given on Sunday, October 20, 2013
Jesus began his ministry reaching out to the people walking right beside him along the road. The Sermon on the Mount set the foundation for his teaching, preaching, and healing. Certainly Jesus had to teach his followers how to shift from living under the Old Covenant to living under the New Covenant. He had to teach them what the New Covenant was, and he had to prepare them for the journey ahead.
The Sermon on the Mount is the first formal account of the teaching process, and it shifted to preaching as the crowd beyond his Apostles grew on the mountainside. The curious, the Jews, the Gentiles, the wealthy, the poor, the craftsmen, the sick, the possessed, even the Pharisees were all crowded around listening.
Why did Jesus need to heal the sick, the possessed, and even the dead? Why did Jesus perform miracles? He already had this huge following and it was growing daily. Why the healing and the miracles?
Beginning this study of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 4:23 introduces the story:
Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.
That verse lists the three different methods Jesus used—teaching, preaching, and healing. The study notes from the Life Application Bible spelled out the purposes of each one:
Teaching shows Jesus’ concern for understanding, preaching shows his concern for commitment; and healing shows his concern for wholeness. His miracles of healing authenticated his teaching and preaching, proving that he truly was from God. (p.1651)
The healing had two purposes. First he wanted to make sure that each one was whole—mentally and physically. The healing made sure that those who believed were capable of living full lives demonstrating the Christian lifestyle that God wanted for his children.
The second purpose is to provide the new followers evidence of God’s power. The people needed to see the work that Jesus could do in order to believe he was God. The healings were instant, they were miracles that man alone could not perform.
The miracles begin with Matthew 8 as Jesus heals a leper:
8 Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. 2 Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
3 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”
Leprosy was a disease that ostracized the person from the community being forced to live with other lepers in a separate community. There was no hope, no return to one’s family or community. The lepers were left alone to die alone.
The fact that Jesus reached out and touched the leper was completely unexpected. The scripture tell us that the healing occurred immediately. The leper was told to go to the priest so he could see that he was cured or clean of leprosy, which was required by the Law of Moses, aka the Old Covenant.
The miracle cure of leprosy was clearly an example of how faith cured the man, but more importantly the healing bridged the gap between the people and the priests as well as between the priests and Jesus. The healing made the man whole and it provided evidence that Jesus was God.
The list of Jesus’ healings and miracles is sprinkled throughout the New Testament. The four gospels include the stories, but even the earliest disciples performed healings and/or miracles:
- Acts 2:22, 43—Peter explains the miracles:
- 22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene[a] by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.
- 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
- Acts 19:11-12—Paul is accredited to have performed miracles, too:
- 11 God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. 12 When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled.
- Acts 19:13-14–goes on to explain that the Jews who had been driving out evil spirits couldn’t:
- 13 A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. 15 But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.
- Romans 15:17-19—Paul is ministering to the Gentiles of Rome
- 17 So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. 18 Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. 19 They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit.[a] In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.
Paul’s letters to the Corinthians adds more understanding to why miracles were performed:
- I Corinthians 1:22—who needed to see miracles
- 18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”[a] 20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.
- I Corinthians 12:10—spiritual gifts include miracles
- 7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. 8 To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice[a]; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.[b] 9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages,[c] while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
- II Corinthians 12:12—Paul explains what apostles can do
- 12 When I was with you, I certainly gave you proof that I am an apostle. For I patiently did many signs and wonders and miracles among you.
As Paul’s ministry continues, his letters to the new churches continue to explain the power of God and how Jesus was sent to teach, preach and heal those who determine to live the Christian life. He explains how the Holy Spirit is the power of God within each of us. The Holy Spirit fuels the spiritual gifts within us.
- Galatians 3:5—the Holy Spirit works through us to perform miracles:
- 5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.
- 14 Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised[a] Holy Spirit through faith.
The fact that the New Testament has references to healing and miracles in various situations, the closing discussion of why did Jesus perform healings and miracles must center on each one of us individually. The cynics of 2013 continue to discount the stories of God’s miracles. The years that have separated Jesus and his disciples and us have caused us to waiver in our belief. We doubt miracles. We become suspicious of healings that seem to have no explanation. Paul was prepared for this and sent out a warning about this in Hebrews.
- Hebrew 2:1-4—gifts of the Holy Spirit
- 2 So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4 And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose.
Why did Jesus heal? Why did Jesus perform miracles? Healing was to assure that people were healthy or whole. If a follower was not whole, how could he focus on Jesus’ teachings? How could he stay God-centered or be able to live a faithful, productive life? The miracles, the instant healings, the water turned into wine, Lazarus brought back to life all provided authenticity to Jesus claim to be God on earth. Only God could do that, Jesus was man and God.
In our world right now, do we need proof that God is real? Jesus knew we needed evidence that God is in control. Jesus demonstrated God’s love right on earth in front of others, and the word of his work and his compassion spread. Are we able to spread the word with confidence? Are we able to see how God works through the spiritual gifts of each and every one of his children? Can we accept our own gifts and work for the glory of God?
Remember the words of the hymn, “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy,” may it be our closing prayer:
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
full of pity, love, and power.
Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
true belief and true repentance,
every grace that brings you nigh.
Come ye weary, heavy laden,
lost and ruined by the fall;
if you tarry till you’re better,
you will never come at all.
Let not conscience make you linger,
nor of fitness fondly dream;
all the fitness he requireth
is to feel your need of him.
I will arise and go to Jesus;
he will embrace me with his arms;
in the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms. (or miracles)