It's Thursday again. Must be time for another blog post! Since it also means taking another new look at Jesus, I can't wait :-)
We're continuing our chronological trip through the Gospels (our past posts/studies/reflections are here).
The scriptures for today can be found here.
This week we're looking at some of Jesus' healing miracles. What did it mean when Jesus healed people, and what kinds of people were "worthy" being healed? And what does Jesus' healing 2,000 years ago mean to you and your needs, today?
The first person we see needing healed doesn't even ask for it, himself. Instead, it's the stupid demon making the guy's life a living hell that can't resist poking at Jesus, trying to cause Him some problem in the crowd by mouthing off.
What's Jesus response? He tells the demon to shut up and get out of the guy – something the demon doesn't like at all and submits to (with lots of demon-drama). The people around watching all this are amazed that not only does Jesus provide teaching authority like they've never seen before from their religious leaders, but He also has complete authority over those of the spirit world.
Is there a demon – either an actual demon, or some part of yourself that acts like one – making your life a living hell? Have you submitted it to human authorities and gotten no relief? If others witnessed Jesus commanding such demons to leave people alone, why should anyone else assume He's powerless over the demon driving them crazy or ruining their life? Why should you?
Next we see Jesus and His disciples going to Simon's (Peter's) house, where they find his mother-in-law so sick with a fever she can't get up to provide the hospitality their culture required be provided to all guests and visitors. But all Jesus had to do was touch her hand and tell the fever to buzz off – and not only did the fever leave, but she felt so good she could get up and work the house and tend to her guests as she wanted to.
Are you imagining Jesus' healing takes some huge effort all the time? What would it take for your healing to happen, today?
We read that after that, a lot of people started coming to Jesus, and He healed those who were sick and threw more stupid demons out of people – all with a word or some other simple effort on His part. People begged Him to stay around, but He told them He had other places to share the good news about God's Kingdom with, as well.
The Bible here also shares one of the biggest reasons Jesus was doing all the healing in that place and time: to demonstrate that He had the qualifications to be the Messiah, the Saving-One promised by God to the people of Israel and then to the world. He was letting those Jews who would hear it know that He was the One who would take all our ills and weaknesses upon Himself, to bear what we can't bear, to accomplish what we can't accomplish.
The Jews of that day needed proof that Jesus had these supernatural qualifications, to prove He was the real thing – and not just another human pretender-Messiah. So we can't fault them for requiring proof from Him. But as we'll see later, many demanded "proof" just for their own selfish benefit, or didn't want to believe so they demanded so much "proof" it was ridiculous. In what legitimate ways do you require proof of Jesus? In what ways do you over-require so much you just shut Him out on purpose?
Next we see a man with leprosy coming to Jesus. We have to remember that in that time, place, and culture, in order to safeguard the community from his disease this man would have been a complete outcast – outcast even among other outcasts, in fact, by law. People who had leprosy were required to remain apart even from family and friends. Only by showing themselves to a priest, who was the only one who could examine them and pronounce them "clean" of the disease, would they ever be allowed to go back into the community. And after healing him, showing himself to the priest and doing the rest of his legal duties to get back into the community was what Jesus told him to do.
Another thing to note here: We often remember the guy with leprosy saying to Jesus: "If You are willing, You can make me clean." And lot's of folks remember Jesus' first words back to the man ("I'm willing. Be clean!"), but those words are not what the Bible says was Jesus first response to him! No, Jesus' first response to the man was compassion. He felt for the guy and his suffering.
Is there something – a sickness or addiction or other problem – that makes you outcast among your family, friends, and/or community and causes you suffering? Learn from this scripture that Jesus is fully aware of the legalities we may have to submit ourselves to in order to be allowed back in with our peers again – and He tells us to take care of those. But also learn that Jesus' feeling toward you – even when you're at your worst – isn't disgust, or wariness, or judgment. It's compassion. So, whatever your current condition, what keeps you from seeing and feeling His compassion for you?
Next we see one of the more famous healing stories. Lots of folks like to imagine what it must have looked like when several friends of a paralyzed man made a huge hole in someone else's roof to get him through the crowd and to Jesus! We can also marvel, seeing that Jesus healed the paralyzed man based on his friends' faith – and not his own. But Jesus response to the paralyzed guy was different than what we've seen before. This time Jesus' healing words were, "Your sins are forgiven."
We also see another response to Jesus – one completely different than the marveling of the regular folks. This other response was one of condemnation, judgment, and intellectual arrogance. And it came from the Good Religious People who'd also gathered around.
The Good Religious People in this scripture were among those intensively educated in everything religious – in the scriptures, in history, and in God's way. Yet while the uneducated folks figured out there was something beyond special going on here, all these highly educated people could do was poo-poo and condemn Jesus. They were saying, "Who does this guy think He is? God???"
And of course in one way, they were right: Jesus IS God. That's what His power was demonstrating, right before the eyes of any who would see it. But the Good Religious People didn't need to see God's demonstration. They already had the facts. They'd been through the finest seminaries. They'd memorized all the scripture. They'd followed all the religious rules to the letter. They, in other words, didn't believe they needed God to show them God, because (so they believed) they already had that covered!
But Jesus called them on their perfectly shoddy educations and failed reasoning skills, didn't He? He called their thinking evil, and indeed it was, since it blocked them (and anyone who listened to them) from seeing and hearing God's real truth. And then, just so He could cancel their excuse for not believing His power, He gave them yet another even more powerful invitation to see God standing right in front of them: He told this totally paralyzed guy to just get up, take his things, and go home. We can only imagine how crazy-amazed the crowd must have been!
Why do you imagine that the healing this paralyzed guy needed came from Jesus' words that he'd been forgiven? How have sins paralyzed you, in your past and present?
For the last 1,900 years and even today, Good Religious People have been telling the rest of us that Jesus has condemnation for us sinners, but only praise and glory for them. Is that what we actually see here in the scripture? Good Religious People also believe that because of their religious education, memorization of the Bible and instant-spouting of verses, and strict following all their religious rules means they not only know more about God and what He wants, but that they alone are qualified to teach everyone else about God and what He wants. Is that what we actually see here in the Bible?
Some other points to consider this week, from this week's scriptures:
- There is no power in the spiritual or natural world that God doesn't have absolute authority over, but He has various reasons for waiting to exercise that authority at different times, and for different reasons. For example, Jesus did a lot of healing miracles 2,000 years ago, because that's what was needed at that time, to those people, to get them jump-started into realizing the Kingdom of God had not only arrived, but it was sitting right in front of them sharing dinner.
- We are so incredibly different from God, yet He goes out of His way to communicate with us in ways we can understand – and in ways that test our willingness to see the truth instead of our own false visions. That's why Good Religious People most often fail at what's easy for everyone else: Good Religious People won't let go of their egos and doo-dads.
- Because of Good Religious People, many people today have turned away from the real Jesus – yet the Bible and Jesus Himself shows us that Good Religious People do not in any way, shape, or form represent or stand for or truly understand the real Jesus.
What other ideas or realizations came to you from these scriptures this week?
This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.