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?

Healing Brings Praise

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Matthew 15:29-31

Physical healing naturally brings praise to God. Notice that even though Jesus likely healed hundreds of people that day, and some with extremely severe illnesses, the crowd instinctively knew to praise God for the healings. They knew a man could not heal unless God was working through him.

People today get so worried that if someone has gifts of healings (one of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:9) that all the credit will go to the person instead of God. But this is just not true. I have seen it time and again, that when someone experiences healing, the most natural thing in the world is to give glory and praise to God alone. We exaggerate our fear that a person will take the credit for the healing and it keeps us from engaging in more healing prayer in the church.

Through Jesus, the crowds “saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing.” This is what people should be seeing in the Church, the Body of Christ on the earth. We are His hands and feet in the world. We are His ambassadors. “…In this world we are like Jesus“(1 John 4:17). We are called to pick up the mission and ministry of Jesus and continue it today. As more and more people in the Church pray for healing and see people get healed, more and more praise goes to the Father for His goodness and faithfulness.

This is who we are called to be as the Church, ushering in the Kingdom of God on earth. We need more people pursuing the supernatural gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12, including gifts of healings (in the Greek both the word “gifts” and “healings” are plural). It needs to become commonplace for people to walk into church sick and walk out healed. Just as a nutrition plan has become a new addition to many people’s treatment plan for their illness, we need a new normal where people add regular healing prayer to their treatment plan.

How are you going to pursue more healing prayer in your life with Christ?

If you’re looking for a place to start, this book can help: Power to Heal by Randy Clark

Bringing Justice through to Victory

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
    the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out;
    no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”[Isaiah 42:1-4]

Matthew 12:15-21

The reason Jesus withdrew from that place is because the Pharisees were plotting to kill Him. Jesus’s response to their plan to kill Him is to move to a different region and heal every single person who came to Him. It doesn’t say that He healed some. It doesn’t say that He healed those with enough faith. It doesn’t say that He healed the righteous. No, He healed “all who were ill.”

When we pray for the sick, we have to own the fact that Jesus healed every person who came to Him. In other words, we have to own the fact that if Jesus were standing there with the person we’re praying for, they’d be healed. But it’s not Jesus standing there, it’s us. It’s Christ in us the hope of glory. The problem is never on God’s end of the equation.

And notice that Jesus healing everyone was a fulfillment of prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah 42:1-4. When Jesus healed, it was Him bringing the justice of God into that situation. He wouldn’t turn people away who needed healing. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. Instead, He would bring justice through to victory.

Bringing justice through to victory is language that is often used to describe a military battle. An invading army has come into the Promised Land. An evil foreign king has invaded the Temple. And the job of the Messiah, not unlike King David, was to bring the justice of God into the battle and see it through to victory. This is the imagery scripture gives us for when Jesus heals the sick.

In other words, God sees sickness and disease as an injustice. Sin, the brokenness of the world, and the enemy all can cause the body to malfunction in ways that it was never intended. To bring justice is to make things right that have gone wrong. When Jesus heals, He makes right whatever has gone wrong in the body. He ushers in the Kingdom of God into the body. And in the Kingdom of God, there is no sickness. Your Kingdom come (into this body), Your will be done, on earth (in this body) as it is in heaven (where there is no sickness).

When Jesus brings the justice of God to invade the injustice of sickness, He brings it through to victory. He doesn’t allow the invading armies of illness and disease to stay in the body. He releases the Kingdom of God in its fullness into the body until victory has been won.

This is the example that we are to follow. Jesus is the standard of what the Christian life should look like. The Holy Spirit moves us from glory to glory so that we look ever more like Christ. Part of that means seeing more and more healing as our lives look more and more like Jesus. We learn how to cooperate with the Father and the Spirit, releasing the Kingdom into every body we pray for. We learn how to cooperate with bringing God’s justice to invade the injustice of sickness, until we can bring it through to victory.

We do all of this so that the nations will put their hope and trust in the name of Jesus!

To Do Good On The Sabbath

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus,they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Matthew 12:9-14

They asked Jesus if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. While this question seems strange to us, we have to understand it in context. One of the main ways to honor and worship God was to follow His law, especially on the Sabbath. To break Sabbath law was to dishonor God and make a mockery of His commands.

Jesus was trying to help them see the heart behind the law. The heart of the law was to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The law was meant to help the Jews love God and love people. If the law was then used to prevent them from loving people, Jesus was saying that it was being misused.

It would be like us asking the question, “Is it okay to totally disrupt a Sunday morning worship service if it means someone would get the help and healing they need?” Would it be okay if someone needed healing and the whole service stopped for that one person so people could pray for them? Would we be willing to cancel the sermon and cancel the rest of the worship songs?

You can hear people’s push back already, “But the worship songs and the sermon are how we honor and glorify God in that moment! Should we cancel that just for one person?” This is the tension that was going in the synagogue that day. Should the law be trampled on just for this one man?

Also notice that Jesus tells the man to stretch out his hand, but Jesus never indicates which hand. The man had two hands. One could easily be stretched out. That was his healthy hand. The other would not stretch out even if the man tried to force it. That was his shriveled hand. So if you were in that condition, and someone asked you to stretch out your hand, the most natural thing in the world would be to stretch out the good hand.

But what we witness is an incredible risk on the part of the man with the shriveled hand. What we witness here is this man step out and take a leap of faith. He could have tried to stretch out his shriveled hand and nothing happen. He was risking breaking Sabbath law for the chance at experiencing the impossible. This was a radical act of faith!

Jesus honors the man’s faith and the man’s willingness to take a risk. As the shriveled hand is being extended it is healed. The man watches his own hand transform right before his own eyes. It didn’t take weeks or months. In just a moment with Jesus, everything was healed. Surely this is cause for the whole synagogue to celebrate! Right!?!

Nope. The Pharisees couldn’t see the miracle and celebrate. Their hardened hearts of unbelief wouldn’t allow it. They could only see Jesus breaking Sabbath law and encouraging others to do so. They could only see disruption in a synagogue service. They could only see their authority and power leaking away in the presence of Jesus.

I have seen this mindset up close and personal. I’ve seen people healed in a worship service only to field complaint after complaint about how we shouldn’t have prayed for healing in a worship service. I’ve heard warning after warning about how new people will be offended and visitors won’t understand what’s happening and so we shouldn’t pray for healing in a worship service. All of this after seeing people miraculously healed because we prayed for healing in a worship service. Sometimes a religious spirit and a spirit of unbelief can cause people to not see the forest for the trees.

Miracles make people uncomfortable. Pursuing the supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit can make people uncomfortable. Change makes people uncomfortable. The feeling of not having absolute control over a situation makes people feel uncomfortable. But if we are going to let Jesus be Jesus in our churches, if we are going to let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit in our churches, we’ll need to find ways to allow room “to do good on the Sabbath.”

How would you react to Jesus doing the miraculous in your church on a Sunday?

Teaching-Preaching-Healing-Deliverance

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

Matthew 4:23-25

There were four main components of Jesus’s ministry: 1) teaching, 2) proclaiming/preaching, 3) physical healing, and 4) deliverance (casting out demons). Most of the time Jesus would first give a proclamation of the Kingdom (teaching & preaching) and then give a demonstration of the Kingdom (healing & deliverance).

He then taught His disciples to do the same (Matthew 10:1-8). And we see the early church do the same (Acts 2:42-44). The early church was simply obeying Jesus’s command to teach the next generation of disciples everything they had been taught by Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). The pattern was proclamation and then demonstration.

This fourfold ministry of the proclamation and demonstration of the Kingdom was done in the church for nearly 400 years. When you study church history, nearly all the early church fathers bear witness to many regular healings and deliverances for the first few centuries of the church (Justin Martyr, Hermas, Tertullian, Origen, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great).

If this was the early pattern of church ministry, what happened? In most churches, why do we only get the proclamation part today and no miraculous demonstration of the Kingdom?

Unfortunately, Augustine introduced some poor theology about miracles to the church and things started to change. Augustine later changed his view toward the end of his life and himself had many testimonies of miraculous healings. But the damage had been done.

The Protestant Reformers (in the 1500s), when they were breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church, picked up on Augustine’s earlier writings (and ignored his later writings) about miracles, signs and wonders. This is how cessationism was born (the erroneous theological belief that miracles, signs, wonders are not normative and that the gifts of the Spirit no longer exist in the church today).

But what does it look like for a church today to get back to its original roots? What does it look like to do more than just proclamation, more than just teaching and preaching, more than settling for just half of Jesus’s ministry? What would it look like for the church to attempt all four main components of Jesus’s ministry, including physical healing and deliverance?

My church is attempting just that. Most churches have teaching and preaching, but how do you add the ministries of physical healing and deliverance? If you want to hear how we are doing this through our prayer team, listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of this podcast episode. It is an interview with me and a couple of the people on our prayer team.

This isn’t about becoming a “charismatic” church. This is about believing Jesus’s words when He said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father“(John 14:12).

Does your church have the four main components of Jesus’s ministry?

We may have many good ministries in our churches, but if we don’t start with the core of what Jesus did, we’ll look more like the church of the Protestant Reformers than we do the church of Jesus and the apostles.

By His Wounds You Have Been Healed

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 2:23-25

Jesus taught us that we don’t always have to be the one to defend ourselves or try to get retribution. Our job is to imitate Jesus who forgave the ones who hurled insults at Him. Then He entrusted the whole situation to “him who judges justly.” If we can trust that God is a just judge who sees our situation, we’ll have more peace and confidence when we face hardship and suffering.

Peter then goes on to quote different parts of Isaiah 53:4-6.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6

In this passage in Isaiah 53, and in Peter’s restatement of this verse (often using different verb tenses in order to apply this verse to his audience’s current situation), we see that Jesus paid for the healing of our bodies, the restoration of our souls (mind, will, emotions), and the redemption of our spirits. In other words, Jesus on the cross and in the resurrection provided for our salvation–body, soul and spirit.

Our sin has been paid for and forgiven. Our wandering soul has been returned to the Good Shepherd. Our spirits have been married to the Holy Spirit and therefore united with Christ. And by Jesus experiencing suffering in His own body, He has paid the price for our physical healing.

This doesn’t mean that everyone experiences physical healing. There are a number of variables that push against people getting healed in this broken and fallen world. But what scripture is saying to us here is that physical healing is always available to us. In other words, as followers of Jesus we always have the right to ask for physical healing in any given situation. And we have a right to expect physical healing when we ask for it.

When someone gets healed it is Jesus’s reward for something He already paid for. It’s simply Jesus getting what He paid for on the cross. Physical healing is part of our inheritance in the Kingdom of God and so, as sons and daughters of the King, we always have the right to ask for it. And as we learn to overcome the variables that hinder healing in this world, we’ll see more and more of the people we pray for experience healing.