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.

Powerful and Effective Prayer

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:13-16

Seeing people miraculously healed was not a “charismatic” thing for the early church. It was simply a part of what it meant to be a normal Christian. It was one of the fundamental basics of what it meant to follow Jesus. It’s strange that today it is seen as something “extreme” or “strange.” Praying with faith to see the sick person get well is Christianity 101. We should expect to see people get healed in our churches, and we should expect to see it regularly. If it’s not happening, it is an indication that something is wrong with our theology, our faith, or our church culture.

James also indicates the importance of the confession and forgiveness of sin. James helps us understand that unrepented sin can be a hindrance to physical healing. It becomes an area of our lives that is unyielded to the Spirit which can dam up the flow of the Spirit and the gifts of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9).

We also learn from this passage of scripture that living a righteous life is important in becoming a conduit of healing. James says that the prayer of a “righteous person” is powerful and effective. Yet, while many of us long to have prayers that are powerful and effective, many of us don’t want to examine whether we are living a righteous life.

The righteousness that James is talking about here is not the imputed righteousness that we received from Jesus at salvation. In one sense, all Christians have been made perfectly righteous because of Jesus. Our own good works could not save us. Only the righteousness of Jesus that was given to us could save us. We are clothed in His righteousness. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “…you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Romans 5:19 says, “…through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

But this isn’t the righteousness that James is talking about in this passage. It wouldn’t make any sense if it was. If James was talking about the imputed righteousness of Jesus, then all prayers from all Christians would be equally powerful and effective. If that was true, there would be no point in saying “the prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.”

No, what James is talking about is our response to being made righteous. He’s talking about the person who is actually living out righteousness in their lives. James is talking about the person who actually lives out their new identity as new creations in Christ. We must put on the new self and leave the old self behind. Ephesians 4:24 says, “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When we live the righteous life, when we choose holiness over sin, when we live out what Jesus made true about us, our prayers gain power and effectiveness. We become a conduit of the Spirit’s power and grace. Just as some conduits have less blockages, less rust, less things in the way that dampen the flow of water or electricity, so too a righteous life clears away things that would otherwise block the flow of the power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Righteous living comes from ongoing and increasing intimacy with the Lord. That intimacy creates and establishes a trust between us and the Lord. He’s able to trust us with more (more power, more gifts, more healings, more miracles, more revelation, etc.), and we’re able to better hear His voice and yield to His direction. This is another reason the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. There is a closeness between that person and the Lord, a trust that’s been built over time.

If we want to see more healings in our churches, we need to become the kind of people who can be trusted with more. We need to become the kind of conduits that allow the increasing flow of the Spirit without the dampening effect of sin. We need to become the righteous people who have powerful and effective prayers.

Suffering for the Lord?

The apostle Paul embodies what it means to suffer for Christ. He’s the one who wrote, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). He also wrote, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17). And also, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).

Is there any doubt that part of the Christian life involves suffering? It’s one of the main ways that we identify with Christ. It was Jesus Himself who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Paul even encourages his protege Timothy, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).

A few different times Paul gives his churches his resume of suffering to show that he is a worthy apostle to follow. To the Corinthians he wrote:

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

(2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

What is conspicuously absent in this list of suffering is physical illness. Paul seems to be physically worn down from persecution, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, physical danger and travel. But if Paul listed so many different forms of suffering for Christ, one would think he would list at least one physical sickness or illness. But we don’t see a single one. Not that Paul never got sick, but Paul doesn’t seem to believe that sickness is a way to “suffer for the Lord.”

Sickness, in other words, is not from God but from the enemy. While it may honor God for us to endure persecution, it does not bring him honor for us to suffer from sickness. The way we handle ourselves while sick will definitely bring him honor, but sickness itself does not.

This is in line with what we see in Jesus. Jesus was the perfect representation of what the Father is like. “The Son is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus suffered in many ways while on the earth. Yet, we have no indication or record of Him ever being sick. This reaffirms the truth that sickness is not from God but is a product of a broken world and sometimes the result of a direct assault from the enemy.

In other words, sickness is not God’s will. It is not what God wants for us. If Jesus is the perfect picture of the will of God, and not only did He never get sick but healed every person who came to Him for healing, then we have in Jesus a pretty clear idea of how God feels about sickness.

As followers of Jesus we have to stop saying things like, “I’m not sure why God gave me this illness, but…” Friend, God did not give you that sickness. That sickness is a result of the brokenness of our world. Or, it may be that your illness is a direct attack on your life from the enemy. But that illness you are going through is not from God. Do not receive it as such! Believe, instead, that God wants you free from it! Do not passively receive it as the will of God. It’s not! Persevere in your fight against it!