February 7, 2021 “That’s Why I’ve Come”

“That’s Why I’ve Come”

Mark 1:29-39

What are you doing here? What are you doing here? What are you doing here?” No matter how we say it, this is not the sort of greeting that any of us likes to get when we walk into a house, or a restaurant, or just about anywhere, for that matter. “What are you doing here?” We can say it 100 different ways to mean 100 different things, but one thing is for certain: a greeting like this means that we’re not expected, we’re not welcome, we’re not supposed to be here. But there is one exception, and the best example I can think of is the case of poor Elijah. (1 Kings 19) If you recall, Elijah caused quite a stir by proving to the pagans of Samaria that theirs was a god that was false. He slaughtered the false prophets and it looked like there was hope after all for the faithful of Samaria. But when Queen Jezebel caught wind of his mighty deed, she not only threatened his life, she promised him the same death he gave to her supposed prophets. At this point, Elijah lost his nerve. He was scared, he was exhausted, and he ran. Not long into his journey, he gave up completely. “I’ve had enough, Lord,” he said, “Take my life, I’m no better than my ancestors.” But it was not to be. The Lord furnished him with food and water and after 40 days, Elijah found himself holed up in a cave at Mt. Horeb, still in a lousy mood. At this point, the Lord finally spoke to the prophet: “What are doing here, Elijah?”

“O it’s been awful,” he replied. “I have been faithful to the Lord Almighty but the Israelites have rejected you, torn down the altars, and killed the prophets – and now they’re fixing to kill me too!” If you remember the story, the Lord proceeds to cast down earthquakes and fireballs and hurricanes at poor old Elijah, then only after things quieted down did he ask, once again, “What are you doing here, Elijah.” Elijah then proceeded to rant and rave just like before. But here’s the thing: he never really answers the question. What he was doing was running away because he didn’t know what to do. It was then that the Lord told him what it was that he wanted him to do—and that’s what he did.

Now if you’re wondering what this has to do with anything, our gospel message today is a classic example of knowing what you’re doing here and, more importantly, knowing who has sent you to do it. Each of the gospel lessons from Mark in the last few weeks have been “Epiphany” moments, you might say. It’s early in Christ’s ministry so there have been a lot of “aha” moments – from his calling of the disciples to the unclean spirit guy in the temple to today’s first real experience of healing miracles. I love this story just at its face value. Jesus goes to the house of Simon & Andrew to find Simon’s mother-in-law terribly sick with fever. This is a revelation in itself because now we know that Simon, who we later know as Peter, is married and for all we know has some little Simons running around the house. We tend to think of the disciples as being unattached and fancy free. Why else would they have agreed so quickly to drop their nets and follow this Nazarene? Why else, indeed? They were called; it’s that simple. They were called. And I have to wonder if the first words that Jesus said to them might have been, “What are you doing here?”

But back to the Gospel of Mark. Jesus heals the mother-in-law of her fever and the news of this event travels like wildfire. (vs 32) That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. Try to imagine the excitement this must have created.

Try to imagine the excitement it would cause today – today when we would do anything for a cure to a virus that has claimed so many lives. Today, as Indian politician Swami Chakrapani has claimed that drinking cow urine and rubbing manure on the body could cure Covid-19. Also, that only Indian cows must be used. Today – when televangelist Kenneth Copeland urged his followers to touch their televisions as a means of vaccination by proxy. Today – when a mass of saltwater sprays and pills and injections and even the poisonous fruit of the Datura plant have been touted as cures. And like today, there were plenty of snake oil salesmen and charlatans in biblical times. So try to imagine to imagine the excitement in those days when a true healer actually came along.

But what did people know of this Jesus of Nazareth? Was he just a healer and a really good guy to have around? (that is unless you don’t care so much for your mother-in-law) No one could say for sure. No one could tell why he was here. But they had a good thing going. People were coming from all around, which explains why the new disciples were in such a panic when Jesus went off by himself to pray and couldn’t be found. “Everyone is looking for you,” they said.

Now, I want to back up a bit to the one piece of this story that is often misunderstood but maybe most important of all. When Jesus healed the mother-in-law of Simon (Oh, how I wish she had a name) Mark tells us, (vs 31) So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. We read this from the NIV translation and our thoughts immediately go to “the fever left her and she began to make sandwiches for them.” Other translations might help here. The ESV and many others read, “and she served them.” In the King James, it is written, “and she ministered to them.” My point is that it doesn’t matter if she got up and made a pot of chili. It doesn’t matter so much that she rose and started tidying up the place. What matters is that when Jesus heals, he heals us to serve – that’s the long and the short of it. Jesus doesn’t heal us just to send us back into the pit; into our old ways and our old habits. When Jesus heals us, it changes things. We become a Kingdom people; we rise up to serve, to minister, and yes, to make a meal now and then.

(vs. 36)  Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” That is why I have come: to serve, to minister, to wait on the multitudes who believe this life in Christ has meaning and purpose and can (dare I say it) change the world for the better. It is my hope that we as church bodies will come out of this time of quarantine soon – to worship, to fellowship, and feel God’s love in person. But when we do come out on the other side, it is my prayer that the world who has been watching might ask, “What are you still doing here?” And to that we might say without hesitation, “We are here to serve, we are here to minister. By the way, do you want a cinnamon roll?”

We are here to spread the love of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have come. That’s why we have come.

Amen & Shalom

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