Fringe benefits. We’ve all heard the term and know basically what they are: things above and beyond basic compensation from an employer. It can be an extensive list that includes paid time off, health insurance, profit sharing and retirement plans, to name just a few.
Where’s this heading, you may be wondering. I’m glad you asked!
I was reading from the Gospel of Mark earlier, and came upon this passage describing Jesus in his travels: And wherever he went, into villages, or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:56 NRSV)
There you have it! The benefit of touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment. People had heard the stories of miraculous healings being done by this Jesus and in their desperation were hoping to just touch what he was wearing that they might experience a miracle too. And the gospel accounts tells us of many such folks who received healing from Jesus. He sometimes laid a hand on the sick or at other times and over a distance simply spoke a word and healing happened.
As wonderful as these accounts are, they truly represent only the fringe of Jesus’ ministry and purpose. He healed because of his compassion toward the hurting. Yet the driving force behind any of the miracles attributed to Jesus was to point people toward God. Physical healings are great, but to the best of my knowledge everyone restored by Jesus still eventually died a natural death.
None of what I’ve said is meant to minimize the wonder of Jesus’ actions, both then and now. My point is this: supernatural healing is a fringe benefit; of having faith.
If you have faith, you have already received the greatest healing you can ever get: You know the love of God! And the news gets even better: Faith is not something you and I have to develop, it is the gift of God! We are not given faith as a result of our good efforts or stiving for perfection. Rather, God knows we need it and that we are incapable of truly developing it on our own.
Enter Jesus, the Great(est) Physician! No matter how far modern medicine progresses, it will never attain the ability to cure us on an eternal level. And that’s ok, because Jesus has already seen to that for everyone. In so doing, our Savior has provided the vehicle of faith for us to grab on to. And we don’t have to reach for the edge of the Savior’s garment because through the blessing and activity of the Holy Spirit we have 24/7 access to the Lord.
So don’t be satisfied with touching just the fringe, but wrap yourself up from head to toe in the love of God; a love that is for all, always, forever and ever! Amen.
Waiting for something can be quite difficult. The more important that something is to us, the harder the wait usually. Maybe it is that long-awaited get-away vacation or the opportunity to reunite with an old friend. Perhaps, like often happens here in the Northeast US, the waiting for warmer temperatures seemingly takes forever. The wait for these types of things, hard as they can be, hold the promise of something positive when they do arrive.
But what about the waiting when the outcome or result is not known? I am thinking know about those of us who spend time praying for the healing of family, friends, co-workers, etc. We pray, seeking God’s mercy for these folks, but often we see little to no change for the better.
If this describes you, may today’s short blog entry serve as encouragement for you to hang in there. Reading Chapters 3 and 4 from the Acts of the Apostles got me to thinking about this. In Chapter 3, Peter and John meet a man crippled from birth. This person is carried to the gate of the temple courts to beg for food or money every day. Peter, when he has the crippled man’s attention says, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6 NIV). Instantly, this man is given the ability to walk.
This healing was instant when it happened, but it was a long time coming for we find out later in Chapter 4, verse 22 that the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. (NIV)
Here is another example of an instant healing that was a long time coming. Jesus was in Jerusalem for one of the religious feasts when He encountered a man hoping to be healed by the stirred up water at the Sheep Gate. The Bible says of this man, One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. (John 5:5 NIV). John then tells of the conversation Jesus has with this individual and then of the Lord’s speaking a word of healing over him. As He does, this long-term physically handicapped person is instantly healed.
These are just two examples of people who had to wait what had to seem to them like forever before they got relief. But God did move on their behalf.
Like them, we are all captive to the passing of time as we understand it. God is not. He moves in perfect ways, in perfect timing, to His perfect will. This is of course far from our grasp.
So what are we to do? My encouragement is to hang in there! The Scriptures are full of examples of God’s faithfulness. His love and mercy are evident on nearly every page. We also have some experiences in our own lives where God has done something wonderful, just not on our schedule.
We also must remember that because God is outside of time as we know it, we will never fully (or even partially) understand His plans. But hang in there. Keep on praying and seeking His favor or blessing for someone. God’s track record is impeccable. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says this best: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)
I have written, taught and preached many times that Jesus Christ is the perfect role model for all who follow Him. Although we know going in we will never perfectly emulate the Lord, we can and should be learning from His example on a daily basis.
The Scriptures, of course, are the primary place for us to gain insight into the Lord’s behavior. In the 11th Chapter of John’s Gospel, we find a narrative where much of Jesus character is revealed for all. In it, Jesus receives word that his dear friend Lazarus is sick and near death. The bible tells us that Jesus was not only close to Lazarus, but to his sisters Martha and Mary as well.
We learn that Jesus does not go to them immediately, but waits 2 days. When He and his disciples do arrive at the village where Lazarus and his sisters lived, they find Lazarus already dead.
The sisters each go to Jesus and in their grief question the Lord as to why He did not come sooner. They both believe Jesus would have healed their brother.
As I considered this account again, I wondered for a moment why Jesus didn’t simply say the word of healing when He first got word of Lazarus condition. There are other examples in the gospels that tell Jesus healed at a distance (He sent 10 lepers away who were healed on their way to the priest and the royal officials son, who Jesus sent back home with the assurance that the child was healed. This official found out upon arriving home that his son was healed at the very same time he had spoken to Jesus the day before. These are just two examples of this kind of healing received from Jesus).
Obviously, Jesus was following the direction of the Father, whose desire was/is to make the Kingdom of God known to all. God’s plan was to open the eyes of people to His unmatched power; power even over death. This was also a portent of what was to come with the resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus knew the importance of following the Father’s will, even though in the moment He was going to share the pain of Mary and Martha’s suffering. He was also experiencing a sense of disappointment as well; not that He had failed, but the powerful sense of the lostness of many of the people there.
The gospel writer sums it up in verse 35 of Chapter 11, Jesus wept. As I prepared to write this blog entry, I re-read of my favorite commentators on the Bible, Warren Wiersbe. What he wrote about this entire account is profound, so much so in fact that I want to share it with you all, for there is no way I could improve upon it.
“Jesus wept” is the shortest and yet the deepest verse in Scripture. His was a silent weeping (the Greek word is used nowhere else in the New Testament) and not the loud lamentation of the mourners. But why did He weep at all? After all, He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.
Our Lord’s weeping reveals the humanity of the Savior. He has entered into all of our experiences and knows how we feel. In fact, being the perfect God-man, Jesus experienced these things in a deeper way than we do. His tears also assure us of His sympathy; He is indeed “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” Today, He is our merciful and faithful High Priest, and we may come to the throne of grace and find all the gracious help that we need.
We see in His tears the tragedy of sin but also the glory of heaven. Perhaps Jesus was weeping for Lazarus, as well as with the sisters, because He knew He was calling His friend from heaven and back into a wicked world where he would one day have to die again. Jesus had come down from heaven; He knew what Lazarus was leaving behind.
The spectators saw in His tears an evidence of His love. But some of them said, “If Jesus loved Lazarus so much, why did He not prevent his death?” Perhaps they were thinking, “Jesus is weeping because He was unable to do anything. They are tears of deep regret.” In other words, nobody present really expected a miracle! For this reason, nobody could accuse Jesus of “plotting” this event and being in collusion with the two sisters and their friends. Even the disciples did not believe that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead! (Warren Wiersbe BE Bible Study Series.)
Sometimes, you and I are called to obedience that will cause us pain or discomfort. This is not a place I look forward to being in, as predictability and comfort are my normal default settings. But I must keep the greater picture in mind by remembering that my purpose today is to further God’s Kingdom in all that I say and do. Jesus has also said that His followers are the pickup their own cross and follow Him. I believe this is what He was referring to when He said that.
There will be times when hurt will accompany the being in the Father’s will. The Son of God has indeed modeled this for us. I find great comfort in knowing that our Savior has experienced all the emotions that go along with being a human being. May we call on His loving care and mercy to see us through when those tasks fall to us.
It was shocking and saddening to see the millions of people in Texas who had to brave the extreme cold without heat for their homes because of the recent severe winter weather there. Many prayers, mine included, went out for God to keep them safe and to provide the basics for survival. Many on the ground there did step up to provide what they could.
There is little in modern life that causes such great disruption to us than the loss of power. I can attest to this myself, as over the years both ice storms and electrical storms have knocked out power in our small city a number of times. When this occurred during the winter, keeping the kids warm was the priority and during the warm months trying to preserve food in the refrigerator and freezer took precedent.
In those cases, as well as the current one in Texas, as life-altering as being without power is, there remains the hope and even assurance that service will be restored eventually. Be it an inconvenience for 6 hours or a struggle for 6 days, some flicker of hope remains that things will again return to normal sooner or later when the juice starts flowing again.
But I had a reminder of a far more permanent type of powerlessness the other day. A man that I admire greatly asked that we might have a discussion of powerlessness at the AA meeting we were both attending. Though this man has in excess of 6 years of continuous sobriety, is a cancer survivor and survived the attacks of 9/11; this particular day brought powerlessness to the forefront of his mind as it marked the anniversary of the death of his sister from a drug overdose.
Powerlessness for the addicted is described in the first of the 12 Steps of recovery. We read this (and all 12 Steps) at the beginning of every meeting: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or drugs) and our lives had become unmanageable.
As we took turns talking about what this meant to us individually, it occurred to me again the complete powerlessness I have over my alcoholism. Unlike when the heat or the electricity go out, I have no hope that any sense of normalcy will ever be within my grasp. Being powerless tells me that if I should pick up another drink, I have no idea when or if the roller-coaster of craziness will ever stop. It is not the 10th drink that will get me drunk, as we are fond of saying, but the first one. For it is that one that unleashes the dominance of alcohol over my mental and physical being. Once imbibed, I am truly helpless and hopeless. I am in the dark with no hope of escape.
The great blessing I get to experience today is that I do not have to take that first drink. Discussions like we had at that meeting the other day serve as a tremendous reminder of what the hell of drinking was like. When I face each day honestly admitting my powerlessness, I become able to recognize that I have the greatest of all hope and power available to me.
A part of the AA Preamble, also read before every, meeting states: But there is one who has all power. That one is God, may you find him now.
Though not a religious program per se, those like myself with some understanding of who this God might be come to realize that He holds the only means of escape from the powerlessness of addiction. In Him lies the hope that ‘power’ can be restored. But make no mistake, this is not power given to me so that I can attempt to navigate on my own again.
Rather, it is a heaven-send invitation to tap into a source of power that never will be shut off. God gives it in abundance to those who truly want it for what it offers; the power to live addiction free.
For me, having had this power made available has done so much more than simply allow me to set the drink down. By humbly acknowledging my helplessness, God has stepped into my life with His life giving love. By doing so He has not only alleviated the physical compulsion to drink, but has also healed me of the mental struggle and anguish that accompanies an addicted life.
I share this today for several reasons. One is to honor my friend who lost his sister to addiction. By openly sharing his pain, those of us with him at that meeting were given the chance to again examine the reality of our own powerlessness.
I share this also as a beacon of hope. If you or someone you love is in the life and death struggle that defines addiction, please know that there is a way out. I testify that as God has poured out His infinite might into my powerlessness, and in so doing He has freed me to live a life filled with purpose and joy.
My experience teaches me that He has a never-ending supply of this power available. I have seen it at work in so many lives, and I see it still reaching people today.
Remember, you have not lost by admitting you are powerless. In fact, you have taken the first step toward a whole new, addiction free life.
Ah, Google, how did I ever learn things before you showed up on my computer. I was mulling over the idea for today’s blog while shoveling snow from the driveway earlier, attempting as I do to find application for today from the timeless truth found in the Scriptures. Actually this blog has been rattling around between my ears for about a week, ever since I re-read the encounter a father of a sick /possessed child had with Jesus. (please check in out in Mark 9:14-27)
If you just read this or are familiar with the event contained there, and if you have a beating heart in your chest, you can sense the desperation in the dad. Back to Google for a moment: I knew there existed a famous quote about desperate times and measures, and thanks to the search engine, there it was: The Greek physician and philosopher Hippocrates said it first and said it best: “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.” In other words, drastic times call for drastic measures.
You can get a sense of the drastic times calling for drastic measures the father felt as he spoke to Jesus, “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.”
Whether this was demon possession of a terrible affliction of seizures is not the point. What is important for us to focus on is the strong desire of the boy’s father to help his son. Word of Jesus and His healing power was well known by this point in His earthly ministry, as evidenced by the large crowds following the Lord everywhere He went. No matter if folks were merely looking for a show or if they were also desperate to have a need met, they sought out Jesus in droves.
In this case the father, in searching for Jesus he instead came across His disciples, who also by this time had a growing reputation of being healers. In this case, however, they were unsuccessful in healing the boy. Again, the sense of desperation is palpable in the dad as captured in his response to Jesus when asked by the Lord how long the child had been in this condition: “From childhood,” he answered. “It often throws him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:21-22 NIV).
Did you catch the “if you can?” Jesus sure did! “‘If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” As was Jesus usual approach, He wanted people to see the necessity of placing their faith in God for all things as opposed to simply seeking intervention for their problem. (V.23)
The desperate dad then exclaims what I believe to be the heart of this message, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (V.24)
Those of us who have been blessed with having and loving children probably identify with the depth of feeling this father had. After all, his long-suffering son seemed to be in the right place and at the right time for something miraculous to happen, but it had not. I can relate to his plea. “Tell me what else to do” in order that my child be helped. Any devoted parent would make any sacrifice in that moment for the welfare of their child. As you read the rest if this account, you see where the mercy, love and power of Jesus Christ does restore the lad to health.
What I am left pondering, and invite you to do the same, Most Precious Reader, is how desperate am I for Jesus in non-crisis times. Those times when life is cruising along pretty much as I want it. I am comfortable in my surroundings and not worrying about anything substantial.
Where is Jesus in these times of life? Am I merely keeping Him on retainer for when something comes along to knock my life off course? Sadly and honestly, there are times when I simply do take things for granted. Oh, I can do the things I do and say all the right things that go along with my calling, but is this where Jesus wants my heart?
The obvious answer is no. The Lord is zealous for the relationship He has forged with those who know Him through faith. And I believe He wants me/us desperate for more of Him, not merely content with what I have, for as my desire for more of Him grows within me, much of what I selfishly cling to falls away.
Realizing this, I join my prayer with the boys father, and ask Jesus to help me overcome my unbelief.
How about you? Do you struggle with areas of unbelief or maybe a lackadaisical type of faith? I would love to hear how you overcome that.
Thanksgiving in the United States is considered the traditional kick-off of the holiday season. How much of a season of good cheer it turns out to be is yet to be seen, however.
2020 has certainly been a year like no other. In this country we have seen civil unrest, Mother Nature at her worst, political upheaval and of course, the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amidst all the pain, suffering and uncertainty of the future, some might find it hard to be thankful at this time in history. I would not be one of them, however. My heart certainly goes out to those who have lost so much to wildfires and hurricanes. It breaks for those who have lost loved ones to sickness.
I whole-heartedly believe that true thanksgiving must spring from our hearts regardless of current circumstance. I can best accomplish this when I stay focused on the One who always deserves my humble gratitude, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I will be preaching a Thanksgiving sermon from Luke 17:11-19. I have given this message the title: Giving Thanks in a Socially Distanced World. This passage of Scriptures relates the account of Jesus healing 10 who were afflicted with leprosy. I hope that as you consider these verses, you too will be able to give proper thanks and praise more readily to our Lord.
I admit I had never used, thought of or even considered the term ‘social distancing’ before March of this year. Social distancing is now the norm. Keeping a minimum of 6 feet or more from others is considered the best way to slow the spread of Covid-19 down. It is not a new idea, however. Those 10 lepers seeking healing from Jesus used it as well: They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Luke 17:12b-13 NIV)
Like us, you could say that the ten lepers were not having a good year either. Their condition was not only debilitating physically, but it made them outcasts from all people, family and friends included.
The lepers were living/existing away from their families. The family unit was very tight back then. Their absence would have been keenly felt, affecting the lives of the rest of that group. These 10 had an incurable disease and depending on its severity, a death sentence. Those family members would have had little to no hope of seeing their loved one again.
This certainly helps explain the joy they must have felt when they were cured. The desire to let their loved ones know they we healed and back with them would have been very strong; strong enough to prevent them from even thinking about going back to thank the One who had healed them.
However, in our currently socially distanced condition, we can learn the most about giving thanks from the one who came back to Jesus. Gratitude, in my opinion, is an action word. Merely saying I’m grateful without a heart and /or actions to back it up is a bit shallow. The man who went back to Jesus modeled the action of gratitude. He changed direction, putting the giving of thanks above anything else he may have initially wanted to do. He thanked the Lord before going off on his new lease on life.
Practically speaking, how might you and I display the action of gratitude in a socially distanced world? Here is one suggestion: Take the time today to call someone you know that is alone. Let them know you are thinking of them. Ask if there is anything they need and express a willingness to fulfill that need if you are able.
As I think of it, truly giving thanks in a socially distanced world depends little on our current circumstances. Rather, the driving force of daily thanksgiving is God Himself. Merely scanning the Scriptures reveals many things to be grateful on a daily basis because of who God is and what He does.
Think of it as a fill-in-the-blank exercise: God I thank you for: ______________
Here are a few examples:
God I thank you for: saving me through your Son Jesus Christ
God I thank you for: your faithful love
God I thank you for: the fact I can pray to you.
Please notice that this list includes not one item having to do with things or possessions. Rather it is all about who God is and what He has done, is doing and will do. I firmly believe that the more we keep the eyes of our hearts open to see what God is doing in and around us, the more grateful for Him we become.
This is not to say we shouldn’t be grateful for the material blessings in our lives. We should be grateful to God for the gifts He bestows on us. I merely remind you to not lose sight that the material things, as wonderful as they may be, will one day be gone. Only God is constant. He is forever loving us, leading us, calling us to Him. Let nothing separate you/me from giving thanks to Him!
The 10 lepers kept their distance, yet still called out to the Lord. You and I have no restrictions to God’s availability. The only barriers to us knowing Him more intimately are put there by ourselves.
God does not demand that we thank Him. We can assume the other 9 lepers remained healed even though they did not come back to say thanks to Jesus. But the one who did return received an even greater blessing. He got to look into the eyes of Jesus. The Lord then blessed him abundantly by revealing what faith in Him can do. I believe this man’s healing went beyond his surface condition and reached his heart with the peace that only God can give.
So run to His embrace. Know the depth of His love for you. As you do, you will find freedom to live a thanksgiving life every day that no social distance can keep you from.
On our journey through the Gospel of John we have seen Jesus perform many miracles. He changed water into wine, healed an official’s son over a great distance, put a man crippled 38 years back on his feet, fed more than 5,000 by multiplying 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish, walked on water and gave sight to a man born blind. As impressive as these were, the greatest one was about to happen: Raising Lazarus from the dead.
Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was close to this family as evidenced in the message the sisters sent to Jesus informing Him of their brother’s plight: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:3 NIV)
If you are familiar with this account (and if not, I urge you to read John Chapter 11 in its entirety), you know that upon receiving the news of Lazarus’ condition Jesus delayed going to him for two days, though Bethany was only a short (less than 2 miles away) distance away.
When Jesus and His disciples do finally go to where these friends of Jesus lived, they find that Lazarus is already dead. John tells us this was the Lord’s plan all along as he explained to His confused disciples: So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe (John 11:14 NIV).
Upon arriving at Bethany, Jesus is met by Martha and then Mary, both grief-stricken not only at the loss of their brother, but also at Jesus late arrival.
As with the other recorded miracles of Jesus, there are a multitude of lessons we can glean from the giving of life back to Lazarus. Let’s look briefly at just three of them.
First, God’s timeline does not always match up with ours. Mary and Martha knew Jesus well. They had no doubt seen or heard what He had already done and were positive He could help their brother. I mentioned that Jesus delayed going to see them. As you read the rest of this account, you find that Lazarus had already been laid in the tomb for 4 days when Jesus does arrive. It is important to note that this was the amount of time required in those days to officially pronounce someone dead. By waiting, Jesus left no doubt that Lazarus had passed away, making the restoring of his life evidence of God’s power alone.
Secondly, the humanity of Jesus is in full view here. Mary, a distraught sister lay at the Lord’s feet weeping. Many of those who had been with the family also came out to see Jesus. The bible tells us that they were all weeping as well. As Jesus took this all in with great empathy, John simply tells us, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 NIV). Despite all the fullness of deity within Him, Jesus is moved to deep sorrow by the pain He sees the sisters and the crowd suffering. Please consider this fact if at any time you might feel that Jesus does not feel the depth of your pain.
Lastly, the raising of Lazarus back to life is a snapshot of what God does for all those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. The picture cannot be any clearer: Without Jesus we are dead. When we hear His call to accept salvation, we too step out of the grave and into life with Him.
All the miracles Jesus performed are signs that were to point everyone to God. By restoring life to Lazarus as He neared the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus makes plain what He had ultimately come to do. He would soon give up His life for the salvation of many. The Lord takes our place, bearing the punishment for our sins that we might be saved. If you have not yet, please do not miss His heart for you when He calls you to life with Him.
When last we left our study of the miracles of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John, we considered the ‘two for one’ miracles of Jesus walking on water and then simultaneously having the disciples be with Him on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Between these occurrences and the next miracle, Chapters 7 and 8 contain many important teachings from the Lord. I would most certainly like to delve into them in-depth, and perhaps in another blog series we shall. I highly recommend reading those chapters in preparation for the topic today, the healing of a man born blind. If you do, you will find that Jesus makes a clear declaration of His divinity. I believe the timing of this next miracle was done to coincide with the Lord’s statement found in John 8:58.
We meet the blind man at the beginning of Chapter 9 as the narrative tells us Jesus and His entourage were walking along the road. It is helpful to know that in that culture many believed that physical ailments and deformities were believed to have occurred because either the person suffering with it or their parents had sinned, thus causing a judgment of God that would manifest in these ways.
Jesus quickly dispels this false notion. He then spits on the ground, making some mud of the dirt and then puts it on the blind man’s eyes. Given the directions to go to a certain pool to wash it off, the man does so and discovers that the gift of sight has been given to him.
As with the majority of the miracles He has performed, Jesus is not present at the time of the healing. Jesus wanted people to come to know who the Father was and His plan for the salvation all mankind. He did not want to get this message diluted by people simply seeking the next amazing (or entertaining) thing.
What I would like us to consider today is the formerly blind man’s response to his friends and neighbors as they quizzed him about how he received is sight. After convincing those asking that he was in fact the blind man they had known, these folks asked, “How then were your eyes opened,” (John 9:10 NIV)
The response the man gave is what has grabbed my heart and mind today: “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 washed, and then I could see.” (John 9:11 NIV)
To you, Dear Reader, I put the question: Who is this man they call Jesus? I certainly hope you are not grilled for an answer as our newly sighted man was by the religious leaders of that time. They crossed examined this fellow; many maintaining that he was not blind in the first place! The leaders even brought in his parents trying to mine information from them about their son and what he was claiming had happened.
At one point you can all but hear the exasperation in the man’s voice as the persistent questioning about Jesus continued: He replied, “Whether he (Jesus) is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25 NIV)
Though the once blind man was not entirely sure who Jesus was, the miracle itself had convinced him that He was someone from God. As you and I ponder this question, I ask us all to consider the events in our lives that gives evidence as to who Jesus is.
Perhaps you have been a witness to a great healing. Maybe you are familiar with the Scriptures and what they teach about the Son of God. Or perchance you are someone who has heard some of these stories but do not have a true sense of who Christ is.
Whatever and wherever you fit into the above context, one thing is true: They (whoever they may be) have talked about this man called Jesus. You have heard this name many times, be in it faith settings or as a coarse word of cursing.
Ultimately, it is not what the theys are saying about Jesus, but rather who do you say He is. If you are reading this and know the Lord as your Savior, I rejoice with you. I only ask that as you ponder the wonders He performed while physically on earth, you allow your heart to grow in love and awe of Him.
But if you are where so many find themselves, not knowing or having given much thought to these things, I ask that you take some time to consider them. The eternal ramifications of your decision regarding Jesus cannot be overstated. I encourage you to read and study these Scriptures for yourself. When you come to the things you don’t understand, seek out a trusted advisor who can give you guidance. For we all must have an answer when the time comes and we are asked: Who is this man they call Jesus.
The third recorded miracle recorded in John’s Gospel is yet another encounter between the Son of God and an individual. You can (and should) read all about in John 5:1-13. As a matter of fact, please read it after you are done looking at this blog, for it is a particularly good practice to check for yourself the scriptures someone is teaching/writing about. This helps you verify what is being considered and more importantly, opens your heart to what Holy Spirit may be wanting to reveal to you.
For the all-important context, an undisclosed amount of time has passed since the end of Chapter 4 where Jesus had spoken a word of healing over the royal official’s son.
In Chapter 5, Jesus is now back in Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts. The Lord walks to one of the gates of the city where many sick and invalid folks are. There is a pool of water in that place that many believe has healing powers, if only they can be the first to get in when the water is stirred up.
The Bible describes this collection of folks at this pool like this: Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. (John 5:3 NIV).
I must admit that I have wondered from time to time why Jesus didn’t just speak the words of healing over that entire gathering. Certainly, He has the power and compassion to do so, yet the Lord sought out only one person at that time. Though I cannot pretend to know why, my guess is that Jesus wanted this interaction to be personal; showing us that He can/will be personal with each one of us as well. More about that in a bit.
The author tells us that the man Jesus spoke to had been an invalid for 38 years and undoubtedly had been brought to this supposed pool of healing many times. Jesus addresses this fellow with what seems to be the most obvious of questions: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6 NIV)
Whether the man thought the answer was implied because he was there we don’t know. What we can be certain of is that the lame man went directly into his litany of how he has no one there to help him get into the water when it is stirred, thus preventing him from partaking of the possibility of healing.
What a human-nature laden response that is! How many times, Most Cherished Reader, have you and I gone into a blow by blow account of our ailments when asked how we are. It seems that at times we simply want the whole world to know every ache, pain and problem we have. Maybe I’m looking for strength in numbers through your sympathy when I engage in this activity. But no matter my reasoning, I am not helping my condition in any way by merely re-hashing what the issues are.
In the case of our invalid friend at the pool, Jesus does not bite on the invitation to commiserate. Instead, the Lord simply tells the man to get up, pick up his mat and walk. The healing is immediate as John tells us this man who had been waiting for so long for help does just that!
Jesus then slips quietly away, once again allowing for the glory of God to be revealed rather than any flashy spotlight to be shone on Him.
Reading on, we find that neither the Jews he encountered or the newly healed man himself had any clue as to how or why this miracle has occurred. The people, instead of rejoicing that this crippled man was now somehow walking among them, pointed out he was breaking a Sabbath rule by now carrying his mat around as he walked on rejuvenated legs!
The former lame man was clueless as well: The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there (John 5:13 NIV).
So why did Jesus select this one individual for healing at that time? Until we see the Lord face to face to ask Him, we won’t know. If I may be so bold, however, allow me to propose two possible explanations as to why this played out the way it did.
First, as I mentioned above, Jesus had to get through the wall of defense the crippled man had built up. His pain and misfortune had become familiar daily partners; so much so that they were what he mentioned to Jesus when asked directly if he wanted to be healed. Don’t you and I do something similar from time to time? It is as if we are more comfortable talking/lamenting/complaining about our problems than we are in doing what we can to lessen or remove them.
Though this first possible reason puts an unfavorable light on how we sometimes deal with adversities, the second reason I propose is teeming with grace and mercy from the Lord. From the many, many people who were desperately waiting for healing, Jesus personally presented Himself to just one at that time. I point this out not as a lament for those still waiting, but rather as evidence of Jesus’ level or personal care that He makes available.
Did/does He have the power to heal them/us all with one spoken word? Absolutely! But here, as in other cases, Jesus is stressing the eternal value of entering relationship with Him as opposed to merely supplying a band-aid to the issue at hand. I know that my tendency after recovering or feeling better is to forget about what was wrong and how I got over it. Jesus desires to help us all on a much deeper level than just alleviating our pain.
As wonderful as the physical healing is or would be, the eternal significance of the personal relationship Jesus offers cannot be overstated. That is why, in my opinion, Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle John to record this particular healing event, for it highlights the personal way Jesus reaches out to all of us, one at a time!
I pray that you and I come to that place that allows us to know the personal invitation of Jesus Christ. If that entails healing from sickness or infirmity, may it be to His praise and glory! But most importantly, may we, after this type of encounter with the Lord, walk from it with the comfort and assurance of God’s personal love for each and every one.
Continuing with our look into the miracles performed by Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John, we find the second one in Chapter 4:43-54. Before we go any further, let me help clarify something you may have noticed if you have read the first four chapters of John. Though we are about to consider the second recorded miracle, there have been others performed by Jesus since He changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana that we talked about last time.
To bring us up to speed, let’s briefly consider where Jesus has been and done since He left that wedding. He first left Cana for Jerusalem where He celebrated the Passover. The author John tells it this way:
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. (John 2:23 NIV).
The beginning of Chapter 3 reveals a conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling counsel. This man sought out Jesus to learn more about Him.
“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 NIV).
After explaining to Nicodemus why He came (John 3:16), Jesus left Jerusalem for the countryside where He spent time with His disciples. He and His group then headed back toward Galilee, passing through Samaria where the Lord has the wonderful encounter with the Woman at the Well. I’m passing by that encounter, rich as it is with things to teach us, to get to the miracle we shall examine. This one can be found in John 4:43:54. As is always the case, reading it from the source is always the best way to go, but in the short-term, here is what happened. A royal official from Capernaum heard that Jesus was back in Galilee. He went to Jesus, begging the Lord to heal his son who was near death.
Taken out of context, Jesus’ initial response to the official seems a bit harsh, much as did the way He responded to His mother about the lack of wine at the wedding. Jesus was not calling out this man in particular, but rather the local Jewish community. Remember, just prior to meeting this man Jesus had been in Samaria, a place and people that the Jews held in great contempt. Yet many there embraced Jesus’ teaching and put their faith in him; yet there was much resistance in Jesus’ own territory to Him and His message.
The heart of this miracle is revealed in the next few verses. First, the royal official, having heard what Jesus said about the locals only wanting to see something spectacular to wow them, then says to Jesus, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” (John 4:49 NIV)
I respect this father’s heart! His son’s well-being was all that was on his mind. He had heard of the things Jesus was doing and sought Him out to restore health to his son. He wasn’t arguing the point with Jesus. His sole focus was the health of his child.
The compassionate heart of the Lord then shines forth, Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” (John 4:50 NIV). Jesus does indeed love us all with an eternal, inexplicable love. Here we are given evidence of its power.
As significant as this is, it is the official’s response that I would like us all to ponder. The man took Jesus at his word and departed (John 4:50 NIV). Remember, this man had traveled a full day to seek out Jesus on behalf of his son and from the conversation he had with the Lord, we can safely assume he spent less than 5 minutes with Jesus. Yet, at the mere words of Jesus this desperate dad left to return home. More incredible is the fact that as of that time, this man did not believe nor know who Jesus truly was.
God’s awesome power to heal is made known to this official as he approaches his home. His servants rush out to tell him the wonderful news that his son is better. He then puts the timeline together to realize the fever left his son at the precise moment Jesus told him his son would live. We then learn that this man and his entire household put their faith in Jesus because of what has happened!
God heals on so many levels! By healing the boy physically, Jesus healed that whole family eternally. The family had not seen Jesus, but they had seen the results of His love and power.
This leads to the question I ask both you, Most Appreciated Readers, and me to ponder: How much do you believe without seeing? Asked another and more pointed way: Does your faith in Christ allow you to see Him at work around you, even though your physical eyes give no clue?
Please feel free to share your thoughts and insights with us all. Thanks.