blind, broken people, compassion, desperation, faith, healing, Jesus Christ, miracles, power, seeking Him

Blind and Desperate, #85

Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus, by Johann Heinrich Stöver, 1861

“Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.”

42 “Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

Luke 18:40-43

Tradition tells us that his name is Bartimaeus. This man, led by others, plopped on a mat by a curb, that’s where he will hold out a basket to collect coins. Hopefully, he would do well, and if not–well there will always be tomorrow–another black and meaningless day. Is this is as good as it’ll ever get?

The crowd around him starts to get more and more excited, and this man, who is very much attuned to the noise of the things around him, tries to pick out conversations, he wants to understand. He keeps listening, and the voices get louder and louder, and he finally pieces together what’s happening.

He finally hears one of them shout out, “It’s the Messiah! It’s him–he has come!” At that moment he too stands up, and begins to shout himself. But his shouting gets louder, and it turns into screams. Within seconds he’s out-of-control, and wild and insane. He releases years of pent up anger and frustration.

The crowd, who was once preoccupied by Jesus’ interesting entourage, now tries hard to quiet this wild dervish down. But he quite mad by now, completely out-of-control. His deranged screams are those of man pushed totally beyond reason.

The original Greek text describes two different words in the New Testament.

The first word used by the crowd is used as a cry for assistance, and deliverance. It’s basically a “respectable” kind of a shout for help. Loud, but still within reason. Earsplitting maybe, but still aware of itself and yet somewhat respectable.

But the second kind of scream, isn’t the regular ‘run-of-the-mill’ kind, rather it’s the scream of someone extremely disturbed. It is wild, primal–something animalistic, shrieking, unearthly, something that’s very disturbing. It’s the cry when an animal goes berserk and in pain, chews off its leg that’s caught in a steel trap. It’s much more than loud, it’s a scream from someone that’s completely out of control.

Dear friend, this is not a human scream. He’s far, far past that point.

Jesus is completely in control. He’s not disturbed, shocked or offended–he’s not fazed by this awful darkness of this desperate man. He orders that he be brought to him. At that moment, all eyes are glued to Jesus and this blind man. I have to believe a hush fell over everyone, quiet enough for them to hear the conversation.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus asks that question, and it seems an unreal thing to ask. And yet Jesus speaks it into this man’s wild, raving, out-of-control pain. It was Jesus who calmed the turbulent seas; he is now reaching into this man’s incredible darkness. “What do you want?” It’s a question that must be asked.

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.”

Jesus calmly announces to the man that his faith has saved him. At that instant Bartimaeus sees. That’s all that was needed.

I really need to ask you this–How far will you go, how loud will you get? How many people will you ignore to reach your Savior and your Healer? How insistent will you become? How outrageous will you get to see Jesus reach in and touch your need?

“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”

Joni Eareckson Tada

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compassion, faith, healing, Jesus Christ, leprosy, lordship, seeking Him

The Other Nine, #80

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:17-19, (context, vv. 11-19)

He was the unlikely one. Samaritans were at the bottom of the spiritual “food chain.” He was only included in the group because he also was a leper–a person’s religion meant nothing. He was a leper first and foremost, and after all, they do say that “misery loves company.”

The group of ten stood far away, so they had to yell. They “called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (verse 13).

The text implies that Jesus never touched them, which is somewhat unusual because Jesus usually did. Their healing was a bit odd as well, as they were healed as they traveled to see the priest. That was one of the many duties the priest had to do, Leviticus 14:2-32.

So it seems that this particular healing wasn’t exactly instantaneous, but something gradual. But still, it required faith, but I have to believe that these guys may have expected something a little more. (But having faith sometimes, isn’t what we expect.)

The ex-leper, a.k.a. the Samaritan, returns and comes back to the One who healed him. The previous verses tell us that he fell at Jesus’ feet. Now tell me–was he “disobeying” the Lord’s command to go to the priest? I’m not so sure. When we consider that he was a Samaritan, and not really part of the Jewish religion or rites, it might make some sense.

He’s not rebuked by Jesus. Instead Jesus turns and in a way, lavishes praise on him. Maybe there is an application here to those we consider to be “outside” of our faith. Sometimes rules get broken by those who we consider on the margins–they seem to be external to our religious sensibilities.

“Your faith has made you well,” is Jesus’ evaluation; he recognizes the essentials that are necessary. Jesus understands the reality of this man’s faith in him–and it’s that faith which has becomes the conduit for his healing.

“Christ will always accept the faith the puts its trust in Him.”

    Andrew Murray

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authority, broken people, compassion, discernment, hatred, healing, hypocrisy, Jesus Christ, mercy, offense

A Crooked Back, #74

Jesus and the Bent Over Woman

“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”

Luke 13:12-13, (context, vv. 10-17)

Doctors call it spondylitis ankylopoetica, which produces the fusion of the spinal bones. Sometimes physical issues have spiritual reasons, and many times crippling diseases leave their marks on our hearts. They damage us inside.

Eighteen years is an awful long time.

The response to this astounding miracle was less then ideal. Quite often “religion” responds out of foolishness, and anger at what God wants to do:

“But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 

(verse 14)

Jesus is angry. He rebukes the hypocrisy of the synagogues leaders. Their livestock get better treatment.

“Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.”

    C.S. Lewis

“As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.”

(verse 17)

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help. He is the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician who has never yet failed to heal all the spiritual maladies of every soul that has come unto Him in faith and prayer.”

    James H. Aughey

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authority, Bible promises, called, compassion, demons, disciples, follow Him, Gospel, healing, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, lordship, miracles, satan, sheep, will of God

The King’s Work, #70

 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 

Luke 10:3, (context, vv. 1-12)

What happens when lambs are attacked by wolves? My simple guess is that they tear them up. Jesus doesn’t paint a rosy picture of ministry. He’s very clear what the seventy can expect. There shouldn’t be any illusions about the work, it’s not entirely easy, or pleasant. There maybe casualties.

This passage is crucial, not only for Jesus’ disciples, but for the harvest. Seventy-two are selected; they’re given clear instructions on the work ahead–what they must know, and how they need to act. The kingdom of God must be announced, that’s imperative. His rule extends over all, and that dear one, is markedly good news.

They’re given them supreme authority over demons–that’s going to be a necessity for doing his work. There’s an awful lot of darkness out there, and they will engage it head-on. Satan rules temporarily, but God triumphs forever. The disciple’s ministry is to step into this, and extend the kingdom of God. This is now your work.

Doing this means they have to follow his detailed instructions. The disciples are going to move into both the physical and spiritual, and the wolves are coming– the seventy-two have been warned. The world will hate, but the believers still have to preach.

It’s not just a message to preach. There’s more.

Words are not going to be enough. They’re also to have a ministry of physical healing. They’re to touch the sick, and God will heal. But please, don’t misconstrue the work, bloodshed is a real possibility. The wolves are coming in packs.

Jesus is not only training, but he’s extending the Father’s rule by sending them out. He is duplicating himself, and the seventy-two are clearly extensions of him, they’re to be his witnesses, doing his work. Essentially that’s what true ministry is, doing what he would do if he were in your shoes.

The kingdom comes–“thy kingdom come, thy will be done” is the believer’s prayer. We’re committed to this, and we follow our king’s example. The world will be ruled by him, and we have the incredible privilege of being his witnesses–we are his healers, and proclaimers of his gospel.

“The only significance of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God.”

Leo Tolstoy

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Bible promises, broken people, demons, disciples, evangelism, faith, healing, Jesus Christ, missions

Negotiating with Jesus, #45

“Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” 

And her daughter was healed instantly.”

Matthew 15:28, (context, vv. 21-28)

Negotiating with God is not for the timid. It takes spiritual guts, and very few do it right. This chapter begins with a strong teaching on Jewish tradition and moral purity. The scribes and the Pharisee’s have cornered the market on social and religious correctness, and they have a solid grip on the Jewish faith. You must do what they say.

Suddenly there’s a noisy commotion, up jumps a Gentile woman who is terribly loud and terribly desperate, she’s caught somewhere between rudeness and hysteria. She has a disturbing need for her daughter to be released from a demon’s control–there’s a satanic oppression that wants to destroy her. Only Jesus can stop it.

The Judaism of Jesus’ day was not doing its job. Israel was meant to be a “light to the Gentiles,” and a source of healing and truth to the nations of the earth. Clearly it had become confused–its traditions and ceremonies that had nothing to do with the salvation of the world.

Perhaps the failure of the Jewish people to reach the world parallels the failure of the Church to carry out Jesus’ Great Commission? Religion has always stood in the way of God’s heart and His plan to bring salvation to everyone. I think this is the main reason Jesus hated it so.

This woman has a need that only Jesus could meet. She embarrasses herself insisting that Jesus take action. She seems almost rude to the point of being obnoxious. She is repeatedly told to be quiet, that her daughter’s deliverance was not in the plan of God. But that’s an answer she will not accept.

How honest are my conversations with God? Do I say what I really think? Do I intercede for others?

This is one of more unsettling verses in the New Testament–at least for me anyway. Everyone in this passage seems somewhat rude, even a bit boorish to me–even Jesus seems off, which really does unsettle me. There’s a stilted awkwardness in this passage that makes me want to apologize about Jesus’ attitude to all my unbelieving friends. I just don’t get all the national, racial, and social issues that are involved here.

An addendum though: Not every scripture is ever grasped once, and for all time understood. I’ve learned there are verses that reveal their layers years later. Onion-like. I think that this is probably true–for me anyway. The same verse will speak to me over and over again.

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Two Blind Men, Entry #40

The blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 

And their eyes were opened. 

Matthew 9:28-30, (context vv. 27-31)

I remember reading a story; more like a sanctified fable but maybe containing a bit of truth? The story (possibly from a French poem?) was that wherever Jesus would walk flowers would bloom in His footprints. I suppose the idea was that wherever Jesus went–life, healing and wholeness happened. It was His footprints; His presence that brought out the very essence of the Kingdom of God.

The love Jesus has for us is that wonderful. His grace–a grace that heals and forgives, a grace that’s now flourishing in the heart of a every real disciple. His mere presence brings us flowers even in the hard times.

Without Him, it seems we’re stuck with plastic roses that really don’t impress anyone. They aren’t real.

Jesus heals these blind men. They are completely without sight. They have understood nothing but blackness, but that is about to be instantly changed, it will come like a switch is flipped. Pop! Instant sight. Suddenly everything floods in. They “see” everything for the first time. Imagine, to be sightless, and then to suddenly see. Colors, trees, flowers, faces, and Jesus all at once. Can you imagine what that must be like?

These men had to have faith–that ‘spiritual ability’ to step out and grasp a healing that hasn’t come yet. They first need to trust the man (Jesus) before the healing can ever be received. “Do you believe I can do this…” I suppose the issue here is identity, the Lord Jesus Christ declaring His authority over this blindness. He intends to heal. It’s His nature to heal.

Wherever Jesus chooses to walk, supernatural things happen. We’re called to trust the person of Jesus, to simply believe Him, and expect Him to keep His word; but whatever happens, happens. Believers will choose to continue to believe, no matter what. They know the difference between real and plastic flowers.

I believe in Jesus’ character–His absolute love for me, and His power over everything. I love Him, and I look for His presence, and suddenly amazing miracles happen. But it’s Him–it’s all Him, and I must put my faith in Him. He does all the work, I’m the lazy guy leaning on my shovel.

But He wants to heal us, that’s His nature. My feeble faith can move things. My mustard seed faith can elevate mountains. It makes wonderful things happen. But that faith has to be fortified, cemented into His heart– we must tell of Jesus’ kindness and mercy and love for those still lost. We must believe in Him to touch others, and then whatever might happen after that will always be His decision. He will always be the Lord either way.

“When human reason has exhausted every possibility, the children can go to their Father and receive all they need. … For only when you have become utterly dependent upon prayer and faith, only when all human possibilities have been exhausted, can you begin to reckon that God will intervene and work His miracles.”

-Basilea Schlink

   

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Doing Jesus’ Work, #28

“And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”

Matthew 10:7-8, (context vv. 5-15)

Heal. Raise. Cleanse. Cast out. What a job description for Jesus’ disciples! He truly believes that those who follow Him are ready, and it’s time for them to go to work. I suppose they could keep sitting at Jesus’ feet, just soaking up His teaching, and watching Him do His miracles. But this isn’t what they’re called to do. They’ve sat long enough.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s vital that we absorb His words to us. It’s absolutely critical that we hear His voice and really do find our rest in Him. We must intimately listen to Jesus and be filled with His Spirit. Yet it strikes me that far too many disciples think their life is an inward one; a concentration on personal growth and one’s own spiritual attainment. But I don’t think this is the case.

The disciples must go to work.

Jesus ‘commissions’ them to go out and proclaim the ‘Kingdom come.’ The labors of Jesus must be done by these inadequate (and sinful) men. Heal. Raise. Cleanse. Cast out. It’s time for them to go out and meet the desperate needs of the world. But stepping out can be a scary thing.

The works that these disciples are to do are truly marvelous. They now have an ability and an anointing to do remarkable things. Jesus is comfortable that His disciples are ready, and yet knows that when they return they will have much to learn from Him. It seems however, that we are waiting for a certain amount of “perfection” before we step out.

Most of us, I suppose, are ‘hamstrung’ by our own sin. We see know our inadequacies and deep weaknesses. Most of the time we feel completely unworthy. Seldom do we think we’re ready to spread the Kingdom news to a needy world. Our own sin, we believe, disqualifies us from ministry to others. It seems Satan is very quick to neutralize us, and to annul the “work” of the Father. He accuses us, and we listen.

We’re overwhelmed by what we see within us, and as a result we seldom see the needs around us.

It seems we shelf His work and replace our faith into some sort of personal rehabilitation program. “When we are finally holy enough, we will hit the streets.” Until then, we will try to get enough personal purity to work His miracles. Commendable I suppose, but I don’t think this is what Jesus intends. I’m convinced the work itself is a vital part of our sanctification.

“Have thy tools ready. God will find thee work.”

-Charles Kingsley

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“Centurion” Faith, #25

Jesus said to him, “I come and heal him.”

Matthew 8:7 (context, vv. 5-13)

See the remarkable faith of a Roman centurion. Can we really fathom the deep depth of such belief? He comes to Jesus with a desire for the healing of a servant. He was doing something that a Gentile would never stoop to do. He sought the healing from a homeless itinerant teacher who happened to be a Jew.

This Roman soldier was an enemy. They occupied the land of Israel. If Jesus decided to withhold a healing (to make a point) this was the time! I’m guessing that His refusal would be a good lesson to the disciples, and the watching crowds.

Although the numbers under the command of the centurion varied, he commonly oversaw up to 6,000 men. In battle, they took position in the very front, they were expected to be the first over a wall or through a breach. The centurion was responsible for every aspect of his men. Every centurion of Rome was expected to display ultimate courage on the battlefield.

Typically it took 15-20 hard years to become a centurion. Service was very difficult, living conditions were rough at best. The centurion was not married, he had no family. To be a centurion’s servant you would be responsible for every aspect of his master’s needs. But most of all, the servants became the centurion’s only family. They stayed with him for the duration of his service.

I suppose this explains much. The servant was paralyzed. The text in Matthew says that he was suffering terribly. No doubt the centurion sought out doctors and treatments, but apparently this didn’t help. He was at wit’s end and really didn’t know what to do. I suppose being helpless will often turn people to Jesus.

Jesus seems to have developed a reputation. Those in need, the desperate, sought out His healing power. It seems like that He was now becoming famous for His ability to heal diseases. It’s interesting but scripture clearly shows that Jesus really didn’t want to be this famous. He repeatedly told people not to tell anyone about their healing.

We can see the centurion’s respect for rank and authority.

He explains his own authority over his own soldiers. When he commands he is obeyed without question. He recognizes command and leadership. This man fully understands, and he clearly acknowledges the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,” 

“Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”

Matthew 8:10

Emulating this man’s faith is the true task of every believer. We must continually put ourselves under the authority of Jesus. His lordship is to be supreme. His rule over us should never be questioned. He commands everything, and we must obey without any reservation. This new depth of faith must now become our true calling.

A couple of observations. 1) There exists a “quality” kind of faith in comparison to a weaker faith. There seems to be degrees of faith. 2) Quality faith recognizes the true authority and supreme lordship of Jesus. 3) Quality faith can be seen in very strange places. 4) This quality faith is meant to be sought and imitated. It is meant to be recognized by every disciple.

“Just as a servant knows that he must first obey his master in all things, so the surrender to an implicit and unquestionable obedience must become the essential characteristic of our lives.”

-Andrew Murray   

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Leaving the Mat Behind, Entry #23

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, 

“Do you want to be healed?”

John 5:6 (context, vv. 2-9)

He’d been sick for 38 very long years. On this day he was laying like usual in his spot by the pool of Bethesda. He doesn’t realize it, but he was about to encounter Jesus. His life, as he knows it, is about to be turned upside down.

The question Jesus asks is pointed, and it savagely confronts him–“Do you really want to be healed?” Sometimes the sick, the injured, the handicapped become so aware of their issues that they can’t see any life beyond them. Perhaps Jesus wanted to jolt this man with this very odd question; of course he wants to be healed– doesn’t he?

Jesus clearly knew what was happening.

The Lord knew that this man must make a decision, and healing would only come if he could leave his mat behind. Before we get too hard on him though, we should consider that 38 years is a long, long time to be sick. One thing he had learned over time was that having any kind of hope was a very dangerous thing. In these many years he had worn out lots of mats.

Apparently, an angel would come and stir the waters; the first one who somehow jumped in would be healed. Over time the pool became the gathering place where there laid “a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed” (v. 3.) Someone once said that ‘misery loves company.’ The odds for healing however, were definitely not in their favor.

I’m somewhat curious, not so much with the ‘angel/pool’ thing, but with the Lord passing by a crowd of sick people. Jesus didn’t stop and just wholesale heal them, but instead He makes a bee-line to where this man lay. Why did He do this? Perhaps an encounter with Jesus was far too radical for the crowds; perhaps they weren’t ready. IDK.

The question Jesus asks does seem strange– “Of course he wants to be healed.” And yet the Lord (and this man) had to know for sure. It really isn’t a question of Jesus’ healing power–it is however, an issue with one’s desire to be made whole, and then to leave his mat behind.

A disclaimer though.

People will often talk about having enough faith to be healed, and that’s well and good, but what about having faith to continue to be sick; day after endless day? Will we continue to believe in Him no matter what happens to us? I do wonder about this sometimes.

“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, In a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear.”

-John Newton

 

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Mercy for My Sin, Entry #19

“And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,” 

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

Matthew 9:2 (context vv. 1-8)

This man needed a touch. But more importantly he had to know that he was forgiven. It seems to me that this was his real need. Forgiveness must come first and foremost. And Jesus’ spoke directly at him. Jesus completely released him. There were no preconditions. Only the faith of his friends (v. 2.) Interesting.

“Your sins are forgiven.”

The religious leaders are very disturbed. Their analysis of this man’s forgiveness was a frontal attack on Jesus’ right to acquit sin. They said nothing, and the miracle really wasn’t even acknowledged. These leaders were in sharp contrast to those who witnessed this first-hand.

The text says that “the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (v. 8.)

The religious leaders determined that only God Himself could forgive; to let someone ‘off-the-hook’ like this. They said nothing (perhaps they were feeling ‘out numbered? IDK.)

To forgive sins is God’s exclusive prerogative. No man can release another man from sin. It has the Lord’s exclusive territory. And yet Jesus did precisely that to the chagrin of the ‘legalism’ that was running rampant in the hearts of the religious leaders .

I’m of the opinion that we’re all suffering a certain paralysis of sorts. Each of us have issues that cripple us. We each are sick, and we desperately need Jesus’ touch. “None of us is righteous” (Romans 3:10.) Perhaps Matthew 5:3-4 explains our walk knowing that we all need to be touched.

It seems that we are all dead men walking, separated from God.

The healing of this man was astonishing in itself. To miraculously heal was certainly profound. It doesn’t happen everyday. And yet these scribes, who were thinking about what Jesus said, called it “blasphemy.” They could not see the miracle that freed this man’s great burden.

“The high heaven covereth as well tall mountains as small mole hills, and mercy can cover all. The more desperate thy disease, the greater is the glory of thy physician, who hath perfectly cured thee.”

-Abraham Wright

 

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