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5th Sunday after Epiphany (Septuagesima)
Mark 1:29-39

Our Gospel reading today concerns miracles. Specifically, miracles of healing and restoration. What are we, as modern, rational individuals, to make of such miracles and how are we to respond to them?

Firstly, if we accept that Mark's account is accurate, there is overwhelming evidence that these miracles of Jesus actually took place. Starting at verse 33 "And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases". We have eye witnesses, a town full of eye witnesses, who saw the restorative healing that Jesus brought to the sick.

The New Testament is filled with Jesus' very public ministry of miraculous healings and restorations. Remember Peter addressed the crowds after the Ascension that Jesus was "a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know". People, crowds, eye-witnesses saw these events. Miracles do happen.

Now, there are some in modern society that are not satisfied with just the biblical account of crowds witnessing Jesus' miracles. Well, the Jewish Talmud, a collection of early rabbinic teachings which are hostile to the emerging Christian movement, admits the fact that Jesus did many amazing things.

And Josephus, an individual writing a Jewish history for the occupying Romans in the 1st century, describes Jesus as "a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure". Hearsay evidence, perhaps, but an indication that the people of that time believed that Jesus did do many signs and wonders.

Signs and wonders…but signs of what? What did these miracles of Jesus signify? Well, remember how the Gospel of Mark begins: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand".

Jesus' miracles and his proclaiming the Kingdom of God are inexorably linked.

In the 35th chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet proclaims that the coming Kingdom of God is associated with healing miracles: "then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy." Isaiah is very clear; in this new kingdom, humankind will experience abundant life with God.

You see, things are not right in our current world. Due to our own disobedience, this world, this life, is not what God intended it to be. In this life we have suffering, hopelessness, illness, pain and death. None of this is God's intention. Our Creator wants us to live wholesome, complete, satisfying lives everlasting in perfect communion with Him.

Jesus' healing of the people gives us a foretaste of the cosmic restoration God has planned for all his people. He is the long awaited Christ who will usher in the Kingdom of God. Through Him, on the cross, God's children are completely restored to a loving relationship with their Creator.

It is there, on the cross, that Jesus performs the ultimate healing miracle for you and for me.

And if we accept that extraordinary restorative gift of God's grace, we begin…begin…to experience the fullness of God's Kingdom. Broken relationships begin to heal. The acidic worry in our lives begins to moderate. Hatred cools. Love begins to stir our hearts.

So, what should be our response as God begins to transform our broken selves into complete, whole human beings?

Consider the response of Peter's mother-in-law when Jesus made her whole. Her response was simple and straight forward. She began to serve them. She did the most immediate thing…she did what was necessary.

Our response to God's powerful entry into our life? Simple. Honest. Remember, it is the Almighty who is doing the heavy lifting.

A simple, honest response…

Do what is necessary at the moment to serve God: a kind word, a whispered prayer, doing the dishes (you know you can serve God in doing the dishes…it just depends on your motivation).

Invite someone to church. Listen to someone else's suffering and share with them what God has done for you.

A simple, honest, joyous response to Him who has healed you.

What Jesus did at Peter's house that day was just a foretaste of God healing your life, a foretaste of the indwelling of God's Kingdom through the sacrifice of His Son. As the prophet Isaiah foretold about the Christ, "by His stripes, by His wounds, we are healed".

Lord God, Heavenly Father, help me find a way to serve you simply and honestly in response. Amen.
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