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?

Deceiving spirits

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 

1 Timothy 4:1

One of the primary roles of demons is not just to tempt but also to deceive. The goal is to first lead people away from orthodoxy and then away from faith in Jesus altogether.

But how does it happen?

Just as we can “hear” the Holy Spirit whisper to us in our own thought-life, so too do demons inject their thoughts into our own. If we don’t know the truth of scripture and if we have little spiritual discernment, we can’t tell the difference between the whispers of demonic deception and our own thoughts. Sometimes demons over-play their hand and the thoughts are so jarring that we wonder, “Where did that thought come from?” Many times, that thought didn’t come from us at all but from a deceiver.

But the goal for a spirit of deception is not to get noticed. So the lies have to be just subtle enough–just believable enough–to make us think they are our own thoughts. Once we get led down this road, full-scale strongholds of deception start to get built. Even when people speak truth to us, the words bounce right off the walls of the stronghold–walls meant to protect the deception within.

Another tactic of the enemy is to spread a spirit of offense. Have you noticed how easily people are offended at each other these days? Ever wonder why the politically correct police get more and more oppressive with their ever growing list of things that can be considered offensive? All of this is a strategy of the enemy.

Demons pluck nerves. If you have a hurt or wound in a particular area of your life, and someone says something anywhere in the general vicinity of that wound, demons then pluck that nerve. It doesn’t matter that the person didn’t say anything offensive. It only matters that what was said could be misconstrued to be offensive. That’s enough for the demon to get a foothold, misconstrue what was said, and whisper lies of offense.

Have you ever had someone get offended at something you never said? Instead, the offense was at what they thought you said or what they thought you implied? Again, this is part of the strategy of the enemy. Satan has created a playground for himself out of our culture that is constantly living in offense and perpetually in a victim mentality. In a culture where the most offended person wins the argument, which is pretty much the case today, the enemy has full reign to plant seeds of offense, self-righteousness, pride and self-pity.

The purpose of a spirit of offense is the same as a spirit of deception. If I am offended by the truth, I certainly don’t have to listen to it. Truth is inherently life-giving and has the capacity to bring freedom to all who embrace it. But if the truth offends me, I now have an emotional barrier that keeps me from having to face it. If I live with the constant truth-repellent of “offense” then I will never be free.

We see this most clearly with the Pharisees. Jesus would do the most incredible miracles, but they would get offended that He broke a sabbath law in order to do it (Luke 6:6-11; Matthew 15:12). They couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Rather than celebrate the incredible miracle, they got offended and angry at Jesus. That’s what a spirit of offense does. It distracts people with a minor offense so that they can’t see the major work of God right in front of them.