God’s Good News for the Sick, 2
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050 – Version 28.1.2004
English Title: God’s Good News for the Sick 2 – Miracles of Jesus
Bible quotations have been taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Grand Rapids, 1983.
Qur’an quotations have been taken from Marmaduke Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, New York, 1955.
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2. The Miracles of Jesus the Messiah: An Overview . 48
A. Definition ................................................................................. 48
B. The Extent ................................................................................ 48
C. The Purpose ............................................................................ 50
D. The Procedure ......................................................................... 51
E. The Effect ................................................................................ 53
F. Our Response Today ................................................................ 55
3. The Blind See and the Deaf Hear ............................ 56
A. The Blind See ....................................................................... 56
a) “Your Faith Has Healed You” .............................................. 57
b) “I Was Blind, but Now I See” .............................................. 58
B. The Deaf Hear ...................................................................... 62
a) “He Even Makes the Deaf Hear and the Mute Speak” ........... 62
4. Victims of Leprosy Are Cured ................................. 65
A. Leprosy in the Bible: The Old Testament .................................. 65
B. Leprosy in the Bible: The New Testament ................................ 66
a) Jesus Heals Ten Lepers ..................................................... 66
5. Demons Are Cast Out .............................................. 70
A. Satan ................................................................................... 70
B. Demon Possession ................................................................ 70
C. Manifestations in the Human Body .......................................... 71
D. The Remedy ......................................................................... 71
E. Refutation of the Allegation of the Pharisees ............................ 72
F. Other Accounts of Exorcism ................................................... 73
a) A Synagogue Witnesses a Healing ..................................... 73
b) Freedom from a Legion of Demons ..................................... 74
c) Jesus Rewards the Persevering Faith of a Gentile Woman.... 76
d) ”Everything Is Possible for Him Who Believes” .................... 78
6. All Kinds of Diseases Are Healed ............................ 80
a) A Paralytic Finds Forgiveness and Help .............................. 80
b) An Invalid Healed at the Pool of Bethesda ............................ 83
c) The Faith of a Gentile Centurion ......................................... 86
d) A Woman with an Issue of Blood ........................................ 89
e) A Man with a Shriveled Hand .............................................. 90
7. The Dead Are Raised to Life .................................... 92
a) The Son of a Widow from Nain ........................................... 92
b) The Daughter of Jairus, a Synagogue Leader ..................... 94
c) Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead .................................. 96
QUIZ ............................................................................ 102
2 - THE MIRACLES OF JESUS THE MESSIAH:
A miracle may be described as a portent, a mighty work, a sign, a wonder. It is a general term, designating also phenomena which the Holy Bible reports and which are alleged to have occurred in the history of the Christian Church. A miraculous sign demonstrates authority and provides assurance (Joshua 2:12,13), bears testimony (Isaiah 19:19,20), gives warning (Numbers 17:10) or encourages faith. Included among the Bible’s miraculous signs are many of Jesus’ acts of healing, casting out evil spirits and giving life to the dead.
The Bible portrays miraculous signs attending the life and work of Jesus the Messiah. We cite here only two of them: 1. Angels announcing to Mary and to Joseph (to whom she was betrothed) that she, a virgin, would be the mother of a unique child, whose name was to be Immanuel (”God with us”); 2. Angels announcing what is, in fact, the supreme event in the whole of the New Testament (Injil), namely, the resurrection of the Messiah from the dead on the third day after He was crucified and buried, and His ascension into heaven, namely His final appearance on earth to His disciples and His immediately consequent departure to heaven, from where He had originally come.
Between the two miraculous events of His birth and His resurrection, Jesus Himself performed many miracles, most of them miracles of healing. In the words of His reply to the prophet John the Baptist ( Nabi Yahya ibn Zakariyya ) through His disciples: ”Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Matthew 11:4-6)
The Qur'an describes these events thus: “And (Allah) will make him (Jesus) a messenger unto the Children of Israel, (saying) : ‘Lo! I come unto you with a sign from your Lord. Lo! I fashion for you out of clay the likeness of a bird and I breathe into it and it is a bird, by Allah’s leave. I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I raise the dead, by Allah’s leave. And I announce unto you what ye eat and what ye store up in your houses. Lo! Herein verily is a portent for you, if ye are to be believers.” (Suras Al ‘Imran 3:49; al-Ma’ida 5:110 )
From the Gospel account it is evident that a long chain of mighty works studded Jesus’ brief ministry of about three years: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering from pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” (Matthew 4:23-25; cf. Matthew 15:29-31; Luke 6:17-19)
The words ”sick”/ ”sickness” (including ”disease”, etc.) occur fifty-six times in the Old Testament (Tawrat) and fifty-seven times in the New Testament (Injil). These many references in the Holy Bible show how important healing of the sick is within the Bible, more particularly as a vital part of Jesus’ ministry.
Regardless of time and place, it seemed that everyone suffering from any sickness approached Him. The Bible reports not a single request of any person, whether Jew or Gentile, that was turned down. He served out of compassion and He rewarded all who believed in him.
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)
John’s testimony is eyewitness testimony of a disciple and an apostle. Of John it was elsewhere said that the Lord loved him.
C. The Purpose
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30,31)
Jesus performed signs and wonders to identify Himself. They proved beyond doubt that He had supreme command over the realm of nature and over the realm of the spirits. As He pacified the wind and the sea, so He brought healing to the human body and peace to the human soul. They demonstrated that He was - and is - the Lord over the strong and the weak, the youth and the elderly, the living and the dead.
The miracles of Jesus exhibit Him as the promised Messiah and the fulfilment of the prophecies made by several prophets centuries before His arrival on earth: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” (Isaiah 35:5,6; cf. Matthew 8:16,17)
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;” (Isaiah 53)
Jesus did not heal indiscriminately. Nor did He do His works for personal gain, publicity, or the praises of others (John 5:41). He accompanied His works with the call to repentance and the proclamation of the Gospel. His works were signs, pointing beyond their own grandeur to the glory of His Heavenly Father. They were marks authenticating Jesus’ Messiahship. They were part of the Good News that announced the presence of the Kingdom of God in this world.
“... Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ He said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’ ... ‘Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ ” (Mark 1:14,15,38)
Normally Jesus’ miracles served as demonstrations of God’s compassion and love for ”the sheep without the shepherd”, i.e., for the poor, despised, oppressed and harassed people in that society.
“When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ (Messiah).’ ” (Luke 4:40,41)
The New Testament records only one healing event (the Gerasene Demoniac: Luke 8:38, 39), following which Jesus clearly encouraged the healed person to publicize the event. Why? Jesus performed miracles to help identify Himself as the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, whose coming the Old Testament Scriptures had prophesied clearly. But how easily, as one endowed with such powers as God’s Holy Spirit, could He and His works be interpreted wrongly and identify Him wrongly! He had not come to be a magician, an armed revolutionary, a bread king, a worldly ruler (John 6:15). He had come to be the King of the Kingdom of God, whose sovereignty was marked by service and sacrifice, whose charter was the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and whose weapons were spiritual and not weapons of the traditional jihad and crusade. (See Glossary, Messiah.)
D. The Procedure
Jesus did not heal according to any set pattern or procedure. He encountered people of different social backgrounds who suffered from a variety of illnesses. He spent a considerable portion of His ministry healing many people under many different circumstances.
Many of the sick came to Jesus of their own accord. Friends and relatives brought them. Some of the sick Jesus Himself singled out. Several Biblical accounts relate how others, apart from the sick, found blessing through the healing.
On some occasions He asked the sick person if he wished healing. On other occasions He simply healed of His own free will and out of compassion. Many were rewarded for their expressions of faith.
On some occasions He healed by touching them or laying hands on them. On other occasions He healed by uttering only a word. He even healed at a distance by simply speaking a word. On some occasions He used signs.
Scriptures indicate that on occasions those who touched Jesus found instant healing from the power emanating from His body. Elsewhere they clearly relate that Jesus healed with the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:28). Do we find affirmation of this also in the Qur'an (Sura al-Baqarah, 2:87; cf. 2:253)? Thus the enquirer, Nicodemus, perhaps a secret disciple of Jesus, also testified: ”Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2)
Demons, too, recognising Jesus’ authority, abandoned their victims at His command. Jesus’ encounters with demons generally occurred in the presence of large crowds. At times He resorted to prayer while casting out demons. (Mark 9:29)
On two occasions He led the sick person away from the view of the crowd before He healed them, probably because in these cases He used signs which He did not want to be misunderstood.
Except where He healed the sick on compassionate grounds, He required them to have faith and act accordingly.
He might link sickness with sin and Satan. Since He had authority on earth to forgive sins, on occasions He might forgive the sufferers before blessing them with perfect healing. He rewarded the faith of them all with complete healing of body and spirit. He healed them. He saved them.
Sometimes He challenged the people. But He never teased or ridiculed them or spoke insensitively to them; nor did He abuse His power. If at times He did allude to people’s lack of faith, He did it to strengthen their faith. He could also display anger with those who thwarted God’s will and blocked others from entering God’s Kingdom.
E. The Effect
As the Messiah’s fame spread, multitudes of people followed Him to hear His word and to be healed. On occasions their large numbers obstructed access to Him. Once friends of a man suffering from paralysis had to lower the paralytic through the roof to get access to Jesus. Often it was with difficulty that He found time to eat and relax. On occasions He simply withdrew to some isolated spot to pray. (Mark 1:45; 3:20,21; Luke 3:15,16)
Some people believed in Him after hearing His teaching and seeing His miracles: “... many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.” (John 2:23)
Generally they were astonished and praised God. They had never seen anything comparable: “The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing.” (Matthew 15:31)
“They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.” (Luke 7:16,17)
“Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’ ” (Luke 5:26)
Others took offense at Jesus and showed utter lack of faith:
“Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:1-6)
Some members of His own family considered Him mad. In Jerusalem the teachers of the Law claimed He was possessed by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. Beelzebub, they added, enabled Him to cast out demons.
The Bible records seven miracles which Jesus performed on the Sabbath day (Luke 4:31,38; 6:6; 13:14; 14:1; John 5:10; 9:14). Some He performed simply out of compassion; others He did to demonstrate that it was permissible and proper to heal on the Sabbath day, the day of rest. Keeping the Sabbath day by refraining from work on that day did not mean stopping the treatment of the sick and the suffering. Jesus worked and so did His Heavenly Father. Jesus reprimanded the religious leaders for misrepresenting the solemnity of the Sabbath. On one occasion He said to a synagogue ruler: “ ‘Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’ When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated.” (Luke 13:15-17)
Jesus’ miracles reached their climax when He raised Lazarus from the dead. It happened in Bethany near Jerusalem, and was witnessed by some people who immediately reported the event to the Pharisees, a group of Jewish religious leaders who generally opposed Jesus and His ministry. The Pharisees did acknowledge Jesus’ miracle. Yet, instead of thanking God and recognising Jesus and His ministry, they plotted against Him. In a remarkably short time they induced their Roman ruler to put Jesus to death on the pretext that as the Messiah (King) He was a threat to the emperor of Rome.
When Jesus was put to death, it appeared His life-giving ministry died with Him—until He, who raised Lazarus from the dead, Himself rose from the dead. (See Chapters 7,8.)
F. Our Response Today
We believe in Jesus the Messiah as God’s Word for mankind, God’s personal visit from above into our world. And we believe Jesus’ wonderful works to be God’s testimony to Jesus as His presence with us in this world. We, therefore, thank God for Jesus and for His wonderful ministry of healing.
Moreover, we thank God that through His Spirit He has inspired prophets and apostles to share His Word with us in Scriptures, and that throughout the centuries He has preserved His Word for all people. His Word has been preserved in the Holy Bible, in what you may know as the Tawrat, the Zabur, the Writings of the Prophets and the Holy Injil of Jesus the Messiah. Praise God, these Scriptures are God’s Word which He has preserved for us throughout the centuries as true, uncorrupted and unabrogated Scriptures!
In the Injil (”the Good News”) of Jesus we have eyewitness accounts of Jesus the Messiah’s own apostles and other disciples about Jesus’ wonderful works. From the time of Jesus onwards, they have served as signs of God’s grace and mercy, signs that prove, in the words of Jesus’ apostle in the Holy Injil, God is love (1 John 4:8) and cares for all people and all of His creation.
Moreover, Jesus’ wonderful works are signs for you today. You need not panic, fear, despair. He invites you to turn to Him with your prayers of thanksgiving and with your petitions for His help in your hour of sickness and suffering or any other need. Jesus is alive!
Just as significantly He also invites you to ponder the words of David, His great prophet and king, and to confess your sins: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1,2)
As God’s Word, He not only guides us but also heals, redeems and purifies us.
In the following chapters we will take a closer look at these great signs of Jesus.
3 - THE BLIND SEE AND THE DEAF HEAR
“Great crowds came to him (Jesus), bringing the lame, the blind, the mute and many others, and led them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.” (Matthew 15:30, 31)
Many people received physical sight and hearing from Jesus. At the same time they experienced spiritual restoration.
It was not ”by chance” that Jesus performed these great works. He knew that when the Messiah appeared, then, as God had spoken through the great prophet Isaiah: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy.” (Isaiah 35:5,6)
These great works signaled to all who witnessed them that Jesus Himself was the Messiah and that God’s Kingdom was at hand.
A. The Blind See
Today two kinds of blindness are recognised: the first exists from birth; the second is acquired later in life through natural causes. Medical science has been able to restore sight in some cases of acquired blindness. However, it offers nothing to those blind from birth. In the days of Jesus the Messiah no such distinction existed. Only a miracle could restore sight, whatever the kind of blindness.
The Gospel accounts record four incidents in which Jesus gave sight to the blind. Here we consider two of them:
a) “Your Faith Has Healed You”
“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:46-52)
The Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke also record this miracle. Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, probably sat begging on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem as pilgrims journeyed along this road.
When Bartimaeus heard the noise of a crowd and learned that Jesus was passing by, he shouted: ”Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” When he was told to keep quiet, he shouted all the louder and more persistently: ”Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Why ”Jesus, Son of David”? Significantly the prophets constantly spoke of the Messiah as ”the Son of David”, a descendant of David (Dawud). Somehow Bartimaeus had heard this and understood its meaning. Did he also recognise that the blind receiving their sight marked the Messiah’s presence among His people, as the great prophet Isaiah had noted hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus the Messiah? “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy.” (Isaiah 35:5,6)
When Jesus summoned Bartimaeus, He asked him directly what he wanted. Bartimaeus replied that he simply wanted his sight. ”Go,” said Jesus, ”your faith has healed you.”
But did Bartimaeus receive only his physical sight? At Jesus’ command that he go, where was Bartimaeus to go? Was it new insight of heart along with sight for his eyes that directed him to follow Jesus? And after their journey along that road ended, did he continue to follow Jesus, to be His disciple?
And you and I? After we have received the gift for which we so zealously prayed and pleaded, do we go on our own way, rejoicing in the gift but forgetting the Giver? Should we not remember Him, follow Him? Should not our faith in Him recognise His claim upon us to follow Him?
b) “I Was Blind, but Now I See”
Jesus’ restoration of Bartimaeus’ sight covers an important, yet relatively short, segment of the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke. On the other hand, John’s account of the healing of another blind man occupies a full chapter in his account. He refers only briefly to the event itself and concentrates at length on issues surrounding the event and the event’s significance. His account reads:
“As he (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the pool of Siloam’ (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?’ Some claimed that he was. Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ But he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’ ‘How then were your eyes opened?’ they demanded. He replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’ ‘Where is the man?’ they asked him. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. ‘He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, ‘and I washed, and now I see.’ Some of the Pharisees said, ’This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others asked, ‘How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?’ So they were divided. Finally they turned again to the blind man. ‘What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ The man replied, ‘He is a prophet.’ The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. ‘Is this your son?’ they asked. ‘Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?’ ‘We know he is our son,’ the parents answered, ‘and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ (the Messiah) would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’ A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God,’ they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner.’ He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’ Then they asked him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?’ Then they hurled insults at him and said, ‘You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out. Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him. Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into the world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’ ” (John 9)
The blind man was blind from birth. Though John’s Gospel account gives no indication that the blind man pleaded for his sight, we can imagine he did. More significant for John was the theological response raised by Jesus’ own disciples when, with Jesus, they saw the blind man on the road. Since the man was blind, they stated: ”It must have been either his own or his parents’ fault. Which answer is correct, Jesus?” ”Neither,” Jesus said, and proceeded to teach them a lesson which would engage their mental and spiritual resources throughout life. Can we see ourselves reflected in the characters appearing in this event: the blind man himself, the disciples, the parents of the blind man, the opponents of Jesus?
Jesus proceeded to put a mixture of clay and saliva on the blind man’s eyes. His action was simply a manifestation of His touch - there was no claim that either clay or saliva possessed any potency to heal. When Jesus told him to go to the pool of Siloam and wash, he followed Jesus’ order and his sight was restored. Had he had no faith and disobeyed, would his sight have been restored?
Even more clearly, this account of a blind man illustrates the transition from the acquisition of physical sight to the acquisition of new spiritual insight of mind and heart. It is to give thanks to God for the gift of physical sight and, at the same time, to see the gift as a sign which points above the gift to its Giver as the Light of the world. It is also to recognise that the transition to belief in Jesus as the Light of the world, as Redeemer and Lord, can be costly and the cause of conflict with others who differ. The disciple will, in fact, anticipate difficulties and he will pray for strength to deal with them in a manner which pleases Jesus.
Our account informs us that the blind man did become a disciple of Jesus. He believed in Jesus and worshipped him. Will not some readers wonder whether he engaged in idolatry (shirk), worshipping Jesus along with God or in the place of God? God forbid! Yet I can honestly sympathize with those readers who will sincerely entertain this possibility, since I too once seriously entertained it. May I assure you that it was through the repeated study of the Gospel account according to the Apostle John that I was convinced of the Deity and the Messiahship of Jesus. Now I have no fear or hesitation whatever in accepting Him as my Lord, God with us here on earth.
Let each of us ponder the words of Jesus: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:39)
Meanwhile, are you aware of blind people in your neighbourhood? What is your attitude towards them? Do you sometimes feel judgmental about them and about their families? Do you feel God cares for them? Is it possible that you become His agent to help them? Perhaps you could help them to go to school or find a job - or even encourage your community and surrounding communities in establishing educational facilities for them.
Or perhaps you have even wondered how so many people have even been inspired by Jesus' ministry to the blind to dedicate their lives in service to the blind through eye surgery and preventative care - such as Dr. Ben Gullison and his Operation Eyesight in India and many other countries! Such ministries, significantly aimed at the destitute, have helped millions. (cf. Toronto Star, Oct. 23, 1982)
Note: The Foreword and the Prologue of this book have been published in Braille for the blind.
B. The Deaf Hear
So easily we forget, ignore or even abuse the deaf and the mute. Can we speak of them, generally, as a needy but neglected invisible minority throughout the world? Yet, as the Gospel account attests, Jesus cares for them also.
a) “He Even Makes the Deaf Hear and the Mute Speak”
“Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his finger into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (which means, ‘Be opened!’) At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’ ” (Mark 7:31-37)
It appears that Jesus was in Gentile (non-Jewish) territory again when He healed the deaf and mute man. Why did Jesus take him aside when He healed him? Did it have to do with various signs and gestures Jesus performed with this man? In any event, it appears that the man was possessed by an evil spirit. And Jesus’ treatment of the man helps us better understand Jesus’ understanding of these problems and His method of treatment.
The Gospel account tells that Jesus put His fingers into the deaf man’s ears, spit and touched his tongue. Was it ”language” to help the man understand that Jesus wanted to help him? On numerous occasions we read how Jesus identified Himself with the victims of these difficulties by being close to them and touching them. At the same time, He looked into heaven and sighed. As a human being He, too, indicated His dependence upon His Heavenly Father above. His sigh was a sigh of grievous disappointment over the sickness, corruption and sin which had infected the people themselves and infested the whole creation. But it was also a sign of His sympathy. When He uttered the word ”ephphatha” (”be opened”), the man could hear and speak!
As we have seen, Jesus’ great works on behalf of the deaf, the blind and other handicapped people were signs that He was the Messiah, the One whose coming the prophets had proclaimed. For more detail on Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus’ request that the deaf man, now healed, tell no one, see Glossary, Messiah.
Later, the disciples of Jesus carried on His legacy of concern for handicapped people and continue special ministries among them today.
Have you asked yourself how you could help the deaf and dumb, virtually an invisible minority in countries like India, to have a better life? Did you ever realise that people who are deaf from birth have never heard the word ”God” and His special name ”Heavenly Father”, or the word ”Jesus”? Could the welfare of the deaf, perhaps of other handicapped persons also, become a concern for you and your community? Are you aware of how important it is for the deaf to have an opportunity to go to school? And do you pray for them?
O Son of God, in Galilee
You made the deaf to hear,
The mute to speak, the blind to see;
O blessed Lord, be near.
Oh, listen to the silent prayer
Of your afflicted ones,
Oh, bid them cast on you their care;
Your grace to make them known.
The speechless tongue, the lifeless ear
You can restore, O Lord;
Your ”Ephphatha,” O Saviour dear,
Can instant help afford.
Meanwhile to them the list’ning ear
Of steadfast faith impart,
And let your Word bring light and cheer
To ev’ry troubled heart.
Then in your promised happy land
Each loss will prove a gain;
All mysteries we shall understand,
For you will make them plain.
(Lutheran Worship, Concordia Publishing House, 1982.)
4 - VICTIMS OF LEPROSY ARE CURED
Leprosy is a mildly infectious, slowly progressing, yet intractable and potentially devastating disease. It has been known from ancient times in countries such as Japan and India. The ancient Greek physicians, Hypocrites and Galen, have also discussed leprosy in their writings. Leprosy is caused by a rod-shaped germ called mycobacterium leprae and was first discovered by a Norwegian doctor, Armauer Hansen, in 1872.
It is present throughout the world and in some countries it has become endemic. Perhaps some twelve million people suffer from it. Leprosy affects especially the nerves and skin of the human body. It produces a loss of sensation and skin lesions such as patches, thickening of the skin, ulceration, loss of hair, destruction of the sweat glands resulting in dryness of the affected skin, etc. In the advanced stage of the disease deformities of various kinds occur.
Leprosy is not a hereditary disease. Nor should it be considered a curse from God. An early diagnosis and regular treatment of the disease ensures a complete cure even before deformities set in.
A. Leprosy in the Bible: The Old Testament
In the Old Testament the Hebrew term for leprosy was used to indicate a number of skin conditions characterized by different kinds of skin lesions and associated with other symptoms, such as loss of hair, numbness, sores, and ulcers. These signs were associated with various deformities that set in as the disease progressed, such as depressed nose, withering of hands, swelling of feet, shortening of fingers and toes, etc. In those days, as the disease advanced and the victim had no recourse to adequate treatment, it could leave him with a dreadful facial appearance.
At times the disease was confused with other skin conditions, such as psoriasis (Leviticus 13:13). Similarly ”leprosy of garments” (Leviticus 13:47 ff.) and ”leprosy in the house” (Leviticus 14:34 ff.) may suggest fungal infestation on the garment, the linen and the walls of the houses.
Since the victims of leprosy were considered ceremonially unclean, even casual contact with them defiled other persons. Therefore victims of leprosy were isolated, away from family and friends and society. Generally they lived in groups outside the cities and at times even in neighbouring caves. They lived by begging. They were to wear torn clothes, keep their hair uncombed and cover their upper lip with a rag. In addition they were to cry out ”unclean, unclean!”, ringing a bell as they walked along the street to warn others of their presence and preserve them from defilement (Leviticus 13:45,46). Those breaking the rules were subject to punishment.
B. Leprosy in the Bible: The New Testament
The Gospel accounts relate how Jesus healed and helped many victims of leprosy, such as Simon who once hosted a dinner for Jesus (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3; cf. Mark 1:40-45).Here we limit ourselves to Luke’s fascinating account of Jesus’ encounter with ten lepers.
a) Jesus Heals Ten Lepers
“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’ ” (Luke 17:11-19)
Every year the Children of Israel celebrated the great Festival of the Passover, when they remembered how God graciously and powerfully freed them from slavery in Egypt and the hand of the Pharaoh. It was on the occasion of this festival that Jesus was going to Jerusalem and encountered these ten victims of leprosy.
According to custom the ten victims called to Jesus from a distance: “Have pity on us!” Jesus, again out of compassion, simply uttered a word: “Go, show yourself to the priests.” They obeyed and they were cleansed.
Why did Jesus direct the ten leprosy victims to the priests? According to the Old Testament law those healed of leprosy needed confirmation of their recovery from the priests. The priests would declare them free to move normally once more within society. Today also, it makes sense that anyone who has experienced miraculous healing should share the experience with his doctor or other medical personnel.
From this momentous event we can learn many other lessons. All of us are aware of the despised status of leprosy victims. Traditionally, society has ignored, shunned, and ostracized them. True, we do not openly hurt them or abuse them. But often we avoid them, even their shadow, making sure we have no communication with them. We are clean, we think, but they are unclean. God favours us; He punishes them, or so we may think and feel, even though we know how such thoughts and feelings may be wrong.
Have you ever touched a victim of leprosy? Would you? Jesus did (Mark 1:41)! For Jesus knew that God created them, loved them, cared for them; therefore, so did Jesus!
Even more, the Gospel account tells us that at least one of the victims was a Samaritan. He was not only physically a leper; ethnically, in the understanding of many of the Jews at that time, to be a Samaritan was to be ethnically leprous. He was, so to speak, doubly despised, an outcast. Yet Jesus, a Jew, healed this doubly despised Samaritan!
Just as instructive is the Samaritan’s response to Jesus and Jesus’ response to the Samaritan’s response. The Samaritan, the one least expected to recognise the kindness of his benefactor, was the sole person to return to give thanks to Jesus! It was as if healing of his body progressed into healing of his mind and his heart - of his whole being!
”What then happened to the other nine?” asked Jesus. Was it that they had received what they wanted and nothing else mattered, even giving thanks to God?
And so, once more, what is more important to you in your life: the gift or the Giver? For those of us who know that ingratitude is the same as blasphemy (kufr), this question becomes that much more pertinent.
Where were the nine? Since they did not return to give thanks, dare we ask whether Jesus made a mistake in healing them? Do we sometimes worry about being ”too generous”, ”too compassionate”? We will remember again how God’s rain and sunshine fall on the fields of the just and the unjust.
Jesus touched them, healed them (Matthew 8:1-4). What an encouragement to all of us to remember that as God loves them, so should we! What an impetus to scientists and researchers to develop effective treatment against leprosy as well as other diseases; to churches and missions throughout the world to establish hospitals and clinics to help the victims of leprosy and of other diseases, and even to rehabilitate them!
Have you heard about The Leprosy Mission? This wonderful organization and other similar organizations concerned with helping victims of leprosy have virtually solved the mysteries surrounding the cause, spread and cure of the disease. Will leprosy soon be eradicated from the face of earth as, by God’s grace, smallpox has been eradicated? Meanwhile today, through such institutions, patients receive free medicine, remain isolated only as long as they are infectious and, in general, receive humane treatment. Leprosy, for centuries considered incurable and a loathsome scourge, is now virtually curable. Deformities from leprosy can now be corrected by surgery and physiotherapy. Praise God for such progress!
And ponder once more what an inspiration and blessing even this brief portion of God’s Holy Bible has provided for countless victims of leprosy and their caregivers. Is there anything like it in other sacred writings?
Think, for example - and a wonderful example he was and still is! - of Father Damien de Veuster. Father Damien was born in Belgium in 1840, went to Hawaii in 1864 and served as a priest in a parish in Honolulu. At his own request he was transferred in 1873 from his more comfortable environment there to the isolated and desolate lepers’ colony on Molokai Island. There he went to live among those wretched victims of leprosy whom, in those days, society shamefully disposed of and abandoned to their fate. There he taught the hopeless victims to hope, to live rather than to die, to work and play, to cultivate and construct, to create and enjoy, and, not least, to love, because God, their Heavenly Father, loved them and cared for them—all of them and each one of them!—and expected them to love themselves and each other.
And it was there in that colony that what Father Damien knew might well happen to him actually did happen years later: He himself contracted the dreaded disease.
What drove Father Damien to live in that desolate colony among those victims of leprosy and there also to die? What left him content to contract the disease and thereby to become truly one of them? Was it for the sake of human applause, or for some other selfish motive? What drove him, no doubt, was God’s constraining love, that love embodied in Jesus the Messiah, who bears our sicknesses and carries our sorrows, who touched and healed the leper…, that love His Cross best symbolizes.
The healings of the Messiah: What power and inspiration they have generated—at that time and ever since! What incentives to drive us to Jesus for healing! And what motivation to share this love of God with others who do not know and understand!
How often, do you think, Father Damien nourished his heart and renewed his strength of spirit through these wonderful accounts in God’s Holy Book?
Do you ever speak with God in prayer about the sick, the handicapped, the oppressed?
(The above information on Father Damien is adapted from John Farrow, Damien the Leper, Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1994. For Sadan's brief and bitter account of his life as a victim of leprosy and as a leprosy patient, yet his joy that through this affliction he met a wonderful couple and discovered God and His love, see Philip Yancey's Soul Survivor, Doubleday.)
5 - DEMONS ARE CAST OUT
The Bible portrays Satan (or the Devil, Iblis) as an evil personality who is the master of evil. It appears that originally Satan was an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) but fell into sin because of pride (1 Timothy 3:6; Ezekiel 28:15,17). In the form of a serpent he confronts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and induces them to disobey God. With sin’s infiltration into God’s creation through the disobedience and corruption of humanity, Satan becomes the prince of this world (John 14:30) and ruler of all demons who follow him. What a sad commentary about what has happened to God’s good creation, especially what has happened to people!
Satan is the adversary of God and of all mankind. Yet Satan’s power is limited. God remains in control of Satan. Still, the Bible continually admonishes believers to beware of Satan, to put on the armour of God in self-defense, to resist him by submitting to God. (1 Peter 5:8,9; James 4:7; Roman 6:17-23; Ephesians 6:10-20)
B. Demon Possession
Demons belong to the kingdom of Satan. Demon-possession is an evident phenomenon in this world. Yet, just as clearly, it eludes our full understanding.
The New Testament invariably depicts demons as evil, unclean and vicious spirits who seek to possess the bodies of people (Matthew 10:1; Mark 5:1-13) and, according to the New Testament, these spirits can be cast out in Jesus’ Name. These spirits are aware that He will judge them.
C. Manifestations in the Human Body
Some eighty references to demons are found in the New Testament.
Demon-possession may manifest itself as a mental illness accompanied by violence (Matthew 8:28; Acts 19:13-16). It may cause dumbness (Matthew 9:32,33) or blindness or both (Matthew 12:22), or bodily infirmity (Luke 13:11,16). Insanity, lunacy, epilepsy, blindness, dumbness, fevers, aches and pains frequently accompanied demon-possession but they are not necessarily identified with it.
Several New Testament passages indicate that the demons recognised the Messiah, became disturbed at His presence and feared lest He destroy them (Mark 1:34; 9:20, 26; Luke 4:34, etc.). It appears that they could speak, though it may be unclear whether it was the demon or the person himself who was speaking.
In general, it should be added that the New Testament narrators are unconcerned about theoretical discussions on the nature of demons and their activities. They do not indulge in sensationalism and grotesque description. Obsession with or even interest in demons as such is absent. More than on the demons these narratives focus on the victims of demons and Jesus as the healer. They form an integral part of the Gospel and its proclamation that in Jesus the Messiah the Kingdom of God has come into this world.
D. The Remedy
Jesus considered demon-possessed people to be sick people and treated them as He treated others suffering from the enslaving and destructive power of sin. He treated everyone with mercy and tenderness. The New Testament unequivocally demonstrates that Jesus’ power extends over the whole world of evil spirits and that a person’s faith in Him offers protection from every evil.
How does Jesus cast out evil spirits? He liberates people by the Holy Spirit and by His own word. “I drive out demons by the Spirit of God ...” (Matthew 12:28). Matthew’s Gospel account also states that “He cast out the spirits with a word”. In Luke’s Gospel account (4:35), Jesus addressed an evil spirit: “Be quiet! Come out from him.”
The evil spirit whom Jesus addressed identified Jesus unambiguously and recognised His supernatural power. At Jesus’ command to come out, the evil spirit shuddered and pleaded that he and the other spirits be left alone. On other occasions the evil spirits mocked and tortured their victims, shrieking while they submitted to Jesus’ authority and abandoned their victims.
Occasionally Jesus emphasised the role of prayer in dealing with these mysterious maladies. Likewise, when God conferred His Spirit on the disciples of Jesus to heal, they themselves, trusting in Jesus and being obedient to His command, healed ”in the name of Jesus”. In no case did Jesus or His disciples resort to magic formula or ritual, as the following event confirms.
E. Refuting the Allegation of the Pharisees
One day people brought a demon-possessed man to Jesus. The man was blind and mute. After Jesus healed him, the man could talk and see (Matthew 12:22,23). The people who witnessed this miracle were astonished and said: ”Could this be the Son of David?” In other words, they wondered if Jesus could be their long expected Messiah.
However, the Pharisees, religious leaders among the Jews, blasphemed, alleging that He cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. In fact they alleged that all the demon-possessed He healed, He healed through Satan (Matthew 9:34; 12:24-37; Luke 11:15). Somehow they thus implied that Jesus could order Satan to order Satan’s servants to abandon their victim - as if without Satan He could not do this.
Jesus dismissed this allegation as absurd. Why should Satan destroy his servants, his own kingdom? Moreover, the Gospel accounts clearly demonstrate that Jesus rejected any form of collusion with Satan to spread God’s Kingdom on earth ¾ even though His rejection of collusion ultimately cost Him His life. At the same time Jesus, while recognising the power of evil in this world, clearly demonstrated God’s authority over all the forces of evil: “All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!’ ” (Luke 4:36)
Let us look at these events a little more closely.
F. Other Accounts of Exorcism
a) A Synagogue Witnesses a Healing
“Then he (Jesus) went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’ ‘Be quiet!’ Jesus said sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!’ And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.” (Luke 4:31-37)
Jesus frequently taught in the synagogue, the place where Jews gathered to hear the Word of God from the Scriptures of the Children of Israel. On one occasion a man with an evil spirit was present in the synagogue and listening to Jesus. He recognised Jesus for who He was and cried out to Jesus to let him alone. Was it the man who spoke or the evil spirit within the man, representing a plurality of evil spirits in him?
In any case the demon recognised Jesus as his great adversary, the adversary of all evil power. He understood correctly that Jesus was the Holy One of God, God’s unique representative and presence here on earth. Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the man. The evil spirit obeyed, knocking the man down before the people worshipping in the temple, yet leaving him unhurt.
Why did Jesus ask the evil spirit to be silent? Elsewhere we read how, in similar encounters, the spirits recognised the Holy One of God as the Son of God and the Messiah. In simple response to the question, Jesus did not want the evil spirit’s testimony to Himself. (See Glossary, Messiah, Son of God.)
b) Freedom from a Legion of Demons
“They (Jesus and His disciples) went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!’ For Jesus had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you evil spirit!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many.’ And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, ‘Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.’ He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this to the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man¾ and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” (Mark 5:1-20)
After Jesus and His disciples landed their boat on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, they met a man possessed with evil spirits, who lived in a graveyard where the tombs probably had been cut out of the hills. He constantly moved about, shrieking, and wounded himself with stones. So strong was he that he broke the chains with which the local people had attempted to bind him. Since herds of pigs were close by, it seems that the inhabitants of this area were Gentiles, not Jews.
When Jesus commanded the evil spirit to come out of the possessed man, the evil spirit - or, more accurately, a legion of spirits - recognised Jesus as ”Son of the Most High”, left the man and entered into a nearby herd of pigs - so numerous were the evil spirits!
Through this healing Jesus again clearly demonstrated His authority over the spirits. When other people from this community investigated what had happened, they found the man free from the demon, sane and clothed. Yet, sadly, they responded not with joy and thanksgiving but with fear, and begged Jesus to leave! Is it possible that they valued their pigs more than the health and welfare of the man once tyrannized by demons? Or were they afraid of the power of Jesus that overcame the power of the demons?
The man himself, however, wanted to accompany Jesus, surely out of appreciation for what Jesus had done to help him. But Jesus had another plan for him. ”Go home to your family,” He said, ”and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” When the man obeyed Jesus, was he not also ”following” Jesus, having become His disciple?
Have you ever told your friends how much the Lord has done for you? Is there any fear in your heart that blocks you from sharing this good news?
c) Jesus Rewards the Persevering Faith of a Gentile Woman
“Jesus … went to the vicinity of the Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. ‘First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he told her, ‘For such reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’ She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” (Mark 7:24-30)
On this occasion when Jesus was again in Gentile territory, He wished to be left alone, probably so that He could spend more time teaching His disciples who later became His apostles. However, somehow a Greek woman, a Gentile (non-Jew) born in Syrian Phoenicia and probably an ancestor of the present people in Lebanon, heard about His presence and saw her opportunity to help her demon- possessed daughter.
Had she heard about the promise of a coming Messiah among the Children of Israel? Had she heard someone read about His coming and His works from the Writings of the Prophets of the Children of Israel? Yet, given the presence and authority of this Messiah, what chance did she have as a Gentile, a non-Jew, someone whom the Children of Israel might consider an alien, an outcast, perhaps even a dog! Her hopes might have turned into despair when He appeared to ignore her prostration and cry for help, or even His disciples’ request that He get rid of her (Matthew 15:23). Her despair might have intensified when Jesus did respond: “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (Mark 7:27). Did Jesus really mean that she and all her people were dogs? Or was He simply repeating a common Jewish designation of the Gentiles?
“Yes, Lord,” she answered, accepting Jesus’ test, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Out of Jesus’ very refusal, she extracted an argument to secure His blessing for her. Jesus’ own words proved to be the stimulation not for her faith’s capitulation but for its victory! It was as if she had said: Even though I do not know you well and even though I recognise my lowliness and unworthiness, I know you well enough to trust you so that you cannot say ”No!” Faith, this simple woman teaches us, is not for weaklings, for spectators, for the comfortable. It is to take personally Jesus’ promises seriously, to trust Him, to commit yourself to Him.
Indeed, the Holy Bible clearly indicates that God’s promised blessings through His Messiah are first for the Children of Israel and then for all others, for you and for me. It is incorrect to think that the ministry of Jesus the Messiah was only for the Children of Israel. The Syrophoenician woman is proof of this, as is the Gentile man whom Jesus cured from the legion of evil spirits. Even more, this is only to exemplify what so many prophets declared in their writings before the coming of the Messiah. Consider these examples:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is above the people, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)
“The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10)
“In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it …” (Isaiah 2:2; cf. 3,4)
Martin Luther, a great religious reformer, constantly pointed to this Syrophoenician lady as a wonderful example for him of great faith conquering over insuperable obstacles. Can this simple lady be an example of faith for you, too?
And may God help us to be careful how we label others, since God’s promises through Jesus and in Jesus are for all!
d) “Everything Is Possible for Him Who Believes”
“When they (Jesus and some of his disciples) came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing with them about?’ he asked. A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.’ ‘O unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.’ So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said, ‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’ The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He’s dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer.’ ” (Mark 9:14-29)
When Jesus had descended from Mt. Tabor with three of His disciples, a man brought his son, possessed with an evil spirit, to Jesus for healing. According to the father the evil spirit caused the boy to have epileptic seizures which had rendered him dumb. He added that Jesus’ disciples had been unable to drive out the evil spirit. With disappointment Jesus acknowledged the lack of faith in even His own disciples.
When the boy was brought to Jesus, he suffered another convulsion. The father explained how the evil spirit tried to destroy the boy by casting him into the fire or the water, and then pleaded before Jesus: “If you can do any thing, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:23)
Jesus’ response clearly meant that His ability to heal the boy was not the issue. He had the power to heal. But did the petitioners have faith? ”If you can?” repeated Jesus. ”Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23). The father immediately cried out: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)! Jesus then commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy. When he appeared to be dead, Jesus helped him to stand.
God is able! So Jesus, as God's representative and presence in the world, is able! The question is the existence and the measure of one’s faith, faith as a power line which attaches itself to the power of God or as a pipe which draws water out of the well. Faith in Jesus allows people to be partakers of divine power. Prayer itself is an expression of this faith.
But where the power line is cut, the flow of power ceases. So also the water cannot reach its destination when the water pipe is broken. In this sense Scriptures on occasions state that Jesus had no power to do any great work.
And it is this lack of faith that induced Jesus to address the people, His disciples included, as an ” unbelieving generation”. True faith recognises the possibility of using Jesus’ power. True faith understands our sufficiency is of God. I can do all things, says St. Paul, through the Messiah who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
6 - ALL KINDS OF DISEASES ARE HEALED
“Wherever he (Jesus) went - into villages, towns or countryside - they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.” (Mark 6:56)
a) A Paralytic Finds Forgiveness and Help
“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins ....’ He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed every one and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ ” (Mark 2:1-12)
The event took place in Capernaum. Because of Jesus’ spreading fame a large crowd had gathered at the house where Jesus was staying. No space for more people remained in the house or, it would seem, even around the house. No entrance to Jesus was available.
Among those who wished to see Jesus were four persons who brought on a mat a man who had been stricken with paralysis. But with the door blocked, how could they get Jesus’ attention?
This house, like any typical Palestinian house, had a flat roof easily accessed by an outside staircase. Somehow the men managed to get to the staircase and, undaunted, climbed the stairs, carrying the paralytic on his mat. They proceeded to make a hole in the roof and lowered the man on the mat right in front of Jesus.
The Gospel account acknowledges that Jesus recognised their faith. But whose faith? Probably the faith of all five, the paralytic and his struggling helpers. But faith in what? Probably Jesus’ ability to heal the paralytic. Yet the account acknowledges also that Jesus recognised a need even more profound than that of physical health, namely, the presence and activity of sin, the ultimate root of all physical, mental and spiritual destruction, and the need to deal with it.
It is not clear that Jesus immediately linked the man’s paralysis of body with his sin. What is evident was his need to be free from both. For reasons best known to Jesus, He therefore responded initially to the paralytic: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Only afterwards did He command the paralytic to stand up, take his bed and walk.
It was Jesus’ declaration that the sins of the paralytic were forgiven that infuriated the religious leaders. They immediately objected: “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
In response to their objection Jesus asked: “Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” Without waiting for their response, Jesus ordered him to get up, take his mat and go home. And he did. No doubt he, too, with his kind friends who brought him to Jesus, joined the amazed crowd in praising God.
Indeed, this event was an extraordinary event. May we offer the following comments for further clarification of this event and its significance:
1. When the religious teachers stated that God alone can forgive sins, were they correct? Indeed, they were! Only God can forgive sins. The whole Bible testifies to this fact and many people of other faiths, too, would agree. If so, then was Jesus blaspheming when He declared that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven? Obviously the Bible testifies that Jesus was not blaspheming. How, then, to resolve this apparent difference that God forgives sins and Jesus forgives sins?
Jesus points to the resolution of this problem by referring to Himself as the Son of Man. He is the fulfillment of the vision seen by the great prophet, Daniel, before the coming of Jesus: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13,14)
With the help of this passage Jesus’ disciples and others began to understand that, yes, indeed Jesus is a man, indeed the perfect man. Yet He is also more than a man. In Him we experience God Himself coming to mankind and living among mankind. Literally, He is (as another one of His names describes Him) Immanuel (”God with us”)! To demonstrate His authority to forgive sins, He healed the paralytic. Both works, the healing of body and healing of heart, were works of God. And He did both.
2. Implicit within this account is the primary importance of knowing God’s forgiveness and how He forgives. God’s forgiveness is the sole cure for the ills of this world, for the conflicts between God and human beings and between human beings themselves. Here Jesus demonstrates His authority to forgive sins. Do you know anyone with authority to heal and forgive as Jesus did? In Chapter 8 we shall see how God forgives our sins through Jesus and what it cost Him.
Do you recognise your need for God’s forgiveness? Do you sometimes wonder whether you can have God’s forgiveness and how He can forgive you? Would you like to know? Would you like to have His assurance that He has forgiven you?
b) An Invalid Healed at the Pool of Bethesda
Physical illness does cause human beings to suffer bodily pain. In such cases a person who is aware of such a cause and its consequences may find a remedy for the aberration more in turning away from evil and turning to God than taking medicines. Let us consider here the healing of a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie - the blind, the lame, the paralysed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him laying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’ But he replied, ‘The man who made me well said to me, ‘ Pick up your mat and walk’ ’ So they asked him, ‘Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?’ The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who made him well. So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus gave them this answer: ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.’ ” (John 5:1-23)
The ruins of the pool of Bethesda (”House of Mercy”) in Jerusalem are still to be seen. It was here that Jesus, a stranger to the invalid, asked the invalid a strange question: ”Do you want to be healed?” When Jesus told him to get up, pick up his mat and walk, he did exactly what Jesus ordered.
The man had obeyed Jesus. The cure was instantaneous. Later when Jesus met him again, He told him: ”Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
Was Jesus’ comment a suggestion that the man had suffered because of his sinful conduct? It seems so. In any case, it is clear that many chronic and disastrous disorders, in that day and today, are direct consequences of sinful indulgence. Sin has rendered many a life impotent. And, of course, the consequences of such sinful behaviour are more serious than any physical illness.
True, not all sin issues in physical deformities. Yet, in fact, the whole Bible clearly testifies that sin has touched all people since the time of Adam and Eve and that all people, in fact, have imitated the fall of their first parents, Adam and Eve. Nor are you and I exceptions. We, too, have fallen into sin. And that is why Holy Scriptures call all people to repent. Indeed all the prophets have called people to repent. In the Holy Bible Jesus’ first words of His ministry are a call to repentance.
What then does repentance mean? It means:
1. We must recognise the nature of sin, the sinfulness of sin. Sin arises from the sinfulness of our inner being, the corruption of our hearts. As the prophet Jeremiah declared: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
All of us have needed to learn moral instruction. But did anyone have to teach us how to be immoral or how to do evil?
2. We must recognise that God, not we, defines what sin is. God measures sin with reference to His Ten Commandments. These can be summarized as follows:
a. You shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your mind.
b. You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
Have you loved God in the way that He commands you to love Him? Have you loved your neighbour - not just your relatives, friends or countrymen but even your enemies - as God wants you to love them?
3. We must recognise that our sin is first and foremost sin against God. God is holy. Therefore sin is rebellion against God. It makes us unclean and separates us from God. It breaks communication between God and us. In this sense every sin against God is the sin of idolatry. Said the great king and prophet David, “Against you (God), you only, have I sinned ….” (Psalm 51:4)
4. When we truly understand God’s holiness and the seriousness of our sin, we will begin to understand that only God can break down the wall of sin which we have constructed. Indeed, only He, by His grace, not we ourselves and our works, can save us from our sin and guilt. For this reason God has sent Jesus into our world to save us.
To understand these four points and to act upon this knowledge by resolving to turn away from the devil and turn to God for forgiveness of sin and a clean heart: this is what repentance is all about.
Could this be your invitation to repent?
c) The Faith of a Gentile Centurion
“When Jesus had finished … he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, ‘This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.’ So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: ‘Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man of authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’ Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” (Luke 7:1-10)
When Jesus ministered to His fellow Jews, the Children of Israel, throughout their land, the Romans ruled over them, often with a heavy hand. Normally, the Romans despised the Jews and the Jews despised the Romans.
Luke's Gospel account provides us with a pleasant exception to this animosity. How good to learn how a centurion, a Roman army officer in charge of one hundred soldiers, treated the Jews in a kindly manner and even constructed a synagogue for them! (Had he, like a few other Gentiles, come to learn about the God of Israel, the living God and Creator of all, who covenanted with the Children of Israel through Abraham, Moses and David and ordered them to worship God alone and refrain from all idolatry?) And how wonderful that the Jews interceded with Jesus, their fellow Jewish brother, asking Him to hear the centurion's plea to help his sick servant! Was the servant a Jew or a Gentile? We do not know. In any case, the centurion probably cared only for his servant's need, not about his ethnicity.
When the centurion's Jewish friends approached Jesus, they insisted that Jesus help the centurion because he deserved it. He had done so much for the Jews. Yet, remarkably, the centurion himself made no such claims about his worthiness. On the contrary, he realised that he did not deserve to have Jesus in his home - for he surely was aware of Jesus' Jewishness and the general Jewish opinion about all Gentiles, especially their Roman oppressors.
Even more, the centurion's understanding of Jesus' authority intensified his own sense of his personal unworthiness. He knew what it meant to be under authority and to have authority over others. If his word could effect obedience, how much more Jesus' word! True, he was a Roman; nevertheless, he was only a human being. Jesus, however, needed only to utter the word to heal. It mattered not at all whether the patient was near or far away. Could the Roman emperor, who claimed to be divine, demonstrate such authority?
Consider the centurion’s faith. This faith makes no claims on its own behalf. It knows it has no credit account with God (i.e., one’s prayers, fastings, gifts for the poor), whereby it can "do business" and "bargain" with God for God's help or put pressure on God to get what it wants ("God, You help me and I will help You.”). It trusts solely in God, His grace and His gracious will. Surely it is significant that Jesus rejected neither the centurion's confession of his own unworthiness nor his faith in the authority of Jesus and His word. It is this kind of faith He commanded, looked for and commended.
Little wonder that people who became aware of Jesus and His work, who knew Him simply as one of themselves, were compelled to ask about His relationship with God and what God was doing through Him. Shall we recall the words of Psalm 107:19 - 21: “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.”
Do you remember how Jesus healed the Syrophoenician woman's daughter? What did she and the centurion have in common? Both were Gentiles. Both knew their hope depended on the Jewish healer, Jesus, to whom they had appealed to heal a loved one. Both had that unqualified faith that Jesus always expected and praised.
So we continue to see signs of how the Messiah began to fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah that God Himself would turn to the Gentiles. When they encountered Jesus the Messiah, they encountered God helping and healing, just as He had promised.
Nothing is clearer in Scripture than that this love of God is for the world, for sinners like you and me, too! Jesus came into the world to be God's Messiah and Word for all mankind. Through the centurion and the Syrophoenician woman, we see this promise slowly emerging as reality.
Yes, Jesus came for you and me, too!
d) A Woman with an Issue of Blood
“A large crowd followed and pressed around him (Jesus). And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ ‘You see the people crowding against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ’ But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’ (Mark 5:24b–34)
The woman was under severe personal distress. For twelve years she had suffered from a constant loss of blood, which must have permanently weakened her. Her physicians could not help her and her finances were depleted. How many of those knowing her and aware of her problem would consider her unclean and to be avoided socially! Could this be her reason for approaching Jesus from behind, stealthily touching His garment and then fading back into the crowd? In this way, could she avoid any charge that she, being unclean, made another unclean?
Whatever her motive and however much she feared, Jesus wanted her to tell what had happened to her. Moreover, He wanted her to understand that the power of healing did not reside in the edge of His garment, but in Jesus Himself. He healed by the power of God, not by any evil power or the power of magic. When she fell at His feet and responded with all honesty, Jesus commended her faith and told her to go in peace.
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” It was as if Jesus said to her: “Yes, I have the power to help you and to heal you. Your trust in me has conveyed this power to you. You can go now, knowing you are whole, free from your illness and all is well. Go in peace, God's peace, for you!”
Go in God's peace! This is the peace that God as Heavenly Father wants to give His children, His sons and His daughters. How wonderful to have God as a Heavenly Father, to know yourself as His son or daughter and to have His peace—not just to have peaceful feelings, but His peace! And how wonderful to greet one another with His peace!
e) A Man with a Shriveled Hand
“Another time he (Jesus) went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’ Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (Mark 3:1 – 6)
While this account provides us with considerable information about the circumstances surrounding this miracle of Jesus, it tells us little about the miracle itself. We hear only that Jesus ordered a man with a shriveled hand to stand up before all the people in a synagogue and to stretch out his hand. When the man obeyed Jesus, his hand was restored.
Yet, not all the people who witnessed this miracle were happy about it. Nor were they happy about Jesus Himself. They were troubled that Jesus healed on the Sabbath, the day of rest, the day God had set aside for the nation of Israel to observe as a holy day through His great prophet Moses. In fact, it was one of God's Ten Commandments for the Children of Israel. Giving medical aid on the Sabbath day was allowed only under life-threatening circumstances.
For Jesus, doing good equaled saving life and doing evil equaled killing, yes, on the Sabbath also. As Jesus elsewhere affirmed, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. God gave His commandments in service to the nation, to guide the people on how to love God and how to love their neighbours. Therefore, Jesus restored the man's hand. Did not one save on the Sabbath day even an animal that had fallen into the ditch?
Sad to say, many religious leaders and politicians (the Pharisees and the Herodians) opposed Jesus. Though each one of these groups opposed the other, they united against Jesus. Was it because the leaders feared that Jesus threatened their religious and political prestige and leadership? As Jesus went about doing good, they intensified their enmity against Jesus and even resolved to kill Him. Meanwhile, as the prophets had prophesied, the Messiah continued to mingle with the ordinary people, the poor, the handicapped, the sinners - doing good through preaching, teaching and healing.
Thus, while Jesus restored the shriveled hand of a man, He clearly revealed His disgust and anger with the attitude of the religious and political leaders of the people. No doubt, we all agree with Jesus' response. Yet should we also be open to examine our times of hard-heartedness and inappropriate silence, when because of fear or inconvenience, we fail to stand up for justice and to speak out against evil, especially on behalf of the poor and the weak?
7 - THE DEAD ARE RAISED TO LIFE
The first four books of the New Testament (Holy Injil) describe in detail the ministry of Jesus the Messiah. All four report how Jesus taught and preached about the Kingdom of God and how He healed the sick. All four report how He even raised the dead!
Jesus once said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25,26)
Were these claims of Jesus simply claims? On three occasions He demonstrated His power in support of these claims.
a) The Son of a Widow from Nain
Just prior to His visit at Nain Jesus had been preaching about God's Kingdom and, as you may remember from the previous chapter, had healed a sick servant of an army officer. Then our Gospel account reads:
“Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out - the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’ Then he went up and touched the coffin and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.” (Luke 7:11–17)
You can imagine the scene. A crowd accompanied the funeral procession of a man toward the gate of the town, since, in accordance with Jewish custom, burial within the town was prohibited. All were mourning the premature death of this man and the sad condition of his widowed mother who now had no one to care for her. His departure was all the more pathetic because with him her livelihood, her protection, her hope and her joy had departed and were about to be buried.
Once again, in the face of tragedy, Jesus responded not simply with understanding and courtesy, but with compassion. How often the Gospel accounts note that He was moved with compassion!
On this occasion, however, the enemy was not only sickness, but death itself. To the dead man Jesus said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" Then Jesus not only dried eyes filled with tears; He healed the broken heart, the source of the tears. And before He left, He delivered the man, now living, to his mother.
What voice is this that orders the dead: "I say to you, get up!" and the dead obey!
Surely those in the crowd who knew their Scriptures would remember how Elijah, many centuries before, had delivered a widow's dead son, now alive, to her (I Kings 17:17-24) and how, even before that, God had promised Moses to send another great prophet to the nation Israel (Deuteronomy 18:15,18). At that time, in those unfavourable days when Rome ruled over Israel and Israel lost her freedom, when God appeared to have turned away from Israel because of the nation's sins, was this great event at Nain a clue to the fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy that “God's mercy was about to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”? (Luke 1:79)
The town of Nain had experienced Jesus' proclamation of Good News in a remarkable way. Thank God for those who praised God that He had come to help His people! Yes, God had come to help!
b) The Daughter of Jairus, a Synagogue Leader
On this occasion also, we are told that a large crowd was following Jesus when Jairus, a synagogue leader, approached Jesus and pleaded with Him to help his twelve year old daughter. After Jesus cured a woman who had unsuccessfully sought help from various doctors because of her excessive bleeding, He went to Jairus' house.
The Gospel account reports the whole incident:
“When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet, and pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’ So Jesus went with him. … While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher any more?’ Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’ He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John, the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.” (Mark 5:21-24a; 35-43)
When Jesus arrived at Jairus' home, loud mourning for the dead girl had commenced. Then Jesus told Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” When the mourners mocked Jesus for telling them that the child was not dead but slept, Jesus had the house cleared of all people. Then He, three of His disciples and the girl's parents approached the child. Jesus took her by the hand and said in His own language, Aramaic, “Talitha koum!” (“Little daughter, get up!”).
Again the voice of Jesus. Again the dead heard and obeyed His voice! Again Jesus demonstrated how God acted through Him and why He was called "Jesus", which means, "God helps", "God saves".
In this book how many indications of the coming of the Kingdom of God and God's Messiah we have already seen! The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed. And now, as if to climax all these works, even the dead are raised! (Cf. Luke 7:18 - 23)
Then let us remember once more Jesus' words to Jairus: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” If the opposite of belief is unbelief, it can also be fear - fear that you are alone, helpless, forsaken, despised, beyond forgiveness, without hope; that God has abandoned you and cares not about you, your condition and your future, even your salvation. Is this how, for whatever reason, you sometimes think and feel? Then look once more at Jesus and His works to discover God's love and care for you. And ponder the words of His great apostle John who said: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
Finally, what a wonderful testimony of God’s care of children! And Jesus’ assurance that children best qualify to come into God’s Kingdom!
Father of mercy,
Lover of all children,
Who in their form didst send thy Son;
Gladly we bless thee, humbly we pray thee,
For all the little ones of earth.
In thy compassion,
Helper of the helpless,
Tend them in sickness, ease their pain;
Heal their diseases, lighten their sorrows,
And from all evil keep them free.
Power and blessing
Grant us now and ever,
Who fain would serve them in thy Name;
May all our labour, crowned by thy favour,
Bear fruit eternal unto thee.
(The Book of Common Prayer,
Oxford University Press, 1938)
c) Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead
Each of the three resurrection events reported in the Gospel accounts is complete in itself. Each account has its own particular perspective and its different details. Our third account informs us how Jesus raised a man, Lazarus, who had already been buried for four days, his body decomposing and no doubt physically dead. In a sense this more detailed account serves as a climax to all three accounts.
Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary, enjoyed a deeply personal friendship with Jesus. On occasions, Jesus stayed with them at their home in Bethany, a town close to Jerusalem. For a glimpse of this moving relationship, read Luke's Gospel account (10:38-42) and its highly instructive lesson.
Following is the account of the Messiah’s great work of raising Lazarus:
“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’ When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. Then he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go back to Judea.’ ‘But Rabbi,’ they said, ‘a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.’ After he said this, he went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’ His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. ‘The Teacher is here,’ she said, ‘and is asking for you.’ When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus , come out!’ The dead man came out, his hand and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” (John 11:1–45)
From this lengthy account we single out a few points for special consideration:
1. Our account reveals that several times Jesus delayed in responding to the urgent needs of Lazarus. Why did Jesus delay His visit to Lazarus when He heard that Lazarus was seriously ill? Why did He not follow the advice of His disciples and later of Martha? As we read on, the account provides us with clear reasons for Jesus' delays. As we read them, we understand them and we agree with them.
Yet when we bring our personal needs before God, are we prepared to accept God's delays in responding to us, even though we know that God loves us, that He understands us and our situations better than we ourselves understand, and that His time is always the best time? Indeed, God wants us to tell Him our needs, just as good parents want their children to tell them their needs. But, then, we must trust God to do what is best for us, rather than telling God what He should do and how and when He should do it. At times, such is our pride and our arrogance that we think that God needs help, perhaps our help, to run the universe! May God forgive us.
How wonderful to know our Heavenly Father, to be able to address Him, to know that He wills what is best for us! Not even death can separate us from Him.
2. Our account clearly indicates that Jesus did what He had to do. At the same time, however, it states just as clearly that He ordered others to move the stone which sealed the tomb and to remove the cloth in which Lazarus was wrapped. Why these orders? No doubt because God expects us to understand that we are always responsible to do what we can do; yes, even in critical times when we view ourselves to be helpless and able only to commit ourselves and our concerns into His hands.
3. No doubt, Jesus wept because He loved Lazarus. But did He weep only because of Lazarus and his death? From all we know of Jesus, Jesus grieved not only for Lazarus but also because of the spread of sin and death, the fruit of sin, which has permeated all mankind. Death and its destructive power is, as the Holy Bible describes it, “the last enemy”. (1 Corinthians 15:26)
Yet at the same time that the Lazarus event shows Jesus' own true humanity and His identification with all humanity and with all human weakness and pain, it also identifies Jesus with the eternal, creative and living Word of God, which brings life even out of death. It again provides strong confirmation for the claim of the Holy Bible that Jesus is a prophet, yet also the eternal and living Word of God. Indeed, God's Word enfleshed! Here, then, is still another decisive sign defining the meaning of Jesus' Messiahship.
Yes, Jesus claimed to be the Resurrection and the Life. These three resurrection accounts clearly substantiate His claim. Because of Him, we look forward to that time prophesied by Jesus’ apostle John, when sin, sickness, sadness and death will be obliterated, when we will be forever with the Lord!
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ ” (Revelations 21:3,4)
Praise God! What a vision! What joy! Praise God, who heals and saves, who overcomes sin, death and the grave and gives eternal life!
Your hand, O Lord, in days of old
Was strong to heal and save;
It triumphed over ills and death,
All darkness and the grave.
To you they came, the blind, the dumb,
The palsied and the lame,
The lepers in their misery,
The sick with fevered frame.
Your touch then, Lord, brought life and health,
Gave speech and strength and sight;
And youth renewed and frenzy calmed
Revealed you, Lord of light.
And now, O Lord, be near to bless,
Almighty as before,
In crowded streets, by beds of pain,
As by Gennes’ret’s shore.
Oh, be our great deliv’rer still,
The Lord of life and death;
Restore and quicken, soothe and bless,
With your life-giving breath.
To hands that work and eyes that see
Give wisdom’s healing pow’r
That whole and sick and weak and strong
May praise you evermore.
(Lutheran Worship, Concordia Publishing House, 1982.)
Q U I Z
If you have studied this booklet carefully, you can easily answer the following questions. Whoever answers 90% of all questions in the three booklets of this series correctly, can obtain a certificate from our center as an encouragement for his/her future services for Christ.
1. Which two miracles are related to Jesus’ birth and His resurrection?
2. Why did Jesus perform so many miraculous signs? What was the purpose of Jesus’ miracles?
3. Why did Jesus forbid people from publicizing his miracles?
4. "Jesus had authority on the earth to forgive sins." What does the statement mean?
5. What effect did the miraculous signs performed by Jesus have on people?
6. How do the miraculous signs performed 2000 years ago apply to our lives today?
7. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" What does this cry of blind Bartimaeus signify to you?
8. Why did the blind man worship Jesus? (see John 9:38)
9. What should be our attitude toward the deaf and the blind?
10. What lessons do you get from the life of Fr. Damien? What should be your attitude towards lepers in the light of the miracle of healing the ten lepers?
11. What are the manifestations of demons in a human body? What is the remedy?
12. What miracle demonstrates that the ministry of healing of Jesus was for all mankind and not exclusively for the children of Israel?
13. What is the role of faith in the process of healing?
14. Forgiveness of sins is the prerogative of God alone. Jesus forgave the paralytic and healed him miraculously. What does that signify?
15. What does repentance mean?
16. What role does faith play in healing? Name some miracles of healing done by Jesus the Messiah where the faith of the person asking was rewarded.
17. Mention the miracles where faith and obedience on the part of the sufferer resulted in healing.
18. Jesus claimed: "I am the resurrection and the life." (John 11:25) Explain this statement by referring to the miracles that Jesus performed in raising the dead to life.
19. What miracles of Jesus Christ substantiate His claim for divinity?
Every participant in this quiz is allowed to use any book at his disposition and to ask any trustworthy person known to him when answering these questions. We wait for your written answers including your full address on the papers or in your e-mail. We pray for you to Jesus, the living Lord, that He will send, guide, strengthen, protect and be with you every day of your life!
Yours in His service,
Ibrahimkhan O. Deshmukh
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