From out of obscurity into being a celebrity is the story of Jesus. In Matthew 4:17 it is written ‘Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.”’ Why would anybody listen to Him? That is answered in verses 23-25. it is recorded that He cured every disease and every sickness. Later, when John the baptiser asked a question from his prison cell Jesus’ answer pointed him back to the prophets.
What is the significance behind the words of Jesus about the blind seeing, the lame walking, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear and the dead are raised to life? Apart from reassuring John that his role as ‘forerunner’ wasn’t in vain, Jesus was making a statement about Himself. This wasn't about ego, it was about the prophetic word. In them there are specific statements linking Yahweh to certain acts of healing. Isaiah 35 points to the time when God will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap and the tongue of the speechless will sing for joy. Compare also Psalms 146:8, 103:3.
What Jesus was unfolding, to John and all others was the wonder of Jesus being Emmanuel, the God who is with us. He was declaring for all who can grasp it, He is the Lord God come to the people as the promised Servant of Isaiah 42.1-9. One of the signs by which He will verify His mission was ‘to open the eyes that are blind.’ The very moving account of just such a healing is found in John 5.1-18. In that final verse is the punch line pointing to Jesus. The Jews wanted to kill Jesus because He was making Himself equal with God (compare John 10:28-33).
The healing miracles of Jesus astounded the people and annoyed the Nation’s leaders. The Lord healed individuals and each one was a declaration that the Kingdom of God was impressing itself upon the Nation. If Jesus could do this to an individual then there was National implications. Unfortunately, the leaders of the country had eyes which wouldn’t see and hearts as cold and hard as granite. Instead of assessing Him in the light of their Scriptures they judged Him by their prejudices and preconceived ideas. To them He was, and remained ‘Belzeebub’ and His power source was the Devil. When they had the opportunity to remove Jesus from the earth they took it. That happened when Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, an amount the Sanhedrin was more than willing to pay.
Knowing the story as we do what eventuated still moves us with wonder and gratitude. Their betrayal and unjust condemnation of the Man from Nazareth became the most attractive power in the universe. Jesus foretold that when He said if He was lifted up, He would draw all peoples unto Himself (John 12:32). The healer of the physical, emotional and mental condition of people now became the One who would make believers morally and spiritual whole. The cross offered redemption. This paved the way for forgiveness. Personal repentance and faith would transform the lost believer into the found, the cursed into favoured ones and the rejected and despised into the accepted and loved.
The cross of Christ Jesus also transformed Him. He who was the healing servant of Isaiah 42 now became the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. In that glorious passage what do we read? ‘By his bruises we are healed!’ (NRSV) What is that healing? The Nation which was under the curse of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 was set free. The dire picture of Isaiah 1 was blotted out. Jesus became Sin so as to take it out of God’s sight when dealing with the Nation and with us. How sad it must have been for Peter and John according to Acts 3:17-26. They offered the Nation God’s promise of ‘times of refreshing’ and the return of the Messiah and the universal restoration long promised. It was rejected. Such a state exists still. For them and Gentiles the issue isn’t sin, it is what will they do with Jesus? The Bible points to future events for Israel and Gentiles and it all hinges on the relationship which they have, by faith, with Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. The same applies to us, personally.
copyright Ray Hawkins Sept 2015.
Next week: Healing limitations highlighted in N.T. letters.