24. Sins Gone

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 24. Sins Gone

1 Pet 2:24  “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

I am sure we so often read verses of Scripture and just don’t pause to think exactly what it is that we are reading. This verse above is absolutely amazing in what it says. The first phrase, as with what follows, is clearly a quote from Isa 53. But note carefully.

First, “he himself bore our sins in his body.” The emphasis is on his physical body being killed on the wooden cross. It is a mysterious phrase. I have written on this before, but it bears repeating. Many years ago, I was asked to speak at a youth service at Easter and so I sought for a visual aid through which to communicate. I produced a cross with a figure hanging on it. Nothing special there. I then copied the picture but took a black felt-marker pen and scribbled all over the area of the body so that the body could hardly be seen. The black, I explained were all of our sins being heaped on Jesus as he hung there. It was like they were being given to him, attributed to him, carried by him; it’s like they covered him, soaked into him, become one with him: he was the guilty sinner of the world. Now there is much more we could say about that picture and it is just a visual aid to try and make some sense of this incredible imagery in this verse.

Second, the effect of that, seen in the middle of the verse, is that all those sins and indeed the power of sin have been taken by Jesus and they are no longer ‘on us’.  Because we have been given a completely new and fresh start and because we are now indwelt by his Spirit, the power of Sin in us has been broken. To say we might “die to sins” means their attractive, drawing power no longer has any say in our lives. We are free to live righteously.

Third, there is this mysterious phrase at the end, that comes from Isaiah, “by his wounds you have been healed.” So often his death and resurrection are used as a parallel to what happens spiritually to us when we come to him, but here ‘being wounded’ is contrasted with ‘being healed’. On the cross he was ‘wounded’ – beaten and nailed – and it resulted in his death. The effect of his work on the cross was that in so many ways, we are ‘healed’. Whereas we lived dysfunctional lives, now they have been made orderly and good. Whereas we were out of kilter with God, now we have been reconciled to Him and He to us. Whereas we were at odds with ourselves and with other people, now we have been brought into a place of peace and harmony, and it is all because of what Jesus achieved on the cross. We say we are ‘redeemed’ and that includes all these things, achieved by Christ.

Advertisements

17. A Power Name

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 17. A Power Name

Acts 4:10  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.

Familiarity so often removes mystery. At first sight there is mystery in this verse spoken out by the apostle Peter. A man has just been miraculously healed and Peter says it is by the name of Jesus Christ, the carpenter from Nazareth, that this has happened. What does that mean? It means that what Peter had said and done that resulted in this man being miraculously healed, came about because of all that Peter had known and experienced of Jesus and so that now he has the authority of that same Jesus to do the same things Jesus had done.

And then comes the thrust about Jesus: “whom you crucified”. Yes, you rejected him, and you tried him and wrongly declared him guilty of sin although he was sinless and then executed him. Yes, all right, all of that is not there in the record, but that is what is implied in it. And to prove you were wrong, “whom God raised from the dead.”

And that is why the name of Jesus is the name under which you and I operate, the name under which you and I serve God, the name under which we can have confidence that God will act. Peter does not spell it out here and perhaps it would have to wait until the fuller understanding was given to the apostle Paul. The truth was that by being crucified Jesus was being offered as a sacrifice for sin so that Justice would be appeased because all the sins of mankind were taken in this momentous punishment taken by the very Son of God. He was a figure so great that no one could ever say he wasn’t big enough to take your sin, my sin and the sin of every person who has ever lived or ever will live. Yes, that was what was happening on the Cross.

But as we’ve seen, it didn’t end there; he was raised from the dead and by his resurrection he proved he was who he had said he was, this Son of God ‘big enough’ to carry our sin.

And so, what was the outworking of those two things, Jesus’ death and resurrection? Well, as heaven sang of Jesus, “you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9,10)

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, you and I who have become believers, have been united with him and so, as he now reigns at his Father’s right hand, we share in that reign with him and his authority and power is expressed in and through us so that we do the works of Jesus here on earth as he said (Jn 14:12), just like Peter.  Hallelujah!

37. Miracle Worker (1)

Focus on Christ Meditations: 37.  Miracle Worker (1)

Acts 2:22  Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.

It is easy when you have been a Christian for many years to take for granted the things you read in the Gospels and it is for that reason that I have approached many of these studies in the way I have. This is as true of what we might call the ‘divinely supernatural dimension’ of Jesus’ ministry as anything else in the Bible. If it were not for this dimension of his ministry, the new reader might be tempted to simply say, “He was a great teacher” (even though much of his teaching was about claims he made about himself, people still say this). But the miraculous side of what he did no longer give even the casual reader that opportunity, and so, in our studies of the Christ, this is an essential area for us to investigate.

Within this area we might consider healings, deliverances, raising the dead and then other miscellaneous miracles. As I have said, I suspect we take many of these things for granted, so let’s try and catch an overview of these. Let’s start in this study at least with healings:

 

There are general references and then specific records. First general references. Let’s be very clear:

  • 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 severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.” (Mt 4:23,24) Note the ‘healing every
  • “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” (Mt 8:16)
  • “Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick,” (Mt 12:15)
  • “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Mt 14:14) Note, by ‘their sick’, implies ‘all’. Just a bald statement of fact.
  • “People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.” (Mt 14:35,36) Not only his general intent to heal but his very presence brought healing.
  • “Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.” (Mt 15:30) No indication that he healed just some of these ‘great crowds’.
  • “Large crowds followed him, and he healed them (Mt 19:2)
  • “The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.” (Mt 21:14)

There it is – 8  general references. Now admittedly Matthew is the Gospel writer who seeks  to show Jesus as the Messiah bringing in the kingdom but we have to accept the testimony of his writing otherwise we might as well write off all the New Testament writings. The early Church Fathers were sure enough to put Matthew in the canon of scripture, so we should as well. I make these comments because of the strength that comes through these 8 sets of references – and the unbelief that so often prevails today.

Now as I have testified elsewhere before, I know people who have gone to observe healing ministries elsewhere in the world and the staggering truth is that God does choose times of spectacular healings in massive numbers, and that was obviously happening through Jesus. If you are still not certain, scroll back up and reread those verses – all EIGHT of them! (Is it coincidence that 8 is the number of resurrection or of new life in Scripture?) There is no doubt that part of Jesus’ acceptance by the crowds was because of this aspect of his ministry.

For individual examples we can cite in Matthew, the cleansing of the leper (Mt 8:2,3), the centurion’s servant healed (Mt 8:5-13), the fever leaving Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt 8:14,15), the paralytic healed (Mt 9:2-7), the bleeding woman (Mt 9:20-22), the ruler’s daughter raised (Mt 9:18,19,23-25), two blind men healed (Mt 9:27-30), the blind & mute demoniac healed (Mt 12:22),and two blind men healed outside Jericho (Mt 20:30-34).

It is clear from that list of nine instances that Matthew lumps most of them together in chapters 8 and 9 with two later exceptions. If we go to Mark and Luke we will be able to add other healings not covered by Matthew and if we go to John we find him using what appear to be some of the same ones but he uses healings as signs pointing to who Jesus is, rather than signs of the kingdom coming as Matthew does.

From even our limited coverage above it is patently obvious that Jesus exercised his power as the Son of God, again and again and again and in hardly any cases (one or two exceptions only) sin is not mentioned, i.e. contrary to much modern counseling, surprisingly, Jesus virtually never dug into an individual’s background – which he would have known anyway – but simply healed them. Again he would have obviously known that when it came to the time of his death, many of those who had been healed would not stand up and testify for him, but that clearly did not concern him.

The difficult conclusion – and I say difficult because so much modern evangelical teaching focuses on sin and guilt – is that Jesus just delighted in using his power to heal people regardless of what they would then go on and do. In fact in some instances, if we look further afield in the Gospels than we have done, it is clear that some of those who were healed were either not particularly grateful or not particularly thankful and that they would not then support Jesus. All of this points to a God who simply wants to do good to people and then leave the outworking of that to whatever direction their hearts were facing.

We, the human race, can be incredibly fickle – bless and praising one minute then indifferent or critical the next – but Jesus isn’t. His determination was to bless and bless and bless – and many of us struggle with that. We want to rationalize it or make it conditional but the record shows that it wasn’t!

As far as Matthew was concerned, Jesus did what he did to fulfil his Father’s will which had been decreed in prophecy: “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (Mt 8:17 citing Isa 53:4) In the next study we will go on to consider another aspect of the miraculous ministry of Jesus.

112. The Kingdom Comes

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 112. The Kingdom Comes

Mk 6:12,13 They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Near the beginning of Mark’s Gospel we read, 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!” (Mk 1:14,15). That encapsulated the message of Jesus, that the rule of God was about to be revealed so now was a time to cast off disbelief and do a one hundred and eighty degree turn about and believe that God’s goodness was there for them. The rule of God must surely be expressed by darkness being pushed back and the light and love and goodness of God revealed in what happens. To talk about God’s rule is to talk about things  happening, God delivering people from Sin and the fruits of Sin.

So it is that the apostles now go out and do exactly the same as Jesus had been doing. First of all they called people to repentance. People needed to turn away from their sin of unbelief and actively believe in the love and goodness of God that was there to restore them to genuinely be the people of God, not just in word, but in reality. We cannot become the people of God (Christians) without repentance. As we noted above it means a one hundred and eighty degree turn in our thinking, in our believing, in our attitudes and in our action. It is a turning away from self and sin and unbelief and a turning to God and to His love and goodness.

But then they drove out many demons. It has always struck me that Israel must have been in a very bad spiritual state where the occult so often prevailed and so many lives had become dominated by evil spirits. Wherever they went, it seems, they came across those who were possessed and a mark of the coming of the reign of God was that those people were set free from the demonic in their lives. Satan’s minions represent the dominion of darkness and they have no place in the kingdom of light, the kingdom of the Son. Thus where they are encountered, they are cast out.

And then, finally, they healed all who came to them and were sick. Sickness was not part of the divine design at the beginning. Ultimately it is called by the breakdown in human life caused by Sin. Thus when anyone came to God through the preaching of the apostles, the way was made open for them to be healed. Hallelujah!

 

34. Determination

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 34. Determination

Mk 2:3,4 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 paralyzed man was lying on.

Sometimes illustrations or examples in Scripture are so simple and straight forward that we almost miss them. In these two verses we possibly have one of the best illustrations in the Bible of simple determination or, if we like to call it by its other name – perseverance.

Consider what happened. There is a man who is paralysed and who obviously cannot move himself. Fortunately for him he has four friends, one or more of whom have almost certainly seen Jesus at work. This has convinced them that here, is a one-off chance to get their friend healed. They had seen Jesus do it for others, so what he can do for others, he can do for their friend! Of this they are absolutely sure. Is our lack of determination or lack of perseverance, I wonder, sometimes because we are simply not sure of Jesus?

It is not always so simple in our minds is it?  For example I am a living example of this at this very moment. I have for a number of years been troubled with damaged knees.  I was sure the Lord would heal me. One day fairly recently I happened to go to a healing seminar, largely to learn about how to better pray for the sick. There someone prayed for me and my knees were completely healed. Yes, they were, of that there was no doubt. For the next two days I was completely free of pain and had strong legs, and then on the third day while out walking, I fell in a pothole and twisted my right knee which buckled, pulled me down and twisted the left knee. Now – and this still continues a month later – I am in more pain than I was before.

Have I prayed again – yes! Have others prayed for me – yes!  Have I sinned – not to my knowledge! Is this a ‘thorn in the flesh’ – not to my knowledge, I don’t get the revelation Paul got! So why has it happened? I haven’t a clue! But one thing I do know and that is that God loves me and God’s desire is for my good and so if it is a case of the enemy withstanding me so I have to wait ‘twenty one days’ (see Dan 10:12,13) then  so be it. Am I going to continue to pray for my healing? Yes! Am I going to continue to ask others to pray for my healing? Yes! Why? Because I am convinced that Jesus does still heal and that having healed me once, he will do it again! However long it takes, we’re going to get there!

25. In the Home

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 25. Jesus in the home

Mk 1:30,31 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

So God walks into this house in human form. Again, we suggest, we might take this for granted but it is incredible! Does he come to be religious? Does he comes to demand homage and worship? That’s what the gods of the world would seem to demand. No, this God comes in and enters into the life of the home in the most ordinary and yet extraordinary ways.

They talk together and they tell him that Simon’s mother-in-law is unwell. (Incidentally for future pope watchers, please notice that your first pope is married!) So far it is a very ordinary episode in the life of these people. So Jesus says he’s really sorry to hear she’s not well and they get on with the business of the day. Well, no, they don’t actually – although if it was a modern church they might!

No, presumably Jesus asks where she is and he goes in to her. We don’t know if he said anything to her – presumably he did – but he just takes her by the hand and she gets up, and suddenly she is well! If you wanted to be cynical you would say she had a convenient headache and hadn’t wanted to meet Jesus but the facts were that she had had a fever. It’s just that the power of Jesus flowed to her as he reached to her and that power overcame the fever and left her well! So she gets up and serves them and does the sort of things that the woman of the house tends to do!

Now the comment I just made about a ‘convenient headache’ is an example of the common excuses that people make when they struggle to believe the things Jesus did. The fact is, as we read through all the Gospels, he healed many people and performed many miracles. Power wasn’t a problem for Jesus – he was and is God. To challenge that is to challenge whether he is the Son of God and to challenge the very Gospel records themselves. The more you study these things the more you find there is little room to doubt – except our own will, we don’t like the consequences that must flow!

Lord Jesus, thank you that you came in humility and put off all of the glory you had in heaven. Forgive us if, because of this, we sometimes stumble over your mighty power. I affirm my belief in your word: you are God and you do still heal. Thank you so much!

23. Wildfire

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 23. Wildfire!

Mk 1:28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson, I believe, who said, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” That was a simple way of saying, ‘make something that the world wants and they will flock to you.’ Now the first stage of that is the word getting out that you have better mousetrap – or a better religion! Until Jesus arrived, all Israel knew was institutional religion, dry, dusty and orthodox – and dead! Suddenly an exciting preacher turns up who speaks like God is real and then does stuff to show a power that had been absent from the land for centuries. No wonder the news spread quickly over the whole region.

What we have in this verse is a shorthand version of what crops up again and again in the Gospels, for example, 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 severe 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.” (Mt 4:23-25). He healed every disease and sickness in those who came to him! No wonder it was ‘large crowds’ who came. Here was a preacher who came transforming lives for the better.

But it wasn’t only the power to heal. We do need to reiterate that his teaching was attractive. After the Sermon on the Mount, we find, “When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.”(Mt 8:1) Yes, surely it was his healing reputation but what he said and how he said it also drew the crowds. Yet isn’t this true whenever God is moving? Great crowds flocked to John the Baptist (e.g. Lk 3:7) and they have flocked to any great anointed preacher throughout Church history. Partly it is the man but (certainly in revivals) it is the power of the Holy Spirit convicting people of their need, and so crowds flock to wherever it is that that need is being met. Hungry unbelievers don’t really know what they want, but the word spreads like wildfire and the crowds flock to hear.

Lord, please come again to our land with revival power. Draw people to yourself. Come in power and let the word spread like wildfire!