As you already know, this year has been filled with extraordinary illness and pain for all the adults in our family and many other people that we know. I won’t bore you with rehashing all that we have been through, but my heart goes out to the daughter of our neighbor who another chemo treatment yesterday for a cancer that she is fighting. She is a young Mom with two young children and the treatments (she has now had 5 out of 6) are taking their toll on her. Hopefully, her next body scan will be clean but last week the cancer was still active. And this morning I found out that a relatively new friend of mine was diagnosed with lung cancer and will be undergoing surgery for removal of his lower left lobe on Wednesday. There is so much pain and illness in the world right now.
I guess when you put it all in perspective, many of us are very lucky by comparison. My sore throat and coughing has been going on 4 weeks now and Janet has had headaches so severe that I haven’t seen her this way in more than 30 years. But we are on the mend, although slowly, and our prayer list includes an inordinate number of people who are dealing with pain and illness.
Mark, the second Gospel, is full of stories about illness, demon possession, near death experiences and many other tales of woe regarding the human condition. It was into this environment that Jesus called his first disciples into service. After John the Baptist had made his proclamation that the kingdom of God was near and broadcast his message of repentance, Jesus started to gather his group of disciples.
First, He approached Simon (later known as Peter) and his brother Andrew, challenging them to follow Him and become “fishers of men.” Then, Jesus and the two disciples stopped and recruited James and his brother John, known as the “sons of thunder.” So Jesus was beginning to build his group of followers, the apostles, those who would learn at the feet of Jesus for three years or so.
Now I don’t know that those first disciples thought they were in for, but one thing is for sure. They left the comfort of what they knew for the discomfort of being a true follower of Jesus – and what they didn’t know. That first day was a doozy. I’m sure the apostles thought they would be doing some fun stuff with the Lord, but instead, their entire first day was spent healing illness and pain. And the pace didn’t slow down!
First, after teaching in the synagogue, Jesus encountered a man who was possessed by an evil spirit. Jesus commanded the spirit to leave and the people were amazed at His authority and how he could control the evil spirits. The group then headed to the home of Simon and Andrew, where Simon’s mother-in-law was ill and probably near death. Jesus then healed her and she recovered so well that she got up and prepared dinner for all of them!
But the first day wasn’t over yet. Word of the healing and driving out of demons reached far and wide. Scores of people who were ill and in pain flocked to Jesus. In fact, Mark tells us that the entire city gathered at the door. So the healing continued well into the night. I can’t even imagine that first day of being a disciple. Or of being exposed to that much pain and evil.
The next morning, Jesus got up early to pray. The disciples were hoping, I am sure, for a lighter day and perhaps a little relaxation along the way. But Jesus wouldn’t hear of it. People with leprosy and other infirmities were healed and Jesus began to preach. There are so many important lessons here that I don’t have nearly enough room to list them all.
But please notice several things. Jesus was a man of service – and that is one of the fundamental things that he was teaching the apostles – and us. Furthermore, He was always at work and the apostles, although they were hard workers, had to learn another level of dedication without luxuries. And the work that they did was tough work – dealing with the sick and the lame and the possessed.
Our verse for tonight is the one that Jesus uses to let the disciples know that they weren’t going to lay around and take it easy. It was His announcement that they had places to go and people to see. Mark tells us, in Mark 1:38-39, “Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.” What a life!
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus came to serve others – and when He wasn’t teaching and healing, He was in communion with the Father. Prayer was very much a part of His life and certainly something He wishes for us. My prayer is that you will spend some time praying for those who have had strong physical and emotional challenges. It’s a difficult time in our culture and things that we used to take for granted, such as safety, are no longer things that we can assume will be okay. Just look at the shootings on the baseball diamond in Virginia yesterday! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…