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The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – 4 February 2018

A Sermon on Mark 1:29-39 by Samuel Zumwalt

Mark 1:29-39 English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]

29 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. 35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.


In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Please turn to the inside cover of the bulletin and read aloud with me the box labeled “Our Mission.” Ready?

“As a Lutheran community of faith, we continue our history of proclaiming Christ crucified through Word and Sacrament in joyful service to God and our neighbor.”

             So what keeps you from joyously serving God and your neighbor? Now I’m not speaking to you as someone who is trying to be CEO of a faith-based organization that has a new mission statement. I’m speaking as both your brother and as your father in Christ in this Lutheran community of faith (1 Corinthians 4:15). I’m speaking to you about who you were created to be and about Whose you are when you are baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection.

To serve God and neighbor joyfully is not optional for God’s baptized children. To serve God and neighbor joyfully is not a matter for argument in this Lutheran community of faith. To serve God and neighbor joyfully is simply to be the person the Lord God created you to be when He made you in your mother’s womb and gave you the nascent gifts and talents hard-wired into your DNA. St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (2:10).

You were created for joyful service to God and your neighbor. In the washing of Holy Baptism, you were recreated for joyful service to God and your neighbor. So what is keeping you from joyously serving God and your neighbor? Not grudgingly serving! Not murmuring all day!

Fever in the House and Many Demons Calling

When the Lord Jesus left the Capernaum synagogue with Simon and Andrew, James and John, they went to Simon and Andrew’s house. Doubtless they were hungry. Even though our Lord Jesus is both God and man, His body needed food and drink as much as any of us. But when they got to Simon and Andrew’s house, Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a fever. So what was keeping Simon’s mother-in-law from joyously serving Jesus and His disciples? She was sick. She had taken to her bed. She couldn’t be the person she was created to be, because she was in Greek “pyressousa” (literally “on fire with fever”). We would say she was burning up!

If you notice, there is no crowd on hand in Simon and Andrew’s house. Very privately and without any show, the Lord Jesus, in Greek “eigeiren auten,” raised her up. The fever left her, and she began to serve them. You can bet she did so joyously. She was no longer held back by the fever from being the person God created her to be and the one Jesus was calling her to be.

Those of you who have recovered from recent illness or are yet in recovery know how joyful it is to once again be able to get back to being the person God created you to be – a joyful servant!

That evening the crowds start to show up at the door. They bring the sick. They bring those oppressed by demons. You will remember how last week the first thing Jesus did after preaching in the Capernaum synagogue was to cast out a demon from a man in the synagogue. We were reminded that God’s Son Jesus has come to repossess everyone who is in bondage to sin, death, and the old evil one. As Psalm 24:1 says: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof;” the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it! God wants back what is His. God wants back every square inch of this earth, of this universe, and of every heart, mind, body, soul, and relationship. That means everyone who is unbaptized He wants to repossess. That means everyone who is in anyway still in bondage to sin, death, and the old evil one cannot be the persons God has created them to be. God wants back every bit of everyone without exception!

So, then, what is keeping you from joyfully serving God and your neighbor? Are you burning up with a literal fever like Simon’s mother-in-law? Are you sick in some other way? Or are you bound by one or more demons…even if you don’t think of them as demons?

Do you think a lot about drinking or getting high when you aren’t drinking or getting high? Do you look often at pornography or fantasize in your mind about someone who is not your wife or husband? And that applies to the unmarried and single again, too. Do you spend hours each day or evening being angry about the world around you after watching the news? Do you spend hours and hours on social media or gaming? Do you while away the days doing no good for nobody because you are too busy pampering yourself, complaining, or obsessing over mindless entertainment? Are you so concerned about how your body looks that your body never gets around to being and doing what you were created to be and to do – the joyful servant life?

My dear children in Christ, even older children in Christ, these things are your demons. The Lord Jesus is not interested in keeping you guilty or ashamed. He wants to get you out of hell and to get the hell out of you…so that you may be His own and follow Him in joyful service!

If Jesus Needs To Pray…What About You?

            We preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified, because that is the Good News for you, me, and the whole world! When the Lord Jesus came out to preach, He announced that God’s Kingdom had come. The King, God incarnate, God in human flesh, has come. He loves everything He has made. He wants none to be lost. He wants to repossess what He made and what He owns. Each healing and each exorcism (casting out demons) is an illustration of Jesus’ authority as God’s King in human flesh. He lived the life of perfect obedience to His Father that you and I cannot live. He died the perfectly innocent, obedient death you and I cannot die. There on the cross God in human flesh took your sin and death and my sin and death upon Himself. God gave us what we don’t deserve. That’s grace! God didn’t give us what we do deserve. That’s mercy! And the only way He can save us is by joining us to His saving death in Baptism!

If you haven’t been baptized into the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection, or your child or grandchild hasn’t been baptized, God wants what is His. He made us. Stop saying No…especially if you are so confused about Baptism that you still think it’s your choice! We are all born dead in our trespasses. The dead cannot do or choose anything. The dead have to be raised. That’s what happens in Holy Baptism. There we are crucified with Christ and are raised with Him, too! There is one Baptism (Ephesians 4:5), not two! We die daily with Jesus as we return to our Baptism.

Now please notice that God in human flesh, the Lord Jesus, went away by Himself to be alone in prayer with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We see this repeatedly throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry. He has time alone for prayer. So are you getting away daily to pray with Jesus? Lent is coming soon. Ash Wednesday is February 14. We will make a fearless confession of our sins, of our demons, and of all that ails us. We will go out in the wilderness with Jesus for forty days. If you haven’t been to our Lenten prayer retreat, sign up this year. It’s Saturday the 24th.

Dear children in Christ, yes, even you older children in Christ, you were created to serve God and your neighbor joyfully. Baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, you have been given the divine life of the Triune God. Today at this altar, the Lord Jesus will inhabit all the baptized as you take into your hands and into your mouth His true Body and His most precious Blood. The Lord Jesus will enter into every cell in your body and into every synapse of your mind. He wants to go with you wherever you go this week and to heal your sickness and to cast out your demons so that you can joyfully serve His Father and your neighbor with Him!

Don’t wait for Ash Wednesday. Don’t wait for Lent. As you leave worship today and as you get further and further into this week, pay attention to those things that are getting in the way of joyfully serving God and your neighbor. Turn off the TV, the radio, the computer, the cell phone, the tablet, or other electronic devices. There are used LBWs at the far end of the narthex. If you don’t already have one at home, take one and place it with a Bible in the place you are most tempted to ignore who and Whose you are. If you don’t have a cross, preferably a crucifix, opposite where you lay your head at night, get one and put it there where you can’t ignore Him.

Get away from all those distractions to pray with Jesus each day this week. He is already praying for you. The Holy Spirit is praying with you with sighs, with groans, too deep for words (Romans 8:26). Do you want to be who and Whose you were created to be, a joyful servant? Stop making excuses; and, for God’s sake, your neighbor’s sake, and yours, ask for Jesus’ help!

In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

©Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS

St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

Wilmington, North Carolina

Bulletin insert

The Word Incarnate: Praying with Him!


“Lord God, we ask you to keep your Church and household continually in your true religion, that those who lean only on the hope of your heavenly grace may evermore be defended by your mighty power; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 611).


Mark 1:30 “Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever…”

St. Jerome [late 4th – early 5th century Translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible]: “Can you imagine Jesus standing before your bed and you continue sleeping? It is absurd that you would remain in bed in his presence. Where is Jesus? He is already here offering himself to us. ..Faith beholds Jesus among us. If we are unable to seize his hand, let us prostrate ourselves at his feet. If we are unable to reach his head, let us wash his feet with our tears. Our repentance is the perfume of the Savior. See how costly is the compassion of the Savior. Our sins give off a terrible odor; they are rottenness. Nevertheless, if we repent of our sins, they will be transformed into perfume by the Lord. Therefore, let us ask the Lord to grasp our hand…Immediately as her hand is grasped, the fever flees” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Mark, 24-25).

Mark 1:35   “…he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Origen [3rd century Bible scholar and theologian in Alexandria, Egypt]: “Jesus prayed and did not pray in vain, since he received what he asked for in prayer when he might have done so without prayer. If so, who among us would neglect to pray? Mark says that ‘in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.’…All this shows that the one who prays always is always heard” (25).



  1. Do I set aside time each day to be alone in prayer with Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit?


  1. What kinds of distractions keep me from setting aside quiet time for prayer?


  1. Have I acquired one of the used green books in the narthex to take home for devotional use? Have I placed it next to my Bible in a prominent place as a reminder to pray?


  1. Have I discovered the daily prayers and readings on the church’s website?


The Lord’s Prayer

As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.

The Conclusion

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.* Amen.

What does this mean?

This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us. Amen, amen, means, “yes, yes, it shall be so” (Luther’s Small Catechism).

*The traditional doxology was typical of 1st century Jewish prayers and not original to the text.



  1. Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.


  1. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.


  1. Before receiving the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, spend some quiet time examining how you have failed to be who and Whose you are in Holy Baptism. Ask for help to amend your life.


  1. Memorize the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer and Martin Luther’s explanation of it. Pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly each day, meditating as Luther does on the meaning of each petition.


  1. Pray daily using Scripture and the devotions. Use the daily worship resources on our website at . Use daily prayers, daily psalms, and daily lessons.


  1. If you have made a resolution to be a more faithful disciple in 2018, join a Sunday school class this Sunday at 9:45am and/or attend Crossways on Wednesday at 6pm or Thursday at 10am.

For Husbands and Wives

Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”