I stand before you excited,
Excited because today I get to play a very public role in God’s plan,
Today, I will preach the Gospel,
Today I have the opportunity to speak to you about the greatest story ever told,
Today I speak to you about God’s redemptive plan.
I will share to those gathered, both members and guests alike, from one of the great stories of Bible
In fact, it is such a strong story that the vast majority of lectionary writers completely bi-passed the other readings for the day and there was a wealth of material on small story of just 6 verses
You should also know that over 70% of the Bible is stories or narrative – that is the prime literally device in which God communicates with us
God spends far more time on teaching us through the experiences of others than any list of commandments or any other format
God’s way is to share through others…
In the entire Bible, each story is part of God’s redemptive work in humanity
From the garden and the fall,
to the law and wisdom and the message of the prophets
to God amongst us - Jesus and the teaching of Christ,
to the cross- and the resurrection
to the founding of the church at Pentecost and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit
with the book of Acts the only unfinished book of the bible, unfinished because the work continues to this day,
and to the vision of glory, the vision from revelations of the great and glorious uniting of the faithful in the heavenly city
In it all God is spreading His Good News message, the message of redemption – the Gospel - to anyone with ears to hear
The Gospel reading today is about as clear an understanding of healing by Jesus as can be found anywhere, and it shows profoundly what both our role and God’s grace
I would like to first go over the passage in a slightly different way…
Imagine for moment if you will, you are Blind, you weren’t always blind, in fact at one point you were a man of some notable reputation. You were important in town but something has happened that you have lost your sight.
And imagine that this physical limitation, this physical impediment is viewed socially and culturally as a blight on society, and so you are ostracized.
You are forced outside the city, away from everything and everybody.
You are separated from your whole family, friends and any possibility of work.
Your sole means of getting any money for food is limited to begging and that is even very hard as you are supposed to stay away from everyone.
When once you were important in the city, now you are forced to set up, each day outside the city, outside the control of the leaders – outside on one of the routes out of town, in the hopes that someone who is leaving town fully stocked up will take pity on your situation
Then you hear that a great healer is coming through your city.
You decide that this is your chance, you are fed up with the life that you are forced to live, you are going to ignore all religious laws and will ask him to heal you.
You wait by the roadside… and wait… and wait… you are used to waiting but this time the excitement makes the wait feel like forever…
Then, at last you hear that He is approaching… Now is the moment that you have been waiting for. There is a large crowd all around you – you can hear the sound of much commotion - And so you yell out…
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me
Son of David – where did that come from – of course you know that all Israel are sons and daughters of David – however in this moment, something has inspired you, something has come over you and you know deep down inside you that THE Son of David is the healer you have been waiting for
Your yelling has shocked those around you and they try to quiet you
But the urge is too great, the need too strong – the certainty almost overwhelming
The Son David is near, and you have to speak to Him, in Him you will find sight
So, ignoring the others around you yell out even louder
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me
To your great surprise the noise of the crowd stills, the sound of footsteps rushing forward stops
And this Jesus says “Call him here”
Then the others nearby you that were trying to keep you quiet, all of a sudden have changed and they say “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”
You spring to your feet, throwing off your old heavy cloak and walk straight to that voice – the voice that you know is the Son of David
To the crowd’s amazement this Jesus says to you
“What do you want Me to do for you?”
He knows what you are thinking, he knows what you are afraid of, He knows that you know he IS The Son of David – in your bones you can feel it – and so you say
“Rabbi, let me see again.”
Then Jesus says to you “Go; your faith has made you well.”
Immediately you regained your sight
You are given vision by Jesus and so what else is there to do but followed him on the way.
Healing is a touchy subject. It is the source of a great deal of potential manipulation.
You only have to take a quick look at Benny Hinn to see how dangerous it can be.
It is filled with expectations; Yet fears;
A desire to believe; Yet worldly skepticism.
At the core it questions the power and influence of our faith on our earthly existence.
So I would like to share a few thoughts with you about what I understand as biblical healing:
First - Since ‘the fall from grace in the garden’ all sickness and disease was viewed by the Ancient Hebrews as a product of sin.
We see that understanding in Job and from Job’s friends and we see it from the mouths of the disciples
His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Second - healing by Jesus was connected to preaching or proclaiming the good news of God.
Physical healing is a device for the message. - Jesus’ intention was primarily spiritual healing.
“Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. (Matthew 9:22)
And in the small passage one chapter before in Mark, we hear directly from Jesus:
Jesus answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Thirdly - healing was connected to illustrate or prove God’s authority, it was dramatic and public.
Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.”
Those three principals of healing are important to put healing into proper perspective…
But consider one more. - Consider God’s “big picture plan”
God’s plan of redemption - God makes those outsiders - - - insiders
God transforms by his healing grace…Those that the world considered untouchable
God reaches out to them, touches them and brings them into belonging
God gives them His Vision
Here is a story about a speech a man made in support of a special school where his son attended.
Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they’ll let me play?" Shay’s father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team.
Shay’s father approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Shay could play, not expecting much. The boy looked around for guidance, and a few boys nodded approval, why not? "We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning." Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and put on a team shirt with a broad smile and his Father had a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father’s joy at his son being accepted.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by one. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again. Now, with two outs, the potential winning run was to come up to bat and Shay was scheduled to be next. At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible ’cause Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing the other team putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over, but the pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the head of the first baseman, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever ran that far or that fast. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to second base. By the time Shay rounded second base, the right fielder had the ball, he could have thrown the ball to the third-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions and he too intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman’s head.
As Shay ran all the crowd were yelling, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who won the game for his team.
“That day,” said the father, “the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world." - Shay didn’t make it to another summer and died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and made to feel like he belonged, that he was no longer an outsider looking in
2000 years ago God came in the flesh to live as one of us.
Jesus arrived in the flesh as a frail baby, grew up living a human existence.
And when the time came He went about the land to preach and to heal.
God reached out and touched us, touched the untouchables.
Jesus choose to make us clean and to give us his vision.
Now those boys on that baseball field didn’t heal Shay in any physical way,
And they didn’t reach out and touch Shay and have all his health problems immediately disappear.
Those boys made him feel like he belonged. They made him clean.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out.
And The Holy Spirit was poured into their hearts… and
Love on that baseball diamond was shared with each act of grace
Each person choose to make Shay feel like he belonged, to make him feel clean
Modern day outsiders are not hard to find…
We all fall short of God’s glory
I look into my own heart and I know what it is like to be an outsider
To be out of step with others
But most importantly; to be out of step with God…
….But I know that Jesus has invited me in.
That it is truly and only Jesus that heals
I know that I will enter into that heavenly city and I won’t be able to contain my joy either
I too would yell for all to hear – Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me - Amen