Sunday 11th March – 9am Worship
Sermon Series: Walking the Way of Jesus
Theme: Jesus – Healer
Bible Readings: John 9:1-41
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
We are drawing to an end of this series on what it means to walk in the Way of Jesus. We have been looking at the person and example of Jesus – and so far have pondered Jesus as helper, servant, teacher, disrupter, life-giver and saviour. But there is one large aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry that we haven’t touched on yet … Jesus as healer.
Now as soon as I mention this topic, a whole lot of images, emotions, stereotypes are stirred within people – some positive, some negative. For other people this word healing triggers scepticism … thinking of the fraud healer preachers like Steve Martin in the movie “Leap of Faith”.
There is a meme that in on the internet about a bubble being burst. What does it feel like when your “bubble is burst”? Have a look at this meme…
That’s what it feels like when your bubble is burst. Why am I showing you this? Because as soon as I begin to touch on this aspect of healing, some people go … I have believed once before and that … that is what happened … I prayed and God didn’t heal. They got sicker, they still died. Nope. Not doing that again. I am not opening myself up to that level of hurt and disappointment again.
I get that. I have been there too. I prayed so much for some very special people in my church, people who were sick … I know what it is like to cry out to Jesus for healing and it seemingly did nothing.
But today I am going to ask you to please, open your minds and hearts a little today to this idea of Jesus as healer. I am not asking you to put aside the past, or to forget those feelings … but don’t dismiss this topic today before I even start. Can we do that. Can we come to God’s Word with an inquisitive and open mind, and a spirit that is at least partly open to the impossible? And then let’s see what happens. Today I want to jump between two Bible stories of Jesus healing, make a few points, ask a few questions and leave the ending a little open to see what might happen. Are you up for this?
The first story was not the one in our bible reading but rather another really well known story from Mark chapter 5. If you brought your bible’s here, you can look it up. Mark 5:21.
Jesus was ministering up around the Sea of Galilee and had returned to the western side of the lake where a crowd was waiting for him. You see, Jesus had got a reputation not only as a great teacher and example, but also as a healer. Right across the region … people knew that this Jesus of Nazareth as someone who could bring healing to people and communities. The Bible records Jesus being involved in 31 individual healing events and 11 mass healing events. Even Josephus, the Roman historian, wrote, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man… a doer of wonders … “ Josephus Antiquities 18:63-64.
Consequently, wherever Jesus went, the crowds would gather – hoping to hear his teaching but more to bring their sick and suffering to find healing. In Mark 5, the crowds were waiting for Jesus including Jairus, a synagogue leader, whose 12-year-old daughter was dying. Jesus heart goes out to Jarius and the entire crowd starts to walk to Jarius place.
But along the way … you know this story … Jesus stops and says, “who touched me”. The disciples were, “Come on Jesus! You are middle of a swarm of people and you asked who touched you???”. Jesus replies, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me”
We will pause this story and come back … but the person who touched her was a woman who had been sick for 12 years, who had heard the rumours about Jesus being a healer, who came looking for Jesus, reached out through the crowd and touched his clothes … and was healed. We will come back to this.
The other story is the one that Bill read out for us. It starts with a really interesting question by the disciples. This man was born blind … so what caused this man’s blindness? Was it his sin or his parents sin?
This was a common theology at the time, that if anything went bad in your life then it was the result of doing something wrong. If you were sick, then it was the result of sin. Just read the story of Job in the bible … this is what all of Job’s friends and wife all believed. So the disciples question was not “did sin cause this man’s blindness” but rather, “whose sin caused this man’s blindness”.
But Jesus is very clear – this blindness was not caused by sin.
I think if we are going to talk about sickness, broken, healing in both an individual level and a society level then we need to acknowledge that while in some cases, our suffering or illness or brokenness is the direct result of an action or decision … a lot of times … life just happens and there is no reason for the bad stuff.
In my experience, I would say that most illnesses, sickness, suffering is not God punishing an individual for something they have done but rather the effect of living in a broken world. Stuff just happens and there is no rhyme or reason of why it happens to some people and not others.
Jesus said that this man’s blindness was not a result of his sin or his parents sin … God did not cause this blindness but this situation could be an opportunity for the work of God to be displayed. And then in two verses of the Bible – written with very little excitement or detail – the extraordinary happens. John 9:6-7
After saying this, Jesus spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
Jesus spat in the ground, rubbed mud on the man’s eyes, told him to wash it off … and the man went home seeing. I love the way that the writer John seems to be more focused on us understanding that Siloam means ‘sent’ than getting blown away by the fact that THE MAN WHO HAD BEEN BLIND FROM BIRTH WENT HOME SEEING!!!!
Actually this whole Bible reading seems to be more about the people responding to what happened rather than the healing itself. His neighbours struggled to understand how this has happened. They take him to the Pharisees who hold a mini inquisition (even calling his parents to testify) to work out how Jesus (whom they deemed a sinner) could do such a thing. I love the ex-blind man’s response in verse 25, “Whether Jesus is a sinner or not, I don’t know. All I know is that I was blind and now I can see”.
Sometimes when we try and tackle a tricky issue like healing we can do the same. We want to know why praying for healing is so inconsistent? Why do some people get healed but most don’t? We want to know how this actually works. It is people’s faith in Jesus that heals? Is it the words we use? What is the correct steps to take? Explain this all to us.
Meanwhile the small, quiet voice of the minority says, “I don’t understand either … but I can tell you this … I was blind but now I can see. I was sick but now I am not. I had back pain but I have it no longer. I was struggling with anxiety but now no more”. We might not understand or we might be very sceptical … but we also shouldn’t deny the experience of those people and communities who have actually experienced some sense of healing from Jesus.
So how do we talk about this then? How do we move forward with this idea of Jesus as Healer? I think a helpful step might be to broaden our understanding of the type of healing that Jesus offers us. I think we sometimes get so caught up in the idea that healing is about the physical healing of ourselves or our loved ones that we miss the bigger picture that Jesus is offering a much more holistic healing – not only physical but spiritually, emotionally, mentally, socially. Jesus didn’t just heal this man of his physical blindness, in verse 35-41 Jesus helps this man with his spiritual blindness – helping the man to see who Jesus really was … seeing that Jesus was the Messiah.
When Jesus encountered the paralysed man lowered through the roof in Luke 5, he talked with the man about his life and grace and forgiveness of sins – bring healing and hope – and almost as an after-thought (and to proof his point to the scoffers) did Jesus say, “get up and walk”.
I don’t know if you have ever noticed but every person that Jesus healed … at some point later died. Have you ever noticed that? The healing that Jesus brings is not physical immortality. The life that Jesus brings is not about being physically healthy for 1000 years … it is about something deeper, it is about the heart and soul. It is about a life that is not bound by our physical state or not limited by death. The healing that Jesus brings can be physical but is much, much more.
Let me go back to the other bible passage – the woman who touched Jesus.
If you remember the story from Mark 5:25, we are made aware that this woman had been suffering from bleeding for 12 years – almost certainly related to uterus bleeding. In the Leviticus laws, she would have been classified as unclean and as such, not only was she suffering physically, but she was made an outcast socially. We are also told that she had spent all her money on doctors trying to get better but had just got worse. So not only was marginalised because of her illness, she was destitute. This bleeding had consumed her life and crushed her spirit. She was hurting and she was broken physically, socially, emotionally, financially.
She was so desperate that she thought, “If only I could touch the hem of Jesus clothes I will be healed”. Really? How could she really believe that … that the hem of Jesus clothes had the power to heal? In her desperation has she also got a little crazy? Sure – Jesus might have the power to heal, but his clothes don’t. Is she crazy?
No – she is not crazy. She has actually done some good biblical deductions from the Old Testament.
A few weeks ago, I talked about the Jewish prayer shawl – the Tallit – and explained that sometimes they would say that the prayer shawl symbolised the yoke of the Rabbi. I showed you the one that I bought … and I would like to show you a bit ore on it. I don’t know if you noticed but on each corner of the shawl where long tassels. These tassels have 5 knots in them and a bit like the rosary beads, these knots would remind the pray-er of the laws of God (as referred to in Numbers 15:38-39). All Jewish people would have known about these tassels and sometimes referred to as the wings – being on the edge – the wings of the garment.
Why is this important? Because of an Old Testament Messianic Prophecy found in Malachi 4:3. This woman would have known about the promises, the prophecies that one who come who would save them, bring hope and peace … and healing. Malachi 4:3, “But for you who revere my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing [… and get this … ] in his wings.”
This woman has taken this verse literally and believing that Jesus is the one, that Jesus is the Messiah, also believes that he has come with healing in his wing. “If I could just touch the hem – the wings – the tassels – of his garment, I will be healed.” No wonder Jesus commends her on her faith. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering”.
One question I do have … this woman goes out of her way to remain in the shadows. She has been ostracised and shunned for 12 years. She does not want to be the focus of attention … but what does Jesus do? “Who touched me?”
You can just imagine what this woman was thinking? “No, don’t do this. I have been healed. Just let me slip away quietly.” But Jesus persists. “Who touched me?” Why do you think that Jesus was doing this? Why was it important for Jesus to bring attention to this woman?
… Sixty seconds … chat … feedback
Did Jesus need to know the answer? No. Also … Jesus was a gentleman and wouldn’t want to embarrass the woman unless there was something even greater going on here. I think Jesus wanted to do two important aspects of the healing process.
1) He wanted to affirm the woman personally. Jesus was saying to the woman … I know what you did. I get that this was an enormous step of faith. I get it – and want to affirm you. You are a woman of great faith.
You see, for Jesus … the healing that he brings is personal. The stories of healing in scripture … the physical healing is often just part of what Jesus is addressing. Jesus wants to bring peace to your soul, healing to your brokenness, affirmation to your inner being and hope to your heart. The woman might have been physically healed by touching his tassels, but by meeting Jesus she found a much deeper healing … she was made whole.
2) I think that Jesus also wanted to heal the fracture between this woman and the community. She had been treated as unclean for 12 years. For the community it would have been habit to ignore her, to exclude her. By Jesus bringing attention to this woman in the midst of this huge crowd, he was basically saying, “I want everyone to know that she is no longer unclean. She is healed. And part of that healing processes is for you the community to accept her and include her.” For Jesus the healing went from being physical and personal to being a healing of a community. Jesus made the community whole again.
So how do I wrap this up. I have focused on two bible stories and made a few points … such as …
• Sickness is usually not a punishment from God but is just life in this broken world.
• Jesus, as Messiah, comes to us with healing … with the power to heal.
• The healing Jesus brings can be physical, but more importantly is personal, deals with our heart and soul, and is also communal … it is about helping groups, communities, nations and our world to find healing, reconciliation and wholeness; and
• Healing is not something we ultimately need to understand … maybe we just have to have the simple faith of the woman “if only I reach out to Jesus” or the blind man “I don’t have the answers … all I know is that I was blind and now I can see”.
So what now?
Let me ask you a question …
From what do you need healing today?
If Jesus was here today … just an arm reach away … what would cause you to go … if only I could touch the hem of his garment, then I might be able to find healing from … what?
A broken heart?
A fractured relationship?
A sore back?
A troubled mind?
A lifeless marriage?
A brokenness in your soul?
A brokenness in our nation?
A sense of deep hurting because of something that has been done to you?
All I know is this. We are at the end of the sermon and it is time to come under the care, the provision and the protection of God’s wings. It is time to move in close and reach out our friend and saviour Jesus. It is time to ask for healing.
We are going to end in prayer and a song. But then instead of me heading to the back to greet people at the door, I am going to move over to the cross … out of the view of the live stream … and offer to pray for people. Just simply praying.
If you feel a sense of wanting or needing healing … then in your own way reach out to Jesus – the son of righteousness – because he has healing in his wings. Amen.
Prayer for Healing
We acknowledge our need for you today.
We need your healing and your grace.
We need hope restored.
Remind is that you work on behalf of those you love,
constantly, powerfully, completely.
In scripture you ask us to, in a spirit of thanksgiving,
Present our requests to you – to bring to you the things
That are making us anxious or weighing us down
And so we come to you
and bring you those whom we know who are hurting
those who are burdened
those who need to be set free.
We ask for your healing and grace to cover every broken place. Every wound. Every heartache.
For those weighed down by ill health,
bring wholeness to body, mind and spirit.
For those weighed down by worry,
bring wisdom, peace and reassurance.
For those weighed down by fear,
bring freedom, release and liberation.
For those weighed down by sadness,
bring comfort, strength and joy.
For all whose hearts are troubled
at the start of this new day,
be the voice that they hear,
the warmth that they feel,
the wisdom they seek,
the strength they require,
and the one in whose arms they rest.
We pray for your healing in this world
Where there is injustice – bring righteousness and hope
Where is there is war – bring peace
Where there is hunger – stir generosity
Where there is lies – bring truth
Where there is greed – bring compassion and patience
Where there is chains – bring freedom
Where there is darkness –bring the light & life of your presence
Thank you that you are able to do
far more than we could ever imagine.
We reach out to you,
and know that you are restoring and redeeming e
very place of difficulty for your greater glory.
We thank you that whatever the outcome,
We know that you are with us always
We love you. We need you
Today and everyday.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen