Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 8:17b “. . .and bare our sicknesses.”
In cases of healing, promise no more than God allows. Also, do not rob our Savior of an important part of His glory. Jesus was and is the Great Physician. Much of His ministry was spent healing physical illnesses. In fact, “His miracles of healing were certainly the most conspicuous part of His life’s work” (Maclaren).
Our perilous age cries out for more, not less, emphasis on the miraculous aspect of our faith. As we watch our cultural foundations erode, Christians must learn anew the significant role displays of power have fulfilled in our history.
Miracles are a normal part of Christian experience. Being born again is the greatest miracle of all. Having God’s wisdom in a world gone crazy is a miracle. Holy living in the wake of a tidal wave of sin is a miracle. Bold witnessing in a scoffing society is a miracle. Healings, remarkable providences, and events in a person’s life unexplainable apart from divine intervention are miracles.
We who have downplayed the role of miracles in the Church may need to reconsider the subject. An unbiased reading of Acts reveals that God used signs and wonders to capture the attention of persons and groups opposed to Him.
This conclusion is reinforced by missionaries and other believers who work and live in environments hostile to our faith. We in the USA may need to learn from these who have firsthand dealings with societies that have declared all-out war against Christianity. Their past and present agonies may predict our future.
In the celestial realm, two kingdoms are fighting for the soul of our country. As these two massive armies collide in the spirit realm, the result is always fall-out in the physical realm–chaos, carnage and other manifestations of warfare. One spin-off of this conflict is signs and wonders, a reminder God is still on the throne, regardless how a particular skirmish over an individual nation may turn out.
In our troubling era, there is no need for believers to panic. This is no time for us to retreat in fear. We have fought these battles and faced this war before. As Christianity was being birthed, we began our march onto the pages of history by engaging spiritual forces, evil principalities and powers in the Roman Empire.
We successfully waged war against all types of gods and demons. As Doug Banister notes in his book on Word and Power Churches, Christianity won the West by not only her acts of love and compassion. These were certainly crucial, but not the whole story. The early church perceived that Jesus’ miracles of healing were not only acts of mercy, but also all-out attacks by the Messiah on every by-product of evil among humanity. Believing this, the early church went forth confidently dressed in power, and fought its battles in the spiritual realm. The Roman world had many gods. Christianity won because our God blew the others away.
As we find twenty-first century America beginning to replicate first century Rome, do not despair. Instead, let us twenty-first century Christians study again how our first century counterparts dealt with their collapsing culture. Let us not run past the authorized role of the miraculous, but also let us not run from it. Ask God to grant us wisdom in how to wield power appropriate to adversarial times.
Since a story is often more helpful than facts, let me share from my family an incident which has become a legend. Like most family stories, time has embellished it, but its basic message still comes through loud and clear. It involves two of my uncles who love God with all their heart, and raised their children to serve Him. I love them dearly and respect them as men of God. They are very close friends with each other, though one is an old-time dyed-in-the-wool Baptist, while the other is a health and wealth, name it and claim it charismatic. One day they were repairing a front porch at the house of my aunt who had gone to see her doctor due to having the flu. When she returned home, being sick, she slowly began walking toward her house. My Baptist uncle gasped, and yelling, “Stay away, do not come any closer, I don’t want the flu,” he jumped off the porch and ran to the back yard. My charismatic uncle, embarrassed and horrified at this Baptist reaction, raised his hands to heaven, and saying, “In Jesus’ name I rebuke this illness, germs have no authority over me,” he ran toward my aunt, threw his arms around her, and gave her a big hug. And you wonder why I am so confused on this subject. Though neither uncle caught the flu, and thus both were convinced their approach was right, my guess is, the truth is probably somewhere between the back yard and the hug. Take precautions, but don’t be a hermit. Avoid presumption, but do call on God and let Him decide what He wants done with the sickness.
In these power matters, we enter the future with caution, proceeding on our knees. With a Bible as our inerrant outer guide, and the Spirit as our infallible inner guide, we open our heart to the Father, asking Him to lead us in the best paths, those which will in the midst of an evil generation bring most honor to His Son.
Matt. 8:18 “Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave
commandment to depart unto the other side.”
After these controversial sermons on healing, I may need to get in this boat with Jesus and leave town. Jesus sensed it was time to leave this crowd. We know He was not annoyed at them or bothered by them, for He never quit loving people. As we study Jesus’ life, we find four reasons why He left crowds behind.
First, He needed rest. Jesus was fully God, yet also fully man. Maintaining an arduous schedule, He worked long, hard hours. Needing rest from the ceaseless demands people put on Him, Jesus sought to retreat to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, which was not as populated as the northwest shore near Capernaum. Many of us, your pastor included, need to learn the value of regular times of rest.
Second, He did not want to raise the fanatical excitement level too high. Jesus came to be king over people’s hearts, but the masses wanted to make Him a king on a political throne. The time was not yet right to stir up fears and jealousies in the squeamish religious leaders or catch the eye of ever-suspicious Romans. Many in our day need to strive more diligently to avoid trouble for trouble’s sake.
Third, He needed quiet time alone with God. Accolades on one side and a cross on the other tempted Him to detour His course. He needed to keep His priorities right, and His heart tender. Daily quiet time alone with God is a lesson busy Baptists need to learn. To join a Baptist church, you have to be saved, immersed in water, and have a physical exam. We will work you to death. Our goal is to get you to Heaven as fast as possible. See that you have a regular daily private time with God. Public worship helps, but private times cement. Jesus wanted to sense His Father’s presence, and found it most meaningfully in “closets,” not in crowds.
Fourth, He needed to spread His message and blessings abroad. He would not confine His influence to one place. Gratitude and awe riveted people to Jesus in Capernaum. Many wanted Him there, but others needed Him elsewhere. Success in one place spurred Him on to seek success in other places. Jesus left His hometown because others also needed His attention. May we follow His example.