29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Kimberli and Melchor were an average church-going American family with 2 young children, but in 2015, tragedy struck. Melchor was diagnosed with cancer, and began an excruciating journey of chemo treatments, countless doctor visits and hospital stays. Unfortunately, his battle with cancer ended with his death in February of 2017. Kimberli shares her story with the world on her blog as she writes about Melchor’s illness and life now as a widow with 2 children.
In one of her blog posts entitled, “Why the Church Doesn’t Need Any More Coffee Bars,” she talks about how her husband’s illness and eventual death made her view church in a new way.
Through all of Melchor’s treatments and difficult moments, he did not talk about the trendy coffee bar at church, the pastor’s trendy jeans, or the modern lighting in the sanctuary. He talked about Jesus. He talked about the scriptures, the sermons he heard that gave him hope. The healing moments. Through the long nights, he sang hymns. He prayed. He needed Jesus.
Reflecting back, Kimberli said,
“There are people whose marriages are crumbling, people whose finances are deteriorating, people whose children are rebelling and people like me, whose husband has passed away after a brutal fight with cancer. And these people are not impressed with the stage lighting. They could care less about the coffee flavor. They don’t need to be pumped or hyped. They need Jesus.”
As a pastor I go to a lot of meetings and read a lot of books about how to grow the church or what the latest trend or hook is to get people in the door. But all of that means nothing if we do not give them Jesus.
From our text today, it is obvious that a lot of people were in need of Jesus. He had just come from teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum where he healed a man with an unclean spirit. From this moment on, his fame began to spread. Jesus was going “viral”!
After this, he goes to Simon and Andrew’s home, and proceeds to heal Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Demonstrating the effects of the healing power of Jesus, she immediately gets up and resumes her daily household chores and provides hospitality to those in her home.
Word must have spread very quickly, because only a few hours had passed before all of those who were sick gathered at the door, and Jesus healed each and every one. The next morning, Jesus got up, went to a deserted place, and prayed. Let’s not gloss over this. In the midst of the chaos, the noise, the countless people who called for him, the Savior of the World needed a time out to pray. To listen. To sit in the silence.
When was the last time you sat in the silence and prayed? When was the last time you took a time out from all of the chaos and noise of your life to listen for and sit the presence of God? I know I have a hard time with it. Sometimes the only time I really get is in the quiet of my son’s nursery when I’m putting him to bed at night.
I make it a goal to put my phone down, and instead of catching up on social media or my personal vice of shopping, I try to sit in the silence and pray. And I’ve found in these moments the reminder of how much I really do need Jesus. Because the world throws so much at us and tries to hand us things we think we need. But we really do just need to simplify it and re-focus our lives on him.
Jesus himself takes time in the quiet to pray before his next task in his ministry. While he is doing this, our text says that his disciples and others “hunted for him.” Other translations say, they “tracked him down” or “searched for him.” Either way, we get that the guy couldn’t even get a minute to himself before the masses descended. “Everyone is searching for you!” they said. But instead of going back to the same town and the same people, Jesus expresses the need to go to the other towns to share his message and to heal elsewhere, because that is what he came to do.
People needed Jesus- not just in one place, but in all places. It seems that the people of Capernaum wanted to keep Jesus for themselves. But Jesus makes it clear that he did not come for one group or one town or one type of people. He came for all people in all towns and places.
This got me thinking. How often do we keep Jesus to ourselves instead of sharing him with someone else? Or how often do we tend to think of Jesus in our own terms, or put him in a box so that he only serves us and our opinions or agendas?
A well-respected colleague of mine once said that we tend to label Jesus for our own purposes. If we are a Republican, Jesus tends to look Republican. If we are a Democrat, Jesus tends to look like a Democrat. If we are Libertarian, then Jesus tends to look like a Libertarian. If we are on one side of an issue, we believe that Jesus is standing with us. We forget that Jesus is on both sides, healing, preaching, and leading the way of God.
In our world right now that is so divided, so broken, so hurting- we need to give them Jesus. Not the Jesus we tend to put in our own boxes or to keep for ourselves or the one who serves our own agendas- we need to give them the Jesus that came so that all might receive a powerful message of hope and healing. That is, after all, what he came to do.
There was this great cartoon (PIC) making its way around social media at one point where people are drawing their lines around whatever the divisive issue of the day is, and Jesus is coming up behind them erasing each line, as if to remind us that he does not stand on either side of the line, but came for all that we may be one, in spite of our differences and disagreements.
If you have not read your February newscaster yet, I encourage you to do so because I have included a lot of information in there about what the United Methodist denomination is doing around the topic of homosexuality and the church, and there is information about upcoming opportunities for you to learn and be a part of the conversation. As many of you know, our denomination has been divided over this for a very long time, and now we are at a critical point of asking how we as a church will move forward.
The future is unknown, the reality is that we are divided on many levels, but in the midst of this, there are, in fact, holy and loving conversations happening, and we are being encouraged to keep the main thing the main thing- to give people Jesus. Because at the end of the day, we might disagree with someone, but Jesus is standing on both sides, ready to offer grace, healing, and mercy. We are tempted to draw that line around ourselves, but then we turn around and see Jesus erasing it, inviting us to see the bigger picture.
I don’t know about you, but I want to hold on to hope for the church. I want to continue to give people Jesus, and not keep him to myself. It’s so easy to get caught up in catchy ways we can hook people in, and it’s so easy to get distracted by hot button topics, politics, and divisiveness in the church that we forget to in fact, give people Jesus. As Kimberli, in the midst of her grief, reminds us,
“The church does not need any more coffee bars or the latest trends. Instead, tell a person how God has changed your life. Show them the love of God through your actions. Demonstrate how God helped you through the darkest of storms.
And a message to church leaders: Remember that you are not just trying to attract the hip and the cool to your church. You are reaching widows. You are reaching children who don’t have a parent. You are reaching someone battling with a disease. You are reaching a person going through a divorce. You are reaching a businessman who thinks they have all that they need. You are reaching the hurting. And the only thing they need is Jesus.”
A good reminder for us all. A good reminder for myself- that I need Jesus. When I get caught up in the divisiveness of the church right now, I need Jesus. When we have days where we feel we might want to give up on this church thing, we need Jesus. When we are struggling with health issues or we are helping a loved one through a tough time, we need Jesus. When we are grieving, we need Jesus.
We need Jesus. But today’s scripture lesson reminds us that yes, we need Jesus, but others need him, too. We can’t keep him to ourselves. That is not why he came. So, church, let’s give them Jesus- those outside of this place who are hurting, isolated, grieving, lonely, addicted, feeling rejected, hungry, or poor in spirit. For when we set Jesus free, we can only imagine the miracles we might witness right here in our own communities and the healing that will occur.
In what ways do you need Jesus today? In what ways might you be holding him back? How will you give him to someone else?