His Hour

“So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them – walking, leaping, and praising God”

Acts 3:8

This man had been lame from birth (Acts 3:2) and he was now forty years old (Acts 4:22). This was his hour in which God would be glorified through him. He had been at the temple gate every day of his adult life enduring this affliction and begging for daily sustenance. Peter, John and even Jesus would have passed him many times before. He could have asked why he had to put up with years of lameness and begging when he could have been healed earlier.

He didn’t think about what might have been or accuse God of being unfair. He had been delivered from his lameness and was now free to rejoice in his new liberty. What a ridiculous sight it would have been if he had returned to his begging clothes and mat to beg again. No longer would he rely on the generosity of others. Now he would be able to work and provide for himself.

We who have received the Lord Jesus Christ have been set free from a much greater affliction, that of sin that binds us under Satan’s power and the inevitable consequence of death. We have no reason to accuse God. It is for this hour that we are here to glorify God and our history has brought us to this hour. Mordecai said to Esther, “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Instead of concerning ourselves about what might have been we can walk with Jesus and leap in faith praising God that we are in His time. The hour of our salvation may now be some time in the past and we have experienced many things that have been either pleasant or unpleasant; but through them the Lord has brought us to this hour. All that is passed in our lives has brought us to this hour for God’s glory. We won’t return to the begging mat of sin but we will do what we could not do before – serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

The lame man did not know that his hour to glorify God had come until it came – and neither will we.

When other people recognised this man walking, leaping and praising God as the one who had been lame they were ready to hear Peter proclaim Christ. This unnamed man who endured forty years of lameness became the opportunity for the Gospel to be proclaimed. His hour came. He is not complaining. He is still praising God.

Jesus Moved On

“They were astonished at His teaching, for He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes”

Mark 1:22

In the synagogue they were astonished with the manner of Jesus’ teaching for He spoke with authority and did not appeal to the writings of men. In this He was quite different to the scribes. The essence of Jesus’ preaching and teaching at this time is recorded in verse fifteen, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” That He had this authority is revealed in the rebuke of an unclean spirit (v 25), healing Peter’s mother-in-law (v 31), the many healed and demons cast out (v 34) and the healing of a leper (v 42). All these, and the many other miracles of Jesus, serve to reveal who He is.

At first the teaching got the attention of people but that was soon overridden by the miracles. Word quickly got around and Jesus was virtually mobbed, not for His teaching but for miracles (1:32; 3:7-12). For this reason Jesus departed. He is not a travelling circus. He has a message for people (v 15) and when people are distracted and not listening to the message, He moves on (v 35) to other places to preach His message (v 38). Even though there were many more sick people and demon possessed people, He moved on. The Gospel message is far more important than physical healing. He still moves on when our churches are distracted by clamouring for temporal miracles.

When Jesus healed the leper He asked him not to spread it around. The leper did not obey and soon Jesus was mobbed again (1:45). People mobbed Him not for the message but for healing. With the change of focus the message was lost so Jesus moved on.

There is a clamour for healing in many religious circles including many Christian churches today. When people are distracted by the potential for miracles they do not give attention to the Gospel message. Satan has been counterfeiting Christ and corrupting His message for two thousand years and isn’t about to give up this successful distraction and diversion (Mark 13:22; Matthew 7:22-23). We are all glad when God does heal someone or delivers a person from demonic influence or possession – but we must be careful that we don’t lose the message of the most important deliverance, “Repent and believe the gospel.” The miracle of new birth is the only one that matters (John 3:3; Ephesians 2:1, 8-10).

Approved Approach

“I did not even think myself worthy to come to You” Luke 7:7

These are the words of a Roman centurion, a Gentile. It is not the kind of words one would expect from a man who is used to throwing his authority around and expecting people to look up to him with a measure of fear. Something had happened to this man that changed his attitude and behaviour toward others, especially toward Jews.

When he heard that Jesus, a Jew, was approaching his town he sent Jewish synagogue leaders to Jesus pleading for Him to heal his servant. It would appear that they did not represent him faithfully. On his behalf they presented him as one worthy who merited Jesus’ power to heal. Their appeal, typical of Israel at the time and most Gentiles then and now, was on the basis of good works and merit.

As Jesus came even nearer to his town, without response, the centurion sent friends who were faithful to the centurion’s words. They repeated his words, “I am not worthy … I did not even think myself worthy to come to You.” He knew that Jesus came in the authority of God (v 8) and he knew that while God is holy he was a sinner and unworthy of His presence.

The people following Jesus in Capernaum at the time were most likely all Jews and He took the opportunity to point out the contrasting means of approach to Him by saying, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel” (v 9). The leaders of the synagogue had sought Jesus’ favour on merit but the centurion sought Jesus’ favour on mercy and grace. We can readily see to which Jesus responded and approved.

Historically this is how Israel has generally approached favour with God but they are not alone in this. Most religions of the world, even some claiming to be Christian, come to Jesus like the synagogue leaders, on the basis of merit or partial merit. Therefore, thinking they deserve God’s favour, they praise themselves and not God and they are unthankful toward God. After all, they did not receive a gift, in their eyes they received a payment for works done.

Of the ten cleansed lepers recorded in Luke 17:11-19 only one returned to give thanks to Jesus for healing him. The other nine thought they deserved His favour and that their healing was merited. They saw no reason to thank Jesus. Only one knew that he was unworthy and was therefore thankful.

If we do not continually have thankful hearts to the Lord it is because in some way we think we deserve His favour. At those times we are like the synagogue leaders who presented the centurion’s case to Jesus and the nine unthankful cleansed lepers. Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:32). This centurion was not worthy to come into Christ’s presence and he knew it but he is just the kind of person who Jesus is calling to Himself.

All Were Amazed

“All were amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” Mark 2:12

All were amazed but were they all amazed in the same way and for the same reason? The answer is not in the passage but it is in the Gospel records. In the incident Mark describes all were amazed but there are two possible reasons for that amazement; the miracle or the words of Jesus. Either would have caused amazement to His Jewish audience.

The purpose of the miracle in Mark 2:1-12 is to demonstrate that Jesus has authority to forgive sin (v 10). Only God has that authority so Jesus is declaring Himself to be God. The miracle was to confirm Jesus’ authority to make such a statement but being physically healed was not evidence that the man was forgiven. The evidence that the man is forgiven is revealed in the man’s faith demonstrated when he obeyed Jesus by taking up his bed and walking.

People often seek the miracle of physical healing but are less interested in seeking forgiveness of sin. The people on this occasion were amazed and gave glory to God for either the miracle or that the man’s sins were forgiven. In either case each person realised that God had done a wonderful thing and in that recognition they gave God the glory. However, it meant different things to the two possible groups. One group glorified God for the miracle of healing and the other group glorified God that in Jesus Christ their sins could be forgiven.

The man knew his sins were forgiven. If he didn’t, he would not have obeyed Jesus and taken up his bed and walked. The many who witnessed the words and miracle of Jesus had a choice. They could either accept the testimony of Jesus or reject it. The miracle was of no value to them in itself. The man would still eventually physically die and so would they.

Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (v 17). Some in the gathering did not see themselves as sinners and went away amazed with the miracle of healing but with sins still unforgiven. Any who recognised that they were sinners, as the formerly paralytic man had, had the opportunity to go away forgiven.

Jesus would later say, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it” (8:35-37). Those who seek physical healing often forget that their bodies will still eventually die even if they are healed of the current malady, then what? Those who have their sins forgiven are forgiven for eternity and their bodies will be healed for eternity in the resurrection.

Luke records that Jesus sent out seventy disciples to give witness to the coming Kingdom. When they returned they were all chatting among themselves about the miracles they had performed (Luke 10:17) but Jesus quickly pointed them to the most important thing. He said to them, “rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (v 20). Their names are not written in heaven because they have experienced personal physical healing or even that they have healed others. Their names are in heaven because their sins are forgiven.

The trend these days for many is to seek physical healing and neglect the infinitely more important matter of forgiveness of sin.

I am glad that I have a doctor who is treating me through my current bronchitis but I am immeasurably happier that my sins are forgiven. That is what amazes me – Amazing Grace that saved a sinner such as I.

No Side Show

“He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” Matthew 13:58

There are many occasions recorded in the Gospels where Jesus performed miracles without there being any evidence of faith beforehand. He walked on water, calmed storms, provided food for crowds, placed a coin in the mouth of a fish, cast out demons, healed people and even raised the dead without the need for any evidence of faith in Him. Therefore we must not conclude that He is in some way made powerless by the unbelief of people.

Jesus could not do many mighty works at that time because He did not want to confirm the people in a wrong idea of who He is and His mission. It was not because He was powerless.

An excellent example of the purpose of miracles is seen in Matthew 9:1-8. It is so important that Mark and Luke also record this occasion. Four men brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing but Jesus got to the most important point first by saying, “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you.” The reason to be cheerful was that his sins were forgiven. To demonstrate that He had the authority to forgive sins, an authority that belongs only to God, Jesus also healed the man of his paralysis. The purpose of the miracle was to confirm that the man’s sins were forgiven and that Jesus had authority to forgive the man’s sin.

What was the attitude of the crowd when they heard Jesus forgive the man and heal His paralysis? Matthew records that they glorified God. In other words, they acknowledge that the miracle was from God but what about the forgiveness of sins? It would seem to me that they overlooked the greatest miracle. Had they really believed that the man’s sin was forgiven surely there would have been a rush of people asking for their sins to be forgiven also.

Jesus was not a miracle working side show wowing the crowds for fame and fortune. He knew that miracles, in some circumstances, could be a hindrance to faith in Him.

Jesus and the apostles never had a single failure in healing. Those who claim to be able to heal these days blame their failures on the faith of the one seeking healing. That was never an issue with Jesus and the apostles because healings never depended on the faith of the sick person. The problem today is that faith is misplaced in a so-called healer who has no power to heal. The deceiver and counterfeiter is happy to step in (Matthew 7:21-23).

The greatest and only eternal miracle is that of a soul being saved through faith in Jesus Christ. That is the greatest expression of God’s glory on earth. Every person that Jesus healed while He walked this earth died bodily long ago so bodily healing is not eternally important. However, every person who came to faith in Jesus Christ lives forever.

If Jesus did many mighty works regardless of the attitude of people, they might see no reason to question their relationship with Him.

Miracles may point a person to Jesus Christ but when people desire a miracle for selfish reasons without seeking the Giver the giving of it would only confirm them in a kind of superstitious concept of God. We are “of good cheer” and rejoice because our sins are forgiven and our “names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

Claiming Deity

“The Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.’” (Matthew 9:6)

When Jesus told the paralytic man that his sins forgiven it would have raised quite a few eyebrows. The man and his four friends had come for physical healing but Jesus was not on earth as a medical Messiah. He came to save people from their sin and its consequences (John 1:29). Key to this occurring is people’s understanding of who He is.

The crowds often came to Jesus only for physical benefits and they missed out on the eternal gift that comes in Him through forgiveness of sin. The same is just as true today. This week a woman I spoke with rejected the existence of God on the basis that He hasn’t eradicated all the ills of mankind – hunger and disease being among them.

We can reflect on the surprise of the man and his friends when Jesus, without healing the man, told him that his sins where forgiven. Along with the scribes present (v 3) they would have understood that Jesus was attesting that He is God. They knew that only God is able to forgive sin.

The scribes, quick on the theology, immediately began whispering among themselves. They understood that Jesus was claiming deity for Himself. That is why they accused Him of blaspheme, and continued to do so until the cross.

Recently a Jehovah’s Witness spoke with me in the front yard and was more than surprised when I said that Jesus plainly revealed His deity on a number of occasions. They claim to believe that Jesus was a special created being similar to other angelic beings and with unique powers. They would have been with the scribes in accusing Jesus of blasphemy. The end of that belief was that they wanted Jesus crucified. Those who deny Jesus’ deity call Him a liar and a deceiver and therefore crucify Him afresh.

If Jesus is not God He could not forgive anyone’s sin. Since all sin is against God, only God can forgive sin. In stating this man’s sin as forgiven Jesus plainly claims deity for Himself and that is how the scribes interpreted it. Jesus did not attempt to correct their conclusion!

There are other occasions where the religious leaders of Israel interpreted what Jesus said as claiming deity (cf. John 5:18) and He made no attempt to correct them on those occasions either. This was the only true accusation they ever made against Jesus and the main reason they sought His death.

As evidence that He is God and therefore is able to forgive sin, Jesus then healed the man. This is how we should understand the physical healings by Jesus and Matthew records several healings immediately following for our benefit. Miracles are so that people would know that He is God and has power to forgive sin.