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Entries in Healing (21)

Tuesday
Aug202019

So Send I You

Mark 6:7-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, August 18, 2019.

Today, our passage involves Jesus sending his twelve disciples out on a mission.  If his words before his ascension in Matthew 28:18-20 are to be called The Great Commission then our story today should be called the Small Commission.  It involves them going out only to the towns of Israel and preaching to them.  Perhaps Jesus saw this as a trial run for the greater mission that he would give them later.

Our title for this sermon comes from John 20:21. There Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace to you!  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (NKJV)  Everything that Jesus is doing with them throughout Israel is leading up to that point when he will go back to Heaven and the Apostles will need to take the Gospel to the nations of the world.  This would not be an easy task and it would be filled with many difficulties and trials.  Yet, it would also be filled with many joys.

There is a hymn that was published in 1954 and written by a Canadian woman named E. Margaret Clarkson.  She grew up in Toronto in the 1920’s.  In the 1930’s when she came of age, jobs were hard to come by in Toronto.  This led to her going into the far north of Ontario to become a teacher in the logging and mining camps.  Here are some quotes from her concerning her time there. 

“I experienced deep loneliness of every kind-mental, cultural, and particularly, spiritual- I found no Bible-teaching church fellowship, and only one or two isolated Christians, in those years.  Studying the Word one night and thinking of the loneliness of my situation, I came to John 20, and the words, ‘So send I you.’  Because of a physical disability, I could never go to the mission field, and this was where He had sent me.  I had written verse all my life, so it was natural for me to express my thoughts in poem.  Some years later [in 1963-after more life-experience and contact with real missionaries] I realized that the poem was really, very one-sided; it told only of the sorrows and privations of the missionary call and none of its triumphs.  I wrote another song in the same rhythm, so that verses could be used interchangeably, setting forth the glory and the hope of the missionary calling.”    (from https://propempo.com/story-behind-so-send-i-you-margaret-clarkson/)

This second version was published in 1963 as Margaret felt, if choosing between the two, the second one was the more biblical.  Here are the first stanzas of each version.

So send I you to labor unrewarded, to serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown, to bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing, to send I you, to toil for Me alone.

So send I you, by grace made strong to triumph, o’er hosts of hell, o’er darkness, death and sin, My name to bear and in that name to conquer, so send I you, My Victory to win.

Of course, singing nine verses (the first version has 5 and the second has 4) would not fly in very many churches today.  However, the words of this hymn are of great value and worth looking up.  It teaches us to count the cost and also the rewards of going forth for Jesus.

The greatest rewards for taking up the task that Jesus gives to his Church are yet to be had.  In this life, these things are bitter sweet, but once our work is done, and we have reached the end of our race, we shall enter into the full rewards of our labors on this earth.

Jesus sends The Twelve on a mission

Mark’s version of this passage, again, is very short on details.  If you read Matthew 10:1-15, you will see that Jesus limits them to going only to the towns and cities of what he calls “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  This did not include Samaria, which was an area of Israel that had mixed with Gentiles in marriage and in religion.

We are told that Jesus sends them out in pairs.  Thus, we would have 6 pairs of two disciples heading out to different parts of Israel.  This was not to keep an eye on each other, but rather because, “Two are better than one.”  Like Adam in life, it was not good for them to be alone in ministry.  They could keep each other encouraged in the difficult times and supply gifts where the other fell short.

It is interesting that this same phrase, two by two, occurs in the Noah’s Ark passage.  There the animals are brought into the ark in pairs, two by two.  That passage is unclear as to whether Noah is rounding them up, or if God’s Spirit is drawing them into the ark.  Regardless, in our passage the disciples are going out in pairs to call people to enter the ark of God, Jesus.  If comparing the ark to Jesus is a foreign concept to you then think of it in this way.  Just as Noah’s family were protected from the judgment of the ancient world by getting into the ark, so those who come inside of Jesus by putting their faith in him will be protected from the coming judgment of fire that has been promised to the whole earth.

We are also told that Jesus gives them authority over unclean spirits.  The word “authority” is sometimes translated as power.  However, the word properly means authority, and of course authority always has an involvement with power.  Regarding the unclean spirits, we have touched on this earlier.  This phrase is more of a description than a title.  Verse 13 helps us to see that the phrase is synonymous with “demons.”

It is sad to think that God’s people had become spiritually captured and plundered.  Everywhere Jesus and his disciples went in Israel, they encountered demon-possessed people.  I will remind us that people are not easily possessed.  It occurs when people dabble with false religions and the occult arts.  By listening to the teachings of demons, people give permission to those unclean, defiling spirits in their life.  You cannot surrender authority in your life without becoming a slave, and such was the case of many in Israel. 

No doubt, America has not seen as much activity in this area because of our Gospel foundation in Christ.  However, today it is becoming more and more prevalent for people to pursue the occult arts, and spiritual teachings of all sorts, which opens them up to such possession.  We will see more and more of this in our society, even though secular society will never call it demon-possession.

As a Christian, we need to recognize that such things are very real.  We must learn to stand on our own two spiritual-feet, and in the same authority that Jesus gave to his disciples then, proclaim the gospel and command unclean spirits to leave.  We need not fear any evil when we are on the side of Christ.  However, no one should approach these matters lightly and proudly.

Jesus also limits what provisions they can take with them on the journey.  They were to take only a staff, sandals, and one tunic (no bag, no food, no money, and no extra clothing).  Clearly, Jesus is putting them in a position that is more dire than it really was.  They had these things, but could not take them along.  Why?  The most logical reason homes in on the reality that Jesus is their teacher and they are the students, master and disciples.  So, at its foundation it is about them learning something by taking no extra provisions.  In such a situation, they will need to trust God to provide for them.  If God sends you on a mission then he will provide for you.  This is not just true in ministry, but in life as well.  All Christians are on a mission from God and he promises to take care of our needs, if we will put his kingdom first.  Of course, faith in God’s provision is easier said than done.  This will prepare them for times in the future when they will not be in their current state of being full of provisions. 

It is worth noting that Jesus does reverse these limitations later and allows them to take provisions.  The point is not that we should purposefully test God in this matter, but that we can trust him to help us in whatever we lack.  They are not testing God. They are responding to a command of the Lord.  Perhaps in this country of plenty our level of needing to trust in God for our provisions is very anemic.  However, Christians all around the world, both today and throughout history, have had to trust that God would provide for them.  Instead of falling into the habit of complaining and grumbling against God, they learned to pray, work hard, and trust God to provide.

The last part of the instructions of Jesus have to do with how they should conduct themselves among the towns of Israel.  This part will make more sense if you read the Matthew 10 passage.  Basically, they were to go to a town and publicly proclaim the Gospel.  If no one received them then they were to leave the town and go to the next.  Jesus tells them to shake the dust off of their feet in such a case.  This is interesting because it was the common practice of religious Jews to shake the dust off of their feet when leaving a Gentile city.  It was a symbolic way of saying that you are not going to take any part of that city with you because it is defiled.  Here they receive a bit of their own medicine.  If you are going to reject the Gospel and its ministers then the very dust of your city will become a witness, or evidence that they came and offered you grace.  In fact, Jesus says that those cities that reject his disciples with the Gospel message will have a more difficult judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah because they had a far less powerful and enlightening ministry from Lot.

If they are received positively and someone welcomes them into their home then they are to stay with them and let them care for their physical needs.  We don’t know if they were instructed to stay for a certain period, or if they had a certain amount of time to reach a particular list of cities.  Regardless, they would go from one town to the next proclaiming the Gospel.

The Twelve perform their task

In verse 12, the disciples take off to do what Jesus has instructed.  They leave Jesus behind and go in pairs to different parts of Israel.  In our passage, we are told that they preached, or proclaimed, that people should repent.  In Matthew they are told to proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This reminds us of the message that the Bible says Jesus preached from the beginning, “Repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  The kingdom did not fully arrive in the first century.  It came in spiritually, but awaits the judgment in order to come in physically and politically.  Thus, the whole world is in the same position as the first century, and we need to preach the same message. 

The word for repentance here means to “change one’s mind.”  The people of Israel were supposed to be a people who lived for God and his purposes, but they had become a people living for themselves and for their own purposes.  Their mindset led to lifestyles and bondages that were never God’s intention for them or humanity.  The biggest leverage to getting them to change their mind is the warning that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

God’s prophets had promised a time when God would send his anointed king who would heal Israel and rule over all the earth.  If Messiah (from the Hebrew word for “anointed”) the king was to be in Israel in their days then they would want to change their lives and get ready for his presence.  If I truly change my mind on a matter then it will truly change how I live.  Another term in the Bible that is used for repentance is the concept of turning.  When I am driving in the wrong direction, I need a change of mind before I am ever going to turn around and go in the right direction.  Let’s be clear.  Most people in America, and in this world, are going in the wrong direction.  Even many who claim to be Christians are simply placing a label on their life, but not really living for Christ and his purposes.  May God help us to daily change our minds and turn towards his path, rather than our own.  May he help us to turn from our tendency for the self-led life, and to embrace the Holy Spirit-led life.

As the disciples went into the cities, we are told that they cast out many demons.  The delegated authority that Jesus gave to them was recognized by these unclean spirits.  The key here is not a mantra or ritual for casting them out.  The key is that they had an authentic relationship with Jesus and he has authorized them to have authority over these spirits.  Yet, it is not just The Twelve.  Luke 10:19 is a place where Jesus talks to a larger group of disciples called The Seventy, who also are told they will have power over these unclean spirits (serpents and scorpions are metaphors for these unclean spirits).  Also, in Romans 16:20, Paul expected that God would soon crush Satan (and his operators) underneath the Christians in Rome.  Yet, we cannot merely declare authority over such spirits if we are not in true relationship with Jesus.  It is his power they fear and obey, not mine.

We are also told that the disciples anointed the sick with oil and healed them just as Jesus did.  It must have been something for Israel, who was still reeling from Jesus going everywhere healing and casting out spirits, to see his disciples doing the same all by themselves.  O, how God loves to take the weak and lowly, and lift them up to take the place of the great and mighty.

So, why did they use oil?  The purpose of the oil is to be a symbol of God’s Spirit and also an aid to faith.  In the end, people were being restored by Galilean fishermen, or a tax collector, or a zealot, etc.

You and I are not called to become Apostles of Jesus in order to lay down the faith once and for all for Christ’s Church.  However, we carry the same Gospel into whatever scope of ministry that he gives us.  Whatever sphere he gives us, as a friend, co-worker, spouse, relative, parent etc., we must be faithful to share Christ in words and deed, so that people can believe on him and have a place in his kingdom, both now and in the future.  All believers are called to be proclaimers of the Gospel, and may God help us to warn people to change their minds because the next phase of the Kingdom of God is at hand!

So Send Audio

Tuesday
Aug062019

Only Believe

Mark 5:35-43.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, August 04, 2019.

In our story today, we have a little girl who has been sick and is on her death-bed.  However, Jesus was headed to her house to heal her.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that, between the crowd pressing in on Jesus and a sick woman being healed by touching him, Jesus does not get to her house soon enough to heal her before she dies.

Do you ever feel like God is taking too long to get around to your situation and your need?  Our story teaches us to trust the Lord Jesus, rather than letting fear drive us into a bitter, hard place where we ridicule those who trust God.

Jesus is going to give us the simple phrase, “Do not fear; only believe.”  This is easier said than done, but it is necessary nonetheless.  This life is filled with things that will stir up fear in our hearts and minds.  May God help us to walk with faith, trusting his heart for us and his power over what ails us.

They receive news about the sick daughter

Just as Jesus is telling the woman who had been healed of her flow of blood that she can go in peace, someone from Jairus’ house arrives and tells him the news about his daughter.  She has died.  They were too late.  You can imagine how such news hit Jairus.  No doubt, his heart sunk and fear rose up within him.  He had risked everything in going to get Jesus and it had failed.  It is a reality in life that certain events can shake us to our core.  Perhaps we need to experience such times.  It is in such times that we can learn just how much God cares about us and has humbled his self in order to save us.  God understands the heart of a father who loses a little daughter or anyone who has lost a loved one to sickness or evil in any form.  He too has experienced the pain of seeing those whom he created to enjoy him forever then falling to the lies of the devil.  Whatever your grief, know this.  God understands and experiences your pain far more than you know.

The person who brought the bad news asks, “Why trouble the teacher any further?”  His counsel is for Jairus to slink away from the group, go home, and bury his daughter.  However, we should ask a different question.  Was Jairus “troubling” Jesus?  Are we a “trouble” to God?  Sure our choices have brought a lot of trouble and pain into the relationship between us and God.  In that sense we are a trouble.  However, God has chosen to go with us through this choice.  He did not abandon us after the fall in the Garden, but pursued us with a love that paid the price for our sins and made a place for us at his side.  We can sometimes let our ideas of God, and “the holy prophet,” create a surreal world where they are too great to be bothered with our puny issues.  Nowhere in Scripture will you find God angry that the lowest people might ask him for the smallest of things.  It is quite the opposite.  Everywhere He calls to us to trust him, believe him, and bring our troubles to him.  It is we in our hurts and pains who develop such odd notions that God shouldn’t be troubled with our troubles.  It is misguided “holy men” who act like that and allow sycophants around them to push others aside.  If one thing can be said about Jesus, it is that he didn’t mind being troubled by the troubles of anyone who simply believed in him.  So, why trouble Jesus any further?  We should “trouble” him because he is the only one who understands our situation and can help us.  That’s why!

Jesus graciously steps in and gives Jairus the words that he needs to hear.  The first part is not to be afraid.  This is a very common phrase in the Bible.  We see it everywhere that God is challenging people to follow him into tough places.  Fear is very powerful in whipping up our imagination, but its worst effect is to neutralize our faith in God.  We don’t have to fear because God is with us.

The second part of what Jesus tells him is to “only believe.”  An old song within the church says it this way.

"Only believe; only believe.

All things are possible; only believe."

With man, so many things are impossible.  Even today within our modern, technologically advanced world, we find ourselves in impossible situations, but with God, all things are possible.  Why would I fear and doubt when I serve the God of the resurrection?  Even fretting and trying to make spiritual sense out of our situation can mislead us.  What I am talking about goes beyond trying to get a healing.  The little girl in this story is going to be healed, but she will go on to grow old and die.  Jesus will not show up then to keep her from dying.  Eventually we must all leave this world.  The question is not why didn’t God heal me, or keep me from growing old.  The question is, “Do I still believe, or have I let fear rob me of my faith in a God who can do anything?”  Jesus tells us not to fear and to simply believe God.  Trust him.

At this point Jesus instructs the crowd not to follow.  We are not told why, but this passage continually emphasizes faith over the top of those who don’t believe.  So, this could be in the interest of shedding the crowd that is filled with those who do not believe.  However, in verse 43, after he has healed the girl, Jesus tells them not to let people know what he has done.  Most likely, Jesus knew that this miraculous resurrection would push up the time schedule for his crucifixion.  So, he seems to be narrowing down the potential pool of witnesses.

They arrive at the house of Jairus

When they get to the house, they are met with a scene of great sorrow.  There is a loud uproar of weeping and wailing because the girl has died.  Perhaps they had been expecting Jesus to show up and heal her, and thus, were caught off guard.  We just don’t know if they were all aware of Jairus’ attempt to get Jesus.  We are told in the story that the little girl is twelve years old.  Watching a young child become sick, grow weak, and then die can be one of the hardest things to endure in this world. 

Yet, when Jesus arrives he asks why they are making such a commotion.  Even for those who know God, death is something to weep over, especially for any young person.  However, their weeping has gone into something beyond the grief and sorrow of the righteous.  As believers in God, we grieve over the fact that we will not have them in our life anymore, but we also know that this life is not all that there will be.  There is no reason for hysterical wailing and plunging into despair for the believer.

On top of this question, Jesus adds the statement that she is not dead, but sleeping.  What is Jesus actually trying to say?  I don’t thing Jesus is trying to make a literal point that they are wrong about her death and that she is actually only sleeping.  Sleep was often used as a euphemism for death, and just as we can envision a person waking from sleep, so a person can “wake” from death.  It is not the same thing, but it is a picture of what can be.  He is not trying to create a doctrine that souls actually sleep after a person dies.  Rather, he is reminding them of the biblical truth about what happens to people when they die or sleep.  They go into the grave, which Daniel had prophesied in Daniel chapter 12 that “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  Jesus is merely going to “wake” her up from the grave. 

The wailing appears to stop at this point and it is replaced with ridicule and scorn against Jesus.  We can imagine a kind of bitter venom that we humans vent when we think another person is mocking our pain.  They clearly do not get what Jesus is saying, or do not believe that he can do anything about the girl’s death, and so they become angry at his words.

Jesus responds by restricting who goes into the room where the little girl is laying.  We are told that Jairus and his wife, the three disciples (Peter, James and John), and Jesus are the only ones who go into the room where the dead girl was.  Again, this seems to be partly about removing those who don’t believe and are caught up in the throes of unbelief.  Remember, unbelief is not a neutral absence of faith.  It is positively something that goes in the opposite direction of faith.  It produces such things as: anger, venting, raging, ridicule, scorn, persecution, and many other things.

If you are praying for God to do something in your life, you should not only challenge yourself to believe, but you will also need to get away from those who feed unbelief and its fruit into your heart and mind.  I am not saying cut off the relationship, but rather go in the direction of faith without them.  In this passage, Jesus gets alone with those that will believe and the girl who needs a miracle.

The healing scene is quite tender.  Jesus takes the girl’s hand and simply commands her to rise up.  Mark lets us know that Jesus was actually speaking Aramaic, which was the local language for the time.  There is good evidence that Jesus may have spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  He would use one or the other depending on the context.  Here he is speaking to fellow Jews and so uses Aramaic.  “Talitha” means that you are addressing a little girl.  “Cumi” is a simple command to rise.

The power of the command of Christ does not come from him raising his voice loudly.  His simple command is enough to bring the girl back from the dead, back to life.  1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 tells us, For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  Praise God, he will raise all the dead in the future.  It has been humorously stated that, when Jesus resurrected Lazarus, it was important that he said “Lazarus, come forth.”  Otherwise, everyone would have come out of the grave!  Clearly, this is tongue in cheek, but it states the truth.  Jesus has the power to raise the dead, in fact, all the dead.  Here he restores the girl to a mortal life, but the day is coming when all the righteous will be raised with immortal bodies and eternal life. 

This is the power of Christ and the promise of God.  He cares about us.  We are to him like little children who have contracted a deadly disease called sin.  He will heal us; he will restore us; and he will make us fully whole again, if we will only believe!

Only Believe audio

Tuesday
Jul302019

A Desperate Woman is Healed

Mark 5:21-34.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, July 28, 2019.

Last week we were in the first part of this chapter where Jesus encountered a man possessed with many demons on the east to southwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.  That event ended with the people of the region pleading with Jesus to leave.  Thus, our passage today involves the events after they returned to the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, most likely Capernaum.

In a sense we will have one story interrupted by another story, but both of them have similarities that I will bring up in my commentary as we work through them.

The dire condition of Jairus’ daughter

When Jesus lands on the shore, it does not take long for a crowd to gather.  It is at this point that one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus (Hebrew- Yair, “God Enlightens”) approaches Jesus.  His daughter is at the point of death and her only hope is a miracle from God.  Jesus is the only prophet of that generation who evidenced the healing power of God.  We will focus on this story more next week because we are going to be interrupted by a woman who needs healed.  For now, we should recognize that the synagogue leaders generally did not like Jesus and we have no reason to believe that this man was much different.  This man is convinced that Jesus can heal his daughter. 

He also believes that Jesus needs to touch her in order for it to happen.  I mention this because, in the story of the centurion who was a dying servant, Jesus remarks that touching to heal is not a necessity.  That doesn’t mean that it is a hindrance either.  However, things like touching or putting mud on the eyes are really more of an aid to our faith.  Healing is not some kind of power that is transmitted through hands.  However, when we lay hands upon someone, it does encourage them to believe.  Thus, we can call it an “aid to faith.”

Most likely this man would not normally embrace Jesus in public.  However, he has become desperate because of the impending death of his daughter.  There are things that we would never consider or give a second thought until we become desperate.  This can work for the good and it can work for the bad.  This is one of the reasons that it is so important to share the good news about Jesus with everyone.  People may not respond immediately with any interest, or they may be hostile to the message, but some day they may find themselves in a desperate situation.  What will they turn to then?  We know that Jesus is not just one option among many.  He truly is the only option in the end for those who are desperate.  If you are in a desperate situation, now is the time to turn to Jesus with your problems and seek his help, healing, and forgiveness.

If you think that he will not help you then take note of the response of Jesus to Jairus.  Jesus begins to go with Jairus to his house in order to heal his daughter.  Of course, the multitude of people continue to follow Jesus and “throng” him (that is, to press in tight around him).

The desperate condition of a daughter of Israel

Starting in verse 25, this story takes a turn.  He is interrupted by one that he will call “daughter” in verse 34.  Now this woman is most likely at least the age of Jesus, which we will establish in a bit.  So, his reference to her as “daughter” is a reminder to her and everyone else that she is still a daughter of Israel.  She had a place and a portion among God’s people who are called Israel.  Her bleeding ailment threatened this.  Today we would use the phrase “child of God” or “daughter of God.”  Regardless the emphasis is that her condition does not make her an outcast, as she has been treated no doubt.  Through Christ we can spiritually be born again as a child of God who has a guaranteed place and portion among the people of God for each of us.  Thus, this story is thematically connected to Jairus and his dying daughter, as this woman is a dying daughter of God.

Let’s recount her physical situation.  We are told that she has a “flow of blood.”   It is not completely explained and does not seem to be immediately life threatening.  However, she has had it for 12 years and it is getting worse.  I would assume that this means the flow is greater, but it could be a reference to pain, even though pain is not mentioned.  Within the Judean society this would have been a devastating thing for her.  First of all, it means that she would be ceremonially unclean all the time.  She could never participate in any of the religious ceremonies of Israel.  Second of all, anyone that she touches would also become ceremonially defiled.  Thus, she would have been a social outcast, much like a leper.  She is not only sick, but has been unable to have a normal life for the last 12 years.

We are also told about her experience with the medical profession of her day.  She apparently comes from wealth because she has spent all that she had going to “many physicians.”  Instead of getting better from their efforts, her condition keeps getting worse.  This woman has desperately sought out any hope that the medical profession of her day could offer and found them dashed to the ground.  No doubt, each time, she would get her hopes up that a certain doctor could help her with a unique procedure, only to return home without relief.  She now has nothing left and is thus without hope, until she hears about Jesus.  What she could not buy for all the money in the world is now possible for free.  What a moment of hope this must have been for this woman.

We are told that her plan was to come up behind Jesus, while he is in the crowd, and touch his garment.  What is interesting here is that she has the same concept of the connection between touch and healing that Jairus did.  However, in this case she believes that it doesn’t even have to be a purposeful touch.  She hopes to get a healing on the sly and slip away.  Why would she do that?  Part of it may have to do with the fact that her unclean condition is well known.  For her to purposefully touch a rabbi in public, thus making him ceremonially defiled, would be considered at least a social faux pas and perhaps even an act worthy of civil punishment.  On top of this is the question.  How many people would she touch in trying to get through the multitude to Jesus?  Her only chance of getting close to Jesus would be to hide her identity and attempt to get it without anyone knowing.  To get forgiveness is easier than to get permission.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told that she wants to touch the “hem” of his garment.  Typically, the hem would have tassels and even, at times, designs that evidenced a person’s place and authority.  This could be the hem at the bottom of the garment or on his sleeves.  We are not told if Jesus had any such items, but this is reminiscent of Malachi 4:2 where it says, “But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings;”.  The word for “wings” can mean exactly that in the context of birds or such.  It simply means the extremity of something.  In the context of a garment this could mean the edges or hems of the garment, and in the context of the person it would be their hands and feet (extremities).  I believe that this verse in Malachi is clearly referencing the Messiah by the title “Sun of Righteousness.”  Since it is a person the image is not so much wings, but rather his hands or the edges of his garment.  Our passage today is clearly a fulfillment of this passage and so is any healing event in which Jesus laid his hands upon the person.

The woman is healed

Upon the touching of the hem of Jesus’ garment, we are told that the “fountain of her blood” was immediately healed.  Whatever the source of the bleeding was, it was instantly healed and quit bleeding.  We are also told that she could feel that something had changed in her body.  She knew in that instant that she was healed.  Now, all she had to do was slip away and go through the purification rituals.  She would no longer be ceremonially defiled and could return to a normal interaction with Judean society.

Just as the woman felt something physically happen to her, so Jesus sensed the power that had healed her.  The word for “power” her is the term “dunamis,” which points to the creative and restorative power of God.  At first, this may give the impression that the Bible is saying that healing is something that can be carried around and given to someone else by touch and even without willing it.  That is, all it takes to be healed is to touch something that his holy, and blessed by God.  Yet, there is more to it than that, which we will come back to in a moment.  Before the woman can make her exit, Jesus suddenly turns around within the crowd and says, “Who touched my clothes?”

The disciples are incredulous at the question Jesus asks.  They point out that many people in the crowd are constantly touching him.  The question might be better, “Who hasn’t touched me?”  Clearly this is not what Jesus is talking about.  He knows who he is talking about and so does the person who was healed.

The woman is afraid and trembling as she falls down before Jesus and confesses the whole story to Jesus and the surrounding crowd.  Most likely, she expects some kind of public rebuke and perhaps legal consequences.  Yet, Jesus is unconcerned with any fears of being defiled and protecting his reputation as a holy man.  He never even brings it up.  In fact, this episode begs the question.  Is Jesus now ceremonially defiled?  The most powerful evidence to the contrary is the fact of her healing.  It was not her defiling him, but him healing her.  The defilement of her condition was no match for the healing power of Jesus.  We cannot defile him, but he can heal us.  This is not just true with physical issues.

Many people do not turn to Christ because they fear that they will be rejected due to their sins.  However, our sin cannot affect Jesus.  He can handle your sins.  He went to the cross for your sins.  His power is greater than all our sin and can set us free from them, both legally and in actuality.  In no way, do I imply that it is okay to embrace sin as a follower of Jesus.

This part of the story ends with Jesus addressing her as daughter.  We talked about this earlier, but I believe it is an endearing term meant to set her at ease, and also a reminder to those around them that she is still a daughter of Israel.  She never lost her place with God because of this disease.  The pharisaical position on such people would be that they are cursed by God, no doubt due to sin, and thus a sub-citizen of sorts.  She would not be seen as a true daughter of Israel, at least until she is healed.

His statement following this address is that her faith has made her well.  Jesus does not mean that faith by itself is enough to be healed.  It is not a faith that just keeps saying, “I am healed; I am healed.”  This would be faith in faith itself.  However, Jesus said “her faith.”  What exactly was her faith?  Her faith was not centered in positivism or a mantra.  It was solidly placed upon the person of Jesus.  She believed that Jesus could heal her if she just touched his garment.  This is the plain teaching of Scripture.  God has provided for healing through faith in Jesus.  No, it is not guaranteed that all people will be healed in this life because God has a purpose that goes beyond this life.  As Jesus told the Apostle Paul, “My grace is enough for you.”  Yet, this story is an amazing revelation nonetheless.  Many simply will not believe that healing in the name of Jesus is possible at all, and thus they miss out on the possibility that God would heal them.  Others believe that Jesus heals, but blame all situation where there is no healing upon the faith of the person or their loved ones.  We must be careful in this area and ask for healing and yet trust God no matter what his answer.

Jesus tells her to go in peace and enjoy her healing from this plague.  Not all that plagues humanity is physical.  However, in Jesus we have the One who is able to make us every bit whole.  Will you put your faith in him for both your body and soul?  We can touch Jesus through our prayers of faith in him.

Woman Healed audio

Tuesday
Mar262019

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Mark 2:13-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 24, 2019.

In one sense, our story today is about Jesus calling another Galilean to become one of his closest disciples, i.e. to be one of The Twelve.  However, the calling of this disciple causes a stir among the local scribes and Pharisees.  Let’s look into the passage.

Jesus calls Levi to follow him

The man that is called Levi here is also called Matthew in the Gospel according to Matthew.  Yes, these are one and the same.  The guy in our story will go on to write a record of The Gospel that has been read world-wide for 20 centuries.  Now we are told that Jesus was in the area speaking to the crowds.  They have become large enough that Jesus is using the seashore to preach to them.  In the course of this, Jesus walks by the tax office and sees a tax collector there named Levi.

Levi is an Israelite, but is collecting taxes for the Roman Government.  The way this was done was by contract bids.  Rome would give its contracts for an area to the person who promised to raise the most tax.  It was understood that the tax collector would pad this amount and that is how he would make his money.  Now, the taxes were already harsh, but they were made worse by the greedy countrymen who got rich off of the backs of their friends.  These men were seen as traitors and collaborators with Rome and thus despised as some of the worst of sinners in their society. 

This clearly does not make Levi appealing to God.  Yet, Christ sees past the greed and opportunism, and sees the person behind those actions, a person in bondage to fear and wealth.  Jesus is calling Levi away from all of that.

This is an important point because it is becoming more and more prevalent today to speak about sinners as if they really are noble people underneath the surface.  Jesus did not choose Levi because he saw a noble man who isn’t really as bad as everyone makes him out to be.  Rather, Jesus sees exactly who Levi is and in spite of that calls him to leave it behind and follow him, which we will get into here in a bit.  This is the same way that Christ comes to all of us.  In and of ourselves, we all fall short.  However, Jesus still calls us away from that failure and into himself.  He calls us to leave the old life behind and learn a new life from him.

So, what does Jesus mean exactly by the phrase, Follow me?  If we do a search in the Bible for this phrase, we will see that Jesus used this phrase with those who he was calling to eat, sleep, and live with him.  They would be his main students and also help him in the ministry.  It was a call to join the inner circle of Jesus.  Yet, later in these passages (after he had The Twelve) we see him using this phrase of all who want to be his disciples.  Mark 8:34-35 says, “Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”  He also says in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  Thus, there is a metaphorical “following” of Jesus that goes beyond living with him.  The Apostles had to deal with this themselves after Jesus ascended into heaven.  They could not immediately follow him into heaven, but they could follow him by listening to the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to indwell them and fill them.  Similarly, today we who believe in the message about Christ chose to leave the old life behind and become students of Christ.  Christ is faithful to send the Holy Spirit into our lives and we are enabled to spiritually follow Him. 

I would also state that there is a way in which we literally follow Jesus.  When we listen to the Holy Spirit, who is one with Christ and the Father, in those moments of instruction, we are literally following Jesus because he is the one leading us.  Whether he warns us against those things that we want to do and instigates us towards those things that we don’t want to do, it is still Christ that we are following.  Thus, the believer needs to spend time each day in communion with Christ through the Holy Spirit by prayer, listening and obeying.

May we be the eyes of Jesus in this world, seeing those who are still trapped in their sin, and yet calling them to follow Jesus.  He is not ashamed to be associated with our past failures in sin.  However, he has come to lead us out of them and into the freedom that can only be obtained through him.

Jesus eats with sinners

Levi was clearly excited to be noticed by the famous teacher, Jesus, and to be called to follow him.  It seems that he is ready to leave everything behind immediately.  He then throws a party that can only be characterized as a retirement party, or going away party.  He invites all his friends and associates who all turn out to be, no shocker here, other tax collectors and sinners.  No one else wanted anything to do with him.  It is in this context that the question is posed to the disciples of Jesus.  Why does Jesus eat with these sinners and tax collectors?  Before we look at the answer, let’s look at the background for why this question is being asked in the first place.

The name of the Pharisee as a group came from a Hebrew word that means to make distinct, to distinguish, and to separate.  We could call them separatists, but that has a political connotation.  It would be best to think of them as the Puritans of their day.  Society had been becoming more and more sinful as people more and more ignored the law.  The Law of Moses emphasized purity throughout its statutes.  Thus, the response of these religious leaders who wanted to show their zeal for God was to dissociate from sinners.  This was even more important for religious leaders.

To analyze this further, let’s remember the situation with the leper in chapter one.  The Law stated many and various situations which would make a person unclean.  This term refers to a ceremonial distinction and is not a statement of sinfulness.  The law did not require a person to always be ceremonially clean.  It only required being ceremonially clean if you were to enter into sacred space, typically to perform a legal ritual.  You could be declared unclean if you buried one of your family members, or had sexual relations with your spouse.  These were not sin by the standard of the Law, but situations that required a purification ritual to be completed before the person could participate in a sacrifice or festival in the temple.  The Pharisees had taken this concept beyond what the Law required or intended.  They were supposed to be the “holy men” of their day and their response was to wall themselves off from anything and anyone who could affect their clean status.  No self-respecting rabbi of their day would have been caught dead at a feast of sinners and tax-collectors.  It would be like seeing someone swimming in the sewer pond.  You can’t get anymore filthy.  These guys are truly shocked.  These are not the actions of a holy man, at least according to their group, who were the experts on holiness and cleanliness.

Now, it is interesting that the question is posed to the disciples of Jesus first.  It is not clear if this is happening at the event or later, but the disciples bear the brunt of the question.  The question itself seems to have a tone of derision to it.  It is not, Why does Jesus eat with sinners, but How is it that he eats with sinners…  They are implying that the disciples have chosen poorly in the teacher that they are following and there can really be no defense.  And, of course, the disciples have no answer.

This technique is employed all the time today.  How is it that you follow a 2,000 year old religion created by people who thought the world was flat?  Of course, such a question is wrong on both counts.  They didn’t exactly think the world was flat, and they did not create a religion.  Another question that one often gets is this.  How can you follow a God who tells you not to murder, but then he murders countless numbers?  Clearly such people have trouble sticking to clear definition of terms and distinguishing between murdering the innocent and executing criminals.  Israel itself was required to execute capital punishment upon certain sins.  It is not hypocrisy to make a distinction between murder and legal execution.  It is proper definition. 

In these cases, it is best not to be bullied into a rash response.  It is Jesus who has the answers and it is to him that we must turn.  The words of Christ are filled with clarity on these issues, if we are willing to study and hear those who Christ has gifted to teach on these matters.  This is nothing more than an attempt to shame you into distancing yourself from Christ and his Apostles.

What is the answer that Jesus gives?  Jesus uses the analogy of a doctor.  No one in their right mind would berate a doctor for having a bunch of sick people in his clinic.  We might berate the doctor for not fixing any of their problems, but never for their presence in the clinic.  Do you tend to find a lot of healthy people in a hospital?  Of course not.  Notice the simplicity of this answer.  It cuts through all the accretion of intellectual crud and gets to the heart of the issue.  Now Jesus had proven his ability to heal people physically, but there is no indication that these people are physically in need of healing.  Look at the next thing Jesus says.  “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  These men did not need physical healing, but they did need a spiritual healing from the wound of sin in their lives.  A wound that none of these religious men were willing to lift a finger to heal.  Jesus was not at Matthew’s house because he was greedy and wanted to enjoy Matthew’s food and riches.  He was not hoping to get some more rich disciples from among his friends.  In short, Jesus is there not to sin, but to teach these sinners the way out of their sin.

Could it be that in our desire to be clean of sin, we so insulate ourselves from sinners that we are no longer a threat to the devil’s hold upon them?  I believe this story underlines such a conclusion.  Yes, we must abstain from all appearance of evil, but many people see evil in things that are not evil.  Abstaining from all appearance of evil is not about the eyes of people around us, but the eyes of our Father in heaven.  Our lives cannot be controlled by what others say of us morally, but by what our Lord Jesus calls us to do.  We are called to help those who are sick with sin, whether they know it or not.  The only way that we can do that is to be open to interacting with them when we cross their path, and for the reasons of Christ, not our flesh.

Is There a Doctor Audio