February 28, 2018
A quick confession before we begin. I shamelessly “stole” the title of this message, (and I suppose some of its concepts) from J. R. R Tolkien’s classic series “The Lord of the Rings.” (And not just because I read it so many times!)
It comes from the time in that story where the rather unlikely character named Strider, is about to be unveiled as the true king of the land. (Sorry if I just spoiled the story for you!) When we first met him in the story, he was a rather shabby looking character who wandered the lands. But as the story progresses we learn that he is more than he appears to be. And at one point in the story, it’s noted in the “old legends” that “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.”
Well, that’s what was happening in our story for today. We can know Jesus is who he says he is by what he does. And what he does in our story is perform healing miracles. He is a healer! “And so shall the rightful king be known!”
It started with Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law. That’s the beginning of the story for today. But when it was discovered that he had that power, word got around very quickly. And by the end of this passage they had brought to him a “plethora” of people to be healed. (Oh, if only Jack Baltzer were here! He loved that word!)
Sometimes we read words on a page and we don’t get the full impact of what they’re saying! As you’ve heard me say before, we all get mental images as we read. It’s part of the way our minds work. But sometimes those images don’t show the full picture of what we’re reading. And, as I’ve said before, it’s good to “tweak” our mental images! (Jack loved that word, too!)
First of all, can you picture this happening? Peter’s mother-in-law was very ill, and Jesus came and took her by the hand, and raised her up, and she was healed. Well, the people there were amazed! And they started talking. And by evening, the crowd of the sick and demon possessed had grown. And, as it says, “the whole city was gathered together around the door.” Can you picture that?
Well that was just the start. As the days went by, the crowds got bigger and bigger. And by Mark chapter six, we find Jesus saying to his disciples, “‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure, even to eat.” (Mark 6:31) This image of Jesus and the crowds is what I like to call “Jesus the Rock Star.” Jesus was “mobbed” by the crowds. That’s a great word for it! Remember when the woman, who had the flow of blood for 12 years touched Jesus, hoping to be healed? He turned and said “Who touched me?” And Peter said, “Master, the multitudes surround you and press upon you!” “Everybody touched you!”
Try to imagine this. The crowds around Jesus were growing and growing. We often find him “going apart” by himself. And while that was partly because it is a good thing to “get by ourselves and get with God.” But it was also because he needed a break from the mobs of people. Sometimes he couldn’t! One time he got in a boat and sailed across the lake, and the crowds followed him around the lake and met him on the other side! This is hard to imagine. And it all started with this day of mass healing!
Now, sometimes I wonder if Jesus was received by some of the people only because of this miracle power he had. And are there still people today, for whom that is the draw to Jesus? My experience is that there are some desperate, hurting people who “make the rounds” of all the faith healers, hoping that one might be able to heal them. They might not even believe it possible. They might not even believe in God all that much. But they go because they “might as well try.” Because, “What have they got to lose?”
So, were there people who went to see and hear Jesus in his day, simply because of his healing miracles? As though he was a “curiosity?” I’m sure there were! John, in his Gospel, tells us that many of the people who were there on Palm Sunday were there because they had heard that Jesus had raised a man from the dead! And because of that, the chief priests conspired to put Lazarus to death, too! You can read that in John.
But of course, it was more than that. As I said last week, Mark was writing his Gospel to tell the people that Jesus was and is the Christ, the Messiah. The message of Tolkien does indeed hold true here for Jesus. “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the King! We can know that for sure! He is who he says he is by what he does!
You remember the story of when the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus. They came to ask on behalf of John (who was in prison) whether Jesus is the “one who is to come.” “Or should we look for another?” That’s always been an interesting question to me, since John was the one who named Jesus as the Christ in the first place! But he was now having some doubts. And do you remember Jesus’ answer? Matthew and Luke both give us this, and it’s nearly word for word. “Go and tell John what you hear and see. The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5)
And it was more than that. John knew he was the Messiah because of what he did. “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” And so we know Jesus as our Messiah and King. He isn’t just a curiosity. He isn’t someone we follow just because he’s a “miracle worker.” He isn’t just someone we follow because “What do we have to lose?” It’s a much bigger thing when we follow Jesus because he is our King!
So, know that he is King! Know that he is the Christ – the Messiah! Indeed, “The hands of the Healer are the hands of the King!”
Eternal God, help us to know, beyond any doubt, that Jesus is e Christ, the Messiah, the King. Help us to seek to grow closer to him this coming year, so that we may know the joy of your kingdom. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.