hearts and lives. Cry to him that you will be delivered from merely knowing the stories about him but see that they point to the glorious reality of what lies so soon before us. Never stop praying to him until you know in your hearts that he has heard and answered you.

17th November 2002 GEOFF THOMAS