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.

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37. Missing the Point

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 37. Missing the Point

Mk 2:6-8 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?

When we allow prejudice to reign – for whatever reason – we take on a form of blindness. This is illustrated in these three verses. Bear in mind the fact that Jesus has been ministering for some time all over Galilees, large crowds have been getting healed and it has all been happening in the open. Nothing has been done behind closed doors! So these ‘teachers of the law’ must have known all about it, must of known all about the amazing healings that had been taking place, and must have already discussed among themselves the phenomenon that was Jesus of Nazareth at work!

If you and I had been there we might have simply wondered about this amazing miracle worker from Nazareth and that is all. However, we would not be Jews of that day, and especially those trained in the Scriptures that today we call the Old Testament. If we had been, we would have known the many Scriptures that pointed to a coming One, One promised by God, a deliverer from heaven – those are just some of the descriptions found in the Old Testament.

So, if we had been such trained individuals and IF we had open hearts and minds, we might be open to wonder what else God would permit His Anointed One (or Christ) to do. Perhaps He might even delegate authority to this One to forgive people. After all John the Baptist came “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mk 1:4)  In other words John came bringing as method of getting right with God which produced forgiveness of sins, so what was so different here?

The point that most of us miss is that the interpretation that these teachers of the law put on Jesus’ words is particularly antagonistic and looks, at the minimum, at stopping Jesus’ ministry, and at worst, killing him (for blasphemy was a capital offence under the Law). Yes, it was the truth – Jesus had come from heaven as the second person of the Trinity, God in the flesh – but that wasn’t the only interpretation you could put on his words.  The crucial point here was how open were these teachers to the possibilities about the Coming One and especially in the light of all Jesus was doing and saying? Answer: they weren’t!