Jesus’ public ministry began with an explosion of miraculous power.
Signs and wonders.
Supernatural events with no possible human explanation.
Actual direct, tangible demonstrations of God’s power, where God suspends natural laws, were an important part of Jesus’ ministry.
That’s part of why the gospel writers point it out, over and over. For example, Luke 4:42-44. This is at the beginning of his gospel. When Luke starts focusing us on Jesus’ public ministry, right after he shows him preaching in Nazareth, he takes us to Capernaum, where he shows us, Jesus performing miracles.
Jesus was a miracle worker. He did miracles.
And Jesus did a lot of them. This is one of the reasons his ministry got so much traction, why a carpenter from Nazareth ended playing such a huge role in the nation, He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power.
And when the apostles preached, and told the story about Jesus, they brought this up, as a main part of their message.
This was something significant.
Acts 2:22, “Men of Israel, hear these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs…”
Acts 10:32, “you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
These miracles weren’t a minor theme, for Jesus, throughout the gospels.
God supernaturally acted in this world in shocking ways through Jesus.
Besides rebuking demons and healing fevers, as we read the gospels, we see things we have never seen anyone doing before. Like, Jesus speaking to storms and stopping them. This is stuff that cannot be scientifically explained. Like, Jesus taking a few pieces of bread and a couple fish and feeding thousands of people with food left over, turning water into wine, and actually walking on the water himself, as well as enabling Peter to do so. As one man has said, looking at Jesus, it’s like he brought heaven down, with him, to earth, absolutely everywhere he went, he was temporarily at least, reversing the curse, giving the blind sight, enabling the paralyzed to walk, cleansing those with leprosy, and even raising the dead.
Which is awesome and exciting and there are a lot of people who read all of that and wonder whether or not, it is what we should primarily be doing as well.
That’s the question, I want us to consider.
Not can God do miracles or did Jesus do miracles, because those aren’t even really questions. Of course God can do miracles and Jesus did miracles. But instead, since Jesus did all these miracles, and it sorts of seems like he did them all the time, shouldn’t we?
Is this what a biblical, powerful ministry, looks like?
Should we be expecting, as a normal course of our ministry, that God’s going to be suspending all these natural laws, and supernaturally working in our church, in physical ways, on a regular basis through certain appointed, or anointed individuals?
And that’s the key part of it, actually.
Not whether or not God can do miracles. He can do miracles anytime of course. Not whether or not you should pray for healing. You should pray for healing. Not whether or not we should pray for each other for healing. We should pray for each other. But whether or not we should expect God to still be doing these miracles on a regular basis through a human agent, like we see with Jesus in the gospel.
And I guess, if you want to get even more specific, we are asking, since Jesus healed all these people, and he did, shouldn’t we?
Should we be having healing services or something like that? I mean, we pray for the sick. We might even get together and lay our hands on a person and pray for someone who is sick. But shouldn’t we be doing more than that, like having a healing crusade or something, or at least, at the end of the service, the pastor, trying to heal people. Is this what a pastor does primarily? Is there a place for this person who is a healer? I mean, it’s clear Jesus cast out demons, shouldn’t we spend some significant time, maybe every service, with the pastor trying to cast out demons as well?
And the reason I think we need to ask that question is because there are many churches that are.
This is what their ministry is mostly about.
There are many churches where their primary focus, the main thing they are about, (besides of course financial prosperity) seems to be dealing with curses, casting out demons, binding Satan, and trying to heal the sick. And what’s interesting, I was listening to someone who I am sure know a lot more than I do about the state of Christianity in Africa, and, they say it hasn’t always been this way.
They say, there has been a dramatic shift that has taken place in the church in Africa, over the last twenty or so years.
Where churches are less and less concerned with doctrine, with teaching, with truth, and more and more concerned with a certain kind of deliverance, not just any deliverance, but deliverance from stuff like sickness and disease and demons and curses and all those sorts of things.
This is why a lot of people go to church.
This is what they expect from church.
They want a breakthrough.
They are not thinking so much, you know, where can I go to hear God’s Word faithfully explained and taught and applied to my life, that seems kind of boring, what they are thinking instead, is where can I go where someone can heal me of my sickness, or give me a word of prophecy, or where I can at least, see a miracle.
And so more and more, as a result, this is what pastors are focusing on, on giving people what they want, it’s not the clear teaching of God’s Word, instead, they talk for a while, during the service, and quote a few phrases from the Bible, and shout, that’s important, but in the end, people aren’t listening very closely, examining what they are saying in light of God’s Word, they are waiting, they are waiting for that part to be over, for the pastor to stop talking and start, having them come up to the front, where he can speak over them, bless them, lay his hands on them, and hopefully deliver them.
Do a miracle.
I am sure many of you have seen this.
And I think you could speak about what’s happening far more effectively than I can, but, with that kind of ministry being so much more common, I think it does cause some people to wonder, is that what a biblical, Spirit-filled ministry is supposed to look like?
I was thinking recently, I wouldn’t be surprised actually, with so much of that, there might even be some who might wonder as they go to a Bible teaching church, you know, why don’t they do more of that?
Why does the pastor do all this talking?
Where’s the healing, the casting out and binding of demons, the deliverance?
And maybe at first, actually, as they look at what’s happening in gospels like Luke, it seems like that perhaps, it supports what they are saying, because after all, Luke says Jesus did this.
We all agree on that.
And shouldn’t what was happening in Jesus’ day, happen in ours as well? If he healed people and cast out demons, if that’s what Luke says was a main part of his ministry, isn’t that what these people are doing as well, aren’t they just carrying on with Jesus’ ministry?
For me, these are important questions. We should ask questions like that. Because we want to have the kind of ministry that Jesus wants us to and the only way I can know what that kind of ministry looks like is by studying His Word. It’s not how I grew up, or how you grew up, or what I like, or what you like, it’s what does God’s Word say?
And at first, I think, just reading the gospels, it seems like you maybe might expect this is how our ministry should go because Jesus’ did; and you know, while I am not going to answer every question about healing and miracles and casting out demons and those kinds of ministries, what I do want to do, is a look a little more closely at exactly what’s happening with Jesus and these miracles, because that’s where I think we can make a mistake, very easily, because when we do look at the gospels, there are actually some pretty strong hints, we will look at three, that what we actually see these people doing with their healing and deliverance ministries, is different than what we see happening with Jesus.
1. What Jesus did
2. Why Jesus did it
3. What Jesus said about it
The first big hint that something different is going on, comes, when we look at what Jesus actually did.
The nature of the miracles themselves.
Because obviously it’s not enough for someone to say you need to do miracles like Jesus, we need to ask, are the miracles that you say you are doing actually like Jesus’?
And one reason we have to ask this, is because sometimes what people think of and describe as miracles today are different than the kinds of miracles that Jesus did.
For example, sometimes you will find people using the word miracle very loosely and by a miracle they almost mean anything good that happens to them, so if they get a taxi right after they pray for one, then they say what a miracle or if they are concerned about someone and they are praying for them and then that person gives them a call the moment they are praying for them, they say what a miracle, and really while that kind of stuff is great and it is an answer to prayer and part of how God works to show His kindness to us, they are not actually miracles, because while God is orchestrating natural events, He’s controlling what happens with those kinds, he’s not suspending natural laws to accomplish them, and that’s what is taking place, with a miracle.
A miracle is not just anything good that happens.
A miracle is an absolutely out of the ordinary event that is accomplished directly by God that is absolutely unexplainable through scientific or natural means.
And Jesus, as we have been saying, did them, lots of them and when he did these miracles, and focusing in the miraculous healings in particular, we see they had certain characteristics, which I mentioned last week, but I want to run through them again. This is important.
First, by and large, Jesus’ healing were immediate.
We saw that very clearly illustrated for us in the case of Simon’s mother – in – law. She was very sick, with a high fever, her relatives, they seemed to have some fear for her, in that they appealed to Jesus, pleaded with him, and yet when Jesus healed her, instantly, she was able to get up and begin serving them. This was a full recovery in a moment, and that’s pretty much the way it was, any time Jesus healed someone. Second, Jesus’ miracles were public and undeniable.
He didn’t always do them in big crowds. Again in the case of Simon’s mother in law up in verse 38 and following, we saw him doing it in their house. But there were people there, and then after that, it wasn’t long until the whole city was showing up at their door, and Jesus was laying his hands on all kinds of people, and healing everyone of them.
I always think it is interesting that when the apostles went out talking about Jesus, there in Israel, you remember in the book of Acts, to Jewish people, they said, straight up that Jesus was doing miracles, in their midst, the people knew that, and you know what, no one argued with them about that, there’s never any denying it, because it was just too obvious.
Third, they took place on ordinary, unplanned occasions.
This is just to say that while Jesus did often draw lots of crowds and do miracles, like here in Capernaum, the whole city was there, we don’t see Jesus holding big healing crusades, putting up a sign somewhere in the city, that said, hey for a certain amount of money, you can come get healed.
Instead, Jesus’ healings as we read about them throughout the gospels, they all seem pretty spontaneous, unplanned, unexpected.
Fourth, Jesus healed people of real diseases and sometimes those included illnesses that were untreatable by the medical community.
We are going to come back to this one so hold on to it, but Jesus didn’t just heal people with bad backs, he made paralyzed people walk. He didn’t just heal someone who had a headache. He cleansed people of leprosy.
Luke points out here in verse 40, he healed people of various diseases, and as we read through the gospel of Luke, we’ll see those diseases include leprosy, paralysis, death, not really a disease I know, but definitely an obvious problem, a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years, someone who was bent over for eighteen years and couldn’t straighten herself, and then of course blindness.
The point is that Jesus didn’t just only heal things that nobody could know if he’s the one who really healed them. Like if you have a headache, who knows if you really have that headache, and if I supposedly heal you, who knows if I am the one who did it, but if you are blind and can’t see, that’s sort of obvious, or if you are paralyzed and I speak and you get up, that’s pretty clear I am the one who did it, and Jesus, often miraculously dealt with just those kinds of problems.
And then fifth, his healings were total and complete.
This is part of what made it so obvious what Jesus was doing was supernatural. I mean, this is not someone squinting and being able to see really big letters under a bright light, this is blind people who normally were sitting there on the side of the road because they couldn’t see anything, if they walked they would walk into walls you know, and then suddenly they see everything.
Which is, by and large, very different than most of the supposed miracles that we actually see people today doing. That’s the point. I know, it’s not really fun to talk about this and I personally would rather just be positive, I would much rather just talk about the glory of Christ, but, I am afraid that there are some of these men out there that are making it difficult for people to see the glory of Christ, and the way are confusing people is by supposedly doing these miracles, but when you look a little more closely at the nature of the miracles they are doing, they are very different than the ones Christ did.
Sometimes what is done is pretty obviously a scam, like the times when people are paid money to come in wheelchairs, or the word of knowledge, where they have someone collecting information about people in the audience and then relaying it to the person in his ear. And then others, sometimes have more to do with the power of suggestion.
I was reading this week about these supposed healers in the Philippines, and people thought they could reach through the skin of the body with their bare hands, and remove diseased organs, and yet, when someone actually investigated what they were doing, they were using what we call sleight of hand, to perform fake operations using animal parts from a chicken, cow or goat. They were just quick with their hands, and the crazy thing is, even though they weren’t doing anything real, sometimes people were healed, which obviously didn’t have to do with them taking out the diseased organ, because they didn’t do that, it had to do with the power of suggestion, the person believed that something had happened, and somehow that helped them feel like they were getting better as a result.
I am not trying to make you totally skeptical, like oh man, I can’t believe anything. I totally believe that every miracle the Bible says happened, happened. I was just reading the other day with my children about the donkey that talked to Balaam, and I believe that donkey talked, so it’s not that I don’t think God can do miracles, but at the same time, I do think we could use a little bit of healthy, like are you sure, because there are people that make huge claims, but when you actually look at the claims a little more closely, there’s not as much there as you might expect.
Like, perhaps you have heard of someone named Oral Roberts, he was a famous faith healer in the United States, and he even said he could raise the dead, he actually said I can’t tell you about all the dead people I have raised, and I guess that ended up being true, he couldn’t tell us about all the dead people he had raised, because when he was challenged to produce the names and addresses of the people he had raised, he really couldn’t come up with any, significant, unquestionable examples.
In fact, one investigator, met with Oral Roberts, and asked him if any of his doctors he asked him if any of his doctors could provide any documented evidence of an organic disease that was miraculously healed through Robert’s personal ministry, and the doctors, at least were honest, they said, no, they didn’t have any documentation affirming the miraculous healing of an organic disease.
The same man later met with Benny Hinn, and Benny was willing to go back and look at his healings, and after meeting with this author, he appeared on a number of television programs, and he asked for help, he asked if anyone could provide him with documentation of cases of divine healing to include in a book he was intending to write, and a year and a half later, he published the book, and he only came up with ten cases, without any proof or documentation, just hearsay.
Apparently, this same man, he said to Benny, he said, he wanted some documentation of these healings and Benny said he would get that for him, and he responded, he said, Benny I don’t mean to be unkind, but I think I should mention that for 35 years every Christian faith healer I have contacted has made the same promises you have but I have never heard from them again, and Benny said you will hear from me, next week. But anyway, a month later, he called Benny and he was like I still haven’t received anything, and after that, he never heard from Benny Hinn again.
It seems a little hard I know to be saying all this, but we do need to know why we do what we do, and why don’t do what we don’t do, and at first, if someone says to you why don’t you do more miracles like Jesus, after all that’s what we are doing, or that’s what this big famous healer is doing, you might just say, well, slow down a little bit, because I am not sure that he’s doing what Jesus did either, actually because if you look at the proof, you move past hearsay and I thought I saw this, to actual proof, you don’t usually find very much proof of all, of healings that were immediate, public, verifiable, undeniable, real and total.
Which should make you ask the next question, if the healings we are seeing these people who say they are healers do are so different than the Jesus’, maybe I better look at what Jesus did again and ask why did he do it?
That’s the second hint that something different is going on.
Because you know we have been talking about all the miracles Jesus did, here at the end of Luke chapter 4, but actually the way that chapter 4 begins, is with Jesus choosing not to do certain miracles.
Do you remember?
Back in the wilderness, Satan asked Jesus to do two miracles.
The first miracle was to turn the stones into bread and the second was to jump off the temple mount which was hundreds of meter high so that an angel could rescue him, and Jesus said no to both, because he didn’t just do miracles for the sake of doing miracles, they had a very specific purpose.
Satan wanted Jesus to do miracles to get what he wanted, I am hungry and I need some bread or to do miracles to make himself a celebrity, have an angel catch him at the temple and he would be front page news, but that wasn’t God’s purpose for miracles and Jesus knew it.
The God we serve is in control of everything and so he doesn’t need miracles to get things done. He has a very specific purpose for miracles and He uses them at very specific points in history.
I know, we kind of have this idea I know that people were doing miracles all the time throughout the history of the church, but as far as we know, with what God tells us in Scripture, they weren’t.
In the past, miracles occurred at significant points in the history of redemption.
The first time was the era of Moses and Joshua, from the escape from Egypt to the conquering of the Promised Land, which was around 70 years or so and the second was during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, probably another 70 years, and then third was here, in a much more profound way even than any of those, through Christ and the apostles, which lasted about the same amount of time.
Obviously there may have been some other isolated occasions in which miracles occurred, but not this kind of explosion of miraculous power, when it comes to that kind of miraculous activity, where God empowered certain men for this, where that characterized their ministry, that was taking place basically only during about two hundred years out of the thousands of years of human history.
Which makes you ask, you know why, and it’s because miracles had a specific purpose.
We serve a sovereign God. He is not up in heaven wishing He could do stuff down here. He is in control of all things, and so we don’t actually really need miracles to not get sick or to overcome sickness.
I think sometimes the reason people are so interested in miracles is because they don’t appreciate God’s ordinary providence. It’s almost as if they think on a daily basis, ordinarily, God is up in heaven and He has no idea really what is going on in this world, or He is uninvolved in it, and when things get really bad and out of control, that’s when we have to pray to Him and hope we can maybe wake Him up, so that He will finally get to work.
But that’s not the way the Bible presents God to us, at all. God is always at work in this world, and ordinarily, He’s at work through second causes. These scientific laws, He’s the one behind them, every moment, causing them to work exactly the way He designed. In other words, right now, all of nature and every circumstance is acting as a servant of God, to get accomplished exactly what He wants to get accomplished, and we should be amazed by this, it’s just as amazing as a miracle, the God we serve is so wise and so powerful that He can orchestrate, plan, all the little events of life, so that we don’t get sick, or so that we do.
He’s in control of all the bacteria and viruses in this world, of all our organs, of every beat of our heart, so there’s a sense in which we don’t really need miracles to live the life God wants us to. He can totally get us exactly where He wants without a miracle.
But He’s used miracles at certain points throughout history, not because He was in trouble and just had to get something done and He couldn’t get it done any other way, but instead, there are times where He chooses to act in a unique way, not a more powerful way, sustaining the universe the way He does every day is pretty powerful, but there are times where He works in a different way in nature, directly, bypassing the secondary causes and He does that for a specific purpose, it’s not random, and that purpose primarily seems to have been, as you look at the Scripture, authenticating a particular man’s ability to speak for Him, and especially to give new revelation on His behalf.
It’s not just that He does miracles to show that He’s powerful, nature already does a good job of that. He doesn’t do miracles just to impress us, instead the miracles of God have “revelational significance.” That’s the key thing to understand about miracles, miracles are things God has done to carry out His great saving plan, they have “revelational significance.”
That’s what he was doing with Moses, if you think back to the Exodus as an example, when God came to Moses, who was basically the first miracle worker, and He calls Moses to represent Him, to speak His words, and to deliver His people, Moses doesn’t want to do it, and so he argues with God, and his excuse is, how are people going to know that I represent you, that I am speaking on your behalf, and what does God do, He enables Moses to accomplish miracles.
The power to work miracles was going to validate the claim to speak for God.
In fact, maybe we could even blow that up a little bigger, because the Exodus was this major saving event in the history of Israel. In terms of the Old Testament, it’s like the resurrection, it’s just such an important part of what God was doing with Israel, and with the miracles, it’s not only how were the people to know that Moses was speaking for God, but also, how were the people to know that God really was doing the saving there, that He had this special plan He was accomplishing through Moses, for them, and again it was those signs and wonders that Moses accomplished.
And if you read the account, you’ll see, those miracles were God’s way of saying to Egypt, to Pharaoh, to the world, and especially to Israel, that He was the Lord and He was the one delivering His people, and you know He designed it, so that later generations would find encouragement not so much by fresh miracles, but by reflecting on the signs and wonders He accomplished as He rescued Israel.
If an Israelite ever got discouraged and started wondering if God was for them, they were to look back to the Exodus and find assurance in the way God delivered them miraculously through Moses.
Psalm 105:5, “Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles”…and what miracles is he talking about there, He’s talking about Moses, the plagues, and the Exodus.
And that I think is pretty much the same basic reason for the miracles Jesus performed as well. They weren’t just for fun. They were definitely not random. As we look at Luke 4, verse 18, we see that Jesus says, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, to proclaim a message, that’s what he came to do, but how do we know that message he preached was really a revelation from God, especially with its new insights into the mystery of God, that’s why Luke talks to us about Jesus’ miracles.
As one man explains, “…the primary purpose of Jesus’ miracles was to confirm his credentials as God’s final and ultimate messenger who spoke infallibly for God.”
Because think about what Jesus was claiming.
It just makes sense that Jesus, when he comes and says he is sent from God and that He is going to defeat Satan and set us free from captivity to him, proves he can, by setting people from demonic possession, and that Jesus, when he says, he came to heal the diseases of our souls, and calls on us to believe him, would prove that He can by healing the diseases of our bodies.
These weren’t just random. They were proofs.
How do we know He has the power to rise us from the dead, He rose from the dead, to take us to heaven, he ascended to heaven.
These are signs, and, we looked last week at Luke 7, where John the Baptist sent his disciples for some encouragement that Jesus really was the Messiah, and Jesus pointed to His miracles, probably because John wasn’t seeing the judgment he expected, he may be like, or his disciples were like, is this really the king, and Jesus says look at the miracles, the miracles are the signs that I am the great king the Old Testament promised.
Or maybe you can think of Matthew 12, where the Pharisees were upset with Jesus and saying he was of the devil, and Jesus comes back at them and talks about his casting out of demons, and he says in verse 28, “if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” In other words, why was Jesus casting demons, as a demonstration that the kingdom of God had come in the person of the king!
This is something that the apostle John makes a big deal of, as well.
John chapter 5 verse 36.
Jesus speaks, “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John for the works which the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I do testify about me that the Father has sent me.”
If you need a testimony as to who I am and my relationship with God, look at what I do, look at the healings, look at the miracles, these are God’s authentication of me as the ultimate and final messenger.
Then chapter 6 and verse 14,
“When the people saw this sign, that is the feeding of the five thousand which He had performed, what was it a sign to point to? This was their conclusion, this is truly the prophet who was to come into the world.”
And in chapter 7 verse 31, “But many of the crowd believed in Him and they were saying, ‘When the Messiah comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?”
In chapter 10 verse 24, “The Jews then gather around Him and were saying to Him, ‘How long will You keep us in suspense? If You’re the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you and you do not believe, the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me, but you do not believe because you are not in My sheep.’”
In verse 37 of that same chapter, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me. But if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I in the Father.”
As one man has explained,
“The main reason the Spirit empowered Jesus to perform miracles was to confirm that He spoke the very words of God, that He was everything He claimed to be, which is why I think He gave the gift of miracles to the apostles as well, actually. “
Again I am quoting, but this is good.
“The miraculous gifts that accompanied the Apostles were intended to confirm that they were God’s genuine instruments of revelation, just as they had been with Moses, with the Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha, and with Jesus Himself.”
The apostles, like Jesus, were making pretty big claims, they were like, we have revelation from God that explains everything He’s doing in the Old Testament and the universe. And you know, it’s about this man, Jesus, who died on a cross. And of course, people would be like, yes, but how do we know that what you are saying is from God, and God gave them the ability to heal and perform other miracles as a testimony to that, to validate their message.
And their work, and especially the message they proclaimed, serves as a foundation for us, these thousands of years later, and even now when we are discouraged and wondering about what God’s doing, we look back and find confidence, in the signs and wonders these men did.
This is how the writer of Hebrews speaks of the miracles actually.
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message delivered by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation. It was declared to us at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
Through the miracles God was bearing witness, to the message of Jesus and the apostles, that was their basic purpose, and, look, listen, I know I am not answering every question about miracles, and I have questions too, the goal is not to say that God can’t still work through miracles today, God can do what He wants, I don’t know there’s any text that says miracles can’t happen, but what I am saying is, that in general, it doesn’t really surprise me that I am not able to do the kinds of miracles that Moses did, that Elijah did, that Jesus did, that the apostles did, because I am not giving new revelation the way they did.
We play a different role in salvation history.
We have the revelation, here in the Scriptures, and it has already been verified, by miracles and because we aren’t getting new revelation today in the same way, we shouldn’t really be expecting the kinds of miracles Jesus performed, because it wouldn’t fit with their purpose.
And I don’t know if that seems disappointing to you, but if we are thinking straight, we’ll see that we can be encouraged, because we actually have something even more important and significant to do as a church than these kinds of miracles.
Even Jesus actually did.
If someone asks me why aren’t you doing what Jesus did, having healing services and all of that, one thing I might do is just to look at the gospels with them once again, and encourage them first, to look at what Jesus actually did, second, to consider why Jesus did it, and then third, and this is probably the most important hint that something different is going on than we see with most modern day healers and miracle workers, and that is what Jesus explicitly said.
And when it was day, this is verse 42, and I know this is probably the longest introduction to a sermon ever, but Luke says, and when it was day, “…he departed and went into a desolate place.”
This was, Mark tells us, very early in the morning. Actually, “while it was still dark…” he went to a desolate place, in order to pray.
It’s amazing, I think, with how tired Jesus must have been. I mean, he was a man after all, and can you imagine spending the morning preaching, then from sunset, healing all who were sick and oppressed by demons, interacting with all those people, and needy people too, the whole city came out to him, and we don’t know when they left, if they left actually, I am sure with Jesus healing all those people, most everyone would have wanted to stay around just to watch, and so here Jesus has been ministering all night, late into the night, and yet at some point, when things must have quieted down at least a little, he took the first chance he could, to go out and spend some time alone with God.
I love that and I wish I were more like that.
Jesus wasn’t just doing things for God, He loved God and wanted to be with God, He had a relationship as a man with God, and so He makes sacrifices to spend time with God, though we don’t know how much time he got here really, because it doesn’t seem like it was very long, until people started noticing that he was missing and they didn’t like it.
In fact, as you read the story, especially in Mark, it seems like there is a kind of desperation that develops and you can understand it.
I mean, imagine having someone come to where you stay who wasn’t just pretending to heal people and making funny claims, but who was actually healing people in a spectacular way and in abundant fashion, everyone he touched was getting better, how do you think people would respond to that?
They probably were thinking they had it made.
They were probably thinking, we don’t want this guy to go anywhere. He needs to be here, every moment, so we’ll never get sick again. They were probably thinking, with this kind of power at their disposal, they would never need anything ever again.
And that’s why they had to find him. They didn’t want him to leave. In fact, when Simon finds Jesus, the way Mark tells it to us, it’s like he almost rebukes him, he says, “Everyone is looking for you.” What are you doing out here praying, when you have got this city at your feet, willing to do whatever you ask?
And really, while I don’t know what Simon was thinking at this point, it’s not hard to guess what the people of Capernaum wanted. They were wanting what a lot of people want from Jesus, they wanted Jesus to be their resident miracle worker. Stay here and heal us of all our diseases.
Which you might think would be exciting, because isn’t this what we want, crowds chasing after us, and you can understand their desire, in that it is probably what we would want as well, and yet, you know, this is important, as we look down at the text, Jesus wasn’t quite as impressed.
And he didn’t refuse because he wasn’t compassionate or he didn’t care about sick people or something like that.
He refused because God had sent him to do something even more important.
“But he said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
Which if you didn’t catch it, is really a pretty important statement.
It’s like an exclamation point.
Because why was Jesus sent? What was the driving purpose of his public ministry?
Preaching the good news.
I mean, that must be a pretty important message, if that’s why Jesus came.
And if it’s even more important than staying there in Capernaum.
It’s pretty intense really, because Jesus has just spent the whole night healing people and casting out demons.
Just, imagine it.
There’s this person over here who has been paralyzed and he makes him walk, and there is this other person who has cancer and is about to die, and he heals him completely.
I don’t know if you have ever seen the pictures of someone with HIV and then later on the medicines, and the transformation is so total, and can you imagine being able to accomplish that in someone’s life with a word? It is just absolutely huge.
And you would think probably just like the people in Capernaum did, this is it, this is the most important thing a person can do, this is the purpose, to be able to enter a hospital and go bed to bed and clear the place out, in a day, is there anything more important than that, and Jesus actually says here, there is.
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
Which doesn’t minimize the importance of healing or casting out demons, but it does maximize the importance of preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.
Even when it came to Jesus’ own ministry, the healings and casting out of demons was not primary.
And when you think about that for a moment, it’s really shocking, how can that be, because here is a guy over here who is sick, really sick and you have the chance to heal him and then over here you have the chance to speak a message, the good news, to a new group of people, and which is the priority, which is more urgent, which is more important, at the end of the day, Jesus said, preaching was.
How is that?
How is that even possible?
Because, I will tell you, for most unbelievers, it is not possible. They can’t understand it. And the reason they can’t understand it is because they have a completely different idea of the world, than we do.
For most unbelievers, the way they think, this life is all they have got.
It’s now and then it’s death and then they are in the ground, and so obviously, obviously, for them, there’s no way speaking a message can be more important than physically healing someone and rescuing them from dying.
Whatever can make my life better now, that’s the most important.
But for Jesus, and for the rest of us as Christians, we don’t believe this world is all we have got, we actually think our life in the now, is just a moment, a small part of our whole life, and that the life that comes after this one, lasts way, way longer than this one.
There’s this kingdom, that the whole Bible is leading up to, where Jesus comes back, defeats all His enemies, and ours, and establishes His rule forever.
So of course while we are interested in this moment, because we are in it, we are even more interested in what comes next, that’s how preaching the message can be more important, it’s like Jesus is saying here, being comfortable is fine, but his primary purpose is not just to make people a little more comfortable for a few moments before they die, instead, it is to make an announcement about the way in which God is accomplishing the eternal salvation that they need most.
For Jesus it is this lasting salvation that matters most.
And it should be for you and me, as well.
I would guess most unbelievers, they don’t think there’s any plan for this life.
It’s just happening, here, then not here, it just goes, until you die and then that’s it, which is why they are so interested in this life, you know, that’s all they got, but as believers we are convinced there actually is a plan, a good one, things are not random.
There’s a plan. There’s a plan.
God is in control we know that, and we’re looking forward to this day that’s coming when God is going to reveal His rule over all things, that’s the plan, that’s where things are headed.
God defeating His enemies, once and for all, that’s the kingdom of God, that means, reversing the curse, and this is where history is headed, God is going to perfectly and completely take all the effects of sin out of the universe, every sinner is going to be judged, every believer is going to be perfected, and all the problems that come as a result of sin are going to be wiped away, that’s the kingdom He promised, this is what the kingdom of God is, it is the defeat of all the enemies of God, which include, the devil, sickness, and sin.
Not just for a little while.
And what motivates us most as believers, is preaching the good news about how God is accomplishing all that through Jesus Christ. This is what the Bible is about. It tells us how it is going to happen. This is what the miracles were about. It shows us what’s it going to be like when the King comes back for good,
And this is why while we might pray for healing and long for God to heal individuals and believe that God can heal individuals, it’s not the centerpiece of our ministry, it’s not the focus, because we can see it wasn’t even the centerpiece of Jesus’ own ministry.
When people are sick, it bothers us, yes it bothers us, and we find hope, not in promising them that we can heal them if they just have enough faith, but that God can heal them, maybe not now, maybe not in this life, but because of what Jesus has done, they can be confident, He can heal them completely in the life to come.
We want to focus our energies and our attention on preaching a message that has the ability to save someone not just from a cold or cancer for a little while, as bad as that is, but forever. We want to see them delivered, not just from some evils, but from every single last one.
And I know maybe some of you might think, well if we still did more of these miracles maybe more people might believe, but they didn’t, they didn’t; even Capernaum, they ended up rejecting Jesus, because it’s not about the proof, we have that, here in the gospels, Jesus did miracles, He rose from the dead, we have it in the record, it’s about submitting to the authority of Jesus over your life, and while people might get excited about Jesus as a miracle worker, that doesn’t mean they want to submit to Him as Lord.
Which is maybe not the final answer or the complete answer that you wanted, as to why we don’t have healers and miracle services, and don’t seem to focus on all of that, but if somebody says, well, how can you not, because read the gospels and look at Jesus, we would just say, and I think you should as well, slow down, we hate this suffering too, but, we are not convinced that what we see happening with these healers on television and these miracle services around town, are anything like what we see happening in the gospels, first of all, because what they are doing is different than what Jesus actually did, second of all because the reason why they are doing it is different than why Jesus and the apostles did what they did, and then finally, because they seem to be focusing on what Jesus said was secondary and missing the very thing that He said was most important, which is the preaching of the gospel.