Saturday, February 01, 2014

Commentary: Discipling the Sick


Let us review again the Biblical definition of disciple.  We read in Luke 14: 27, 33 that it is someone who bears their cross and forsake all and follow Him.  We also have read in John 15: 5, 8 that a disciple is someone that abides in Christ and bears much fruit.  We added last week that since a disciple is a follower of Christ they have responded to Christ invitation come unto Him, taken His yoke, learned of Him to be humble and meek and found rest (Matthew 11: 28 – 30).  With all this said we realize that discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief, doctrine or cause.  Our Lord’s primary obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of people— the saving of people was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. 


So, discipling the sick is making sick people followers of Christ; abiders in Christ.   They will leave all behind - pick up their cross and follow Him.  They will die to self.   They will bear fruit.  This is very interesting because sick people are typically needy and dependent on others.   Sick disciples are the ones that when you visit them you leave the room inspired by them.  This means that they will be concerned about others more so than themselves.  They have laid down their lives.  Just like Paul called himself a prisoner of Christ, when he was a prisoner of Rome, these sick people see themselves as servants of God in their ailing condition.  God has allowed their sickness to bring to bring about a greater blessing. 


There is a story of a young man with a terrible disease.  He was loved by everyone.  All were praying that God would heal him.  But, the young man’s condition worsened.  At some point this young man prayed that God’s will would be done.  The young man said that if God could use him in his sickness, so let it be.  Many hearts were touched by this young man’s faith; many were converted.  The young man died.  All realized that sometimes we need faith to not be healed. 


The examples given in the lesson from the Bible are of people that were healed; even resurrected.  Many came to Jesus hoping for relief, if not cure of their maladies.  Two questions arise: 1. Was healing Christ greatest purpose?  In other words, what was the intention in healing? 2. Were the ones seeking healing “discipled” after the healing, or was coming to Jesus evidence of their discipleship? 


Let’s deal with number 1.  Let us start with a quote from Ellen White,


During His ministry, Jesus devoted more time to healing the sick than to preaching. His miracles testified to the truth of His words, that He came not to destroy, but to save. Wherever He went, the tidings of His mercy preceded Him. Where He had passed, the objects of His compassion were rejoicing in health and making trial of their new-found powers. Crowds were collecting around them to hear from their lips the works that the Lord had wrought. His voice was the first sound that many had ever heard, His name the first word they had ever spoken, His face the first they had ever looked upon. Why should they not love Jesus and sound His praise? As He passed through the towns and cities He was like a vital current, diffusing life and joy.”  

—Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 19, 20.


Christ’s healing ministry gave to the people a different view of God.  One different from the prevailing view.  Our lesson states that…  “In antiquity, sickness was considered the result of sinful actions. (And even today, who hasn’t at times-even if only for a moment-wondered if illness, either their own or that of a loved one, wasn’t brought on as a punishment for sin?) In the book of Job, his friends suggested that his misfortunes, which included personal illness, resulted from hidden faults; the implication was that somehow his sinfulness caused his predicament. Similarly, Christ’s disciples understood blindness as punishment for someone’s sinfulness. This suggests that sickness required not diagnosis or medication but atonement. Matthew references Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, stating that Christ fulfilled this prediction and that healing can be found in Him.”


Let us dwell on the blind man for a few seconds. Let us read John 9: 1- 3. 


John 9:1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

John 9:2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

John 9:3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.


Upon seeing a man they knew who had been blind from birth, the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-3). There was a belief in their day, as it is with some persons today, who believe that sin directly causes all suffering and disease and that God punishes this way. In those days blindness was associated with, and in many cases caused by, gonorrhea. If Jesus had said the parents sinned, the next question would most likely have been, as again it would be today, “Is this fair?” Jesus was not caught on the horns of a dilemma with that either or question. He did not give the reason for the blindness. He simply said that neither the parents nor the man caused this blindness. Jesus did say God’s glory would be manifested in the midst of this tragedy.


Similar questions, to what the disciples and most all the people of their day believed, are recorded by Luke. In 13:1- 4 the record states that some Galileans were murdered, by the Romans, while offering sacrifices on the altar. The other tragedy was about eighteen persons who were killed when the “tower in Siloam fell” on them. Jesus asked “do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?” The answer is no, of course not. (Jesus did not say that sin does not cause sickness and death, because that does happen. But not here). He did tell the people to repent and to be ready to die in case a fatal accident could happen to them. Certainly the natural law of cause and effect was at work here and not God personally working to destroy people. The threat of a tragic end is present for everyone at all times. The issue, here in Christ day, and now in ours, is not when death will happen, nor why, nor how it will come, but we must avoid a terminal fate that has even greater consequences. Only repentance toward God and faith in Christ alone will prevent the death that lasts for eternity.


Christ told Phillip, “If you’ve seen me you have seen the Father.”  Christ, then, gave a different view of the Father: One who was indeed interested in the well-being of His children.


Let’s move on to question number 2: Were the ones seeking healing “discipled” after the healing, or was coming to Jesus evidence of their discipleship? 


Many of those who came to Jesus for healing had already heard of Him.  When they heard they believed.  Thus, it was their faith that brought them to Jesus.  Expressions like, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” (mark 2: 5), and “And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5: 34) tell us that some were disciples in their heart before they came to Jesus.  Perhaps the epitome of this is the story of the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8: 5 – 13. 


One of my favorite authors had this to say about this story,


"One day a centurion came to Jesus, and said to him: 'Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed ... When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel'" (Matt. 8:6-10).

"There is what Jesus pronounces faith. When we find what that is, we have found faith. To know what that is, is to know what faith is. There can be no sort of doubt about this; for Christ is 'the Author ... of faith,' and He says that that which the centurion manifested was 'faith'--yes, even 'great faith.'

"Where, then, in this is the faith? The centurion wanted a certain thing done. He wanted the Lord to do it. But when the Lord said, 'I will come' and do it, the centurion checked Him, saying, 'Speak the word only,' and it shall be done.

"Now, what did the centurion expect would do the work? 'The word ONLY.' Upon what did he depend for the healing of his servant?--Upon 'the word ONLY.'

"And the Lord Jesus says that that is faith" (Lessons on Faith, pp. 15, 16).


This Gentile military officer believed that Jesus could just say the word and his mortally sick servant would be healed. Jesus "marveled, ... and said ... I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Now what was that faith? The belief that Jesus had the power to heal by simply saying a word? If you say yes, then you get yourself into trouble for the devils also believe that Jesus can heal by just saying a word. Such confidence comes short of a true definition of faith, if the devils also have it! The Bible says that "the devils believe also, and tremble" (James 2:19).


But as we read the story in its context, we begin to see that the Roman soldier's faith was more than that. He had begun to understand his sinfulness in the light of Christ's righteousness, for he said two things--"I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof" and "neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee." Now, the devils have no such feelings of humility and grace! The centurion's faith was not a mere mental trust, but a heart-appreciation. An unusual love had filled this Roman soldier's heart for he was concerned for his servant, and not for himself. The faith he had already had transformed him and delivered him from selfishness. And that is not the experience of the devils!


And so this story does help us understand the essential ingredient of all true miracle healing: faith is a heart-appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ. This is the faith of a true disciple.  And as soon as I say that, I realize anew how weak and childish my little faith is, how much I need to grow. Do you realize it too?

Raul Diaz