Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spiritual sickness, spiritual healing

When Jesus returned to civilization after being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He went to the synagogue.  There, He read aloud from the scriptures, explaining that He had come to proclaim that captives would be released, that the blind would see, and that the oppressed would be set free.  (See Luke 4.)

Captive prisoners released from their chains and bondage.
Blind people healed and given sight.
Oppressed people set free from their oppressors.

Jesus came to bring illumination and freedom to a blinded, broken world.

I think also of His healing power.  I keep thinking about this story:

One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby.  (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.)  And the Lord's healing power was strongly with Jesus.

Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat.  They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn't reach Him because of the crowd.  So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles.  Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus.  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, "Young man, your sins are forgiven."

But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, "Who does he think he is?  That's blasphemy!  Only God can forgive sins!"

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so He asked them, "Why do you question this in your hearts?  Is it easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or 'Stand up and walk'?  So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins."  Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, "Stand up, pick up your mat and go home!"

And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat and went home praising God.  Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, "We have seen amazing things today!"

Luke 5:17-26 (NLT)

There are a number of principles that we can learn from this story.  I think the main point is that Jesus came to earth to forgive our sins, a job only God could do.  Jesus performed miracles of outward healing that people could see, in order to prove that He also--and more importantly--is able to perform the inward and invisible miracle of forgiving sin and redeeming lost souls.

I keep thinking of how the man's friends carried his paralyzed body to Jesus, because he was not able to walk there himself.  I think there is a spiritual parallel here for those of us who have loved ones who are spiritually paralyzed, spiritually disabled, spiritually comatose.  We may know someone who is physically able to walk and talk and function, but whose spiritual eyes have thick scales grown over them, blocking out all of the beautiful light of the Lord.  Although we cannot see it on a sunny spring day in March, this person is chained in spiritual darkness, oppressed by the evil enemy who delights in the ruin of man.  This person may be sitting right across the table from us, eating a ham sandwich, but if we could see his spiritual condition with our physical eyes, he would appear withered and crushed, lying prone on the ground, manacled, naked, blinded, unable to hear anything except the sickly sweet voice of the enemy breathing lies into his tattered ears.

Physically speaking, this person can walk out the door and up the street.  But spiritually speaking, he is comatose, with only the faintest of life signs.  He is hanging on by the most fragile of threads, a smouldering wick on the verge of going out.

But God promises that He will not snuff out a smouldering wick or break off a bruised reed.  Jesus came to give life.  Jesus came to save, and not to condemn.

What causes wicks to dim?  What bruises reeds?  Sin does, and sin is the work of Satan, the tempter, the one whose utter goal is to deceive people and lead them away from light and life.  Satan is the one who blinds the eyes of mankind and then leads his victims into oppression and captivity.  But Jesus is the one who protects the smouldering wick, restores sight, and casts off the shackles of the oppressor.

Satan is our enemy, but Jesus is our hero, our Savior.  Jesus knows all about our enemy, every tactic, every stinking lie.  Satan can trick humanity, but Satan can never trick Jesus.

Here's the good news:  Jesus is absolutely on our side.  He is not surprised or shocked by our stumblings.  He knew all about our sin, and this is why He came to save us from the dominion of darkness and deliver us into His own Kingdom of light and life.  He doesn't invite us into His Kingdom because we are good.  He invites us because He knows we need Him desperately, and He has compassion for us.  He is on our side, and the Bible says, "If God is for us, who can stand against us?"  The answer is nothing, absolutely nothing.  Nothing in the physical realm, and nothing in the spiritual realm.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Read Romans 8:31-39 for more details.)

God is for us.  Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  Jesus died for us while we were sinners, because we were sinners, because we needed a miracle from Him to enable us to receive the abundant life that He created us to live.  Jesus died on the cross to save us, beating Satan at his own game.  For a couple of days, I suppose Satan thought he'd won, although I have to wonder if he was a little bit spooked at the quietness that filled that interlude.  It was as though the Lord said to Satan, "You want to kill life?  Life itself, at its source?  Okay, you go ahead and try, and see what happens."  And of course, the life that is in the Lord was infinitely stronger than the death with which Satan tried to bind it, and Jesus burst forth victorious from the grave, vanquishing the power of death once and for all, offering triumphant eternal life to all who will believe.

This is why, when we have someone we love who is spiritually comatose, unable to respond to the Holy Spirit on his own, we can intercede for him.  We ourselves were dead in our sins, and Jesus interceded for us.  Not one of us would have spiritual life without the intercession of someone.  Luke 5:20 tells us that Jesus saw the faith of some friends, and as a result, He healed a paralyzed man.  Our faith can help the ones we love.

We can carry our spiritually sick to Jesus on their metaphorical mats, and trust Him to do His mighty work.  We can trust Jesus to undo the work of Satan, because Jesus specializes in undoing the work of Satan.

Jesus restores spiritual health that Satan has broken.  Jesus restores spiritual sight that Satan has obscured.  Jesus releases captives from Satan's captivity and frees souls from Satan's oppression.

He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.
Psalm 33:19 (NLT)

Jesus does all this.  Jesus is our hero, our Savior.  Jesus is our hope.

Give us aid against the enemy,
    for human help is worthless. 

With God we will gain the victory,
    and He will trample down our enemies.

Psalm 108:12-13 (NIV) 

The Lord your God will fight for you.  You need only to be still.
Exodus 14:14

Amen.  Be our Rescuer, Lord Jesus, our Deliverer and Savior.

Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in You alone.
Psalm 33:22 (NLT)

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