So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” – John 11:14-15
Healing the sick throws the body of Christ into more turmoil than most other doctrines. At the moment, we are sensing the Lord is calling us to go out and heal more people in his name, and he is building our faith to do so. That’s quite a challenge for someone with a reformed background.
This is a beautiful story, and we must read it several times to uncover its richness. Listen and see Jesus’ interaction with his audience, and wonder. Why did he weep, why did he feel such anger?
It is a Messianic miracle, as Jews ascribed to the belief that a Spirit remained in the body for 3 days, and so thereafter only God could call someone back from the dead; it was also a mirror of what was shortly to come in his own life – who would call him back? Right at the end, as throughout John’s Gospel, there is a beautiful prayer where Jesus again emphasises his unity with the Father. We may have read it a hundred times, but it is full of loveliness and character. God interacting with humanity, even in death, preparing his Son whom he loves.
But friends, behind this is a challenge to us believers. It is undeniable that as believers we are called to heal the sick and display the power of God, for then the unbelieving world will know the truth and as our Lord says here, “really believe.”
Last weekend we spent our Sunday with a few such people. These are people who struggle desperately. Addictions seem to hold them in complete bondage, or mental illness, depression, drugs, gambling. Most walk on a knife edge, never quite knowing what tomorrow holds. They live in physical darkness – literally, in little apartments in a housing block, with no light and a few fag-end cigarettes for company.
One such couple – Trevor and Jane shall we call them, have been in union for a long time. He is an alcoholic who abuses marijuana, but sadly such a deadly combination abuses him back. She sits quietly waiting for him to settle, while we try to pray with him. She, a schizophrenic who is so medicated as to be almost non-compus mentis, occasionally provides us with a glimpse of the devil who resides in her. I don’t think we have seen them both in a ‘normal’ state since we met them.
Yet into this world God has called our little gathering, and we are meeting many others along the way. It is an unsettling world to be honest, far removed from the comfort of white middle-class Australia, even dangerous at times. A few weeks ago, a daughter who was so sick of the blackness, stabbed her mother almost to death in their apartment.
So what do we do? We pray, we hold Discovery Bible studies we just join with them. Yet we think the Lord wants to do much more. He wants to set them free, once and for all.
You see friends, for too long our faith has been defined by the 4 walls of a church, away from the mad and hurting world. For too long, we have mixed only with like-minded believers, who themselves have been healed and cleaned up (or were never sick in the first place). For too long we have sat and listened, and been fattened and fed and in the process have become too inactive. But you can read your Bible upside down, or back to front and you will find that this is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Neither is it the Gospel of the China church, or the Indonesian church, or the Syrian church or the Iranian church; it is not the church of active, healthy Christians who believe that a large part of the Gospel is the power of God on display. Is Bible Study not important? Of course it is vital to saturate ourselves with the Word. Is gathering together important? Absolutely.
But Jesus tells us through all four Gospels, that people will believe because of the miraculous. Paul reiterates that theme constantly, while building on the foundation setup by Christ. The other apostles all say the same thing; the China church was built on the astonishment of ordinary people, to the miraculous power of God. Millions of Muslims are coming to Christ through such displays. We must believe that he wants to continue to do that today, in your lives and in mine. He is not the blockage friends, we are.
So, Jesus calls us, our tiny group to brace ourselves for war. He wants us to walk as light into the darkness and make the lame to walk, the blind to see and to set the captives free. We must have the faith to do it in his name.
Does it raise lots of questions, yes of course. Is it much, much more unpredictable than living Jesus out through the four walls, absolutely. But, it is what he wants, I am convinced. His conviction in us will not go away.
We’ll keep you updated. In the meantime though, what about you? Let us each of us, take him at his word and do what he tells us.