by Chris Ritter
I had a startling realization last week: We are half-way through our message series on the Gospel of Luke… and we are nowhere near half-way through the Gospel. This is week #10 of our series and we are only on Chapter Five. We plan to conclude on Easter, which is just ten weeks away. So we must pick up the pace and that means skipping some things. It breaks my heart. This is my favorite Book of Bible and every word of it is worthy of study. There is a fix for our problem, however. You can read the entire Gospel of Luke on your own. I certainly encourage this.
Today we conclude our “Good Beginnings” section with a look at Jesus the Healer. What does healing have to do with good beginnings? Many of us cannot live effectively in the present because of the wounds of our past. Allowing Jesus to touch the broken places in our bodies, souls, and minds is necessary for us to move ahead. Next week we begin a month-long look at the Parables of Jesus found only in Luke.
If you read Luke (or any of the four Gospels, for that matter), it is difficult to escape that healing was a huge part of Jesus’ ministry. Of his thirty-seven recorded miracles, two-thirds of them were acts of healing. Luke, as you may remember, is described as “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14) and that would make him a healer writing about a greater Healer. Some have sifted Luke’s Gospel looking for details that only a person trained in medicine might include.
Because we need to pick up the pace of our study, I have selected two examples of Jesus’ healing miracles to study. If we had time to study every chapter we would see:
- In Luke 4 Jesus heals a demon possessed man in the synagogue on the Sabbath in Capernaum. When Jesus got home from synagogue, he found the Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. He rebuked the fever and she felt immediately better. She even got up and made them lunch. After the sun went down that evening, many sick people were brought to Jesus and he healed them all.
- In Luke 6 Jesus heals a man with a withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath.
- In Luke 7 Jesus healed the servant of a centurion by just saying the word. He also raises a widow’s son back from the dead.
- In Luke 8 Jesus heals a demoniac running naked through the tombs in the region of the Gadarenes. He then returns to Jewish territory and is called to the home of a synagogue official named Jairus to heal his daughter. As he is travelling there, a woman with an issue of blood touches the hem of his robe and is healed.
- In Luke 9 Jesus heals a boy whose life is threatened by seizures.
- In Luke 13, Jesus heals a woman who had been bent over for eighteen years. She stood up straight and praised God.
- In Luke 14, Jesus heals a man with dropsy. (I had to Google “dropsy.” It is a swelling of the soft tissue that if often the result of a weakened heart. We might call this edema, associated with congestive heart failure.)
- In Luke 17 Jesus heals a whole group of lepers.
- In Luke 18 Jesus heals a blind man.
And even as he was being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus continued his ministry of healing. He touched and restored the ear of Malchus after Peter struck him with a sword. It is Jesus’ nature to heal. And today we are going to look at the lengths he will go to heal and the depths of the healing he seeks to bring.
12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”Luke 4:12-26 (New International Version)
There was once a man who was blessed to marry his childhood sweetheart and they set out on life’s journey together with great optimism. Resources were scarce and they lived with his parents while they saved up money to build their own house. By working long hours, they were able to build the first phase of their new home by the time their first child. They moved into a rental house and were eventually able to build a house of their own in time for the birth of their first child. The first baby was quickly followed by a second. He just started his own business as news arrived of their third pregnancy.
He put in the long hours motivated by knowing he was on track to provide his family a better life than the one he had growing up. One day he noticed a sore on his leg. He didn’t think much of it. It was not painful. He decided to ignore it. By the time a week went by, it was clearly spreading. He showed it to his wife, and she didn’t know what it was, but it worried her. She made him promise to go the very next day to a guy in town that knew about such things. He swung by on his way to work. To his surprise, the man said that he would have to stay with him for a few days. He would go tell his wife what was going on. After a few nerve-wrecking days, the man told him that his skin disease was leprosy. There was no cure. It would get much worse. And he could never go back to his house again.
The lepers in his city all lived together outside of town. As he was escorted there, he saw their disfigured faces and got a glimpse of his future. The law required them to keep their distance from everyone. They were to dress in rags with unkept hair as a visual warning of their condition. If someone got too close, they were to say, “Unclean” so people would know to step away.
He couldn’t work. If he even bent down to pet a dog, it would have to be killed so that it would not carry the disease to someone else.
His wife would come and leave food for him on a rock. He was luckier than some. But the variations in what she brought each day told a story of financial hardship. She never complained, but he knew his family was struggling. As the disease progressed, he wished his family would stop coming. He didn’t want them to see him like this.
It wasn’t the kind of disease you had. It was the kind of disease that had you. You were not a husband/father/neighbor with leprosy. You were a leper. That was all anyone needed to know about you.
He touched his nose and it didn’t feel the shape of a nose. He woke up one morning and he saw one of his ears laying there on his pallet. This is not a fate that he ever would have imagined for himself. He was what Luke called “full of leprosy.”
There were many desperate cures tried by many desperate lepers, but none of them worked. He was living a long death sentence separated from everyone he loved. Even God seemed distant as he had no access to worship or the scriptures. His many prayers seemed to go unheard.
One day he heard word of healing miracles that were happening in neighboring cities. A rabbi named Jesus healed a woman with a fever in Capernaum and many other sick people that same day. He was travelling around preaching and teaching and, today, he was passing through his town. Did he dare even let hope into his heart? Whether it was hope or desperation, the man with leprosy went to seek this Jesus out.
He saw him on the road. People watched in horror as he drew close. Most stepped away, but not Jesus. He just stood there. The man fell on his face before Jesus, trying to keep a respectable distance. The words he said surprised even himself, “If you are willing you can make me clean.”
Then the man felt something very strange. It was the first human touch he had experienced in years. Against all norms of prescriptions of the time, Jesus touched him. He heard Jesus say, “I am willing. Be clean.”
The man looked at his hands and they were the most beautiful things he had ever seen. He felt his face and it he could make out a nose, and ears, and smooth skin. Jesus told him not to tell anyone, but to go and show himself to the priests so that they could proclaim him healed and restore him to his family. But how do you keep something like that to yourself?
This is a beautiful example of Jesus’ healing ministry.
• He brought hope to hopeless people.
• He touched those society considered untouchable.
o We all have places in our lives we just want to keep hidden.
o Our secret sores are not a threat to Jesus.
o Jesus is a threat to them. We just need to let him touch them.
• Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God and miracles of healing and deliverance were the physical manifestations of the Kingdom.
• These were works of outward restoration and accompanied works on inner restoration happening through his ministry. People were turning from lives of darkness to fellowship with the Living God.
• WHY DID JESUS SAY NOT TO TELL?
o Jesus was not there to draw bigger and bigger crowds.
o Sometimes miracles could prove distracting. He fed the 5,000 and people followed him around hoping for more bread. There were times when they wanted to make him King by force.
o Jesus liked to minister, then he liked to withdraw to pray and stay in fellowship with his Heavenly Father.
o “But Jesus withdrew to lonely places to pray.”
We are covering two examples of Jesus’ healing work today
This INNER/OUTER Connection is evident in the second.
New Characters are Introduced: The Pharisees
No Pharisees in the OT.
They arose in the intertestamental period.
The Temple Elites, tied in with politics.
Pharisees were the party of people.
Practical teaching on living God’s Law.
But over the years, they had also become the enforcers, the religious referees… respected, feared, and authoritative.
They seem to have organized a sizeable group of observers to investigate what this Jesus was all about.
They came “from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem.”
“The power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.” As Jesus preached, the Holy Spirit would confirm the Gospel through signs and wonders.
There seem to have been times when the anointing of the Holy Spirit was present for healing miracles. Jesus seems to have been in a house ministering to people.
A paralytic and four of his friends decided that they had to get him to Jesus.
They could not get in the house, so they went up to the roof, pulled off some tiles and lowered him right down in front of Jesus.
I LOVE THEIR SPIRIT: BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. WHATEVER IT TAKES.
What do you do to get people to Jesus?
Paul: 1 Corinthians 9
To the Jew, I speak as a Jew.
To the Gentiles I speak as a Gentile.
22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Persistence – One “no” and we often give up. But so much is timing. We need to check in with people, invite over and over again.
Creativity – Wesley preached outdoors. “I consented to be more vile.”
Boldness – Speak up. Robert is not able to go on mission trips, but he does get a lot of telemarketing calls. Can I ask you a question, “If you would die today, would you go to heaven?”
Flexibility “By Hook or by Crook”. We missed the call of Peter in Chapter Five “Fisher of Men.” But later Peter is told “Tend my Sheep”. From Hook to Crook.
What would it take for me to reach _______ with the Good News of Jesus Christ?
“When Jesus saw their faith.”
• Sometimes we have faith for others.
“Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus did not see this man as a one-dimensional being.
Jesus saw a deeper healing that was needed in his soul.
That was the healing that Jesus was more excited to offer.
JESUS DID OUTWARD MIRACLES TO POINT FORWARD TO GOD’S KINGDOM.
AND TO POINT INWARD AT THE TRANSFORMATION HE CAME TO BRING TO EACH ONE WHO WOULD COME TO HIM BY FAITH.
Who is this fellow that speaks blasphemy?
Who can forgive sin but God alone?
Jesus knew what they were thinking.
Which is easier, to say your sins are forgiven or to say, “Get up and walk”?
But I want you to know that the Son of Man (A Messianic Title) has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
The Physical Action Backed up the Spiritual Claim.
GOD HEALS TO ANNOUNCE THE KINGDOM.
The man stood up, took his stretcher, and went home praising God.
His insides matched his outside.
“We have seen remarkable things today.”
WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT GOOD BEGINNINGS?
JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER.
• Compassion and Mercy. Healing.
JESUS DID SOME 37 MIRACLES. TWO-THIRDS OF THOSE WERE MIRACLES OF HEALING. HE IS A COMPASSIONATE SAVIOR.
THE OBSTACLES WITHIN YOU ARE MORE LIMITING THAN THE OBSTACLES BEFORE YOU.
The spiritual feeds the physical.
There is an inward shift you need that will feed the outward shift.
If we only deal with the surface, we will miss the point.
Our symptoms point to something more basic.
THIRD, THE KINGDOM IS WORD AND DEED.
This is ministry.
Human hurts are the doorway to ministry.
“FIND A NEED A FILL IT.”
WE ARE GIVEN THE NAME OF JESUS TO USE TO DO THE WORK OF JESUS.