Sermon for St Edward’s / 5 March 2023
Readings: Matthew 8:1-13, Psalm 121
So, Jesus is healing people!
We’ve seen him come out of his time of trial and temptation we heard about last weekend and he has launched himself into his ministry. He is not holding back. He called his disciples to come follow him, he has travelled throughout Galillee preaching and telling people about the kingdom of God, and on top of that he has been healing people – in Ch 4 we read:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the peopleMatthew 4:23
and as vs 17 of this chapter says:
This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.’Matthew 8:17
Now, let’s just imagine how radical this was. There were other teachers and people who drew supporters in the day, but here Jesus was not just talking the talk but he was walking the walk. Jesus has been teaching up the mountain. Thousands of people are following him, wanting more, wanting to hear more of him speak, drawn in, enthralled.
We’re going to focus on the man with leprosy this morning –
So amidst this chaos of people following Jesus, a man with leprosy, an incurable skin condition comes up and kneels at his feet. People around must have been thinking what on earth is he doing, and he’s getting in the way. He’s unclean. And he simply says:
Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’
In these few words he expresses his belief in who Jesus is – he calls him ‘Lord’.
He expresses his belief that Jesus has compassion and love and wants to help him ‘if you choose’.
And he expresses his belief in Jesus’ power – as he says ‘make me clean’.
And Jesus simply says yeah ok – I do choose, be made clean
And immediately this man’s leprosy was gone.
Can we imagine if we were there, what that would have looked like? The crowd would have gone wild. Not only was this guy an amazing teacher but he just healed someone right before our very eyes. Imagine seeing that person before you – an unclean person, should not be anywhere near other people. We don’t know how bad his condition was but it would not have looked pleasant, and Jesus doesn’t send him away but responds to him and gives him this amazing gift. And his skin goes from infected to clean right then and there.
What would we have done, watching on?
Look to our friends like what has just happened here?
Scream? Cheer? Applaud?
Let’s compare that with what would we think if we saw that today? If we saw someone healed in prayer? Would we be amazed, cheer? Give thanks? Or would we be doubtful, uncertain?
So, let’s talk about healing.
Do you believe that Jesus heals today?
And I want to tell you that I do believe it. And here’s why.
Because very simply Jesus told us to pray for healing.
And because I’ve seen it.
In Matt 10:7-8 Jesus sends out the disciples saying:
As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demonsMatt 10:7-8
So the disciples are told: go, spread the good news and while you are about it heal people. Essentially all those things are about healing – cure sick, cleanse lepers of their diseases, cast out demons – healing in freedom, and raising the dead – no greater healing! So they are told – tell people the good news and heal them.
Now we fast forward to the great commission Matt 28. Jesus after he has risen, commissions them again to go out and he says this:
‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’Matt 28:18-20
V20 that is the key line:
and teaching them (so that is new disciples) to obey everything that I have commanded you.
And what has he told them to do – here – make disciples, baptise them. In ch 10 – heal people share the good news. And more. So each new believer is told to do these things and therefore to pass it on – they too have the mandate to do these things as passed down from that original instruction from Jesus. Right up to us.
Does that make sense?
So we have been given this same mandate – to go out share the news, heal people and more.
And secondly because I have seen it. Now I’ve not seen some dramatic healing from cancer for example but I have seen things happen when I’ve prayed, or when others with me have done. I believe God healed my son’s broken arm after prayer. I had a guy come to clean our carpets and he was limping and I offered to pray and his pain was gone and he stopped limping. Just a couple of examples.
So I believe in healing because: Jesus told us to, and because I’ve seen it first hand
Now I know that for some of us healing is a tricky area.
Perhaps not all of us believe Jesus can heal today?
Some of us have no idea how we should pray for healing?
Perhaps some of us have wanted to see healing and it hasn’t happened, we have seen untold suffering? And I want you to know I empathise, I really do, I have seen more than one friend die of cancer who has had the whole church praying for them. I have seen many people whose stories are not mine to tell, whose suffering has been ongoing.
And as many of you know I have my own ongoing back condition which means I am taking heavy duty painkillers every day and still am in pain. 8 years ago I had spinal surgery for the same condition. I have had countless prayers prayed for me over the years, been to healing meetings, worship events, revival talks and still no physical healing.
So I know it can be hard to hang on to believing in God for healing.
But I guess what I would say is: that I hang on to what Jesus taught us because it’s what it says in here (bible). I believe that Jesus’ commission still stands for each and every one of us, and to seek the power of the HS at work is key to seeing the kingdom of God.
I don’t know why we don’t always see healing prayers answered and if anyone says they do they are probably wrong. I don’t ever want to hear anyone being told that their faith is not enough or they have done something wrong. I don’t believe a God who loves us would withhold healing in that way.
Look there are lots of things we don’t know about God – God is a mystery – we are not yet seeing the fullness of the kingdom, of course.
But what we can do is hang on to what we do know and then we hold those 2 things in tension – what we don’t know or understand alongside what we do.
would love us to be a church that is expectant. That believes God can and does answer prayers, even when we don’t see it. That believes the Holy Spirit IS at work today. That is what I am always teaching.
Now briefly as we are talking about healing. Let’s just look at it practically – very briefly.
Paul teaches us to eagerly desire the spiritual gifts. Some people will be given the spiritual gift of healing. Those people will have a proven track record of praying for people and seeing them healed. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t pray for healing – we all can. We all carry the Spirit of God within us and God can work through each of us, so we can all pray. I don’t have the spiritual gift of healing and yet God has worked through me on occasion.
It is helpful to pray sometimes with more than one person which is how we model our prayer ministry. But equally if its just you and a friend – fine. We might also pray as a church – as we do when we bring people before God in our intercession prayers.
Secondly, there is no secret formula. Some pastors will tell you to pray in a particular way but honestly all Jesus did – usually – was to say get up, or you are healed. (odd occasion when different). It doesn’t have to be complicated – it’s not about us and the words we can conjure up. What is helpful is to see when you pray whether God is doing something – asking that person if they sense anything.
Pray – ask – if feeling something thank God and pray some more.
And finally we never send anyone away feeling rubbish if they are not healed. We encourage, we commit to praying more, we tell them they are loved and precious, we pray for them to know God with them in their situation.
I would encourage you to visit our prayer ministry team on any Sunday morning who have been trained and would love to pray with you in this way.
But as we are gathered here and now as church family I want to finish by us all praying together for healing. Now I know there are people here who need a healing touch from God, including me! So we are going to pray together for each other. The way we are going to do this is anyone who needs healing in a mo I am going to ask you to put your hand up. And then we are all going to pray just quietly by ourselves, stretching out a hand towards these people, or if next to them hand on shoulder or somewhere appropriate. And we are simply going to hold a few moments and ask God to bring healing power. The same healing power that was at work in that man who was cured of leprosy, in the centurion’s faith and his servant who was healed…
We prayed together