“The ultimate purpose of reason is to bring us to the place where we see that there is a limit to reason.”
~ Blaise Pascal
“The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.”
~ Hubert H. Humphrey
“Righteousness and faith certainly are instrumental in healing the sick, deaf, or lame – if such healing accomplishes God’s purposes and is in accordance with His will. Thus, even with strong faith, many mountains will not be moved. And not all of the sick and infirm will be healed.”
~ David A. Bednar
“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”
~ Marianne Williamson.
Disclaimer: This post is written for a Christian audience, and may be challenging for those adhering to a different worldview.
Ever been hurt? Consider the following questions:
- How many of us are broken and need healing in some aspect of our lives at one time or another?
- How many of us struggle to heal without success?
- How many of us abandon any hope for our healing, and accept a permanent reality of brokenness?
In response to the first question, addressing it from the perspective of a professed Christian, I would suggest that we are all broken to some degree—the circumstances of living in a world of sin. Moreover, I would assert that at some point in most of our lives we have suffered through immense pain and utter brokenness. When considering the second question, I would have to believe that most of us try—at least initially—to find means of healing when we view ourselves as being damaged or broken. And if we are individuals who respond to the third question in the affirmative, then we are probably resting in a self-perceived, inescapable despair…
For any of us who are currently residing in such a state of despair, the following scripture should come as a comfort and provide impetus for restoring hope:
The Paralytic Healed
1 When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. 4 Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. 5 And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mark 2:1-12, NASB)
The above scripture shares many biblical truths that are often disregarded when Christians encounter similar circumstances in this present age—the Information Age. Thus, before providing my thoughts on how this scripture encourages hope for those seeking healing, I believe it is necessary to first acknowledge some pervasive aspects of our culture that work against our acceptance and practice of what shall be shared.
OUR CULTURE WORKING AGAINST US
There is this common notion of completely separating the secular from the sacred in our culture—this includes contemporary Christian culture. While in some respects this separation is appropriate, we seem—at least in my opinion—to take this schism of the secular and sacred too far in practical application. Let me elaborate…
When we consider certain environments of our lives as secular, we are more likely to make our decisions from an unrealistic belief in the inerrancy of scientific truth, without any explicit consideration given to biblical truth. Then, when we make decisions in environments that we consider to be sacred, we refer to scripture—though, often in an a la carte manner. We establish a self-manipulated perspective of our Lord that allows us to follow secular, social norms that do not adhere to biblical standards of living. In other words, we are guilty of both compartmentalizing and marginalizing Christ within our lives.
It seems that too many of us treat Christ as a filler for that which we consider, thus far, to be inadequately explained by science. Basically, as science claims to become more and more definitive, many professed Christians appear to be living in a manner that suggests a decreasing emphasis on actually following Christ. Relatedly, there also seems to be an increasing number of people who fail to believe in the supernatural. An ever-growing number of people seem to view God, the devil, heaven, and hell as ancient, man-made fabrications—socially constructed explanations for previously unexplainable phenomena. Such logic goes as follows: If one is unable to understand something and not having an explanation makes him or her uncomfortable, then attribute it to a god or gods…
The irony is that our society is definitely creating a false god to whom an increasing level of influence and power is being attributed. That false god: scientific rationalism.
Before continuing into how science has become a false idol for our society, I believe it is essential that I provide a bit more context regarding both my background and the relationship I see between science and Christianity.
My background. While this may come as a surprise to many, considering that only a moment ago I referred to scientific rationalism as a false god (i.e. idol), I am currently a fourth-year doctoral student—a Ph.D. candidate. Before entering into my doctoral studies, I received a strong secondary education in Massachusetts, an undergraduate degree from a university in Virginia, and two master degrees from a university in Ohio. I have also spent eight years mostly working in corporate America within the telecommunications, insurance, and healthcare industries.
Regarding my faith, I believe that I came to Christ when I was four. Throughout my life I have been a practicing Christian, and I would like to believe that I have matured in my faith over the years. By no means would I consider myself perfect—not even close. I have, however, become much more focused on developing a more accurate understanding of Christ’s character since my mid-twenties; seeking healthier relationship with my Lord, and healthier relationships with others—loving relationships. To me, this is a wise pursuit.
23 Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NASB).
Furthering such understanding of my Lord and continuing to pursue relational growth with Him and others will be a life-long pursuit for me…
It is from these two aspects of my background—my education and my faith—that I believe helps me see an invasive and inappropriate application of science (e.g. research findings) within our cultural practices.
My perceived relationship between science and Christianity. Where some individuals may view science and religion as diametrically opposed to one another, I disagree. Scientific inquiry is not antithetical to Christianity, or vice versa. Nor, do I perceive scientific inquiry to be a worthless endeavor—or why would I be pursuing my doctorate in philosophy? Research, when done well, is an effective tool for developing a better understanding of the world around us. I do, however, exhibit concern for what seems to be a dominant ideological perspective in our society that research-based knowledge can be applied as absolute truth.
As a Christian, I view Jesus Christ to be the Truth manifest—the Living Word. The best research studies that I have read in the social sciences nearly always concur with biblical foundations for living. When I refer to “best research studies,” I am referring to studies that use proper research designs and samples for addressing their research questions—many do not. In situations where there are conflicts between biblical teaching and worldly teaching, I defer to biblical teaching. This has always served me well, even when friends and/or colleagues have initially disagreed with my decisions that were based on such deference.
What humors me is that many of these individuals will suggest that I am being ignorant or naïve, and need to follow more contemporary processes for pursuing knowledge and wisdom. Yet, while the names change, the predominant processes for pursuing knowledge and wisdom—regardless of whether you are religious—have mostly remained the same for thousands of years. For example, the foundations for the field of psychology, one of which is Greek Stoicism, existed before the birth of Christ. In his letters to the early Christian churches, the apostle Paul often provides clarifications of where Christianity differs from stoic thought to assist many of the Gentile converts (many of which came from Hellenic backgrounds).
An argument could easily be made that our society has never really changed its processes for engaging in philosophical thought, other than becoming more focused on supporting these philosophical assumptions with statistics—a prominent source for half-truths.
FOCUSING ON HALF-TRUTHS AS WHOLE TRUTHS
As Christians, rather than living with faith and obedience to the Word of God, my concern is that we are becoming more prone to making our decisions solely from current research findings. Too often, it seems as though we are habitually and incorrectly attributing an absolutist understanding to the most recent research findings that we hear about in the media or read online.
For example, is faith in Christ diminishing in our culture? It sure appears to be when you look at the numbers! According to a 2014 Pew Research survey, 70.6 percent of Americans identify as Christian—down nearly eight percent from a 2007 version of the same survey. Additionally, in the past five years, 40 percent of American marriages were religiously-mixed—an increase of 20 percent since 1960. Such marriage practices conflict with biblical teaching; suggesting that the behaviors of many professed Christians fail to align with commonly-accepted understandings of scripture.
The data as depicted above can be discouraging for practicing Christians. Data, however, can be presented from multiple, and often opposing perspectives; depending on the message that is intended to be communicated. As the well-known saying attributed to Mark Twain goes, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
For instance, maybe the data is actually communicating that more people who fail to actually practice the Christian faith are no longer claiming to be Christian solely from their cultural upbringing. Maybe, the data on mixed-religion marriages demonstrates a greater presence of other religions being practiced in the United States. Possibly, the increase involves marriages where neither individual is a practicing Christian. Without knowing how the research defines being Christian, the methods being used to collect the data, and numerous other aspects of the study; the finding could be positioned to communicate many things. Without fully understanding research comprehensively, there should be hesitancy in coming to any definitive conclusions based on its data.
Furthermore, from my doctoral studies I have come to learn that there is no such thing as a perfect study. All studies have limitations, which means that all data has limitations in how it can be interpreted. Usually, as already stated, the data is presented in a manner that would best present the story of the researcher who conducted it. While many researchers from a quantitative research (i.e. positivistic) background claim to conduct objective research, there is absolutely no way that human beings can completely eliminate their personal subjectivities from either their data collection or their interpretation of that data once collected.
When mass media (news, website, etc.) presents recent research findings, it typically does so superficially. The most interesting aspect of a study—whether a unique way to capture data or its findings—are presented without proper context. Such media presentations of research findings often suggest that what was found is a definitive truth; though, typically, most research designs are only capable of supporting hypotheses—not proving them. Moreover, most research designs are incapable of proving causation (i.e. that one thing explicitly causes an effect upon another thing). Yet, many studies will hypothesize such effects, and will suggest that their research findings support the likelihood (i.e. does not prove) that some causation effect exists. Rarely will a media outlet share limitations of the studies’ findings it shares—why would it want to diminish the intrigue and sensationalism that it is intending to create?
We are exposed to thousands of messages every day. A number of these messages will assuredly start with the phrase “studies have shown,” or something similar. Such messages are nearly always half-truths, typically positioned as a call-to-action by marketers for us (as potential consumers) to purchase their employers’ products or services. Marketers position messages with favorably-positioned research findings because they are highly influencing. Sometimes, at worst, I would argue that these messages are intentionally deceiving. For half-truths are inherently deceiving by nature. It is for this reason that I believe the devil often uses half-truths in his deceptions.
Blindly embracing the devil’s work. I believe that the devil uses half-truths because they are such a versatile tool for deceiving others. Half-truths are effective at encouraging individuals to engage in foolish behavior with the belief that they are making an informed decision. In other applications, they can discourage appropriate action by creating the perception that a situation is more complex than it is in actuality.
To the devil, I have to believe that how someone is deceived is inconsequential—that his sole objective is to use his deceptions to lead individuals away from Christ. Paul warns the church in Corinth that he is concerned about fellow believers being deceived; distracting them from hearing and acting upon the gospel message:
3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent [representing the devil] deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).
This caution is repeatedly emphasized within the bible. Scripture repeatedly communicates the need to beware deceptions—including false idols (such as worldly knowledge)—for they lead us away from Christ and salvation:
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:8, NASB).
20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”— 21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you (1 Timothy 6:20-21, NASB).
16 Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods [e.g. science] and worship them [it] (Deuteronomy 11:16, NASB).
In fact, false idols are such a powerful means of deception that the first commandment (Exodus 20:3-4; Deuteronomy 5:7-8) states that people should worship no other gods (i.e. false idols) except Him (God).
And why do false idols serve as such powerful means of deception? Because they lead us to place our faith in them. This type of faith is a dangerous and deadly faith. It is a misplaced faith…
FLOUNDERING IN A MISPLACED FAITH
When Paul writes to the early churches, he knows all too well about pursuing false idols from his own experiences. Remember, prior to his conversion to Christianity on Damascus road, Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus. At the time, Tarsus was a center for trade and known for its educational excellence, much like Boston is today. An apprentice of Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), he was a well-educated Pharisee. He came from privilege, and was from the tribe of Benjamin (the kingly tribe). His father before him had been a Pharisee, and a Roman citizen—so too was Paul.
Saul was ambitious and extremely zealous of Judaism. Before his conversion, he considered the teachings of Jesus to be blasphemy—a threat to true Judaism. Saul had left Jerusalem for Damascus as an enemy of the Christian faith—on a mission to persecute Christians. Many Christians were killed from these persecutions. Saul’s faith was in the Law, but not in God. He had accepted an extremely damning half-truth. Saul thought that the Jewish religious leaders of that time (he being one) had a complete understanding of God’s Will through the Law. With his impressive education, which set him apart from most of the people from his time, he focused on rules rather than relationship. This mindset led him to commit egregious acts of great evil on others.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Paul—after converting to Christianity—warns his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ not to consider themselves wiser than God:
18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” 21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God (1 Corinthians 3:18-23, NASB).
The above excerpt from his second letter to the Corinthians could easily sum up Paul’s own experience. Receiving the best education possible from both the Gentile and Jewish cultures, Paul is uniquely equipped to serve as a conduit of the Gospel to the Gentiles. He first, however, had to be humbled by Jesus on Damascus road—made physically blind to mirror his spiritual blindness. Once his physical sight is restored, Paul’s eyes are also opened spiritually.
While I have long been under the impression that Saul began going by the Greek translation of his name (Paul) to reflect his missionary focus towards the Gentiles, I recently learned that there could be other reasons. Recently, I learned that the Hebrew version of his name (Saul) means “desired,” while the Roman version of his name (Paul) means “little.” I now think that while he was an ambitious and zealous man that desired to know God (Saul), he was humbled upon meeting Christ (Paul). There could have also been a literal element towards his name change. Tradition has it that Paul was a short man—some documents suggesting that he was only four and one-half feet in height. No longer focused on his own ambitions, and now seeing himself in a much less honoring light, he possibly embraced the more humbling translation of his name.
The great stumbling blocks for Saul were his education and influence. After his conversion, Paul’s education and influence served to share the gospel throughout the Roman empire. Where his education and ability to influence were once personal idols, he came to see them as resources for spreading the gospel; bringing glory to God. Once his faith was properly placed in Christ, Paul was able to achieve more than he could have ever imagined—it all being for the Lord.
Saul’s stumbling blocks are the same stumbling blocks for many well-educated individuals in our time. Frequently, when people identify themselves based on their education and influence, they become arrogant, prideful, and unloving. They possess selfish ambitions, and can become jealous of those that achieve what they desire.
From my perspective, worldly wisdom is more about the accumulation of knowledge and power, while the wisdom of God encourages humility and love.
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith (Romans 12:1-3, NASB).
Our wisdom should not come from the world, but from above
13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:13-18, NASB).
And such wisdom comes from faith in Christ; trusting in God.
1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; 2 For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. 3 Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones (Proverbs 3:1-8, NASB).
Yet, we continue to put our faith in new technologies, medicines, therapies, and methods to solve our problems.
23 and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery (Revelation 18:23).
That is the challenge with rationalizing solely from a “scientific” mind. The supernatural is excluded from the thought process. Since there is no way to prove or verify the supernatural, most people who would consider themselves to be scientists ignore its existence or its possible importance to our lives in this world. They deem it illogical to include supernatural considerations. And with society’s increasing adherence to research using big data, logic is now being narrowly positioned as statistical probabilities of behaviors and outcomes. The words of Blaise Pascal share my thoughts on scientific reasoning well, which consequently illustrates my concern regarding this cultural development:
“The ultimate purpose of reason is to bring us to the place where we see that there is a limit to reason.”
Consider the Health and Wellness industries. Living in a society where there is a diminishing belief in the supernatural, many of us attempt to improve our health or find healing by implementing what are solely secular (i.e. physical) approaches. Rarely will individuals consider how their spiritual health is affecting his or her physical health. This begs the question…
WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SHARE ABOUT HEALING?
We can now examine the story of The Paralytic Healed (Mark 2:1-12) and its message about healing.
The Paralytic Healed
1 When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. 4 Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. 5 And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mark 2:1-12, NASB).
There are three essential aspects about healing that this bible story shares with us:
(1) There is a relationship between the physical and the supernatural. While many in our society do not even believe there is a supernatural world, during biblical times, it was a common belief that the supernatural world had significant influence on the physical world.
From an extremely broad perspective of illness and disability, scripture states that original sin (Genesis 8:21; 6:5-8) is the cause for death; therefore, all illness and disabilities are made possible due to the presence of sin.
There are numerous places in scripture that support the possibility that illness and disability can be caused by sin:
17 But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai (Genesis 12:17).
26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).
12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. 14 You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor will any of your livestock be without young. 15 The Lord will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you. 16 You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you (Deuteronomy 7:12-16).
15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you (Deuteronomy 28:15).
20 The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. 21 The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. 22 The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. 23 The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. 24 The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed (Deuteronomy 28:20-24).
58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God— 59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. 60 He will bring on you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you (Deuteronomy 28:58-60).
Further, many Jews in Jesus’ time believed that disabilities and illnesses were a direct consequence of an individual’s sin (Daniel 4:10-37), or the sin of the individual’s parents (2 Samuel 12:14-31). The book of Job, however, is a caution for us not to make assumptions over whose (if anyone’s) sin causes an individual’s illness or disability. Jesus reinforces this caution in Job’s story when responding to His apostles. In responding to a question regarding the source of a man’s illness, he tells them that not all illnesses or disabilities are caused by specific sins—and that some may be allowed by God for purposes only known to Him:
1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-3).
And when healing the paralytic, He makes sure to highlight the relationship between the physical and spiritual (supernatural) worlds when he says:
9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home” (Mark 2:9-11, NASB).
In doing so, he immediately refutes claims of blasphemy from Pharisees who believed that sin was the cause of illness. How could He cure the illness, then, without forgiving the sin?
Also, in making this statement during the healing of the paralytic, Jesus conveys an important message about authority…
(2) Christ is an authority over heaven and earth. The reason for stating that Jesus is an authority rather than the authority is only to denote that He defers to God the Father. That being said, as Christians, we should know that “…[we] belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God (1 Corinthians 3:18-23, NASB).”
Consider the following scripture from the book of Hebrews:
1 In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; 2 in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, 3 who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word. When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs…
Exhortation to Faithfulness. 1 Therefore, we must attend all the more to what we have heard, so that we may not be carried away. 2 For if the word announced through angels proved firm, and every transgression and disobedience received its just recompense, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? Announced originally through the Lord, it was confirmed for us by those who had heard. 4 God added his testimony by signs, wonders, various acts of power, and distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his will.
Exaltation Through Abasement. 5 For it was not to angels that he subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 Instead, someone has testified somewhere:
“What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, 8 subjecting all things under his feet.”
In “subjecting” all things [to him], he left nothing not “subject to him.” Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,” 9 but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death, he who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,” that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:1-9, NABRE).
The matter of Jesus’ authority arises numerous times in the New Testament, as it was something that was regularly challenged by the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33, 12:13-17). From a rationalistic perspective of earthly authority, these religious leaders can be seen as having a valid argument.
From what I know, Jesus did not have any formal training. He is a carpenter from Galilee—coming from a lowly trade and a rural area of no religious repute. Further, he speaks as the authority on matters of faith; whereas, rabbis are speaking on behalf of God based on the Law—not as God. Yet, the supernatural follows Jesus in all He says and does. Thus, they believe themselves justified in questioning WHO has given Him this authority? The answer is obvious when you consider the nature of Jesus’ miracles…
Jesus extricates demons from those possessed (Matthew 8:28-34, 15:21-28; Mark 5:1-20, 7:24-30; Luke 8:26-29). He heals the sick (Matthew 14:14), blind (Matthew 9:27-31; John 9:1-12), deaf and mute (Mark 7:31-37) and crippled (John 5:1-13). Jesus even granted authority (through His authority) for his disciples to exorcise demons and heal the sick (Matthew 6:7). What do many of the scribes and Pharisees determine? They conclude that He is a blasphemer who has demonic powers! Really? Come on now…
Jesus’ life fulfills all the prophecies within scripture! The fear these religious leaders had of being wrong made them blind to the obvious Truth. Furthermore, Jesus’ actions were done with love and mercy. Why would demons show love and mercy? As Jesus says:
31… “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32, NASB).
Which brings us to the final and most important aspect about healing that we can derive from the paralytic’s story…
(3) Healing comes from a properly placed faith in Christ. Jesus never spoke to the paralytic before healing him. He saw the faith of those that helped him come down through the roof and showed mercy…
And consider, whose roof were these individuals tearing apart? It most likely was Jesus’ home or that of one of His followers (possibly Mark). Therefore, they were most likely destroying the roof of the person from whom they were seeking help. These people had more than faith in His ability to heal, but also in His character—His goodness and mercy. They had faith in His compassion:
27 All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:27-30, NASB).
Furthermore, I would have to believe that these roof wreckers understood that Jesus was not concerned with the earthly (temporal), but the eternal. I suspect they recognized Him as the Lord, their Messiah. Assuming these men were Jewish, they were most likely well-versed in the Torah and Old Testament scriptures. Could they have seen the connection between Jesus and the healing Lord constantly referenced within the Old Testament? Consider the below samplings of scripture from the Old Testament that I believe allude to the authority of Christ, and His ability to heal:
26 And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer” (Exodus 15:26, NASB).
10 ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand‘ (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)!
14 Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise (Jeremiah 17:14, NASB).
2 O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me (Psalm 30:2).
19 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. 20 He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. 21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men (Psalm 107:19-21, NASB).
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5, NASB).
And while Christ is currently at the right hand of the Father, He still has authority and dominion over sin and death—He is still, and always will be, the source for true healing. After His ascension, the disciples consistently reinforce this message:
14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; (James 5:14, NASB).
Though, it is important to realize that true faith manifests itself in our actions. With true faith, our actions should be to serve as Christ’s ambassador, to love as He loved, regardless of any temporal suffering:
21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed (1 Peter 2:21-24, NASB).
And how does that love manifest itself in our work? We should see our work produce fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-26). Like the roof wreckers, who—out of love for their paralyzed friend and their faith in Christ—took unrelenting actions to have their friend in the presence of Christ, we are to do the same. And that type of love can only be enacted with Christ abiding in us—a love that is only possible through a real faith:
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:1-11, NASB).
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS AND APPLICATION
I believe that the themes of authority, power, and love are necessary ones to understand if we are to truly comprehend the Gospel. We must acknowledge that we cannot depend on ourselves, nor can we depend on others. Neither can we depend on worldly wisdom to properly address eternal matters. There is, however, one thing we can do. We can have faith in Christ’s authority, power, and love. Much like the story of the paralytic healed, the story of the Centurion and his Servant highlights Christ’s authority and power, and His willingness to heal others for those of faith with compassionate mercy and love:
5 And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, 6 and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” 7 Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment (Matthew 8:5-13).
What most draws my attention within this biblical event, is that the centurion seeks out Jesus on behalf of his servant. He was not seeking his own healing, but rather the healing of one under his authority. Yet, he recognizes that Jesus has greater authority, and acknowledges that he is not deserving of Jesus’ love. The reality is that none of us are deserving of His love, but that He gives it to us nonetheless:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB).
Thus, we CAN and MUST depend on Christ, and we can look to others who faithfully serve as Christ’s ambassadors. We should humbly acknowledge that Christ holds all authority and dominion on heaven and on earth, which means that He has the power to do as He sees right from His perfect wisdom; though, not necessarily as how we see things being right. Revisiting the 15th chapter of John, consider the below verse:
7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7, NASB).
There have been many occasions where I have heard others interpret the above verse incorrectly; its message completely out of context. The message, however, is simple. Given that our Lord has all authority and power, whatever He desires to occur will occur. Thus, the more our desires reflect His desires, the more often we will see our desires become reality. That desire should be the glorification of God. This should bring us joy.
Personally, I do not believe that abiding in His Word means that we will necessarily find ourselves in a life of comfort. We may be blessed in that manner—we may not. What I do think this message is communicating on a broader level is that we will be at peace if we trust in His eternal plan. We can trust that He will meet our needs (Philippians 4:19).
But what are our needs? I would suggest that our needs are eternal, not temporal. While we can only see in a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12) in this life, we can trust in God’s Word to assure us that He is in control of that which we cannot yet see.
And regarding our healing? I believe that He does heal those that have faith in Him. That healing is always spiritual, and sometimes physical (if it be His will). Though, sometimes, that healing may not be instantaneous. I trust that God has His reasons…
Sometimes, even with faith, I think that we need to live in it. As stated earlier, our society encourages us to marginalize and compartmentalize God in our lives. If we do not surrender all to Him, then we are leaving the devil an aspect of our life to strategically attack.
That may mean that we are not forgiving others who we need to forgive out of love (as Christ forgave us). Maybe we have not forgiven ourselves for something that we have done (If Christ forgives us, then we can forgive ourselves). Maybe we are not willing to repent of sinful behavior. There are many ways in how we can choose to resist our Lord’s love and compassionate–and subsequently, healing and peace.
And sometimes I think it is as simple as earnestly taking our requests to Him, rather than attempting to fix the situation using worldly means. For, as Pascal suggests, rationalization only goes so far. When it comes to Christ, we must accept His Word on faith…
But I can assure you that behaving from a worldly logic that refutes the need for God will never truly heal. It only, at best, delays death.
What ultimately matters is not the temporal health of our body, but the eternal health of our soul.
And we can rest in JOY with a healthy soul when we rest in Him.