Friday, February 28, 2014

Discipling the Powerful

Discipling the Powerful

Many times we interchange the words authority and power.  There is a difference between power and authority.  Power is the ability to act or produce an effect; and authority is the power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior; I refers to persons in command.  POWER implies possession of ability to wield force, permissive authority, or substantial influence; for example: the power to mold public opinion. AUTHORITY implies the granting of power for a specific purpose within specified limits; for example: “gave her attorney the authority to manage her estate.”  Typically an action is powerful.  A person is powerful when acting.  A person in command has authority.  They may have power at their disposal to assert or enforce their authority. 

What the lesson is talking about is discipling people in command or in positions of authority.  These are people who make decisions that affect others and can actually tell others what to do or not do.  Often they are not available to the masses.  Nevertheless, Christ died for them, too. 

Last week we noticed that the title of weekly lesson gave the sad and mistaken impression that the rich and famous were not disciplable.  This week’s lesson seems to qualify that impression.  Many rich and famous are in position of authority.  Of course, we proved last week that rich and famous are disciplable.  The lesson gave several examples of many who converted to Christianity.  It is the same with those in positions of authority.  It is harder to reach them, largely because they have benefited from the system that have given them the authority.  The issue is: how can they be disicpled?  Let’s review some examples – the ones given in the lesson – to see how it what we can learn. 

Daniel and the three Hebrews with Nebuchadnezzar

The context of why Daniel and his three friends were in Babylon is the frame that connects the story in Daniel 1 with the last years of Judah's existence, beginning with the great repentance, revival and reformation of King Josiah, based on the book of the law and the sanctuary service. There are vital lessons here that we must learn as end-time witnesses, to have an "excellent spirit" (Dan. 5:13; 6:3; compare Prov. 17:27) in the midst of Babylon and beyond. The assurance the stories from Daniel's time gives us, is that God can use us to reach the powerful in Babylon with the message of the everlasting kingdom whose trademark is humility, whose King is the creator, and whose way is in the sanctuary (Psa. 77:13).

Jesus and the Jewish leaders

Jesus early learned His higher identity (Luke 2:49), which was affirmed at the beginning of His public ministry (Matt. 3:17). That gave Him a higher commission that no earthly religious or civil leader in power could control or supersede. While His mission was on a collision course with their power, it was mostly because the power of heaven is more effective, through its humility and spirit of giving, in gaining a deep and lasting allegiance, which likewise lifted one above the negative control of earthly powers. At the same time, Jesus showed that the spirit of heaven, in its unselfishness, shows respect to those in power, calling them also to join the higher allegiance. Thus Jesus would affirm the position of religious leaders, indeed, had to affirm that authority, before unmasking their spiritual poverty (Matt. 23:2, 3). This was necessary, otherwise He would have fomented rebellion, which is opposite of the spirit of heaven. Lucifer was expelled because of that spirit.

Jesus and the Romans

Jesus' unselfish authority, manifested through the power of His word in healing and teaching, reached out to a Roman military leader, a man thoroughly acquainted with Roman authority, and kindled a responsive, humble faith in his heart. Jesus' commendation of that faith contrasted it with the unbelief of His own people (even His disciples; Matt. 8:10; compare 8:26).

Jesus affirmed Caesar's rights, but made them separate (and by implication, subservient) to God's (Matt. 12:17). When Pilate tried to impress Jesus with his authority, Jesus replied to him with respect, but clearly witnessing to the higher authority. "Thou couldest have no power [authority] at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." (John 19:11). Jesus was not ignorant of the Roman system or its principles, but His approach in winning disciples was based not on attacking error but witnessing to the truth. This is vitally important in reaching the powerful.

"The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,--extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually, and must regenerate the heart."  (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 509.3; emphasis supplied)

The Disciples and Jewish leaders

An error in discipling powerful people is seeking their cooperation in God's work when they have no understanding or experience in the principles of His kingdom. The disciples learned this painful lesson through Judas' course.

"The disciples had been much disappointed that Jesus had not tried to secure the co-operation of the leaders in Israel. They felt that it was a mistake not to strengthen His cause by securing the support of these influential men. If He had repulsed Judas, they would, in their own minds, have questioned the wisdom of their Master. The after history of Judas would show them the danger of allowing any worldly consideration to have weight in deciding the fitness of men for the work of God. The co-operation of such men as the disciples were anxious to secure would have betrayed the work into the hands of its worst enemies." (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 294.2)

Jesus avoided this error, as well as that of exposing Himself to "useless conflict" with those in power (Ibid, p. 450.1). While He would avoid conflict if at all possible, He was ever open to the individual seeker, even "a master of Israel." (John 3:11).


The Disciples and the Romans

Peter had a special vision to prepare him to treat another Roman centurion with the openness and respect that Jesus showed to the earlier centurion. He testified to the corporate nature of the gospel message (Acts 10:28, 34, 35), though he still struggled at times with the prejudice that is a direct attack on the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:11-14).

Saul of Tarsus went from a powerful persecutor to Paul the apostle who shared before many people of power the testimony of his learning the higher power of the gospel in his encounter with Jesus. He wrote to the believers in Rome of the importance of respecting authority, framing the godly attitude with the verb "be subject unto" (Rom. 13:1) which was first used in the New Testament for Jesus' relating to His parents. It means "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden" (Thayer). Can we help carry the burdens of the powerful? In this passage Paul then used the same verb "render" that Jesus did of Caesar (Rom. 13:7).  Paul lived his own advice, with his personal testimony in Rome winning some of Caesar's own household (Phil. 4:22), and even making the last appeal Nero would experience (Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 496.1&2). God's witness reaches the highest levels of earthly power.


The lesson should be clear. "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much." (Luke 16:10). The preparation for witnessing to, and discipling, the powerful, is effectively ministering to the weak and lowly. For the words of Mordecai to Esther applies to you, dear reader. "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14). The powerful are awaiting your witness.

Raul Diaz

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Commentary: With the Rich and Famous

 With the Rich and Famous

Last week I made the mistake of giving a title of the lesson that it did not have.  I called it discipling the outcasts.  The real title was “Jesus and the outcasts.”  This week’s lesson does not use the verb discipling either.  It is entitled “With the rich and famous.”  This is not, I believe, a trivial matter.  Most of the other lessons that talks about categories of people talk about how to make them disciples.  We have covered in the previous weeks the Biblical definition of disciple, and what it implies.  Can this definition apply to the outcasts, the rich and the famous?  The chosen titles for the lesson seem to be giving an incorrect understanding that these categories of people will not be disciples. 

The woman at the well told everyone about Jesus, so did the man freed from demons (John 4: 28 – 30; Mark 5: 19 – 20).  Then we have Nicodemus and Joseph of A.  Ellen White says about Nicodemus,

When at last Jesus was lifted up on the cross, Nicodemus remembered the teaching upon Olivet: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." The light from that secret interview illumined the cross upon Calvary, and Nicodemus saw in Jesus the world's Redeemer.  …  After the Lord's ascension, when the disciples were scattered by persecution, Nicodemus came boldly to the front. He employed his wealth in sustaining the infant church that the Jews had expected to be blotted out at the death of Christ. In the time of peril he who had been so cautious and questioning was firm as a rock, encouraging the faith of the disciples, and furnishing means to carry forward the work of the gospel. He was scorned and persecuted by those who had paid him reverence in other days. He became poor in this world's goods; yet he faltered not in the faith which had its beginning in that night conference with Jesus.  {DA 177}

Nicodemus became a disciple of Christ in all the sense of the word.  Now, we need to make sure we understand that although the words of Christ to the woman at the well were different from the words to Nicodemus they are in essence the same concept.  Christ used words that each of His listeners would understand.  The woman at the well understood the Gospel from the perspective of Living water.  Nicodemus understood it from the perspective of being born again and light versus darkness.  These two metaphors are not that non-relatable.  Fetuses are in darkness in the womb: once born they are exposed to the light. 

Once born, the fetus cannot go back in.  Imagine a fetus that could rationally think.  He starts setting goals and making plans for his tenth month in the womb.  Then all of the sudden he is born.  Whatever goals and plans he had will never be.  It is a new world.  It is a new life.  New goals and plans must be set and made for the new life.  Such is the new birth experience.  The life in the womb represents, in this metaphor, the life of the flesh.  The life outside the womb is the life in the Spirit. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The problem with many of us is that we refuse to leave the womb.  It is warm, cozy, and comfortable – like the Shunamite’s room when her lover comes knocking (Songs 5: 1 – 3).  We like its darkness.  Consider what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3,

John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

John 3:21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. 

This is the problem with Laodicea.  It prefers to live in deception. It prefers its spiritual blindness.  “If I cannot see it, I do not have to deal with it.  I do not know, therefore, I should not be held response.”  If a man is diagnosed with cancer, and refuses to know what he has, the disease with still kill him.  The death could have been prevented if the man would have chosen to hear the diagnosis, and chosen to undergo its treatment.  What is the problem with Laodicea?

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Like Nicodemus, Laodicea is living comfortably in its delusion, unaware of its true condition and how it makes God feels.  God wants so much to heal Laodicea. We read God’s plea on the following verses,  

 Revelation 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

This message is akin to the young rich ruler.  “You think you have all that, but you lack one thing.  Therefore sell all you have, and give it to the poor, and follow me.”  It is a call to discipleship.  We are Nicodemus.  We are the young rich ruler.  Christ’s plea to them is His plea to us.  

Raul Diaz

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Commentary: Discipling the Outcast

Discipling the Outcast

As we did last week we will review the Biblical definition of disciple, expand on it, and tie it to the kind of people our lesson is focusing on.  Let us, then, 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.  Three weeks ago we added that since a disciple is a follower of Christ they have responded to Christ invitation come unto Him, take His yoke, learned of Him to be humble and meek and found rest (Matthew 11: 28 – 30).  Two weeks ago we added that discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief, doctrine or cause.  Love and service toward others is the natural outcome of obedience to the Jesus.  Last week we added that a disciple is drawn to Jesus. Which means a disciple is drawn to Christ’s love and the Cross (Jeremiah 31: 3; John 12: 32 – 33).  This means that the disciple is drawn to the cross and follows its path.  The disciple lays down his life for others as Christ did for us (1 John 3: 16).  As Paul says in Ephesians,

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour (Ephesians 5:1, 2).

Ellen White states,

We are to follow the example set by Christ, and make Him our pattern, until we shall have the same love for others as He has manifested for us. He seeks to impress us with this profound lesson of love. . . . If your hearts have been given to selfishness, let Christ imbue you with His love.  He has made love the badge of our discipleship. . . . This is the measurement to which you are to reach,—”Love one another; as I have loved you.” What height, what depth and breadth of love! This love is not simply to embrace a few favorites, it is to reach to the lowliest and humblest of God’s creatures. Jesus says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” . . . {OFC 27.4}

So, a disciple will love the outcasts?  But, who are the outcasts?  And, since the lesson is called discipling the outcast, then how do you make these outcasts followers of Christ?  An outcast is someone rejected by their society or social group.  By rejected we mean ostracized or marginalized.  They are treated like waste or refuse.  Our lesson points out some of those who were outcast in Jesus time: harlots, publicans (tax collectors), adulterous women, and demoniacs.  The privileged classes, like the Pharisees, thought themselves better.  But, Jesus showed them that God loved all men.  Let us read what Ellen G. White said about the Pharisees concerning the publicans,

‘The Pharisees beheld Christ sitting and eating with publicans and sinners. He was calm and self-possessed, kind, courteous, and friendly; and while they could not but admire the picture presented, it was so unlike their own course of action, they could not endure the sight. The haughty Pharisees exalted themselves, and disparaged those who had not been blessed with such privileges and light as they themselves had had. They hated and despised the publicans and sinners. Yet in the sight of God their guilt was the greater. Heaven's light was flashing across their pathway, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it"; but they had spurned the gift” (The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1,088.).

Is it that to God some sin is greater than other?  Again from Ellen White,

God does not regard all sins as of equal magnitude; there are degrees of guilt in His estimation,  as well as in that of man; but however trifling this or that wrong act may seem in the eyes of men, no sin is small in the sight of God. Man's judgment is partial, imperfect; but God estimates all things as they really are. The drunkard is despised and is told that his sin will exclude him from heaven; while pride, selfishness, and covetousness too often go unrebuked.  But these are sins that are especially offensive to God; for they are contrary to the benevolence of His character, to that unselfish love which is the very atmosphere of the unfallen universe. He who falls into some of the grosser sins may feel a sense of his shame and poverty and his need of the grace of Christ; but pride feels no need, and so it closes the heart against Christ and the infinite blessings He came to give.  {SC 30.1} 

This why to God pride is the worst of all Sin.  We look at how Christ treated the adulterous woman.  He did not overlook her Sin, but rather forgave her.  He did not intend to condemn her, but to restore her.  Ellen White says,

“In His act of pardoning this woman and encouraging her to live a better life, the character of Jesus shines forth in the beauty of perfect righteousness. While He does not palliate sin, nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn, but to save. The world had for this erring woman only contempt and scorn; but Jesus speaks words of comfort and hope. The Sinless One pities the weakness of the sinner, and reaches to her a helping hand. While the hypocritical Pharisees denounce, Jesus bids her, "Go, and sin no more." (The Desire of Ages, pp. 460-462).

In being treated with love the former demoniac and the woman at the well became disciples immediately.  They witnessed about the great things Christ had done for them.  As a result of this others believed.  Another quote from Ellen White gives us more insight in this,

"We are saved by hope." Romans 8:24. The fallen must be led to feel that it is not too late for them to be men. Christ honored man with His confidence and thus placed him on his honor. Even those who had fallen the lowest He treated with respect. It was a continual pain to Christ to be brought into contact with enmity, depravity, and impurity; but never did He utter one expression to show that His sensibilities were shocked or His refined tastes offended. Whatever the evil habits, the strong prejudices, or the overbearing passions of human beings, He met them all with pitying tenderness. As we partake of His Spirit, we shall regard all men as brethren, with similar temptations and trials, often falling and struggling to rise again, battling with discouragements and difficulties, craving sympathy and help. Then we shall meet them in such a way as not to discourage or repel them, but to awaken hope in their hearts. (The Ministry of Healing, pp. 164-165).

As we partake of the His Spirit, His love will flow to others.  You will recognize yourself in them.  After all, who has not ever felt rejected, worthless and despondent?  Yet, Christ was merciful and loving toward you.  He let you know how much you are worth to Him.  You were bought with a price.  You are not your own (1 Corinthians 6: 19, 20).  He owns you. Deliver yourself to Him.

Raul Diaz

Friday, February 07, 2014

Commentary: Discipling the Ordinary

Discipling the Ordinary

Every week we have reviewed the Biblical definition of disciple, expand on it, and tie it to the kind of people our lesson is focusing on.   This week we will continue to do that.  So, 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.  Two weeks ago we added that since a disciple is a follower of Christ they have responded to Christ invitation come unto Him, take His yoke, learned of Him to be humble and meek and found rest (Matthew 11: 28 – 30).  Last week we added that discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief, doctrine or cause.  Love and service toward others is the natural outcome of obedience to the Jesus. 


To follow Jesus we must be drawn to Him.  What about Him draws us to Him?  We read in Jeremiah 31: 3, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness".  It is His love that draws to Him.  This love is revealed in Jesus (John 3: 16).  Especially, in the way He died.  We read in John 12: 32 – 33,


John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

John 12:33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.


What death did He die?  We read in Philippians,


Phillipians 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.


The cross symbolized the final death – without any hope of resurrection; unlike the death sleep we now die.  This death Christ conquered.  Giving us the hope that if we follow Him, then we too will be resurrected as He was and perhaps not even see this death as Enoch and Elijah (not all will die).  The path of discipleship is the path of laying down your life for others as Christ laid it for us (1 John 3:16). 


So, in discipleship, you are drawn to cross and follow the path to it.  This means that you choose Christ’s path, because you deem it better than yours.  In seeing the Cross, you see yourself for what your really are: sinful (Isaiah 6: 5).  That is why our lesson states, “Christ’s death was the great equalizer: it showed that we all are sinners in need of God’s grace. In light of the Cross, ethnic, political, economic, and social barriers crumble.”  In light of the cross all men are ordinary.  But, in the light of men, there are distinctions. 


Christ saw beyond that. He saw “…saw the meaninglessness and emptiness of worldly greatness and honor. In fact, in many cases, it was the most “successful” people—the favorably positioned Pharisees, the wealthy Sadducees, and the Roman aristocracy—who troubled Him the most.

In contrast, the “ordinary” people—carpenters, fishermen, farmers, housewives, shepherds, soldiers, and servants—generally thronged and embraced Him.” 


This is not to say that some of the wealthy and influential never became disciples.  Look at what Paul says of Moses,


Hebrew 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;

Hebrew 11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Hebrew 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

Hebrew 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.


Paul himself went through a similar experience as Moses.  He chose to leave man’s greatness behind in order to gain the greatness of Christ. 


Phillipians 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

Phillipians 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

Phillipians 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Phillipians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Phillipians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Phillipians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Phillipians 3:10 That I may know him,…


Moses and Paul recognized the meaninglessness and emptiness of worldly greatness and honor.  Ellen White says that this should be true for us in the book Steps to Christ, Let us read the passage,


“The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to His perfect nature. This is evidence that Satan's delusions have lost their power. ... No deep-seated love for Jesus can dwell in the heart that does not realize its own sinfulness. The soul that is transformed by the grace of Christ will admire His divine character; but if we do not see our own moral deformity, it is unmistakable evidence that we have not had a view of the beauty and excellence of Christ" (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pp. 64-65).


The point is clear: a true disciple – regardless of what human stock they come from - will be aware of his own sinful heart, because it will be in contrast to the wonderful and matchless charms of Christ.  Is the love of God abiding in our heart?  Are we being transformed by the grace of Christ?  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). 

Raul Diaz

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