At The Temple

The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.

Matthew 21:14

Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last few days of His life on earth. The crowds shouted, “Hosanna!” Then He entered the Temple courts and overturned the tables of the money changers. His house was to be a house of prayer not a den of robbers.

Then this sentence sneaks in there. If we read it too quickly it’s easy to miss. Jesus was always healing people so we may not think much about it. But if we sit with it for a bit, we can learn somethings from it about healing.

These were not medically easy cases. Blindness has many causes and, even with all of our advancement in medicine, we still can’t cure most of them. If someone was lame, it could have been a skeletal issue, a muscle issue, or a neurological issue. Medicine is still struggling to find solutions to neurological problems. Yet, for Jesus, He easily healed them all. It didn’t take more effort for Him to heal these very difficult cases.

I’m sure these blind and lame folks had cried out to God for healing right where they were, right where they sat or in their own homes. But they never received healing. It wasn’t until they got up and went to Jesus that they were healed. Here we see the scandal of “particularity” or “chosenness,” and we see this all throughout scripture.

Israel was God’s chosen nation. That means other nations were not chosen. Yet, part of the reason they were chosen is because Abram responded to God’s invitation with faith. I wonder how many other men got invited before Abram but never responded to God’s invitation. We only know about Abram because he was the one who took that step of faith to trust God. The result is that his entire ancestry was blessed as the chosen nation.

Yet, chosenness isn’t just about being blessed. It’s about being a blessing to others. Israel’s role was to be blessed so that they could bless the world with a revelation of who God really is and what He is really like. The Messiah, Jesus, was the full embodiment of this role. If you want to know what God the Father is like, just look at Jesus.

And so God’s Kingdom came pouring through Jesus in the form of love, truth and power. Imagine a huge storm with clouds overhead. It is true that a tornado could drop from anywhere. But storm chasers go toward the tornados that have already dropped. They don’t sit around looking at the clouds. They run toward where the storm has dropped to the earth.

This was Jesus. He was the embodiment of God’s Kingdom come to earth. The scandal of “particularity” is that Jesus didn’t heal everyone on earth, yet He did heal everyone that came to Him. Then He raised up His disciples to be sent out and be lights in the world just as He was. The massive tornado became many tornados, spreading out as they invited God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

We learn from this that we must go to where God is moving. We can’t sit back and look at the storm clouds waiting for a tornado to drop. We don’t sit back and declare that God is sovereign so He can drop a tornado in our laps whenever He wants. That truth about what could happen doesn’t negate the truth about how God tends to operate in the world.

Learning about God also means learning His “ways.” And the pattern we see from Jesus and the New Testament is that we must go to where God is moving in power. We must go there first, and then we take that back to wherever we came from. This is exactly how it played out in Acts 2 with the Holy Spirit and the Jews that were in Jerusalem that day for the feast of Pentecost.

God is not a random and capricious God. He has certain ways of doing things. Our job is not to demand that God do things the way we want. Our job is to learn how He operates and adjust our lives accordingly. His ways are better than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Our lack of understanding should direct us back to Him as we continue to learn how He moves in the earth.

They Could Not Heal Him

“Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith…

Matthew 17:15-20

Other manuscripts of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark have Jesus concluding this story by telling His disciples that this kind of spirit only comes out “by prayer and fasting.”

Noticed that Jesus isn’t upset that the man brought his son to Him for healing. Jesus was happy to heal. And Jesus seemed to be okay with the little faith that the boy’s father had. Jesus was not frustrated with him at all. It was His own disciples that frustrated Him.

I find it fascinating that Jesus’s frustration is that the disciples weren’t able to heal the boy themselves. Clearly, Jesus expected them to be able to do this by now. This completely flips our paradigm of prayer that we typically operate with in American Christianity.

We think our job is just to bring things to Jesus. Meanwhile, Jesus expects us to be able to operate in the authority and power that He’s given us. I wonder if Jesus ever gets frustrated with us bringing Him something that He’s already give us the authority and power to deal with ourselves, including healing and deliverance.

Here are Jesus’s expectations of His own disciples: 1) the disciples should have been able to discern that this physical ailment was caused by a demonic spirit, 2) the disciples should have been operating in enough authority and faith to get it to leave, and 3) the disciplines of prayer and fasting should have been a regular part of the disciples’ life so that they were ready for a moment like this.

But the disciples seemingly failed to meet all three of these expectations. I’m sure Jesus was thinking, “What’s going to happen when I ascend back to the Father? What would happen to this boy then?”

The expectations that Jesus had for His disciples then are the same that He has for His disciples today. We’ve been given the authority of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus expects us to be able to operate in both. We’ve been given gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us detect demonic spirits and release healing and deliverance to people around us. We’ve been given the chance to deepen our faith and our intimacy with God through prayer and fasting.

The truth is that Jesus is no longer walking the earth, so there is no Plan B. There is only Plan A. And Plan A is to see the Body of Christ, the Church, be able to operate in the gifts of the Spirit to such a degree that people with this boy’s condition get set free and healed.

We have to become the kind of conduits of deliverance, freedom, and healing that Jesus expects us to be. We need to be ready for moments like this one through our daily prayer life and regular fasting. Our faith needs to grow so that we can confidently release the Kingdom of God in any situation we face.

Until we do, Jesus’s words about His disciples back then are still true for us today, “You unbelieving and perverse generation…how long shall I put up with you?

Unclean Heart

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Matthew 15:17-20

The Pharisees had the wrong understanding of what made a person “unclean.” They were hung up on traditions made by men that tried to keep people ritually clean through external purity. One of those traditions was to wash hands before eating so that the “uncleanness” from any Gentile item, dead or unclean animal that was touched in the marketplace would be washed away and not contaminate the food that was about to be eaten.

But Jesus clarifies to His own disciples that “cleanness” isn’t about what goes into one’s stomach, but what comes out of one’s heart. And one of the easiest ways to determine what is in our own hearts is to listen to what we say and how we say it.

It’s easy enough to flex our religious muscles and makes sure we sound holy around certain people. But when we are pressed in life, what comes out of our mouth then?

When we squeeze an orange, we expect orange juice to come out. When we press an olive, we expect olive oil to come out. What a peculiar sight it would be to squeeze a lemon and have motor oil come out. How strange it would be to press a cluster of grapes and have corrosive bleach leak out.

Yet, what Jesus is saying is that this is how we discover the broken places in our own hearts. This is exactly what happens to us. Evil thoughts come from the heart. Murderous rage comes from the heart. The roaming eye of adultery comes from the heart. The need to find acceptance and love by giving away our body to many different people through sexual immorality comes from the heart. The compulsion to take what is not ours comes from the heart. The tendency to lie, deceive, gossip, and slander comes from the heart. Harsh and critical words come from the heart.

When a Christian is pressed or squeezed by life circumstances, we should expect the fruit of the Spirit to come leaking out: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we get pressed by life and something else comes out of our heart, we need to see it like a warning light on the dashboard of our life. Something is broken in the deep places of our soul. Something in our heart needs healing.

So, what comes out of your mouth when life squeezes you? Pay attention to anything unclean that comes up. Use it as a diagnostic tool to understand that this is a place in your heart that needs healing. Our damaging and destructive words, our foul language, our bitter gossip and biting criticism are all products of a heart that needs healed by the love of God.

Testimonies

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Matthew 14:34-36

Jesus had just met His disciples out on the Sea of Galilee by walking on water. They were completely astonished, not only because Jesus was able to walk on water, but also because Peter was able to for a short time.

Then the winds died down, and they arrived at the other side of the lake to a place called Gennesaret. This was an extremely fertile stretch of land along the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee only three miles from Capernaum.

When the people of that area recognized Jesus, they sent word to the surrounding villages that Jesus was there. People brought their sick in order for Jesus to heal them. But usually what the crowds were expecting was for Jesus to place their hands on people so that they may be healed (Luke 4:40). So why are people in this region begging Jesus to let them touch the edge of his cloak?

It seems as though the testimony from the woman in Matthew 9 who had been bleeding for 12 years and was healed by touching the edge of Jesus’s cloak had spread through that area.

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

Matthew 9:20-24

So, apparently, this woman’s testimony of healing spread throughout that area. And once Jesus returned to that region, people not only had faith to believe they would be healed if Jesus touched them, but they had faith to believe that if they just touched the edge of His cloak they would be healed.

So were they right? Or was healing by way of touching Jesus’s cloak just for the bleeding woman?

Matthew 14:36 confirms that “all who touched it were healed.”

This is the power of testimony. What God did for this one person, He can do for you. Testimonies of healing are not someone bragging. They are not someone boasting. They are giving credit where credit is due. Jesus gets all the glory! And testimonies strengthen the faith of those who hear them. Testimonies, when heard with the right heart condition, help people to believe that what Jesus did for that person, He can do for me.

If you’ve been healed, don’t stay silent. Share your testimony. Let people know what God has done in your life. Celebrate how God’s Kingdom has invaded this world! Doing so can strengthen the faith of those around you. Your testimony could create a break-through in healing for someone else!

You Do It

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. 

Matthew 14:15-18

This encounter between Jesus, the disciples, and the crowd is so important for every follower of Jesus to understand. The crowds had a legitimate need. The disciples did what we would do. They asked Jesus to do something about it. They even suggested what Jesus should do (send the crowds away so they could get food).

What do we call this today, when we go to Jesus with a request on behalf of other people? We call it prayer. Specifically, we call it petitioning prayer.

Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Yes, but we are also supposed to listen in prayer for His response. And we shouldn’t be surprised when the response Jesus gives us is, “You do it.”

Jesus tells His disciples to give the crowd something to eat, and their response is often our response. They felt inadequate. They reasoned with Jesus that they didn’t have enough to accomplish the task. They didn’t have what it takes. Don’t we do the same?

“But Jesus, that’s impossible for me to do!” “But Jesus, I don’t have enough money, talent, gifting, resources, people, help,…..etc.”

Jesus didn’t agree with His disciples. And when we give this kind of response He doesn’t agree with us either.

Jesus then says, “Bring them here to me“(Matthew 14:18).

Whatever it is that you have, bring it to Jesus. Hand it to Him. Does it feel too small, too weak, too insignificant? That’s okay. Give it to Jesus. Put it in His hands and watch what happens.

He’ll give it right back to you and say to you again, “You do it.” And as you are obedient, everything that didn’t feel like it was enough will multiply in your own hands as you give it away.

“Jesus, heal this person!” … “You do it.”

“Jesus, change this situation!” … “You do it.”

“Jesus, help those people!” … “You do it.”

“Jesus, they need freedom!” … “You do it.”

You give them something to eat. But first things first, hand it to Jesus. Put everything you have in His hands. Give it all to Him and watch what happens.

The Heart of Jesus

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:13-14

This gives us great insight into the heart of Jesus.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he tried to get alone. What happened? John the Baptist, Jesus’s cousin and the greatest of Old Testament prophets, was beheaded by Herod the tetrarch. And it wasn’t even a noble death.

John called Herod out for marrying his brother’s wife and got thrown into prison. Then Herod made a drunken oath to give his step-daughter half of his kingdom. At the prompting of her bitter mother, she asks for John’s head on a platter. It was an unceremonious and brutal death.

John the Baptist was a friend and a herald of Jesus. He was a fellow prophet calling people to repentance and declaring the Kingdom of God. Jesus knew all too well that if they were willing to so flippantly kill John, He would be next.

So Jesus withdrew to a solitary place to grieve. He was grieving the loss of a friend and fellow companion in ministry. He was grieving the death of the greatest of Old Testament prophets (Matthew 11:11). He was grieving the death of a family member. And He was grieving His own future, knowing it will look similar to John’s.

The crowds didn’t seem to honor Jesus’s need to be alone and process John’s death. As soon as Jesus came ashore He saw that the crowds followed Him around the Sea of Galilee on foot. They were all clamoring to have their needs met, not once thinking about what Jesus needed in that moment. The crowds weren’t there to comfort Jesus. They were there to be ministered to by Jesus.

What would your response be in this moment if you were Jesus?

It’s in this moment that we see the heart of Jesus, the heart of our Heavenly Father. When Jesus saw the large crowd, scripture says “he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Jesus was still loving other people even as He grieved.

If we’re not careful, grief can pull us into a selfish spiral of self-pity. While grieving is healthy and necessary, there can be a great temptation in grief to become self-absorbed. But not for Jesus. He still was compassionate. He still chose to heal all who needed healing.

This is the Jesus we serve and love. This is the Jesus to whom we surrender all. Jesus wants to spend time with us. He wants to be near to us. He has limitless compassion for us and what we’re experiencing. He’s the perfect representation of God the Father’s heart toward us.

God is not put out by you. You don’t exhaust Him. He’s not irritated with you. You don’t bother Him. He loves you. And nothing you do will ever change that.

Offensive Miracles

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Matthew 13:53-58

When there is a lack of faith, people are easily offended. We see this in our own culture. People seem to be offended by everything. People in our culture wear their offense like a badge of honor. So many people, even Christians, live their lives perpetually offended.

The people of Nazareth were offended that Jesus, someone they knew, had incredible wisdom and operated in the miraculous. They couldn’t understand how someone from such a common family could be a prophet. They couldn’t understand how a carpenter’s son could become such a wise Rabbi. It didn’t make sense to them that God would do miracles through such a lowly man. They saw Jesus grow up, after all. How could God use Him? And because it didn’t line up with their understanding and expectations, they took offense. People today do the same thing.

In particular, people get offended by healing for a variety of reasons. They get offended that some people get miraculously healed and others don’t. They especially get offended at the mention of the need for healing. To say a person needs healing means that something is broken. But there is so much fear and insecurity around admitting that something is broken.

We live in a culture where everyone wants to be told that nothing in them is broken. No one wants to admit that their spirit is broken and they need a Savior. No one wants to admit that their heart is broken and they need inner healing and deliverance. No one wants to admit that their body or brain or sexuality is not functioning the way God intended, and that it needs healing. We’re afraid that if we say this about our loved ones they won’t feel “normal.”

But instead of admitting that none of us is “normal,” we’ve decided to call everything normal. We wrongly assume that if we call everything normative then everyone will feel included and loved. But the people who live with brokenness know deep down that something is wrong. I know because we all have brokenness.

So we walk around knowing deep down that something is wrong, and yet we have everyone telling us that everything is fine. We’re told that the disfunction in our body, mind, or spirit is “normal.” Sometimes we’re even told the it’s good! But the deepest parts of us knows better. This creates a cognitive dissonance that is damaging.

We’d do better to communicate the biblical message that we’re all broken, we all need healing, and we all need a savior. The admission of the need for spiritual, emotional, and physical healing should be what is “normative.” For a person to assume that they don’t need healing should not be a mark of superiority but a sign of prideful ignorance. What should be offensive is the person who says they don’t need healing, not the person who suggests the need for healing.

Yes, we love everyone just as they are. We communicate that God loves them unconditionally even if their situation never changes. We help them encounter the absolutely overwhelming love of the Father for them. But His unending love for us–just as we are–does not change our need for healing. God is the one who wants us healed more than anyone else!

Jesus healed every person who came to Him for healing. He never turned anyone away. He never decided that someone should just stay in their condition so that they can know they are loved just the way they are. He healed every single person that came to Him.

Does that means Jesus didn’t love them until after they were healed? Absolutely not! Jesus loved them unconditionally before they were healed. Then, as a demonstration of His unconditional love, Jesus healed them. And He loved them unconditionally after they were healed. Their need for healing didn’t impact Jesus’s love for them in any way. Healing was simply a tangible demonstration of His love.

As followers of Jesus, we can decide to be offended by healing and miracles (like the people of Jesus’s hometown) or we can decide to embrace healing. We all need healing. And as Jesus’ hands and feet in the world, we’ve been sent as His ambassadors to release physical healing to people. We’ve been sent to release inner healing and freedom to people. We’ve been sent to proclaim the gospel, the only thing that brings our dead spirit to life.

Are you offended by healing? Are you offended by the need for healing?