“Love of the Works of God”
March 26, 2017
The Fourth Sunday In Lent
1 Samuel 16: 1 - 7 / Psalm 23
Ephesians 5: 1 - 10 / John 9: 1-11
Fr. Gary W. Thurman
For 2000 years, the gospel reading for today has been a popular text for Christian preachers. There are just so many things to be talked about. There are so many approaches that you can take. You can be like the disciples, taking the philosophical approach: “Lord, why is this guy sick? Why is he blind? Is it because his parents sinned? Is it because he sinned?” This is a pretty deep question because if he was blind because he sinned, he must have done something in the womb. How do you sin in your mother’s womb?
We can raise a lot of these types of questions from this gospel reading. Who sinned? What is the origin of sin? What is the responsibility of a parent to his children? If he does something wrong, can they stop it? This has been shared many times in the past, but I don’t want to dwell in this.
We can even go to the metaphysical side of things. Jesus talked about, “We are in darkness right now. Darkness is coming where no man can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” There is the contrast and the conflict between darkness and light. In Ephesians, it says, “You are formerly darkness. Now, you are light in the Lord.” All the different metaphysical areas are in the gospel up to and including the healing qualities of spit. Why did the Lord heal the man with His own saliva? I don’t want to go to this either, although it has been done in the past successfully.
While this gospel story is literally true and it literally happened, it is also a metaphor for things. We, as God’s people, can be spiritually blind. The first reading talked about how the Lord was telling Samuel, “You are looking with the wrong eyes. You are looking with your natural eyes of the things in the flesh. Look with your spiritual eyes and find who I really chose to be the king of Israel.” This is a valid approach.
Isaiah 6:10, Jeremiah 5:21, Acts 28:27, God said, “My people have eyes, but they don’t see. I wish they could turn so that I could heal their eyes and they could see in the spirit the things that are going on.” We could also ask the questions, “What does it mean to go to the city of Siloam? What is the symbolism of making clay? Why did the Lord use clay? How did the blind man know that the Lord made clay?” At the time Jesus made clay, the man was still blind, so how did he know that?
We can go to the little words, little phrases in the Scriptures that are easily overlooked, and it opens things up. I love to do this, but I am not going to do this because I want to look at the big picture. I want to look at the biggest picture in the whole story. The big picture was a guy was blind and Jesus healed him, and I believe that this is what Jesus wants the Cathedral of the King to see. The Lord says in Exodus 15:26, “I am the Lord your healer!’ A man was sick, and his body wasn’t functioning right; there was lack of wholeness and Jesus healed the blind man.
Jesus did a lot of healing. Healing is a method that He uses a lot to proclaim the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is what He preached all the time, and what He told His disciples to preach. In Matthew 10, Jesus was sending out His disciples, and He was giving them some pointers and instructions in verse 7, “As you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” At hand means you can touch it; it is immediately near; it can be touched; and it can be interacted with. In other words, the kingdom of heaven is there ready for you to participate in to allow it to interact upon you, to change you, and to restore you. Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is here now.
When I was in elementary school, we had something called “Show and Tell” where we would bring something to school, and in the classroom, we would show it to our classmates and tell them something about it. With Jesus, He did it differently. He did “Tell and Show.” He said, “Tell them the kingdom of God is at hand, and show them.” How did He show them? After saying, “Preach for the kingdom of God is at hand,” in the next verse, He shows them how: He healed the sick; He raise the dead; He cleansed the lepers; He cast out the demons. This is the way Jesus told them to show the kingdom of God is at hand. He performed healings, and it was big, obvious healings. Jesus won’t heal a hangnail, a headache – not that it is not important, but it is hard for people to relate to.
Jesus showed major things that people can’t deny. The blind man’s neighbor said after his healing, “Isn’t this the guy that used to beg? He was blind, now, he can see!” This is what gets people’s attention, and Jesus does these things so that He can say, “Yes, the kingdom of God is at hand. Let Me prove it to you. This guy was blind, now, he sees. This guy was deaf, now, he hears. This guy was dead, now, he is alive.” These gets people attention to show the kingdom of God. He tells, and He shows.
These are the two reasons that Jesus healed and reached out. One is to show the message that He is talking about. The other is because that is the work of God, His work. When Jesus talks about doing the work that God gave us to do, it is to love. One of Jesus’ expressions of love is to heal the suffering. When He heals us, He is doing His work. When He commands us and we bring healing to others, we are performing the works of God. We are loving people; we are healing them in their suffering. These things that He did were big, visible, and obvious signs.
After Jesus instructs His disciples and sent them out, John’s disciples came to visit Jesus. They said, “Our master wants to know, ‘Are you really the One?’” Jesus said, “Here is how you know that I am the King and the kingdom of God is at hand.” In Matthew 11:5, Jesus said, “The blind receive sight; the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised up.” These big, visible, obvious signs of healing are ways of Jesus saying, “Look, it is real. What I am telling you is true. If you don’t believe I am the King in the Kingdom, this guy that can’t walk, now he can. The one with leprosy, now, his skin is purer and clear as a baby skin.”
Jesus showed the kingdom of God with obvious healings, with high visibility things. In Scriptures, He did these a lot. If you look through the Bible and check through the gospels, you will find that literally, in Jesus’ life, there were seven different blind people that He healed. Five different lame people were healed. One woman who was crippled and bent over double was healed. One man with a withered hand was healed. Three people who were mute were healed. One deaf person was healed. One servant named Malchus had his ear severed on Maundy Thursday, and Jesus touched the ear and restored it. This is something that you don’t see every day, and you can’t deny it happened. There were no stitches, no sutures, no crazy glue, but just the power of God! The fever of Peter’s mother-in-law was healed.
These were the times that Scriptures mentioned the healings. He healed many more, but these were the times that the Bible pointed out because they were big, obvious signs that Jesus, in the Bible, says, “Hey! The kingdom of God is at hand. If you don’t believe My words, watch this!” A man came to Jesus and said, “Lord, heal my son. He is a lunatic, and is very ill.” Jesus healed him, and it was a big obvious healing! When Jesus healed a demoniac man who had two thousand demons, it was a big, obvious healing.
These big and obvious healings of Jesus were mentioned because people did not understand when things are wrong on the inside. If people had a stomach ache or headache, people did not know why. They couldn’t label it. The Bible did not say, “And a certain man came up to Jesus who had gastroenteritis.” Back then, people had no idea what gastroenteritis was. We don’t see a lot of these internal types of healing in the Bible simply because people did not recognize it. But this doesn’t mean that Jesus did not have these kinds of healing.
The woman with the hemorrhage came up to Jesus as He was on the way to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Nobody else knew that she was even healed. Only Jesus knew and this is because He felt the virtue go out of Him. She knew it; Jesus knew it, and the healing was there. In Luke, there was a man who was healed of dropsy, an internal disease where a body produces excess fluids, and the fluids have nowhere to go so the body starts to swell. It was not something very common, and yet, someone with dropsy today is called edema. Jesus healed this man.
There were two people – a man and a servant – who were about to die, and chances are that if they were about to die, it was not because they were dumb or crippled. It was something internal and people didn’t know what it was. They only knew that it was serious, and Jesus healed them. There were three people whom Jesus raised from the dead. They did not probably die from being blind or from being lame. There was something internally wrong, and the reason the Bible did not mention it was because nobody knew what it was. There was no internal medicine at that time. They just knew that the guy was sick, was dying, and now was dead. Jesus comes and He is alive again.
The point that I am bringing out is that maybe you would say, “Father, I have a sickness and I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where Jesus said He healed it. Where did Jesus say that He can heal my diabetes?” It is not mentioned. He is busy healing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the deaf and the dumb. Where is the healing of the diabetics? Where is the healing of those who have cancer? Where is the healing of those with high-blood pressure? We don’t see this in the Bible, but there are eight different instances in eight different places where it says that Jesus, when He was amongst the crowd, when He was amongst the multitude healed every kind of sickness and every kind of disease. In other words, if you’ve got it, Jesus healed it! If it is afflicting you, He has healed it before. There is nothing that He hasn’t healed or nothing that He hasn’t come across.
Whatever the disease that is afflicting us or whatever the illness that is bothering us that may have been with us for a long time, we can have the confidence and say that Christ has encountered this before and in that case, the Sun of Righteousness rose with healing in His wings, and He was delivered, and He was healed.
Eight times in Scriptures, there was this generic statement where Jesus healed all and in Luke 9:11, it says that Jesus was curing all those who had need of healing. It doesn’t matter what the disease was. Whatever it was – external, internal, obvious, hidden – Jesus was curing all who had need of healing.
This is good news because if you are here this morning and you have need of healing, Jesus can say, “Been there. Done that. I can handle it!” You don’t have to worry about it. He was curing any who had need. If you have a need, He has cured it before, and He could do it again. One of the lepers who was in need of healing said, “Lord, if You are willing,” and Jesus replied, “I am willing. Be cleansed!” In Scriptures, Jesus healed eleven lepers in two different instances. At one time, one leper and at another time, ten lepers. We may ask, “Why did it seem not so many?” At all those times mentioned, Jesus healed all. There were lepers in the picture, but they were not counted. There is no telling how many people Jesus healed.
In the Great Commission, the apostles were sent, “As you go forth, those who believe in My Name will cast out demons, they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” We see the disciples doing exactly these things. Even when Jesus was still alive, there were times that He would send the disciples out and they would anoint with oil and many were healed. Just after Jesus ascended, in the Book of Acts, it was recorded that the disciples healed two lame people; a paralyzed person was healed; two people were raised from the dead; someone was healed from fever and dysentery. The power of God is not limited. Even if we say that, “Lord, my disease is not listed,” trust the Lord has done the healing.
Sometimes, you would receive the message from the doctor. “Ma’am, you have a degenerative condition.” “Your bones have a degenerative condition.” “The parts of your spine are in a degenerative condition.” “Maybe, one of your organs is degenerative.” This means, slowly by slowly, bit by bit, day by day, it is getting worse. The doctor would say that it is not getting any better and there is nothing that he could do. The only hope that they could give you is that the present day is a better day than the next days to come until you don’t have any good day anymore.
God is not a God of degeneration! In fact, Scriptures tells us of the regeneration that will occur when Christ comes again in the Second Coming. It is called the regeneration and it will come at the end of time and this will affect every one of us who will all experience the regeneration. There is also the foretaste in the kingdom of God, and we can experience the regenerative powers of the kingdom of God today and not just at the end of time. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Part of the kingdom of God is regeneration.
In Psalm 23, it doesn’t say, “He leads me beside quiet waters and He degenerates my soul,” but, “He restores my soul.” God is a God of restoration. There is regeneration and restoration when Christ returns, but there is also a foretaste of this which we can experience. This is why Jesus performed this big, highly visible miracle so that we could understand that it is there. This is why the disciples performed the same miracles. The miracles and the works of God are there for us.
Sometimes, we say, “I’ve got a thorn in the flesh. I can’t really be healed.” My father told me this one time. He had back problems for quite a few years. I told him, “Daddy, do you know that God can heal that?” He said, “Well, I think it is my thorn in the flesh.” I said, “Daddy, what is your revelation? What are you talking about?” He did not answer me because I think the thorn in the flesh was just his excuse. In 2Corinthians, Paul said that the reason he had a thorn in the flesh is because he had such a great revelation, that he was going to get proud, and he was going to lose out his salvation because of the pride. To save him from this, the Lord gave him a thorn in the flesh. Paul’s revelation was: the Gentiles were now heirs with the Jews.
As I was thinking about this homily early this week, one of the first things that the Lord said was, “I want you to bring forth a song to the people.” The Lord put a song in my mind, an old hymn entitled “This is My Father’s World.” I started thinking about it and I already knew where the direction of my homily was going. It was a big picture about healing. I started looking at the song which was written by Maltbie D. Babcock and Franklin L. Sheppard.
This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!
In the first verse, I thought that Malbie and Franklin for sure never lived in Manila or in the Philippines because if they were living in Manila, their listening ears would not hear all this nice stuff, but they would hear buses horns, jeepneys with no mufflers, and motorcycles running up and down the streets. In the second verse, I went out to look at the rustling grass and I couldn’t find any. All that I found was one weed growing up between the curve and the gutter.
I thought, “Lord, why are You showing me this song? It doesn’t even relate to people in Manila.” The first thing it made me think was to move to the province seeing the birds that carol, and the lily white. The Lord began to share to me that in an environment that we have in Metro Manila, sometimes people will say that it is not a healthy environment because there is too much pollution and contamination. Basically, there is too much noise, too much stress, too much anxiety, too much fear, and because of all these things, the power of God is limited, and the healing of God can’t come. If we transfer to the province, maybe, we can get a touch of healing. Until we are able to experience all these beautiful sounds, all these beautiful sights where we can rest and have thoughts of rocks, seas, skies and trees, we think that we can’t really get much healing from God.
Reading from the third verse, that is when I realized why the Lord brought this song to my memory. Yes, Pangasinan is my Father’s world. Yes, Quezon province is my Father’s world. Quezon City is my Father’s world. Metro Manila is my Father’s world also, and the area underneath the Skyway bridge is my Father’s world also. All these things are my Father’s world. As the song says, “Oh, let me ne’er forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” We think that if we are suffering some disease or illness, God is not ruling. This is my Father’s world. Why should our heart be sad? Why should we get dejected and depressed because of the things that we see with our eyes? Because of the things that make us anxious and worried and the negative environment around us? Why should our heart be sad? God made a promise that when our hearts are merry, it works like a medicine (Proverbs 15:13).
We can literally be healed even in the middle of an oppressive environment and a depressing environment, and an environment that seems to be degenerative. In God, it is not degenerative. In God, it is restorative! Why should our heart be sad? The song says, “The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!” We allow our hearts to be glad, not because we see or experience, but because of what we know in our hearts, because of the faith that rises up when we see in the Scriptures how Jesus is the Lord who heals us.
Psalm 107:20 says, “The Lord sent His word and healed them.” It doesn’t matter whether our environment is provincial or city; industrial or peaceful. The environment doesn’t matter; what matters is the environment of faith. When we let the Word of God build the faith in our hearts, nothing can stop us. The devil can’t break anything that God can’t fix. He can’t break any part of our body that God can’t fix. God reigns! It is not sickness or any disease that we have.
You can fill in the blank and say, “_______, whatever you are, you don’t reign. The Lord reigns. Let the earth be glad. My heart is going to be glad and I am going to build up faith in my heart. I am going to build up joy and gladness in my heart because I know that the Lord, my God, can heal me.”
One thought we might have: can the Lord heal in the province or in the city? When the Lord was instructing the seventy to go out, He told them in Luke 10:8-9, “Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Whatever city you enter, pray over it and heal those who are in it. Don’t say that the power of God is limited to peaceful and calm situations. In the middle of whatever environment is, the only environment that really matters is faith. As Jesus told many people, “As you have faith, so be it unto you.”
Ten days from now, we are going to have a healing service on Holy Wednesday. What the Lord is doing today is preparing us and building up our faith for this day. If you don’t want to wait ten days, if you want your healing to be now, I can’t think of any reason why it can’t happen. What I know that part of what today is all about is preparing our hearts for that healing service. Indeed, see that the Lord is the God who heals us, and the Sun of righteousness can rise up in the hearts of those who believe and can bring healing.