Thursday, February 02, 2006

Destructive Mind-Set, Re-revisited

This is the third in a series about most people. We Americans have conquered the world’s worst diseases, but we are so separated from God that we destroy ourselves by the choices we make.

In Matthew 8 and 9, we see eight or nine instances of Jesus healing horrible disfiguring and debilitating diseases; driving out demons that made people act psychotic; and ending conditions that plague, torment, and frighten people. He even raised people from death.

Here are two specific things:

--He told a paralytic to “get up and walk” and forgave his sins.

--He healed a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years; she said, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

Are all these just disconnected stories? I tell my English composition students to use transition and make connections between ideas; Matthew didn’t do that for us. But God shows us that through these healing times, Jesus is building a powerful concept.

The key words and ideas, all tied up with healing, are faith, power, and forgiveness. Through all these instances, Jesus is revealing the importance of faith. Most of these suffering people came seeking Jesus because they believed that he could—and wanted to—help them. His tremendous power to do these things is obvious; the pictures of healing demonstrate his power.

Then he makes a connection to forgiveness. In Chapter 9, forgiveness for sin begins to show up when Pharisees question him. In verses 5-8, he said to them, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ’Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . , ” he told the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” In modern language, this might be “I am healing this paralytic—telling him to get up and walk—so that you will see it and realize that I do have the authority and the power to forgive sin and to heal your spirit.”

Truly knowing that he can heal physical illness teaches us that he also has the power to take care of the more important healing of our sin-sick spirit. These pictures, then, are not at all disconnected, but pictures of what he wants to do for us, linked together by strands of faith and healing power.

And more important than the ailing body is the suffering spirit, which is harder for God deal with only because we don’t recognize our spiritual ailments and we don’t ask him to lift them from us. We hold on to them.

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