March: Matthew 11–12; Luke 11
There was no Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter, no radio, no television, no telephone, and no printing press in the year 30 AD. But somehow the word got out: Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, was a miracle worker. Everyone wanted to touch him or have him touch them. But the kind of healing Jesus was really pushing required no physical touch. Jesus was advising a complete transformation…a new birth, or heart transplant, that was not physical but spiritual.
Stories of a woman touching the hem of Jesus’ robe to stop years of internal bleeding, or his touch restoring sight to eyes of the blind, stories of throngs reaching out to touch him for his healing power…and being healed, made their way through the Judean grapevine, “And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and he healed them all.” Luke 6:19; Matt 4:24-25. The stories of lepers, madmen, innocent children and old mothers restored to life and health by the Savior’s touch underscored the physical power and presence of Jesus during his earthly ministry. His marvelous ability to heal both physical and mental illness prompted thousands upon thousands to find Him, follow Him and publicize His miraculous personal interventions for them or others.
Indeed, His willingness to be physically present was a huge deal. This presence constituted the “Condescension of God.” The incredible wonder that the co-creator of earth, the all-knowing and all-powerful Jehovah, agreed to be born as a baby, grow up, and then teach and demonstrate to all of us, how to live lives of service and love.
The many chapters of the synoptic gospels (Marthew, Mark and Luke,) overflow with tales of miraculous healings, profound parables and even returns from what-everyone-thought-was-dead. Jesus performed and shares his power with untiring love and mercy on the Sabbath day, and probably every other day of the week during his earthly ministry.
News of these miracles traveled fast. Jesus was soon a young rabbinic celebrity. Many wanted to see or experience a miracle for themself or someone they cared about. They followed him for that reason. Others, mostly religious leaders, felt threatened by the dramatic claims and credible evidence of the Savior’s messiahship. They focused on perceived offenses to Mosaic law including healing on the Sabbath, picking food on the Sabbath or his potentially blasphemous claim to be the promised Messiah.
These detractors could not get past their preoccupation with the “proper” way to do things. This self-inflicted spiritual blindness prevented them from acknowledging the astonishing power for good issuing forth from this wise and wondrous teacher. Though the scribes, Pharisees and Saducees were the unrivaled scriptorians of their day, they were unable to draw the lines between the prophetic promises of the past and what was unfolding before their eyes. Instead, the religious establishment of Jesus’ time chose to be consumed with outrage at the chutzpah (Yiddish for nerve) of this man of humble heritage (though genealogically speaking, a distant descendant of David,) claiming to be the earthly manifestation of God Himself.
The Pharisees’ fury and perhaps fear of usurpation distracted them from acknowledging the truth before them….”Emmanuel,” “God with Us,” was WITH THEM!!
But the Pharisees aren’t the only ones who were off. So many following Jesus in the New Testament stories were intent on receiving from him one physical gift or another to assuage their hunger or heal a hurt. Physical healings and miracles recorded in the Bible are meant as visual aids designed to demonstrate the POWER of Christ…and His teachings…to HEAL our souls, and to BLESS all who will do His will with everlasting inner peace, joy and life. These gifts far surpass free food or even physical health. Jesus is filled with compassion…over and over again. He is so willing to use his power to relieve suffering that is temporal and physical. But, he is repeatedly frustrated by the inability of those who follow him, as well as those who don’t, to understand the point of all his temporal and physical healing. Over and over he explains who he is to those imploring him to exert his power on their behalf or on behalf of others, as he did to the man lowered down through a hole in the roof by his friends so he might have a chance to be touched by the Savior. Touched by the faith of the paralyzed man and his friends, Jesus says,“Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” (Mark 2:5.) And, in this instance, as in so many others recorded in the Gospels, the scribes or the Pharisees, or the Sadducees, and even sometimes his own followers, recoil from, and doubt the message all this healing is supposed to convey, thinking instead: ”Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mark 2:7.) Repeatedly, Jesus perceives and understands these thoughts and responds, leaving nothing to the imagination. He explains with clarity, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier to say…”thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say arise up and take up thy bed and walk?”(Mark 2:9. KJV/ RSV) Which statement implies greater power asks the Savior?
Think about it….which feels worse…a rotten tooth ache, migraine headache, the stomach flu or being consumed with anger, jealousy or resentment. None of them are pleasant, that’s for sure, I find spiritual malaise more miserable than physical illness.
Jesus relieved physical, mental and emotional ailments, handicaps and even death to bring relief, yes. But more importantly, he performed miracles of healing to bring those healed and those who witnessed these extraordinary events to realize they were in the presence of the long awaited Messiah.
The name Jesus, Y’eshua, comes from a Hebrew word which means to rescue or to deliver. In Mark 2 Jesus works overtime to help those around him understand that he is the one to whom all their laws and practices point. When he dines with the riff raff of Jewish society….tax collectors and other sinners, the observant faithful are shocked. He explains: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners,” When his hungry disciples outrage the Pharisees by picking grain on the Sabbath, Jesus quotes scriptural passages from the Old Testament to let his accusers understand there are strong historic precedents for God and God’s appointed leader to break God’s own rules.The rules were made to bring people to Him; when they were with Him they could follow Him, not the rules.
Most importantly, he is letting them know…He is God. Knowing him, being close to him, is the reason for all these rules. It is why his disciples don’t fast like others…they ARE close to him. When he is no longer with them…THEN they will legitimately have to fast to feel that closeness again. He is the bridegroom, he is the new wine, he is the Lord of the Sabbath, he has the authority to forgive people of their sins and the power to cure whatever ails them. Physical challenges on earth are definitely here to give us experience. Sometimes physical healing is not the Lord’s will for us or someone we love.
Jesus asked in perfect faith that he be spared the ordeal of the cross. That didn’t happen. I have witnessed extraordinary healings that were very physical and astonished brilliant doctors. I have also watched those I love endure inexplicable physical suffering and death. And – this is where the touchless healing comes in – somehow, though nothing changes, it all changes. I have chosen to believe, not letting my doubts overcome my faith in the promises and personal revelation received from the Holy Spirit. As I have, I’ve experienced touch free healing. A closeness to God and with my departed family members that has healed so many wounds and I have confidence will someday resolve every separation ….allowing us to feel the embraces…not only of those we love who have left, but of the great Healer Himself.
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