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Jesus Christ Heals and Saves

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Fellow believers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

            We have a practise of house visiting by elders here in Trinity.  An elder goes to each household in the congregation to see how you are growing in your faith and to encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

            Believers did a similar thing in the early church.  The apostle Peter headed out from Jerusalem to visit the saints, the believers around the country to see how they are growing in their faith and to encourage them in their walk with the Lord.  He met with families and groups of believers.  You might say he was a church visitor.

            There are three stops on this trip that Luke describes in Acts.  The most famous and controversial was the stop in Caesarea.  Peter stayed and preached in the household of a centurion even though he was Roman.  This visit sparked a long debate about whether Jesus was the Saviour of Jews only, or if he was the Saviour of Gentiles too.

            But I don’t want you to overlook the earlier stops in Lydda and Joppa – cities on the western part of the land of Judah. 

            In Lydda there was a paralysed man who couldn’t move for eight years.  Luke tells of the miracle very simply.  Peter said: “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you.  Get up and take care of your mat.”

            Peter made it clear that he did not do the miracle.  It is Jesus who heals.  The risen and ascended Lord heals this man. 

            The story is similar to the time Jesus healed the paralysed man in the house.  Remember the four friends lowering him, from Luke 5:17 – 26?

            In both situations, the healing demonstrated that Jesus Christ is Lord.  It reveals that Jesus Christ has power and authority and the ability to make people well. 

            Jesus’ authority to heal paralysis shows his ability to forgive.  In Luke 5 these abilities are directly related – he healed the man to demonstrate the power of his words.  With his word, Jesus could both forgive and heal.

            In Acts 9, Jesus heals even though he is not physically present.  He is there through his servant – his messenger – the apostle Peter, and news got out about this miraculous sign.  Peter speaks the Word of the Lord and the paralysed man is made well.

            You’d be surprised about the stir this caused.  Lydda isn’t a big place.  It’s the sort of place where you’d notice if a neighbour was paralysed.  You’d notice if that paralysed man could walk again too. 

            It stirred up a lot of curiosity about Peter, about Jesus, and about the gospel message that Peter was bringing.  With the interest of the whole town, piqued, Peter could bring his message.  Peter spoke the Word of the Lord and many people turned to the Lord and their sins were forgiven.  . 

            News like this travels.  Nearby in Joppa, the church was really shaken when one of their members passed away.  Remember, this was relatively soon after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  The believers expected Jesus to return quite soon.  It was very disturbing for a believer to die before Christ returned.  What does this mean for the new life she has in Jesus?

            But that is what happened.  Tabitha (AKA Dorcas) passed away.  It caused questions and problems, for everyone knew of her faith and her generosity to people in need.  You know the kind of person – she always has something on the go for other people.  Especially before department stores this kind of help was appreciated, because you couldn’t pick up good clothes just anywhere.  It took time, thought, and kindness to make clothes for others.

            Naturally, her death shook up the whole community, especially the church community.  You know how that goes too.  A “good” person’s sudden death creates lots of questions and grief.  So the saints sent two men to Lydda to see if Peter would come.  He could make sense of this – perhaps do more.

            Here too, Peter imitated Jesus.  Do you remember when Jairus came and asked Jesus to see his sick daughter?[1]  Because of delays on the way, the girl died before Jesus arrived.  Only her parents, Peter, James and John witnessed the miracle that followed because Jesus sent everyone else out of the house.  There are similarities between what Jesus did, and what Peter did when he arrived at the house where Tabitha’s body has been laid out.

            He sent the widows and mourners out, just as Jesus had done.  Alone with Tabitha, Peter prayed.  Then he turned toward the woman and said, “Tabitha, get up.”  Peter echoes Jesus’ command to Jairus’ daughter, and God gives renewed life in both situations. It is another miracle, another sign of Jesus’ power on earth through his apostles and messengers.

            This news also travelled around the whole seaport of Joppa.  Such power and healing came from Christ through Peter.  It demonstrated that Jesus is the Lord of life with authority over death. 

            True, Tabitha would face death again.  But the whole community now knew that death is not the end, but that Jesus is Lord even over death.  Those who believe in Jesus live, even though they die.

            I’m sure this raises a question among some of you.  Why don’t we see these miracles today?  I’ve been working on this question for a while.  Someone asked me about it, and I’ve wrestled to put an answer together.  I can think of two responses: one part deals with the reason for such signs and wonders, the other addresses our ability to see.

Peter was very interested in proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection and the life we have in Christ.  The Holy Spirit empowered him to bring that good news with signs and miracles – tangible signs that people could see.  Just as for Jesus, these signs and wonders demonstrated the Holy Spirit’s presence and power.  It made the message of salvation tangible. 

I wonder if we have the same drive to share the good news that Peter did.  These signs and wonders accompany the messengers as they bring to good news and build up the kingdom.  Is something lacking in our efforts to share the good news?

I don’t like this thought, it doesn’t feel comfortable.  Yet I know from reading missionary accounts in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America in several different centuries that miracles and signs happen as people share the gospel.  God’s Word goes out with the power of the Spirit.  There is no magic formula, but God’s Spirit accompanies those who proclaim his Word.

But then I look at how we have prayed as a congregation for healing for different people. When you think about our prayers over the last number of years, we have seen miracles. 

Many people have experienced healing from injury or accidents.  We’ve had successful surgery for heart problems.  Many people receive medicine to help them breathe, digest food, and control diseases.  Much of the treatment has been successful.  Healthy children have been born and grown up.

  Perhaps we don’t see signs and miracles because we don’t recognize God’s hand in the answer to our prayers. C.S. Lewis talks about negative attitudes towards prayer when he writes:

If the thing [a person] prays for doesn’t happen, then that is one more proof that petitionary prayers don’t work; if it does happen, he will, of course be able to see some of the physical causes which led up to it, and therefore it would have happened anyway, and thus a granted prayer becomes just as good a proof as a denied one that prayers are ineffective.[2]

Does that happen to us?  Do we fail to recognize the Lord’s healing hand in the technology of medicine or the ordinariness of the way God answers our prayer?

            It happened in my family last weekend.  I’ve told some of you that my brother-in-law was in a bike accident.  He was doing a stunt and fell over backward.  When he fell he hurt his back and neck and the initial thought was that he had a spinal cord injury.

            When we heard, we prayed for healing.  Robin and I arrived at the hospital just as he was being discharged.  His back was badly bruised, and he had been numb for a while, but he regained feeling and only his wrist was broken. 

            After the emotions and adrenaline of hearing he was badly injured, this felt anticlimactic – almost a let down after being so concerned and pray for healing.  Yet in hindsight, it was an answer to prayer in a very ordinary way.

            Despite the miracles we’ve seen, we also recognize that our prayers are not always answered with miraculous healing.  Prayer is not like putting a quarter in a bubblegum machine.  God is not at our command, we are at his command.  Sometimes the Lord chooses not to heal. 

            Here we learn to trust God.  In his wisdom, the Spirit heals some and allows others to wrestle with sickness, yet he does not leave us alone.  Even in the death of someone we love, we experience the presence and care of our Lord, for we know that Jesus has power over death.

            Jesus has the power to heal and to give life – and he gives eternal life to all who believe.  Because Jesus is the risen and ascended Lord, we trust him, we believe him.  We profess our faith in Jesus even when his ways are difficult for us, even when we do not like his choices.  Our comfort, in life and in death is that we belong to our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.


[1] Luke 8:40-56

[2] The Screwtape Letters p. 137.

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