Text: Mark 1:29-45
Title: Jesus’ Healing Ministry
Theme: Jesus'' miracles of healing affirmed him as the son of God, the promised Messiah.
Coming down with this recent flu was terrible. On Tuesday evening, I prayed and Cynthia prayed. I thought, after the prayer and one night’s sleep, I should be back at work on Wednesday. Well, I didn’t even remember how I lived through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The TV preachers were telling me even in sickness, I am to have faith and stand firm. Yet, all I could think of was how miserable I was with fever and persistent coughing. I couldn’t think straight, not to mention any faith and standing firm. The only thing in my mind was: Jesus, get rid of this flu for me.
Well, compared to what some of you have gone through or experienced, this flu is really nothing. Yet there are the haunting questions: how shall we pray when we are sick? Is our faith too small that God did not have a chance to heal us?
In our study of the gospels, we often see a Jesus quite different from the one we experience in the 21st century. We often ask where is the Jesus who healed everyone brought to him? Sometimes we try to transport him into our world and our mold, resulting in confusion and frustration.
This morning, in our continual search for Jesus, we’ll explore his healing ministry. At another time, God willing, I’ll address the issue of evil spirits. I understand that these are topics of great interest to some of us. I want to treat them with great caution. Last week we learned of Jesus' words as being authoritative. Since he is the son of God, he is the Messiah, therefore his words are God's words and they are authoritative. In light of this, one guiding principle in our study of the word is that when the Bible is clear, we hold firm to it. Where the Bible is silent or unclear, we are to avoid being dogmatic. When we study the narrative passages, such as the OT historical books, NT gospels and the book of Acts, we are to pay special attention to the principles of interpretation. In studying the narrative and historical passages, it is important to remember that the imperative and instructional passages, such as the commandments and sermon on the mount are meant for us to listen and obey. The descriptive passages, such as Abraham’s life, the rebuilding of Jerusalem under Nehemiah, and where Jesus and his disciples went and did, are not meant for us to mimic and follow. Instead, we are to discover how these narratives point us to God's redemptive work in human history. Our interpretation of the narrative passages must be substantiated by the rest of the Bible. Our focus is not to pick and choose which part of the person’s life we are to follow and model after, but to recognize how God carries out his plan of salvation through these imperfect individuals.
I. Jesus came into a broken world.
Let’s take a quick look at the world Jesus entered. First, it is a world ruled by the natural laws. When you jump from the top of the building, you will fall and get hurt or killed. When the winds start to blow over the lake, it can create a huge storm that even seasoned fisherman can be terrified. Secondly, it is a world with all kinds of physical ailments. There were doctors in those days and sometimes the patients can go from doctor to doctor in search of healing and ended up spending all their savings. Thirdly, besides being a physical world, there is the also the spiritual realm. The spiritual world is just as real as the physical world. God works in that world, so does God's enemy, the devil, or Satan. The devil is not just a concept but can be personified in such a way that it can take control of a person and even take on some names and forms. And fourthly, it is a world in which man’s relationship with God, with self, with each other and nature are broken and distorted.
In other words, the 1st century world Jesus came into is a broken and fallen world. It is very much like the 21st century world we inhabit. When he first appeared in this world in the flesh, his objective was not to end ailments and sufferings. He came and suffered with us. And in his suffering, he proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven is near. He came to bring his creation back to a proper relationship with God, to begin restoring the creation to what it was like when it was first created, perfect and glorious. However, as long as we live in this broken world, this restoration will not be complete. Therefore, his entire creation look forward to a day when our physical and spiritual condition will be fully restored. Yes, his healing ministry is important; yet they all point to the greater truth of healing one’s relationship with the creator God. It has been said, the ultimate healing is the healing of our relationship with God.
With this as the backdrop, let’s take a look at Jesus healing ministry; and see what it means to us today.
II. Jesus came to bring healing to a sick and broken world.
Last Sunday, we learned that both Jesus and his teaching, his words, are authoritative. And immediately after his first public teaching, he was confronted with a man possessed by the evil spirit. Subsequently, the evil spirit was cast out. This incident was to affirm further Jesus'' authority, power and deity. He is the son of God, therefore, his teaching is authoritative and He has the power and authority over the evil spirits. In today’s passage, we read about his healing ministry. What are some principles we can learn from them?
1. There appears to be a clear distinction between illness and evil spirit possession. At times we see Christians making statements that you are sick because there is an evil spirit within you. From our reading of the scripture, this is wrong.
2. Healing and faith. I want to call our attention to several healing passages in the book of Mark.
1:40, “40And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, "“I will; be clean.” The leper had faith in Jesus'' power and sovereignty. He knew that if Jesus was willing, then he can make him clean. It’s up to Jesus to decide what to do.
2:5, “5And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "“My son, your sins are forgiven.” You remember this story about the paralytic. His friend lowered him down from the roof top to where Jesus was. He was healed because of his friends’ faith. There is no mention of his faith. Instead, his sins and illness were associated.
3;1, “1Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand….., and said to the man, "“Stretch out your hand.” "He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” We don’t know about this man’s faith. It was a simple act of obedience. It may involve great faith, but we don’t know.
5:28, “28For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease…..And Jesus said to her, "“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Here it is clear that the woman’s faith in Jesus'' healing power made her well.
6:56, “56And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” There is no mention of the sick persons’ faith. They were all desperate for healing. Again, it was friends and relatives that asked Jesus to touch them, and they were healed.
7:31, “32And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "“Ephphatha,” "that is, "“Be opened.”" 35And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” There is no mention of his faith.
10:50, “51And Jesus said to him, "“What do you want me to do for you?” "And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52And Jesus said to him, "“Go your way; your faith has made you well.” Here, Jesus specifically commented on the blind man’s faith.
So what are some principles we can derive from these incidents?
First and foremost is that we want to know the details of all these healings. So we can compile a handbook with points 1,2 and 3. But Mark was not interested in the details. Instead he wanted to show that by healing these individuals, Jesus' identity as the son of God is once again confirmed. His healing miracles confirm that he is the son of God. As if Mark is telling his readers, you want to know if Jesus is really the son of God? Look at what he accomplished.
Secondly, those who were sick had the desire to get well.
Thirdly, healing and faith does not always go hand in hand. Some had faith in Jesus that if he would, he could heal them. Others believed in his power that he could and would heal them. And many showed no sign of faith. They were simply brought to Jesus by friends and relatives.
Fourthly, Jesus, upon the completion of healing, always stays away from the public. He shied away from the spot light.
What does this mean to us today? Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. He still heals today; but he alone decides on when, whom and how to heal. Sometimes it is through miraculous intervention, other times via medicine, and there are just times, there is no healing. I think of Dr. Edwin Hsu, at the age of 40, was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and given 6 months to live. At the end of 6 months, he was miraculously healed. Elder Wu Yung was diagnosed with stomach cancer when he was young. The doctors opened up his stomach and saw the cancer’s invasion and decided to sew him up and sent him home to die. But he lived for another 40 or 50 years. We can also think of Yaping and John. We have all prayed, and in the end, we were greatly disappointed that we were not granted our hearts desire. We do not understand this and we may be angry and upset with God.
I can’t explain to you why God healed one and not the other. There have been times when I am amazed at an individual’s faith in God but there was no healing. And at another time, without faith or very little faith, the person was healed. I know I am not qualified to speak on God's behalf. I think he can defend himself adequately. However, in the midst of our pain we are to ask God to give us faith in a God who is all mighty and all loving. This is difficult, but this is the right thing to do.
When we see individuals emphasizing that healing is conditioned to how much faith we have, watch out. They are treading on some very dangerous and unbiblical grounds. When we see individuals connecting money with healing, watch out, stay away from them. When we see individuals directing all the spot lights on their healing abilities, stay away from them. Jesus never calls attention to himself. And lastly, when individuals or meetings have to create a certain kind of highly charged emotional environment, watch out. This is very manipulative. We have to bring all our methods and experience under the authority of Jesus'' words, the Bible. Remember, when the Bible is silent, we better watch out. Today we hear so much: Since it works, therefore it must be true and good. As Bible believing Christians, our attitude must be: is it biblical rather than does it works. What works may not necessarily be biblical.
In the first part of his book, Mark told his readers that Jesus is the son of God, he is God. Mark then went on to record the teachings and miracles of Jesus. They are to prove that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah, the son of God. He has come into the world to reconcile his people with God. Then at the end of his public ministry, there was the greatest miracle: Jesus'' resurrection from the dead. This, once for all, demonstrated that Jesus is indeed the son of God, he is God. As we continue to read the scriptures, we also see how Jesus'' spoken word, later his apostles’ words, further prove that he is the son of God.
To day, in places where there is the lack of bibles, we still witness the frequent occurrences of miracles. They all point to the truth that Jesus is God. Because he is God, he still heals and performs miracles. Sometimes it is through divine intervention, other times, through modern medicine and there are times, in his own choosing, there is no visible physical healing.
This morning we witness the baptism of 15 individuals. If you told them 2 or 3 years ago that they will be baptized this morning, they would have told you to get lost. But here they are. And this is a miracle. A Miracle times 15. We not only rejoice over their baptism, but it is also a further and continuous demonstration that Jesus is the true God.
Two weeks ago an African pastor shared in a conference I attended. He said, “Back home, when we are sick, the first thing we do is pray, then we go see a doctor. But in America, when we are sick, the first thing we do is to see a doctor, then, may be, we pray.”
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