Mark 9:29-39: How to Understand our Bodies

With His new disciples, beginning their three-year course of instruction, Jesus teaches them, and us, on how to understand our bodies.  Now, this isn’t judging your status by the morning mirror’s reflection.  No, our Lord tutors us to gaze on our physical bodies through faith-filled eyes.  From Him, we learn to judge our well-being and strength by what He grants us to believe.

Here’s what’s going on.  Sick with an unchecked fever, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is dying.  So, their new Teacher comes to her, snatches her by the hand, and lifts her up.  What happens?  The illness leaves, and she begins to attend to their needs, as any proper host would do.  Through this woman, God reveals a vibrant image of what He does and keeps on doing, for you and me.

Beyond viruses and germs, why did a temperature make her sick?  The root of all sickness is our fall into sin, which caused her to burn with infection.  An illness is a marker of our sinfulness as sure as harmful words or hate-filled actions.

From what you say and do, people can realize you are sinful.  With more observant eyes, they can sense something is not right within.  More than what you do or don’t do, you also catch a cold, need glasses, walk with a cane, or become disabled.  Every failing of health—from a minor cough to the malignancy of cancer—declares to all you are a sin-filled creature.  Each affliction is your body creeping ever closer toward death.

Now, the ailing woman in today’s Gospel did not die, but her blight brought her close to the door of death.  A burning illness robbed her of strength.  Let’s suppose she wanted to be a gracious host to her guests.  Either way, her ability to do this vanished with her rising temperature.

So what does the Lord do for her?  The same deed He does for you!  In her plight, He gives her new vibrancy and vigor by which she arises to live her life for God.  Ah, such a beautiful picture of the Christian life.

At once, they told Jesus about her.  So he went to her, took her by the hand, all to raise her up, and the fever left her, and she began serving them.

Take in what your incarnate Lord does and doesn’t do for her.  What you don’t find St. Mark saying is Jesus grabbing her by the hand and healing her.  Now, this is what takes place, but his words don’t tell you this.  No, Jesus grabs her by the hand, lifting her up.  The recovery is the byproduct, the effect of Him pulling her up.

In Scripture, the Greek word, egeiro, translated as “lift,” portrays how people recover from a disease.  Other times, egeiro also refers to the resurrection.  For example, Mark used “lifted” to describe how Jesus brought others back from the grave (Mark 6:14, 14:28, 16:6, 14).  In Chapter 16, he writes about Jesus rising from the tomb.  The grieving women come to His grave on Easter Sunday.  Next, an angel in white tells them, “He is ‘egeiroed’ [lifted up, resurrected], He is not here” (Mark 16:6).

So, Christ came and took her by the hand, raising her up, and her burning affliction disappeared.  Grasp this!  Such “lifting up” is astounding news for you because “lift” also means to rise from death.  This linkage is not coincidental but deliberate, giving us a lens to help us understand our faith, health, and life.

A fever shuts her down—but the cradle of her soaring temperature is her inherited, sinful corruption.  Now, she didn’t become ill because of some wrong she did.  No, this was because she was born as a fallen being in a broken world.  Though a scorching disease is what disables her, sinfulness is the infecting seed, and sin’s contagion is what stopped her.

Perhaps, this season’s flu strain did not strike you with malice.  No matter, for like the mother of Peter’s wife, sin also obstructed you, stripping you of your power.  Like her, the universal rule also held you in bondage.  “For whatever does not proceed from faith is a sin” (Romans 14:23).  Why?   The taint of sin makes everything you do unacceptable to God.  So, unless He lifts you up, you are without hope!

The story of our saving Lord intervening to lift this lady up becomes a painting of your salvation.  For He didn’t only reach out His hand and heal her.  What He did, points forward to our corpses coming alive and rising to everlasting life, which is why Mark uses a word with two meanings—lift and resurrect.

What Jesus did for the woman, so also does He do for you.  What is your Baptism, if not a little resurrection from the dead?  In those Spirit-filled waters, God washed away all your sins (Acts 22:16).  In this washing, He removes, far from you, the reason for your eternal death.  The cleansing water and the Spirit’s working poured down on you, and your sin-fever left you.

Ponder on the content of absolution and the Gospel’s proclamation.  Are they not your Lord’s Words of life and resurrection, in whose presence you now stand?  Yes!  Each time your Redeemer proclaims His forgiveness to you, He once more reaches out, raising you up from the destructive disease and disorder of your fallen nature.

Consider Communion at our Savior’s Table.  Again, is this not Jesus lifting you up like He lifted Simon’s bedridden mother-in-law?  Yes!  At Simon and Andrew’s house, this lifting happened when Christ seized the fevered woman by the hand.  Here, in His Church, your resurrected Lord raises you up by His body and blood as He serves you His sacred meal of immortality and life.

Raised to life again, regard what the well-worn woman can now do.  The sickness went away, and she began to wait on them.  The heaviness of death and sin once subjugated and suppressed her until feeble and powerless.  Now, Jesus takes and raises her up to renewed vigor and abilities.

Don’t miss this, for Mark doesn’t tell us Jesus made her beautiful, robust, or well in every way.  No, He went to her and lifted her up.  The temperature disappeared.  By what He did, Jesus took away what prevented her from serving Him and others but kept everything else the same.  For her sin remained inside her, but now no longer allowed to deter her.

Imagine her pinning her gray hair back into place as she now goes to prepare food and drink.  Knotted hands and, perhaps, a bent back from years of labor shaped her body.  One day, her fallen flesh will be too weak to endure, and she will die.

In the mirror, she peers at someone who isn’t the model of suppleness and youth.  Still, by faith, she realizes she is fit and can serve in God-pleasing ways.  Why?  All because Jesus clutched her and pulled her to her feet, and her sickness withered away.

Behold your skin and flesh in this same way.  Do not gauge yourself based only on what your physical eyes can interpret.  No, recognize your body through faith, as the lifted and raised woman did.  Judge your physicality by how God enables you to live and love others and by what your Savior gives you to believe.

Some of you may suppose yourselves to be resilient and healthy.  Give your weakening body a few years, for the sin-infected flesh can only fail us.  Soon enough, you learn this lesson in a sprained ankle, aching back, and the unrelenting effects of aging.

One of the many dangers of being young and energetic is not to realize, “My days are a breath” (Job 7:7), “like a passing shadow” (Psalm 114:4).  The youthful and robust must act on faith to think they will not remain spry and active forever.  How challenging for the vigorous and mighty to think they can be weak.

On the other side of the calendar, some of you realized, long ago, you are no longer wrinkle-free and radiant.  Gray whiskers fill the sink when you shave.  On your forehead and around your eyes, lines etch deeper and more furrowed by the day.  Some of you suffer from chronic pain, which pins you to a chair for days on end.  Some of you might never recover your strength, regardless of how hard you try.  Some may be anxious and worried about not surviving some illness.

Healthy, full-bodied teenagers are not inclined to believe they are weak.  Those who are aged are reluctant to accept weakness.  Oh, how we try to live and act like we are young.  A frail person must pulse with faith if he is to welcome today’s message to heart.   Here’s why.  For you need to trust what God says, not by how your body is constraining you.

Like Simon’s mother-in-law, your divine Healer also lifted you up, and He continues to do so, including these later years, fitting you for service.  Don’t lose heart in the face of your advancing age or illness.  Of course, You will confront many obstacles, as did the woman in our reading for today.

Despite her frailty, Jesus enabled her to do the deeds of faith in a way pleasing to Him.  Do you realize what this means?  So, will He also do this for you!

Do not fret if you cannot do what you once did.  All our powers grow and shrink throughout our lives and years.  Doesn’t Jesus realize this?  So, the cliché is not far off—when a door closes, God opens a window.



Like the woman earlier brought down by fever, Jesus will also equip you with what you need to serve Him and others in ways, which are delightful to Him.  “Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is day by day, being renewed” (2 Corinthians 4:16).  Amen.