5. Scripture Testimonies, Part 2
One lesson more this poor sufferer must teach us: "Sin no more lest a worse thing come to you." Not always, yet often, such long and terrible disorders are the direct results of some course of sinful indulgence. Many a life today is impotent because of secret and youthful sin. There must, therefore, be a distinct recognition, confession, and repudiation of all sin, and the redeemed life must be pure and vigilant, if it would retain His sacred life. Each heart and conscience must answer for itself, and God's Spirit will make it very plain to all who desire to know that they may fully obey. But there is no touchstone so searching as this life of Christ, and there is no cord that binds the soul more sacredly on the Altar of holiness than "I am the Lord that heals you." This miracle should not be separated from the discourse which follows on the LIFE which Christ has come to give. It was just an illustration of that blessed life. Christ's healing is neither more nor less than His own Divine life breathed into us, quickening our impotent souls and bodies, and beginning the eternal life now. This is just what He teaches them here. "The Son quickens whom He will." "The hour is coming, and NOW IS, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and they that hear shall live."
THE MAN WITH THE WITHERED HAND. (Matt. 12: 10.)
This miracle was a repetition, in Galilee, of the bold lesson about healing on the Sabbath day, which Jesus had just given in Jerusalem, and healing of the impotent man at Bethesda. They both emphasize the same great principle respecting the freedom of the Sabbath, the sanctity of the body, and the sacredness of its cure.
They both also teach the same great lesson about the necessity of active and aggressive faith in order to receive Christ's healing power. This man was impotent, too, in his diseased hand. He had no power in himself to lift it. But he must, nonetheless, put forth an effort of will and an act of force; not as an attempt either, but in good faith and really expecting to accomplish it. And as he did so, the Divine power quietly and fully met his obedient cooperation, and carried him through into strength and victory. Thus faith must do the things we have no strength to do, and as it goes forward the new strength will come. The feet must step forward into the deep, and even touch the cold waters as they advance, but He will not fail. In passive waiting there can come no life or power from God. We must put our feet on the soil of Canaan, we must stretch forward our hands and take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever. The spider takes hold with her hands, and therefore is in kings' palaces. So many Christians have no hands. They have no grip in their fingers, no stamina in their will, no hold in their faith. Hear His voice, you listless ones. "STRETCH FORWARD YOUR HAND."
In his arguments with the Pharisees about this case, Jesus leaves no room to doubt the light in which He regards healing as connected with the will of God. He ridicules their prejudices against His healing a sufferer on the Sabbath, and claims the healing of this man, first on the grounds of simple humanity, as no more than any man would do for an ox or a sheep who had fallen into a pit, and secondly, on the ground of right; to do it is "to do good," "to save life;" not to do it is "to do evil," "to destroy" life. This does not look much like treating sickness as a great boon. And yet such gentle and merciful teachings only exasperated these wicked men; and, when they even see God's power vindicate His teachings, and the man stand forth healed before their eyes, they are filled with madness, and consult how they may destroy Him.
So prejudice still blinds men to the truth and love of God, and as much as ever, today, opposes Christ's healing ministry for the sake of doctrinal consistency.
THE WOMAN WITH THE SPIRIT OF INFIRMITY. (Luke 13: 10-20.)
This beautiful incident occurred a good deal later, but as it was one of Christ's Sabbath miracles, and comes in the same general class with those just referred to, supplementing and enforcing the same principles, we will introduce it here.
The nature of her disease. It was a case of helpless paralysis and deformity. She was bowed together, and could in no wise lift herself up. It was also of long standing. She had been eighteen years in this condition. It was, therefore, about as difficult a chronic case as could well be brought to the great Healer.
The cause of her disease. Here a ray of marvelously clear and keen light is thrown in not only upon her case, but upon the whole question of disease. The Lord distinctly declares that her troubles had come, not through natural causes, but direct personal agency, the agency of an evil spirit, that her very body is bound by A SPIRIT OF INFIRMITY. And He afterwards declares that SATAN HAS BOUND HER, lo, these eighteen years. He does not recognize it as a case of Providential discipline, but the direct hand of the devil upon her frame. This is incapable of evasion or ambiguity. And it may well make one shudder who has been nursing and petting some foul demon, as if it were an angel.
The question of God's will is also made marvelously clear. There is no greater word in Christian ethics than "OUGHT." It is the word of conscience, of law, of Everlasting Right. It is a cable that binds both God and man. When God says ought, there is no appeal, no compromise, no alternative, nothing but absolutely to obey. It does not mean that a thing is possible, or permissible, or perhaps to be done, but it means that it is necessary to be done and that not to do it would be WRONG. And Christ says to these evil men who would put these petty prejudices before God's beneficent will and His creatures' happiness, "OUGHT NOT THIS WOMAN TO BE LOOSED FROM THIS BOND?" That ought to settle the question of how God regards our healing.
But there is one more principle, the greatest of all, and it conditions and limits this "ought" and everything else in her case; and that is the woman s faith. The Lord expressly calls her a child of faith. That is just the meaning of the expression "a daughter of Abraham." And it is this which makes it a matter of "ought," that she should be healed. "Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, to be loosed from this bond?" Is it the will of God to heal all? It is the will of God to heal all who believe. More is meant by the expression, "a daughter of Abraham," than mere faith. It expresses a very strong faith, a faith which, like Abraham's, believed without sight, and in the face of seeming impossibilities. Have we any evidence of such faith on her part? We have. We are told that Jesus called her to Him and said, "Woman, you are loose from your infirmity." In the Revised version it is, "He called her." It implies that He required her to come to Him first. This would require supernatural exertion and faith and so she must have made the attempt to come before He touched her. Then, as she came, He declared the work done, "Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity;" and He laid his hands upon her and completed the work. But her faith had to take the initiative, and, like Abraham, step out, not knowing where, on the naked call and strength of God. Then the work could be counted done. "You are loosed." And then the full results began to follow.
THE CENTURION'S SERVANT. (Matt. 8: 5.)
The first thing that is remarkable about this case is the high commendation which Christ here gives to the faith of a Gentile and heathen, who possessed so little opportunity of knowing God and enjoying light. The most solemn lesson in all the Bible about faith is that it was most strongly developed in those who had but little light, and the greatest advantages were usually met by the most unreasonable unbelief. They who do not promptly use the light they have are not likely to make a good use of more. This man had very little more light than he had learned from his own profession, and the smattering of Jewish teaching he may have gathered, but he had been a true man as far as he knew his duty, and he had shown his love to God's people and his kindness to the Jewish congregation, whose Synagogue he had built at his own expense.
His strong faith showed itself first in his recognizing Christ's absolute control over all the forces of the universe, even as he controlled his disciplined soldiers; and secondly, in his recognizing the sufficiency of Christ's bare word to stop the disease in a moment. He asked no more than one word from the Lord of Heaven and earth. And that one word he took as a decree as final as the decree of the Caesars. He recognized the authority of Christ's word. It passes over this universe like a great and resistless mandate, and even in the hands of a little child it is as mighty as His own Omnipotence. How tremendous the force of law! Let a single human voice speak the sentence of that Court, and all the power of wealth and influence is helpless to hold back that man from a prison cell. The word which Christ has spoken to us is a word of law, and when faith claims it, all the powers of hell and earth dare not resist it. This is the province of faith, to take that imperial word and use its authority against the forces of disease and sin.
The humility of this man is a beautiful accompaniment of his faith. He deeply felt his unworthiness of Christ's visit. It was not often that a proud Roman acknowledged himself unworthy of a visit, but this Centurion felt that he was standing before One greater than his Emperor, and his spirit bowed in lowly reverence and worship. We can come nearer. Not only will He enter our roof but He will make our heart his home forever.
THE GADARENE DEMONIACS. (Matt. 8: 28.)
This incident introduces to us a class of cases of great importance, the insane and the disease of the mind. There seems no reason to doubt that they are still the same in character and cause as the instances of demoniacal possession in the days of Christ. The causes of these disorders are distinctly attributed by our Lord to Satanic agency. The power that held this man was sufficient to destroy three thousand swine. What fearful forces one human heart can hold! The power which the evil spirit exerted upon his body, enabling him to break any chain which the hand of man could place upon him, may give us some idea of how spiritual agencies may affect the body either for good or evil. All physical strength is spiritual in its cause. This wretched man seems to have been conscious of two principles within him: one his own will feebly struggling for freedom, the other the evil spirits controlling him, and crushing his will under them. The difference between such a case and one willingly yielded to Satan is very great. The Lord met this case with deep compassion. He regarded him as the victim of a power he could not resist, and by a word of command He set him free. Immediately his whole appearance was changed. The wild and dreaded maniac is sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. The awful power that had possessed him was soon apparent in the destruction of the swine. He himself clung to his Deliverer, and desired to go with Him. But Jesus knew that he needed to be pushed out into the discipline of confession and service, and sent him at once to stand alone and spread the tidings in his home. Every new advance would give him new assurance and strength, and before long the whole region of Decapolis was so stirred by his testimonies, that the way was prepared for the Master's visit and the mighty work which closed with the feeding of the four thousand. So must we often trust the young disciple with the most bold and difficult service and self-reliance.
The treatment of the insane is one of the most important questions connected with the subject of faith. The true remedy is the power of Christ. No doubt it is a subject of much difficulty; and in many cases there are long and severe trials of faith and need for quiet homes where they can be separated, guarded and brought under the influence of Christian teaching and faith. The result of the little that has been attempted has shown how much may be done with holy wisdom and courageous faith.
THE WOMAN WHO TOUCHED HIS GARMENT. (Luke 8: 48.)
The most beautiful thing about this miracle is the way it is embosomed in the heart of a greater, the raising of Jairus' daughter. It would seem as though in these twin miracles the Lord would write, in one striking lesson, the two principles so finely illustrated respectively, in each of God's absolute power on the one hand, even to work where there is nothing but death, and faith's absolute power on the other to take everything from God. They emphasize the two wonderful omnipotences that Christ has linked together: "All things are possible with God," and "all things are possible to him that believes."
The helpless nature of her disease and the failure of human physicians is brought out with a good deal of plainness of speech. There is no attempt to apologize for the medical profession but we are frankly told that all that had been done for her had only made her worse. It wilt be noticed that it is a physician himself, Luke, who gives us the most vivid picture of all this.
The process of the faith and healing is very striking. There were three stages. First, she believed that she would be healed. She said, "If I may touch his garment, I. shall be whole. Then, secondly, she came and touched. She did something. The personal and living element in faith is here brought out very vividly. Faith is more than believing, it is a living contact with a living Savior. It is the outreaching of a conscious need in us, feeling after and finding its supply in Him. It is not a mere outward approach, not even a mere mental approach. Hundreds thronged Him, but only one TOUCHED Him. Then, thirdly, there is the conscious receiving after the naked believing and the actual coming. Immediately her blood was stanched; she felt in her body that she was whole of her plague. She did not feel first and then believe, but she believed and then she felt.
But her blessing must be confessed. Christ will not allow us to hold his gifts without acknowledgment. Nor can we enjoy and retain them long in secret. Like plants, they need the light of day. And so her womanly sensitiveness must all be laid aside, and her shrinking heart must tell its blessings at His feet, in the hearing of all men. How much we lose by sensitiveness and silence!
And how much she gained by that confession! "Daughter, be of good comfort; your faith has made you whole. Go in peace." A daughter, comforted, healed and now sent forth into peace, that deep, Divine rest that comes with the touch of God, and is the richest part of the inheritance which faith brings. It is not merely that the peace comes into her. She goes into peace, a land so wide and fruitful, that she never can miss its boundaries or exhaust its precious things. And could one little act of faith for her body bring all this deep spiritual blessing? Yes, the most precious part of the blessing His healing gives is that it heals the whole being, and brings us into union with God, with a fullness we never would have known without this living and human touch.
Indeed, it will be found that most of the great spiritual blessings, experiences, and revelations of God to his people in the Scriptures began with what we would call temporal blessings. Abraham became the father of faith by believing in God for a son. Jacob became the Prince of Israel by claiming a temporal deliverance. Daniel saw the coming to Jesus while asking for the Restoration of the Captivity. The Syrophenician woman won her transcendent victory for a suffering child. And so still the things we call little and commonplace, like the little jeweled axles in the wheels of our watches, are the very pivots on which the greatest spiritual experiences turn; and trusting God for a headache or a dollar may teach us to trust Him for all the fullness of His grace and holiness.
THE TWO BLIND MEN. (Matt. 9: 27.)
This little story illustrates several important principles.
Mere prayer will not heal the sick. These blind men followed Him from the house of Jairus crying, "Have mercy on us." And yet it brought no reply. "I have been praying for my healing for forty years," people sometimes say to us, "and I am no better." Well, little wonder, for if you had prayed in faith you would not have prayed so long.
Mere coming into the presence of Christ will not heal us. They came to Him into the house, but still they were not healed. So persons go to meetings, try to get under spiritual influences, and seem to think that those things will bring their blessings. Perhaps they even present themselves definitely to Him for His help and healing, and yet they are no better.
The reason is given in the last step brought out here. All this is of no avail unless we definitely believe that He does do for us what we claim. "Believe you?" He asks and then utters the great law of faith which determines for every one of us the measure of our blessings, "According to your faith be it to you." Then His touch brings sight and healing, and they go forth into the glorious light of day.
There is a secret in everything; there is a secret spring or number by which the safe can be unlocked. There is a secret way by which that paper can be brought before the Government. There is a secret by which nature's mighty forces can be harnessed and used. And there is a secret which opens heaven and commands all the forces and resources of the throne. It is not agonizing prayer; it is not much labor; it is simply this: "ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH BE IT TO YOU."
THE SYROPHENICIAN WOMAN. (Matt. 15: 21.)
This was another example of faith where there was little light or opportunity. It is doubtful if this woman had ever heard a promise or a passage of Scripture, or seen an inspired teacher in all her life. She belonged to an alien and accursed race, and everything was against her.
And when she came to Jesus, He seemed against her, too. To her pitiful cry tor help He answered her not a word. To his disciples' appeal to send her away, that is to grant her request and dismiss her, He replies in language which seemed imperatively to exclude her from any right to His mercy. And when at last she came to His very feet and implored His help, He answered in language so harsh and repelling that it seemed like courting insult to approach Him again. He had even called her a dog, the type in the East of that which is unclean and unfit for fellowship and yet in the face of all this her faith only grew the stronger, until at last she drew out of His very refusal the argument for her blessing. Difficulties cannot injure true faith. They are the very stimulus of its growth.
We see the Lord's design in dealing with us, and sometimes seeming to refuse us. All through that struggle He knew and loved her, and saw the trust that would not be denied. And He was but waiting for its full manifestation. No, He only tried it because He knew it would stand the trial, and would come forth as gold at last. So He keeps us at His feet, and even seems to refuse our cry, to call forth all the depths of our trust and earnestness. Another object, too, He had with her. He was bringing her to the death of self and the sense of sin. And when at last she was willing to accept His judgment of her, and take her place as a poor worthless sinner, unworthy of any of His blessings, then she could receive all. Faith is a coming down as well as an ascent, a death as well as a life.
From The Gospel of Healing by A. B. Simpson. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2013.
Insights of the past for the present
Gospel of Healing - A.B. Simpson
ON THE BOOK SHELF
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