116. Getting healed – the package deal.

 

The human body is a wonderful thing. We are aware of our own bodies since the day we are born. Providing for the body is the main concern of parents of a new born. Getting a baby clothed and fed, changed and bathed are the most important care activities of the day. Slowly it shifts to communication, interaction in play and the discovery of the world introduced initially only through the parents. The baby grows into an adult for whom looking after the physical body takes second place over the development of the mind.

Most of the hours of our adult life are spent on applying our mind to work, entertainment and caring for our physical activities. It is our mind first and foremost that determines the care for our bodies.  When we are healthy and physically active, we seldom consider every unseen part of our body. When sickness focuses our mind on a malfunctioning part, we are suddenly aware of an organ or vein or other previously unrecognized part whose purpose is obstructed by disease.

Disease occupies our thinking and activities especially shortly after diagnosis. When we have to live with a handicap in our bodies when most other people take the functioning of that body part for granted, we compensate in so many ways for our less-than-perfect body. Just imagine being born blind. Not having been able to see a tree or water or any other human, impacts life in a profound way. The healing of sight changes everything. Our thinking, perceiving of and responding to the world changes into a different approach altogether.

One cannot be born blind, receive sight in a moment and stay the same person. A touch from God will change your whole being. The healing of the body changes the mind and the spirit.

Healing from blindness in the time of Jesus was mostly an impossibility. The medical science was not developed to even begin to find a cause for blindness.

Blindness was widespread in the ancient Near East.

Theologically speaking, all cases of blindness are attributed to God (Exodus 4:11), just as the restoration of sight is credited to Him (Psalms 146:8). However, outside of the specific cases mentioned, blindness in general is nowhere stated to be a punishment for sin, although it was a widespread superstition.

Blindness is used with several metaphoric meanings in the Bible. Frequently it refers to the lack of intellectual or moral understanding (Isaiah 29:9–10,18). Judges are warned that bribes, or gifts, blind the eyes of the discerning (Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19). Isaiah is told that his mission is to besmear the eyes of Israel so that it will not “see” and repent and be healed (6:10). In Isaiah 56:10 blindness refers to negligence, while in Numbers 16:14 putting out the eyes is usually taken to mean deceiving.

Blind persons are naturally helpless in many ways. Blindness in the ancient world was assumed to be a ticket to misery, a curse, or a sentence to second-class status. The blind enjoyed few opportunities and lived out their days in poverty as beggars or as wards of their families.

The healing of the blind man was a reason to rejoice and celebrate. The whole community would have been aware that there is one less beggar on the street. He would have been able to look after himself and start a whole new life.

But…the healing took place on the Sabbath. Jesus had broken the Sabbath law. By making clay he had been guilty of working on the Sabbath when even the simplest acts constituted work.

We have already mentioned how many instructions surrounded the work ban of the law on the Sabbath. For example a man may not go out on the Sabbath with sandals shod with nails. The weight of the nails would have constituted a burden, and to carry a burden was to break the Sabbath. A man may not cut his fingernails or pull out a hair of his head or his beard. A man may not light or extinguish a lamp on the Sabbath.

It was forbidden to heal on the Sabbath. Medical attention could be given only if life was in actual danger. Even then it must be only such as to keep the patient from getting worse, not to make him any better.

Don’t laugh – do you have any little laws, little superstitions that keep you captive? Do you touch wood when something good happens? Are you fearful that something bad will happen when everything is going smoothly?

The Pharisees thought that their way was the only way of serving God.

This blind man is quite a character. The Pharisees irritate him. Just read the dialogue between him and the church leaders. He was not able to fit Jesus into their theologically correctness and he didn’t care. His miracle forever set him apart. Jesus was in his heart and nobody could get Him out even if he could not explain his healing with his mind.

We love Jesus, not theories around Him.

The blind man was brave. He confronted the church leaders. Maybe he was not so aware of their stranglehold on society being a blind beggar and an object of pity.

The man’s parents were scared. The leaders were powerful. They could shut them off and out of the community. Property could be forfeited and socializing banned. Jesus warned his disciples against them (Luke 6:22, John 16:2, 12:42).

Excommunication was serious. A person was cut off from God and the people and publicly cursed. For a Jew it was terrible, even when it was only temporary. The Pharisees would use the “church” for their own goal – hatred of Jesus.

The Pharisees suspected some fraud.They did not believe the man to be born blind. They suspected the miracle was bogus.False prophetsmade up fake miracles to their own advantage (Deuteronomy 13:1).

“Give the glory to God,” was a phrase used in cross-examination, which really meant: “Speak the truth in the presence and the name of God.”

They were annoyed because they could not meet the man’s argument, which was based on scripture.  The miracle meant that Jesus has done a very wonderful thing. The fact that he has done it means that God hears him. God never hears the prayers of a bad man; therefore Jesus cannot be a bad man.

The fact that God did not hear the prayer of a bad man, is a basic assumption in the Old Testament.(Job 27:9, Psalms 66:18, Isaiah 1:15, Ezekiel 8:18, Psalms 145:19, Proverb 15:29)

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears toward their cry.  (Psalm 34:15)

Their argument was weak so they resorted to abuse; then insult with the statement that he was born in sin. Then they threatened force and ordered him out of their presence. Their argument becomes a contest of bitterness full of wild words and hot threats. It proves their case to be disturbingly weak.

Jesus found the man being put out of the Temple. Separated from fellow men, God will find you.Great revelation followedhis faith and stance. The Son of God was revealed to him – greater is not possible. He knelt and received Jesus; the wonder that was in his heart was now in his mind as well.

He was healed from spiritual blindness.

The man who is conscious of his own blindness is the man who will see. The man, who thinks he can see, is truly blind and beyond help. To admit weakness is to be strong. To realize sin is to be forgiven.

Knowledge can condemn, if the truth cannot be recognized.The Pharisees had all the knowledge and failed to recognize their Messiah.

The blind man met Jesus. He grew in his knowledgeand revelation. He called Jesus a man (9:11). He began by thinking He is supreme among men.  Then he called Him a prophet (9:17). A prophet is somebody who brings God to men. (Amos 3:7).

Then he confessed that He is the Son of God– the result of revelation knowledge.

This is true healing – the package deal. To be forever healed from the blindness of our hearts, is to know who Jesus really is and to receive the revelation of Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, in the true conviction of the Holy Spirit.

 

 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

(Matthew 16:15-17)

Advertisements

83. A word gets a body.

[John 1]

We are so familiar with the beautiful words of Scripture – a familiarity that needs to be revived from time to time to infuse new life and understanding into old concepts. We know the phrase: the Word became flesh, so well, that we do not give it another thought. Maybe we could use our imagination in an extreme exercise of visualizing our words in human form.

How would those angry words in the car, hurled towards other motorists look? Do they look like big, burly bouncers set to seriously spread harm. The words of gossip behind the back of a friend, might look like a dark, cloaked figure with a bloody dagger in hand, ready to strike again and again as the words are released into the invisible realm around us. It sounds overly dramatic; still I think it is not gruesome enough. Our words inflict serious injury, even death. (Proverbs 18:21)

How would our words of encouragement and love look? Can you imagine words that look like a strong arm helping somebody up who has fallen? Our words of love are like a big hug giving shelter and acceptance where life strikes out cruelly. Our words of prayer mobilize the heavenly armies to assist in difficulty and redeem lives.

Then there was this Man – logos – the Word.

The first chapter of the Fourth Gospel is one of the greatest adventures of religious thought ever achieved by the mind of man.   

[William Barclay, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow]

By the time John writes his Gospel, he lives in Ephesus. It is the time after the Jewish war of 66-70 AD. Jerusalem is destroyed and the church dispersed and underground.

The church has grown from the roots of Judaism to something much bigger. By 60 AD the estimates were a 100 000 Greeks for every one Jew that was a Christian. The Gospel found its way out of Jewish thought and knowledge to a much wider application. Jewish ideas were completely strange to the Greeks. They had, for instance, no Messianic expectation. How should Jesus be presented to the Greek world?

In both cultures the concept of the word was central to their understanding of wisdom.

For the Jews a word is far more than mere sound. It was something which has an independent existence and which actually did things – a unit of energy charged with power. Hebrew was sparing with words and in ancient times consisted of fewer than 10 000 words. Greek was using more than 200 000 words at the time.

The Jews had a type of literature called The Wisdom Literature, which was not speculative and philosophical, but practical wisdom for the living and management of life. In the Old Testament the great example of wisdom literature is Proverbs. In certain passages wisdom (Greek word for wisdom is sophia) is given a mysterious life-giving and eternal power. In these passages wisdom has been, personified, and is thought of as the eternal agent and co-worker of God. (Proverbs 3 and 8)

At the same time that Ecclesiastes was written, a book with the name: Wisdom of Solomon was written in Alexandria, Egypt. The writer does more than talk about wisdom; he equates wisdom and the word.

So John said: “If you wish to see that word of God, if you wish to see the creative power of God, if you wish to see that word which brought the world into existence and which gives light and life to every man, look at Jesus Christ. In him the word of God came among you.”

How then did this idea of the word fit into Greek thought? It was already there waiting to be used. In Greek thought the idea of the word began away back about 560 BC, strangely enough, in Ephesus where the Fourth Gospel was written.

In 560 B.C. there was an Ephesian philosopher called Heraclitus whose basic idea was that everything is in a state of flux. Everything was changing from day to day and from moment to moment. His famous illustration was that it was impossible to step twice into the same river. You step into a river; you step out; you step in again; but you do not step into the same river, for the water has flowed on and it is a different river. But if that were so, why was life not complete chaos? How can there be any sense in a world where there was constant flux and change?

The answer of Heraclitus was that all this change and flux was not random; it was controlled and ordered, following a continuous pattern. That which controlled the pattern was the Logos – the word, the reason of God.

He wrote that in all life and in all events of life there was a purpose and a design. He held that Logos controlled the events. Heraclitus took the matter even further and reasoned that what made us able to think and to reason and enabled us to choose right from wrong, was the Logos.

Once the Greeks had discovered this idea they never let it go. It fascinated them, especially the Stoics (school of thought). The Stoics were always left in wondering amazement at the order of the world. Order always implies a mind. They attributed all cosmological order to Logos.

Plato, one of the most well-known Greek philosophers (428-348BC), considered LOGOS as the basic fact in all life, because he believed there was a pre-existent something between the logos of the thinking soul and the logos of things.

Logos is the Greek term meaning “the Word.” Greek philosophers like Plato used Logos not only of the spoken word but also of the unspoken word, the word still in the mind — the reason. When applied to the universe, Greeks were speaking to the rational principle that governs all things.

John promulgated the Logos in a radically new way. Suddenly, man is not only capable, but also deserved from the beginning of time, to accept the Logos, the Word, the Christ.

So John came to the Greeks and said: “For centuries you have been thinking and writing and dreaming about the Logos, the power which made the world, the power which keeps the order of the world, the power by which men think and reason and know, the power by which men come into contact with God. Jesus is that Logos come down to earth.” “The word,” said John, “became flesh.” Put another way: the mind of God became a person.”

The mind of God became as person to show us how to live here on earth if we were all little Christs… which we are. We are Christians.

We are reborn to become the person with the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Where does this leave our words in our walk with Christ? Christ-words, springing from the fountain of Life to change the world.

Shall we speak with the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, to utter the character of our Lord Jesus, the Logos – the Word?

Let us pray Psalm 19:14:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

 

These are the words in my mouth;
    these are what I chew on and pray.
Accept them when I place them
    on the morning altar,
O God, my Altar-Rock,
    God, Priest-of-My-Altar. (The Message)

 

As you all know William Barclay, a professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow, who died in 1978 is one of my New Testament mentors. He was a prolific writer with a loving and inspired insight in the Bible. He was a man of vast knowledge of the history, mythology, archaeology and geology of  New Testament times and reading his commentary is like reading the New Testament in cinemascope and technicolour.

If I say, “my mentor” then it is that very presumptuous side of me who “adopts” spiritual grandfathers. I have quite a few “chosen” mentors whom I have kept close over many years. A few examples beside Barclay, are Jack Hayford, alive and well, over 80 years old and still active, Watchman Nee, who died in a communist prison in 1974 in China, John Lennox, retired Oxford Mathematician and a master of Apologetics and Andrew Murray, a Scottish minister serving South Africa in the nineteenth century.

In this discussion of John I have followed the commentary of Barclay as the main structural guide. I have also included the very informative footnotes, word wealth and kingdom dynamics in the Spirit Filled Life Bible with Jack Hayford as editor. Further, the commentaries available on Biblehub.com are very informative and the history and factual confirmation on the wider world wide web are just overwhelming. I am a researcher at heart and the most difficult is to steer away from too much information, when I can lose myself in the background and ancient history of the Biblical stories.