Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When Heaven Breaks Through

I often marvel at how anyone living during the first century could have missed that Jesus was the Messiah. (In fact, I have some friends who converted backwards from Christianity to Judaism: Blows my mind.) The Gospel writers saw Jesus' miracles--the signs and wonders that accompanied His teaching--as evidence that He was the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. The healings and the casting out of demons weren't just a big show to draw a crowd; Jesus' miracles demonstrated a specific characteristic the Chosen One must possess: the ability to "undo" pain and evil. (Ps 22.24-27; 146.7-8; Is 11.4; 29.18; 35.5; 42.1-7; 49.9; Lk 7.22; Acts 10.38; Heb 2.14-15)

In Jesus' first declaration of His identity, He read aloud from Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor..." (Luke 4.18; Isaiah 61.1-2) And that's exactly what He proceeded to do (Luke 4.40-41): heal the oppressed. Over and over, Jesus used miracles as evidence that He was in fact the Son of God. Once, when He forgave the sins of a lame man, He also healed his physical lameness just to reinforce His authority to forgive sin (Mark 2.8-10). A lot of folks got the message, too. When Jesus healed a cripple at the pool of Bathseda, the Jews recognized that He was identifying Himself as God (John 5.15-18). Jesus' miracles always testified to the truth of His gospel and the reality of His identity.


The miracles of the apostles throughout the rest of the New Testament had the same trademark: the Spirit always worked intentionally to bring glory to King Jesus. Heaven had broken through; death had been defeated. Christ was alive and reigning, and as such, sickness no longer had authority over the resurrected Lamb (*1).

In the 1,900+ years since then, Christ's authority has not changed. Do we really believe that the Kingdom of God is in our midst (Lk 11.20; Lk 17.21) like Jesus taught? Do we believe Jesus has complete authority to heal and break chains of bondage? Can He do the "big hairy audacious miracles" we're afraid to ask for?

I've heard entire cases made for the continuation of miracles built solely on a healed headache or an aced math test. While of course we should be grateful for all things (Eph 5.20; Col 3.17), let's be real: That's like saying you believe in Jesus because you saw His face in your french toast. While those things are fine and good (and certainly possible), at the end of the day I believe that our God is a Man of War (Is 42.13) who can and does heal our permanent brokenness, can and does redeem or waywardness, and can and does heal cancer, blindness, deafness, autism, or anything else that causes pain. But the reason I believe this is not just because I've seen it or because He's obligated to by some "gifting," but because Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of Heaven at the cross and He is a good King, ruling over His creation with kindness and completely authority (Ps 135.6; Dan 4.35; 1 Tim 1.17; Rev 17.14).

Church, it's crucial that we are fiercely confident in our God's agenda to undo pain and evil. It's the story on every page of Scripture: God trumps evil. God is completely just and completely sovereign, so we must throw ourselves at His feet and beg that He heal our pain, without doubting for a moment that if He does not, it is still His will that we rejoice in His sovereignty (Php 4.6; 1 Thess 5.16-18). Friends, my charge is that of Zechariah: "Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope!" (Zech 9.12)


Abba,

You rule over all things: over the pain and disease of sinful men, over the wind and the rain and every square-inch of creation. We don't deserve for a moment to enjoy relief from the consequences of our sin, yet many of us enjoy daily comforts which we don't attribute to Your goodness. Forgive us for thinking we deserve Eden; we deserve nothing. Yet You single-handedly rescued us from Adam's curse and are renewing Your world and filling it with the knowledge of Your glory. Yahweh, please increase our faith until we can throw ourselves without hesitation onto your great Name. Heal our brokenness. Undo the pain and evil we've welcomed into our lives and grown accustomed to. Lord, we believe; help our unbelief.

Amen


Timothy Keller“We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus' miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.” -Tim Keller, The Reason for God

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Footnotes:
*1 - It's interesting to note that in the same way healings testified to God's glory, the Spirit's refusal to heal did the same thing. Consider 2 Cor 12.7-9, Php 2.27-28, 1 Tim 5.23 and 2 Tim 4.20.

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