157. Sermon on Mark 1:29-34. “Taking Advantage Of The Opportunities For Receiving God’s Blessing and Healing.”

Isn’t it sad to think that something was available for you and you missed out on receiving it? It can happen in every area of life. Sometimes we fail to act on the opportunities that are open before us.

It can happen in relationships

I heard two older folk who had known each other for decades sharing together. One was a man whom many women adored but had never married. The other was a gracious and beautiful woman who had become a widow early in life. She had remained single for many years but remarried much later in life. Her second husband had now become virtually a “vegetable” (but still a very much loved person) in a care facility. The woman said to the man in my presence, “Did you know when we were much younger I was hoping you might marry me one day?”

The man was taken aback. He was silent for what seemed like an eternity. Then he spoke with some obvious feeling of regret, “Why didn’t you ever tell me that you might be interested in me? I would have done something about it.” There was silence for some time following. One wonders how their lives might have been different if they had known how they felt about each other and expressed it much, much sooner.

It can happen in the spiritual areas of life

James wrote, “You have not because you ask not.” He states a general principle that God wants us to ask Him for what we need. He respects our free-will and will not force on us what we are not ready to receive.

The writer of the hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” saw it in terms of missing out on peace by not bringing all our concerns to God in prayer. In the hymn there are these words, “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” We need to act on the opportunities we have to receive the grace of God.

In this passage in Mark there are 2 accounts of opportunities being taken to receive healing from Jesus.

1).        Healing for a woman with a fever. (Peter’s Mother in law)

Jesus had returned from the synagogue in Capernaum to Peter’s house where they found Peter’s mother in law ill with a fever.  She may have been delirious and not have been in a fit condition to reach out to Jesus for healing.  However whether she asked for healing or whether Peter and the others brought her need to Jesus, Jesus was invited to heal her. We read how Jesus took her by the hand and restored her to greater health so that she was able to get up immediately, and make them a nice hot cuppa.

Tonight in this service you have an opportunity to reach out to Jesus for healing or blessing and to be confident He is present to heal and to bless. We love to pray for God’s blessings on those with needs. Or it may be that you’re here to receive prayer for someone who is unable to be present because of distance, or because they are too ill to come to the service. It’s our privilege to join our faith with yours and to pray with you for God’s blessing on that other person. We hear almost every week of wonderful answers to prayer as we together pray for those “out there.” Like the people in Peter’s home, we simply join together to tell Jesus about the one who is sick, and leave it to Him to reach out to them in His love, and in His way and in His time.

Did you notice the immediacy of the healing? Very often those ill with a fever take ages to get up and get going. Peter’s mother in law was up and serving them all in no time at all. It doesn’t always happen as quickly as that, but it can. You and I have to be willing to receive God’s healing whether it comes in one week, one month or in one minute.

2).        The Sick Of Capernaum

Good news can sometimes travel as fast as gossip. Within hours of the man being delivered, and of Peter’s mother in law being healed, people came to the home where Jesus was, bringing all their sick and those with evil spirits. In fact the whole town was outside to see what was going to happen.  They witnessed many being healed and delivered of evil spirits.

We’re not told whether it was the people who brought the sick, who had faith, or whether it was the faith of the sick folk themselves. It would appear that those who were sick and were able to make it on their own got there, whilst those who weren’t well enough to make it, were brought by others.  What is true is that all the people who came took advantage of the opportunity that was provided to be healed, and wonderful healing took place.

Canon Henry Twells was right to describe this incident in the words of a hymn, “At even when the sun was set , the sick O Lord around Thee lay, O in divers pains they met, O with what joy they went away.”

(Many of us who have been involved in the Healing Ministry have seen both of these things happen. A sick person manages to come for prayer, and prayer and the laying on of hands is ministered, and the person receives a healing from God. Or it may be that someone has come and asked for prayer for another person who was too ill to be present.  Hands were laid on the person who brought the request, and prayer offered for the other person. Later the first person came back to thank God for the healing that flowed in the life of that other person at the time of the prayer or sometime later.

I will never forget one woman who came forward for prayer at a healing service. When I asked her what she would like the Lord to do for her, she replied, “Would you please lay hands on me for Elizabeth.” I knew Elizabeth was at home with terminal cancer, and too ill to come to a service. We prayed with the laying on of hands on Elizabeth’s friend. We discovered later that at exactly that time Elizabeth was instantly healed as she lay in her bed at home.  We can only imagine her husband’s surprise when he woke in the morning to find his wife not in bed beside him. And then an even greater surprise and utter delight to find her well and cooking his breakfast in the kitchen, something she had not been able to do for months. Like Peter’s mother in law she was healed and able to function immediately. She remained healed.

Whichever way healing takes place, it is still the same God who brings the healing. The risen Christ is the Healer, and He can heal the person who is present, or the person who is geographically distant.  The reason is, that though you and I can only ever be in one place at one time, Christ isn’t limited like we are. He can be there for them in their need. In love and in Kingdom power.

  1. The Secret Of Jesus’ Ministry

Let’s notice what happened just a few hours after Jesus ministered in Capernaum. Mark says that He went out in the early hours of the morning to a deserted place to pray. Here was the secret of His ministry on earth, the time He spent in prayer with His Heavenly Father.

You see it here and at other significant times in His ministry.

  • After the feeding of the 5,000. (Mat 14:23) After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
  • After He had healed a leper. (Luke 5:16) But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
  • Before he chose the 12 apostles. (Luke 6:12) One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
  • His prayer life touched His disciples who wanted to be able to pray like He did. Luke 11:1, He was praying in a certain place and after he had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord teach us to pray as John taught His disciples”.
  • On the road to Caesarea Philippi as Jesus prayed on the Mount of transfiguration, waiting for God to reveal to the disciples who He really was as the Son of God, and the Messiah. (Luke 9:18) Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” Only then did Peter come out with the revelation of God, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
  • On the Mount of transfiguration, they saw Who He was for those moments as the veil was lifted and they saw His pre-existent glory. (Luke 9:28)  About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.  29)  As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
  • At Gethsemane as He faced the choice of going on to suffer on the cross for our sins, or whether to turn from the cross. (Luke 22:41) He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not my will but yours be done.”

At all the significant moments of His life, Jesus prayed.

  1. Jesus was focussed on the will of God not just on prayer

He was praying to His Father when suddenly He was interrupted. His disciples who followed Him told Him that everyone was looking for Him. His response may seem surprising. Instead of returning to Capernaum and continuing His teaching and healing ministry there, He told His disciples that it was now time for Him to leave to go to minister in other towns.

Jesus wasn’t wrapped up in Himself and in His own spiritual growth. He wasn’t resentful that the time of prayer had been ended abruptly. For Jesus, prayer wasn’t just an end in itself. His prayer was His way of keeping in the centre of the will of God for Him that he might know the Father’s will for Him and receive power to do it.

He recognised that it was now to move on, not to bask in the adulation of people He had helped. Nor was it to stick to a good thing that was happening in that place. (Mark 1:38)  Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”(Mark 1:39)  So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. His prayer had opened the will of God to Him. He realised that it was now time to move on to minister elsewhere.

A Reflection on the reading

The opportunity to receive the Lord’s healing had only been offered for a short time in Capernaum on that occasion. Then the opportunity was gone. But praise God, many took advantage of it and knew the Lord’s touch on their lives.

   What if, what if there had been some in Capernaum who heard that Jesus had the power to heal but didn’t act upon it? Some could have said the same sort of things that people say today and fail to come to Him for healing.

  • Some could have said, “I’m always suspicious about healing ministries. There are some funny people involved in healing ministries so I’ve heard. I don’t want to get involved with some weirdos. I’ll just hang back a bit and wait to see if the people who receive prayer actually live through it.”
  • Or others could have said, “I’m still working out my theology of healing, to see whether the Scriptures actually indicate that healing might be a possibility in today’s world.”

That’s not a bad attitude in some ways, for we need to search the Scriptures to see whether these things are so. But when are we going to be convinced?  The religious leaders and scholars of Jesus’ day saw first hand His healings. They were confronted with Lazarus, a man whom Jesus had raised from the dead, yet they still wouldn’t believe. In fact their unwillingness to believe in Jesus’ healing power made them look away from the proof before their eyes, and made them try to wipe out both Jesus and Lazarus.  Such is the strength of religious prejudice.  It refuses to be convinced and tries to destroy the evidence. It often tries to do so through character assassination.

What are the factors that would inhibit anyone from receiving prayer for healing?

Hopefully, not unbelief or religious prejudice. They are major blockages to receiving the grace of God. But there could be other factors.

  • Fear of what people might think is one factor. “What would my friends in my church say if I was prayed for and got healed? They mightn’t like it!”
  • Or pride. “I don’t need other people to pray for me. I’m a mature Christian!” You may also need to be a humble one, letting God minister through other people to you.
  • Or it could be that you would feel a hypocrite for asking for help from God, when you’ve not really had much time for Him up to the present. It’s true that God wants to be the Lord of your life, but it’s possible to give your life to Him and ask for help at the same time.

The opportunity to ask Jesus into your life, to be your Saviour and Lord, or to receive prayer for healing and blessing, is here now. But I don’t know, and you don’t know, how many other opportunities you will have. Certainly in Jesus’ day, there were many who missed out on His blessing. Don’t be among those who had the opportunity but missed out. Be encouraged by this fact, that God loves you and wants to bring you blessing, more than you want to receive it. Take advantage of the opportunity you have now in this service and ask for prayer for God’s blessing and healing.

(From a sermon preached at a Healing Service in Sydney several years ago.)

Posted by Jim Holbeck on Monday 2nd March 2015

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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One Response to 157. Sermon on Mark 1:29-34. “Taking Advantage Of The Opportunities For Receiving God’s Blessing and Healing.”

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