God’s Word for You
Mark 3:7-10 Christ heals
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, January 22, 2022
Jesus Heals Many
7 Jesus withdrew to the sea with his disciples. A large crowd followed him from Galilee, Judea, 8 Jerusalem, Idumaea, and beyond the Jordan, as well as from around Tyre and Sidon. A large crowd came to him when they heard all that he was doing.
This little scene paints an excellent portrait of what many of Jesus’ days really looked like. Crowds came to him from all over because they kept hearing about “all that he was doing,” by which Mark means his preaching and his teaching. The phrase “when they heard” in Greek can be better understood as “because they kept hearing,” although this would be awkward in English. I know that because I wrote it myself in the second sentence above, and I have a habit of letting awkward sentences hang around in my writing. The news about Jesus was not just a nine-days wonder, but was something people heard about all the time, throughout his ministry and long after.
The regions mentioned are a trip around the compass. Galilee and Judea were the places where he was performing such great things; Jerusalem was the capital, yet he rarely went there. Idumea (Edom) was to the south, “beyond the Jordan” or Perea was to the east, and Tyre and Sidon were “up north,” on the coastline to the northwest. It would be at Tyre that Jesus would make his only recorded trip to the Mediterranean coast. He healed a demon-possessed girl there at the request of her heroic mother who understood that the crumbs from the master’s table are enough (Matthew 15:27; Mark 7:28).
9 He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that the people would not crush him. 10 Since he had healed many people, all those who had illnesses were pressing forward to touch him.
These two verses show that sometimes the crowds were overwhelming. Jesus took the precaution of asking for a boat, which his fishermen disciples easily made ready. We’re not told told here whether he used it for a pulpit, but he did on other occasions (Luke 5:3). The issue with the people was that the crowds kept pressing forward, just to touch Jesus. They wanted to be healed, and Mark tells us that there were a great many people who were sick with very painful things. The translation “illnesses” is correct, but the Greek word is mastigas (μάστιγας ), which means “scourges” or even “plagues.” These were people who were hurting, in agony, and Jesus offered relief. They found through his preaching that they were hurting, in agony, over their sins, too. And Jesus offered relief, the only relief for mankind’s sins.
Peter talked about this time later on, saying that Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38). Because of this, Luther would say that “generally speaking… all dangerous diseases are blows [punches] of the devil” (LW 54:53). When God heals people miraculously, it is an unusual occurrence, something that happened through Jesus or his apostles (Acts 5:15, 16:18, 19:12) and only very rarely today as an answer to the prayers of Christians. We should not expect that God will always heal us through miracles, since he gives us ample other means for healing today. For the most part, God preserves us through natural means: sleep, food, drink, and so forth. And just as a pastor is a healer of souls, so also a physician is a healer of the body, and the Scriptures often refer to doctors, nurses, and medicines (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:26,31, 10:34; Colossians 4:14; Isaiah 1:6; Ezekiel 34:4,16; James 5:14-15). “Healing comes from the application of nature (medicine) to the creature.” Luther struggled more than once with people like his former colleague Andrew Karlstadt who quickly withdrew from Lutheran doctrine to the Schwoermer, the sort of Christians who look for the Holy Spirit outside the Scriptures (the word “schwoermer” is related to our word “swarm,” since they were trying to listen for the Spirit “buzzing” in their ears). Such people felt, among other things, that medicine was to be avoided. When Karlstadt actually began to preach that it’s not permissible to make any use of medicine, Luther asked, “Do you eat when you’re hungry?” To suffer, or to let a child suffer, because one refuses to use medicine, is surely putting the Lord to the test, since it bullies God, demanding that he must heal apart from the natural means he has already provided for us. This is the same as demanding that God fill our stomachs without us eating any food, or quench our thirst apart from us drinking any water. “Do you eat when you’re hungry?” Christ healed people when they were sick to give glory to the Father and to attest to the truth of his preaching. If you already believe in him, he doesn’t need to perform a miracle for you. Use the natural means he gives and thank him for it. Don’t think that avoiding medicine is a test or testimony of your faith; it’s more a testimony of heretical beliefs.
When we are hurting, in agony, Jesus offers relief through natural means in the world that he himself had provided. Use a bandage, an aspirin, even an injection or surgery, to receive healing. And when we are hurting, in agony, over our sins, Jesus offers relief through his Holy Word, the ordinary preaching of the gospel in church week after week, together with the sacrament. He forgives our many sins, and “he will bind up our wounds” (Hosea 6:1).
Pastor Timothy Smith