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The book of Job shares the story of someone who reached a point in his life where he believed he simply was unable to handle all that was placed before him. We have all heard the expression that “God does not place upon our plates too much for us to handle.” Yet sometimes we feel like saying, “God we have plenty on our plates already!” Like Job we may from time to time express ourselves as people without hope. Like Job, we at times feel we are undeserving victims of suffering. Like Job, we are guilty of questioning God’s actions or motives. Like Job, we at times ask the question, “God, why is our life so unfair?”
Over time, Job learned to trust in God’s promise that there was meaning in his suffering. Job eventually learned that whatever happened in his life was not in vain. Job found a new lease upon life, not because he liked or even understood God’s purpose for his life, rather he accepted God’s purpose because he was a person of faith. However, before Job reached this point in his life Job complained often and loudly. He feared his eyes would never again see anything good. Job kept on complaining, and challenged God, instead of listening to God. Job’s issue with God was finally resolved through many life experiences that are outlined throughout the book of Job in the Old Testament. In our 42nd (42:2-3) chapter from our Old Testament lesson Job seemed to have come to the following conclusion about God when the following was shared from our passage this morning.
It was written:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Whether our lives reflect the attitude of Job will depend upon a few things. The first thing it will depend upon is whether or not we have acknowledged that we have been trying to play God in our lives. The late Oliver Wendell Holmes, a former Supreme Court Justice once said it is very lonely trying to play God and there is certainly truth to that statement. We should not try to play God for there is far more that we can learn as humans than to attempt to try and dictate things that are beyond our control. Secondly, we must acknowledge that God’s marvelous and mysterious ways are often beyond our ability to comprehend. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there suffering around the world? Why is there so much evil in the world among us? These are questions that perhaps we will never find satisfactory answers for in our lifetime. Yet we must trust in God’s plan in our lives and the lives of others as difficult as this may be to do at times.
Finally we can learn if we have placed our faith and trust into our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that can make all the difference in the world. As we speak of trusting in Jesus, our gospel lesson this morning from Mark records the early part of Jesus’ ministry. We learn Jesus visited the house of Simon and Andrew, and is told that Simon’s mother in law is ill with fever, and Jesus healed her. That evening after sunset, Mark tells us that they brought to Jesus all who were sick and those possessed by demons. The whole town came crowding around the door, and Jesus cured many suffering from disease of one kind or another. Then, after Jesus had gone off to a solitary place and prayed, he said to his disciples that they needed to go somewhere else to the neighboring towns, so that he could preach, teach and heal others. So they traveled through all of Galilee preaching in synagogues and casting out demons.
Mark seeks in this first chapter to emphasize the nature of Jesus’ identity and what he came to accomplish. The healing of Simon’s mother in law, the casting out of demons, his teaching and his statement about his preaching ministry all highlight activities that will become the signposts of his ministry. Mark seeks to define the many ways in which Jesus will proclaim and witness in the kingdom of God. While this passage from Mark does not carry the drama of Jesus feeding 5,000 people or walking on water, they serve an important purpose nevertheless. Mark wants us to realize that the kingdom that Jesus was sent to express is God’s revelation to us. God reveals to us in the lives of those that Jesus ministered to a painful truth. This painful truth is that we do live in a sinful and hurting world. Through these verses we gain insight into some different perspectives of God’s Kingdom and Jesus’ power. We see that Jesus had power over nature. As Jesus healed Simon’s mother in law, then others who were ill, we are witness to the power of God’s kingdom as reflected in everyday life through Jesus. God’s kingdom on earth is manifested, that is revealed, in the routine and ordinary lives of people. These healings that Jesus performed are important because they symbolize the presence and power of God’s kingdom within humanity.
As Jesus moved into the lives of humanity so did the Kingdom of God. Another insight is revealed in Jesus’ power over the supernatural. Jesus demonstrated power not just over nature and natural phenomena but also the supernatural that was represented by the demons that possessed people. Jesus held authority over them to the point of forbidding them to even speak. When Jesus spoke he did so with the full authority and power of God’s kingdom.
A final insight revealed is Jesus’ presence in our individual lives. I find it interesting to note the response of the people who experienced Jesus’ presence in our passage from Mark. A woman arises from her illness to serve in a common way. Demons recognized Jesus when everyone else was confused about his identity. Jesus’ disciples who were closest to Him seem baffled that Jesus would want to be off by himself in prayer.
Jesus stands out in these stories for a reason. These stories reveal Jesus as one who seems sure, trusting and empowered. Through Jesus’ actions we see how God’s kingdom will reveal itself in his future ministry and the mixed response of how people would respond in the future. A question for us to consider today is not only how will we respond to Jesus and how will we will reveal God’s kingdom in our everyday lives to others? Chances are we are not likely to experience a burning bush like Moses followed by the voice of God speaking to us. Chances are we will not be like Paul and be blinded on the road to Damascus and suddenly hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us. It is probably unlikely that like the Samaritan woman we will meet Jesus at the well seeking water.
However like the Samaritan woman and countless others who Jesus encountered in his ministry, we can discover that we too are in need of the living water that only Jesus can provide. Each of us can discover within us the spark of God’s love that is placed in our souls. We can learn to embrace this spark and share with others. As the wonderful hymn Pass It On shares:
It only takes a spark
To get a fire going
And soon all those around
Can warm up in its glowing
That’s how it is with God’s love
Once you’ve experienced it
You spread His love to ev’ryone
You want to pass it on
In passing God’s love around to others, we too can learn to say like Job, “Lord, I know you are all powerful. I know you can perform miracles I will never be able to understand. Lord, I will try to no longer complain. From now on I will do what I can to handle what you present to me in this life.”
Together may we find comfort and assurance this morning knowing that God comes to us in our times of joy! We can also find strength knowing that God comes to us in our times of sorrow and suffering. God comes to us when we are feeling helpless. Someone once said, God never loves us more until we feel unloved. Whether we are among those who are joyful or perhaps feeling unloved this morning be assured of a single thing. God is present with us at all times. God never abandons us. When we are feeling lost and alone, we can experience the love of God. Through our belief and faith in God, whatever the problem or situation, we can handle what comes our way.
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
February 4, 2018