"Who is This?" **a sermon for 5 Epiphany**

We are almost at the end of the short season of Epiphany.  Epiphany, you may recall, is about seeing the signs.  Seeing the signs pointing to Jesus’ identity.  Mark’s Gospel, especially, does not want you and me to miss the clues pointing directly to who Jesus is-- the Son of God, the Anointed One.

Last week we saw Jesus teaching with power and authority.  Those who heard Jesus were amazed.  Here is, by ancient near East standards, a young man daring to teach.  Neither does Jesus have the benefit of formal training like the Rabbis or other religious leaders.  Yet, Jesus’ words draw the people.

Jesus’ power and authority are on full display again this morning.  Jesus’ teaching stuns the synagogue in Capernaum.  Jesus’ authority is not limited to words, however.  He also has the power to send evil spirits running.  Needless to say, this attracts attention!  A lot of attention!

Following Sabbath service in the synagogue, Jesus goes with Simon Peter to the disciple’s home.  A distressing sight greets the company.  Simon’s mother-in-law is sick.  She is in bed with a fever.  They were, no doubt, expecting a meal ready and waiting.  Dinner will now have to wait.

Jesus immediately heals Simon’s mother-in-law.  Just a gentle touch is all it takes.  The fever leaves her on the spot.  She is restored to health and wholeness.  So complete is her healing, that she gets up and offers the traditional hospitality.  Dinner is soon served and on the table.

Word travels fast in small towns.  Capernaum is no different.  Before dinner is done, there is a crowd gathered outside Simon’s house.  People have brought their sick to be healed.  Those possessed by unclean spirits come to be cleansed.  Jesus is pressed upon on every side by those wanting healing.

So great are the demands made upon Jesus, that Jesus retreats.  He finds a quiet place.  There Jesus prays and meditates.  Jesus communes with God and draws strength from that connection.  There Jesus is able to refocus and recenter upon God’s mission and God’s call for Him.

Notice Jesus’ reaction to the disciples.  “Teacher,” they say, “we’ve been looking for you!  The people are asking for you.”  The people are looking to make Jesus into some kind of healing machine.  But not just any kind of healing machine—THEIR healing machine.  They want Jesus to stay with them and be their own personal healer.

Jesus responds by leaving.  He actually picks up and leaves Capernaum!  Jesus is clear about His mission and He is not merely a healing machine.  Jesus has come to do a lot more than that.  Jesus has come to call people back to God and to set them free from what keeps us separated from God’s love.

And the message is not just for the people of Capernaum.  God’s abundant, wondrous love is for all people—Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female, rich, poor, Republican, Democrat . . . you get the picture.  God does not want anyone to miss out on relationship with our Loving Creator.

So, Jesus must travel to share that Good News.  Although, He will return periodically to Capernaum.  Capernaum kinda becomes home base for Jesus’ ministry.  One can still go to Capernaum today and see the octagon shaped building believed to be Simon-Peter’s home.

A common theme in the Gospels is the surprise of who knows Jesus’ identity.  Time and time again, it is not the religious leaders or those in power who see who Jesus is.  Those on the margins are the ones who see clearly Jesus as the Son of God: those with unclean spirits, an outcast Samaritan woman.

Jesus’ experience in Capernaum has me wondering.  How have I tried to limit Jesus or put Jesus in a box?  When have I failed to see Jesus for who He is?  Maybe the stress and cares of life distract me.  Perhaps I am too focused on myself and what I want to see.

The season of Lent is ten days away.  Lent is a season set apart.  A season for looking inward and self-examination.  I encourage you to join me in using the Lenten journey to slow down.  To take the time to truly journey with Jesus and to learn more about Him, our selves, and our neighbors, along the way.


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