Robert Jeffress - Jesus, The Perfect Healer
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Health problem represent some of the most painful and devastating trials a person can face. So when a loved one is suddenly struck with illness, how should we respond? Well today, we're going to look at two miracles performed by Jesus that not only demonstrate his healing power, but illustrate how we should respond when illness and pain enter our lives as well. My message is titled, "Jesus, the Perfect Healer", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
This week, I read about a new parasitic, flesh-eating disease that is spreading rapidly in the Middle East. Left untreated, this disease can be fatal. As I read the horrible details of this new disease, I thought, "Yes, this is horrific, but it's really nothing new". Thousands of years ago, there was a similar skin disease that spread rapidly through the Middle East. This disease not only caused physical pain, but it also brought emotional distress, as its victims also were separated from their community. But as horrible as this disease was, it was no match for the healing power of Jesus Christ. And that's what we're going to see today as we talk about Jesus, the perfect healer.
And today we're going to look at two specific instances of Jesus' healing power through two very specific miracles. These miracles are not only a demonstration of Christ's ability to heal whatever problem we're facing, but they also illustrate how we are to respond when illness enters our life or the life of someone we know or care about. How are we to respond when illness comes in our life? We're going to discover that this morning. First of all, let's look at Jesus' encounter with a leper. Verse 12, "And it came about that while Jesus was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man full of leprosy". Now, let me stop here and say, in the Bible, leprosy is real, but it's also a picture of sin in our life. Let me point out to you four ways that leprosy is like sin:
First of all, like leprosy, sin starts very small. Sometimes you can't know somebody has leprosy until it has spread rapidly into a full-blown case. It's the same way with sin. Sin always starts small, but if it's left unchecked and untreated in your life, it will grow and grow and grow.
Secondly, like leprosy, sin is hideous when it's seen for what it really is. Today, we mock the hideous aspects of sin. We cover it over. Have you noticed how our society glorifies sin in the media and public? We glorify immorality, we glorify drunkenness, we glorify blasphemy against God. It's ridiculed regularly.
Thirdly, like leprosy, sin is infectious. That is, sin contaminates everyone and everything it comes in contact with. And that's what sin does. It always destroys anything and everything it comes in contact with.
And fourth, like leprosy, at least in biblical times, sin is incurable. Today, we're able to cure leprosy. In biblical times, there was no cure for leprosy. And the same is true about sin. You cannot rid yourself of sin. You can't clean yourself up and heal yourself. Interestingly, in Isaiah 64:6, God said through the prophet Isaiah, your righteousness, that is the best you can do before God, is like a filthy rag in the sight of God. Now, that word filthy rag in Hebrew describes the rag, the piece of cloth that a leper would use to wrap his oozing wounds. That rag would catch the pus. It would be filled with purification. It was the leper's rag.
And Isaiah the prophet said the best you can do for God, your good works with the American cancer society, your work with habitat for humanity, your service at First Baptist Church, Dallas, the best you can do for God in his sight is like that filthy, dirty, disgusting leper's rag. We're incapable of cleaning our lives up and curing ourselves of leprosy. This man was distressed by the disease of leprosy. He wasn't distressed only by his physical suffering, but by his emotional suffering as well.
The leper was somebody who was not only physically, but ceremonially, unclean. And because of that, he was exiled from the rest of the community. He lived outside the camp in leper colonies. And if he was ever going to come into town or if he ever was going to approach a person, he was required to yell out the words, "Tamey, tamey," Hebrew meaning, "Unclean, unclean". Now here we have a leper filled with leprosy who sees Jesus, and what does he do? He doesn't care about the rules. He approaches Jesus because he's desperate for healing. Look at verse 12, "And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored him saying, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean'". As Daryl Bach points out, this leper had no doubt about the power of Jesus to heal him. He knew he had the ability to heal him. The question was not about Jesus' power. The only thing up for question was his compassion. Was Jesus willing to heal him? Could something inside of Jesus cause him to want to heal this leper? Was Jesus someone who really cared about his suffering?
Jesus answered that question by what he did next. Look at verse 13, "And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him saying, 'I am willing, be cleansed'. And immediately the leprosy left him". Mark's account of it says, "And Jesus, moved with compassion". Aren't you glad we serve a Savior who can be moved with compassion, who sees our need, something wells up inside of him and he wants to meet that need? That was Jesus. He said, "I am willing," and so he reached out and he healed him. Now, understand what Jesus was doing when he healed him. First of all, he was risking infection himself. But not only was he risking physical infection, he was saying, "I'm willing to become ceremonially unclean myself". Because as soon as Jesus touched this diseased man, in God's sight, he was unclean as well.
Anybody who touched a leper was unclean. But here's a great picture of what Jesus does for us. Even though Jesus was the sinless, perfect Son of God, he was willing to become contaminated for us. He was willing to reach out and take our sin and bear it upon himself so he could provide us with the righteousness of God. That's what second Corinthians 5:21 says, talking about Jesus, "He who no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him". Jesus willingly took the stain of our sin so that he could cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Now, what Jesus did next was very strange. Look at verse 14, "And he ordered him," that is the leper, "To tell no one". He ordered him to tell no one, but look at what he said in verse 14. But he said, "I do want you to go and show yourself to the priests and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them".
See, Leviticus 14 said, if somebody is healed from leprosy, they need to go tell the priest so that the priest can verify their healing. Verse 15 tells us that the news of Jesus was spreading even further as a result of this miracle. But then Jesus, again, does something that is completely unexpected. While the momentum is building, look at verse 16, "Jesus himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray". This is a constant theme throughout Luke's Gospel, the prayer life of Jesus. The secret to Jesus' power and extraordinary effectiveness was his commitment to prayer. Jesus understood there would always be more people to heal. There'd always be more work to do. But he could not neglect that vital time alone with his Heavenly Father, and neither can you and neither can I.
Now, beginning in verse 17, we see Jesus perform another miracle. But unlike the miracle of the leper that was done in private, this miracle was performed very publicly. Look at verse 17, the healing of the paralytic. "And it came about one day that Jesus was teaching, and there were some pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and from Jerusalem". Now, we learned from Mark's account that Jesus was actually in a home, a very large home teaching, and look at verse 18. "And behold, some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were trying to bring him in and set him down in front of Jesus".
Again, we learned from Mark's account that there were four men. They had a friend who had been paralyzed. They wanted him to be with Jesus because they believed that Jesus had the power to heal their friend. So they carried him on a pallet in order to be placed in front of Jesus. But to their disappointment, when they got to the home, they realized it was standing room only. There is no way they were going to get close to the Lord.
Now, fortunately, these friends were not the kind of Christians who try to determine God's will by circumstances. Did you know circumstances are one of the poorest way to determine God's will, did you know that? Don't depend upon circumstances. The fact is you can make whatever you want to of circumstances, read them however you want. Fortunately, these four men didn't use negative circumstances to deter them, what did they do? Look at verse 19. "And not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, right in the center, in front of Jesus". Verse 20, "And seeing their faith, he said, 'friend, your sins are forgiven you'".
Why did Jesus say, "Your sins are forgiven" instead of healing the man? Well, two reasons. First of all, by forgiving his sins, he was solving the man's deepest problems. You see, our deepest problem is not physical illness. Physical illness is only a symptom of a deeper problem, a deeper sickness we all have. It's the sickness of sin. You see, physical illness is only a symptom of our sin. All physical illness is caused by sin. Now wait a minute, don't misunderstand what I'm saying. I'm not saying all physical illness is caused by a particular sin we've committed, but the reason we all get sick is we've all inherited the sin virus from Adam. You see, God's plan for us originally never was that we would get sick or that we would never die. But because of Adam's sin, we've inherited the sin virus.
Romans 5:12 says, "Just as through one man sin entered the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned". So by saying, "Your sins are forgiven," Jesus was dealing with the greater problem that this man had. But there was a second reason he did this. Jesus pronounced him forgiven of his sins to demonstrate that he in fact was the Messiah. You know, even the pharisees were sharp enough to pick up on this, look at verse 21. "And the scribes and the pharisees began to reason, saying, 'who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone'"? "Only God has the ability to forgive sins," the pharisees said. "You got it right," Jesus said, "And that's what I'm declaring to do".
Look at verse 22, "But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, 'why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier to say, 'your sins have been forgiven you,' or 'rise up and walk'"? In other words, Jesus was saying, "You're right, pharisees". Anybody can go around saying, "Your sins are forgiven". I could come up to you today and I could say, "Your sins are forgiven". You wouldn't know whether I had the power to forgive your sins or not, anybody can say that. Jesus understood that, so in verse 24 he says, "'but in order that you might know that i, the son of man, has authority on earth to forgive sins,' he said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, rise and take up your stretcher and go home'". In other words, Jesus performed this miracle to show that indeed he was the Son of God who had the power to forgive sins.
As one writer says, now it was crunch time. Jesus said, "I'm the Messiah, I'm going to prove it to you by raising up this man from his pallet". What happened? Look at verses 25 and 26. "And at once the man rose up before them and he took up what he had been lying on and went home glorifying God. And they were all seized with astonishment and they begin glorifying God and they were filled with fear, saying, 'we have seen remarkable things today'". As I said at the outset of this message, there are two reasons Luke included these miracles in his Gospel. First of all, to demonstrate that Jesus in fact was the Messiah by his authority over disease. But secondly, these miracles illustrate how we're to respond when illness or any other great need comes into our life.
Let me close today by suggesting three very clear and timeless principles for what we Christians should do when illness comes into our life or the life of someone we care about. Number one, we are to ask God for healing. We're to ask God for healing. Look at first John 5:14. "And this is the confidence which we have before him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us". Now, I want you to listen to me very clearly on this. There is no promise in the Bible anywhere that promises that if you ask God for something, he will automatically give it to you. No promise like that in the Bible. What there is a promise in the Bible of is this, you can ask God anything, no matter how unlikely it seems that it would happen. You can ask God for anything, and he will answer that prayer request according to his will.
Now, that phrase "According to his will" is not a cop-out phrase. It's not a way of letting God off the hook, saying, "Okay, Lord, if you can do it fine, but if you can't muster up the power to do it, we'll just write it off to it wasn't your will". No, God's will is a border around your life, not meant to keep good things from entering into your life, but to keep bad things from entering into your life, or things that are not the best to enter your life. And when we say, "God, I want you to do this, but only if it's according to your will," that is the true prayer of faith. You see, the Bible says we are to ask boldly for anything that is in our heart, but we quietly trust in God to do what is best. That's what real faith praying is all about. That's what the leper did, didn't he? He said, "Lord, if you are willing, I know you can cleanse me".
A.W. Tozer once said, "The hard work of prayer is getting yourself into the state of mind in which you prefer the will of God over your own". Isn't that what Jesus did in the garden? He boldly asked God to provide another way than the cross. "Father, if it be your will, remove this experience from me". But then he said, "Yet, not my will, but your will be done". Whenever we face a need in our life, we're not to try to say, "Gee, I wonder if this is God's will or not," and "I don't know if I should pray about this or not". No, ask him anything that he places in your heart. Boldly ask, but quietly trust in him to do what is best. That is faith praying. Sometimes God says yes and he heals. Sometimes, like in the case of Paul himself, God says no, but whatever need we have, we are to ask God to answer that need. Secondly, when illness comes into our life, we ought to examine our lives for unconfessed sin. Examine our lives for unconfessed sin.
Now, not all illness is the result of our own individual sins, but sometimes it is. Sometimes if we are living apart from God, God will use illness, not as a way of punishing us, but as a way to get our attention. And that's why one question we need to ask when we face illness is, is there anything in my life that may be displeasing to God? That's what the James five passage is all about that we read just a moment ago. Remember in James 5:14, James says, "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord". If you have a sickness, you ought to have other people pray for you. You ought to have the spiritual leaders in the church pray for you. We're going to do that in just a few moments. People always wonder, "What does this mean, 'anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord'"?
Some people believe that oil was a medicinal agent, which it was in the New Testament times. Perhaps James is saying, whenever you're ill, you ought to seek the best medical treatment you can find, but you also ought to pray. Some people say the anointing represents the Holy Spirit. It's representative of the Holy Spirit's power. But whatever this is, this is a subsidiary phrase. Anointing him with oil, the command is when somebody is sick, you're sick, let people pray for you. That's where the power is, it's not in the oil, it's not in the mud, it's not ever in anything else, it is in the prayer. Whenever we're sick, we ought to have people pray for us.
But notice what he goes on to say. "And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, they will forgive him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you might be healed". What is all this talk about sin? James is saying not all sickness is caused by sin, but sometimes it is. And if your sickness is the result of sin, you need to confess your sins to one another as well. Examine your life for unconfessed sin. And then thirdly, seek the prayers of others. When you face illness or some other great need in your life, you ought to seek the prayers of others.
Notice what James says here. "Pray for one another so that you might be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much". Don't ever forget this, throughout the New Testament, whenever God sees a group of Christians praying for the same thing, God sits up and takes notice of it. God is impressed when he sees Christians praying together for the same thing. Isn't that true in the book of acts? Remember, Peter was in prison. The church held a prayer meeting at a home and they were praying for the release of their leader when God miraculously released Peter and he ended up showing up at the home and the people couldn't believe it. They thought it was Peter's ghost. They couldn't believe God actually answered prayer.
God takes notice when his people are praying together for the same thing, and that means when you're facing a great need in your life, don't keep it to yourself. Let other people pray for you, because the Bible promises the effective prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much. How do we respond when illness comes into our life? We need to ask God boldly to answer our prayer. We need to examine our lives for unconfessed sin. And we need to seek the prayers of other godly Christians.