Prepare Our Hearts – August 17

A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.

Monday, August 17, 2020
Mark 1:29-34

And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed 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.

In the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty located in New York Harbor on the Hudson River is a plaque inscribed with a poem entitled “The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. The poem’s most famous line, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore” served as a fitting welcome to the more than 12 million immigrants who would officially enter the country at Ellis Island in Lady Liberty’s shadow. Due to mounting political instability, economic distress, and religious persecution across Europe, massive hoards of desperate families crossed the Atlantic searching not so much for prosperity as much as survival. Beset by calamity on every side, with nowhere else to turn, the weary and beleaguered outcasts left behind all that they knew, often bringing little more than the clothes on their backs across the ocean to a strange new world in the hopes of finding something better: freedom.

Following an exciting morning at the synagogue of teaching and casting out a demon, Mark tells us that Jesus and the disciples went back to Simon and Andrew’s house to share the sabbath meal together. Instead of finding a feast on the table, they found Simon’s mother-in-law fallen ill with a high fever (the greek word for fever literally reads “burning with fire”). Although they were yet novices, the fledgling disciples began to demonstrate their faith in Jesus. They didn’t understand perfectly, but they knew enough to know that Jesus could help her. At their request He went to the woman, took her by the hand, rebuked the fever, and immediately it left her. Feeling better than ever, and in gratitude for the precious gift of healing, she immediately began to serve them the meal she had already begun to prepare.

While we might be tempted to call this a minor miracle, it was intensely personal to Simon’s mother-in-law. Additionally, it was no small thing that Jesus knowingly went against the customs and traditions barring a Jewish man from touching a woman who was not in his family. Through this relatively simple (for Him) and private act, Jesus was continuing to demonstrate His otherworldly authority, now even beginning to chisel away at the man-made barriers used to keep women in their place as second-class citizens.

After lunch they enjoyed the afternoon together in the house, surely marveling and praising God for everything they had witnessed in the last few hours. Then, at the appearance of the first three stars in the night sky above Capernaum the Sabbath was officially over, and Simon and Andrew’s front yard instantly transformed into a first century Ellis Island. Even on the Sabbath, word of the teaching and healing of Jesus had spread quickly, the entire city emerged to behold what Jesus might do for the huddled masses gathered at the door of the house. Just as before, Jesus began to heal and cast out demons, creating such a chaotic scene that Mark can only say that “many” were made well and that the demons were not allowed to reveal the true identity of Jesus.

For the people of Capernaum, without modern medicine or mental health professionals, sickness and disease and demonic possession were miseries to be managed and not problems to be solved. Many of the people that night out under the stars had learned long ago to accept their lot in life, they never even dared to dream that they could be made whole again. But then, just like for the unsuspecting fishers of men, Jesus showed up and changed everything.

Where do we go in times of trouble? Who do we call when we have a need? While the Lord graciously provides for so many of our physical and material needs in ways that we have come to take for granted, we all face difficulty in life. We all know trouble. Jesus never promised that He would heal every sickness or erase all our problems, but He did promise that He would be with us always. The book of Psalms was given as sort of a prayer guide for God’s people, with songs for every occasion in the life of a believer. There are songs of thanksgiving and songs of worship, but there are more songs of lament than any other genre of psalms. God knows no matter how much we think otherwise, we can not do life on our own. There are seasons of life where we can do little more but fall on our knees and cry out in anguish.

But the good news is that God is present and He is faithful. When we bring ourselves to Jesus, He doesn’t offer to placate our pain or offer empty platitudes, He brings a true healing that we would never dare to ask for. He takes our burdens upon Himself and welcomes us in to a true life of freedom.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are the Great Physician and we are nothing but the wretched refuse of the earth. You see us in our afflictions and bring a healing that can set us more free than we can ever understand. We know that we are not worthy of Your grace and mercy, and we know that You are worthy of all praise and honor and glory forever. In our weakness make us strong, in our brokenness make us whole. We pray that You would use even the likes of us to bring comfort to the masses, that they might find life in Your name. Amen.