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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Why does He heal some and not others?

Brandilyn Collins brought a discussion to the table and as I was reading her comments, I felt led to discuss the topic.

First, I'm not an expert in the area of healing. Have I experienced healing? Yes. Have I experienced someone who was not healed? Yes. And that is the topic de jour. Brandilyn experinced healing and someone who heard her story has had ongoing email contact with her. The lady believes, as her church, that Jesus wishes to heal all and if you are not healed, it is a lack of faith on your part or something is wrong with you.

I want to first go to John 5. We are at the pool of Bethesda and there were many sick (blind, lame, paralyzed) waiting for the moving of the water. John says that an angel would go down to the pool from time to time and stir up the water. The first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had. One man who was there had been sick for 38 years.

Stop there and take note. The man was sick for 38 years. Now listen...Jesus saw him and knew he had been there a long time. Jesus asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

The man answered that he didn't have anyone to put him in the water after it was stirred and by the time he got going towards the water, someone beats him to it. Jesus told him to get up, pick up his bedroll and walk.

Please notice that there were a "mulitude" of sick people around this pool waiting to be healed. Jesus healed one. And if we back up from here, we can see how this one plays into the big picture. The Jews that were there told the healed man that the day was a Sabbath and it was illegal for him to pick up his bedroll. He told them that the man who healed him told him to pick it up. They asked him who the man was and he didn't know because Jesus had slipped into the crowd--which must only mean there were quite a few people there.

Jesus later finds this healed man in the temple complex and talks to him. Just as he tells the woman who the Jews brought to Him for adultry, Jesus tells the healed man to sin no more. The man went to the Jews to tell them it was Jesus who had made him well.

I want to pause here for a moment to wonder why the man went to the Jews to tell them it was Jesus? We don't know for sure, but the next few passages indicate that this situation played a part in Jesus' death. John 5:16 says, "Therefore [because the healed man told them Jesus was the healer], the Jews began persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath." Jesus told them , "My Father is still working, and I am working also." Verse 18 says, "This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him: not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God."

Did Jesus heal this man based on his faith? When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed, the man did not say yes. He only answered with the excuse that he had no one to take him to the water. For 38 years he was sick and he had been at the pool a long time. Did it take faith for the man to pick up his bedroll as Jesus instructed him? I don't have the answer to that but it seems that the man was just doing what he was told. He didn't even know who Jesus was.

Jesus had been to the wedding and turned the water into wine. He went to the temple in Jerusalem and drove out the money-changers. He told Nicodemus about being born-again. He, for the first time reveals Himself as Messiah to the woman at the well. He went back to where he turned the water into wine and a royal official pleaded for his son to be healed. Jesus healed the son. And this is where Jesus heals this man by the pool. Word was just beginning to spread about Jesus. And this man was the tool God used to let the Jews know that Jesus was the One who healed--on the Sabbath! Jesus broke their rules.

Another pause, if you will. These Jews were the experts. They were raised to be experts. They were respected and not questioned. Then here comes this guy from Galilee storming into their temple, telling them things they didn't want to hear. Then he's got nerve enough to come back and break the rules. They are angry. More than angry. Indignant. Not only was this guy breaking the rules of the Sabbath, but then--get this--he is calling God his father, making himself equal to God. Wow. Now they are way beyond just anger. They want him dead.

Understand in that day access to God was limited. Here is a great chart that shows human access to God from Adam and Eve to present. Only the high priest had access to God and only once a year to offer sacrifices for the entire nation of Israel. The only others that had access to God were those few chosen men, prophets, who were in direct contact with Him. So here's this guy stepping on the toes of the elite saying that he was the son of God.

If we skip ahead to chapter seven in John, we find Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles. He went to the temple to teach. The Jews were amazed and couldn't figure out how He knew Scripture when He wasnt' trained. Jesus tells them that the teaching isn't His but from the One who sent Him. The crowd tells Jesus He has a demon. And some of them wondered if this was the man they wanted to kill why was he in public teaching!? Soon, the temple police were questioned by the chief priests as to why they didn't bring Jesus to them. The police had never heard anyone speak as Jesus did and Nicodemus is with there and stands up for Jesus.

At dawn, Jesus goes back to the temple complex and teaches. The Pharisees bring the adultress woman to Jesus to trap him, so they might have evidence to accuse him. He teaches and again they think He has a demon. They picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus was hidden and went out of the temple complex.

Now, Jesus passes by a man blind from birth. (chapter 9) His disciples questioned the blindness. They wanted to know who sinned--the parents or the child.

Jesus say, "Niether this man nor his parents sinned. This came about so that God's works might be displayed in him."

And Jesus healed him.

And guess what? This man was brought to the Pharisees because he was healed on the Sabbath!! He testifies before the Pharisees that Jesus did indeed heal him. They threw him out of the temple. Jesus met up with him and some of the other Phaisees overheard the conversation. Jesus was teaching them again and some said (again) that Jesus had a demon. Jesus tells them (again) that God is His Father and they picked up rocks to stone Him. They tried to seize Him, but He eluded their grasp.

(Do you see the pattern?)

He departed across the Jordan. This is the part where Lazarus dies and Jesus raises him from the dead. His disciples didn't want Him to go to Lazarus because he had just left there with the Pharisees trying to seize and stone Him. Jesus went.

Some went to the Pharisees after Lazarus was brought back to life. The Pharisees decided they couldn't let Him continue because "everybody will believe in Him!" (John 11:48) "Then the Romans will come and remove both our place and our nation." Passover was near and they sent word to arrest Jesus. Notice also that the Pharisees decide to kill Lazarus because "he was the reason many of the Jews were deserting them and believing in Jesus."

And from here, we move to the Passover and the crucifixion.

Now, I've basically taken you from Jesus' first miracle to His last and skipped over a lot stuff. But what I want you to see is that in looking at things this way, we see that Jesus did not heal every single person He happened upon. He chose two particular men and I think, looking at the story from this distance, we can see that those two particlar men played a direct roll in the crucifixion.

Did they know that? I don't think so. I don't even think many people who read the Bible today have made that connection. It seems to me that people are so focused on the miracle of the healing that they lose sight of the real meaning. It is not that the people were healed.

It is that they were healed for the purpose of God's will.

Healed for God's glory.

Not so that God could just get credit for healing, but so that God's ultimate plan is executed.


I can't say why Brandilyn and my husband were healed and why this woman who emailed Brandilyn hasn't been healed. But I can say that from this view, I can see that when Jesus was at the pool of Bethseda and chose the man who had been sick for 38 years, He chose someone who was a key player in God's ultimate plan. Just as the blind man was another key player. We were even told that the blind man was blind simply so that God's works might be displayed in him.

God's work: healing a blind man?
God's work: sending His son as the sacrifice for sin?
Both?

Each of us has a different purpose. Those others at the pool, don't you think they'd have liked to be healed? I suppose they would have. I think, though, that the question should be: Would they want to have their own desires or would they want to have what God desires for them?

Ultimately, I must decide whether I trust Him when He doesn't give me exactly what I want, but instead gives me what He wants.

I know, in my life...trusting Him for that is a much bigger chunk of faith than anything else I can think of.

8 comments:

Praying for your Prodigal said...

Your wise words have struck a cord. Because I just finished reading The Prodigal Brother: a great book written by Sue Thompson about being the GOOD child in a home with a prodigal I am reminded of her chapter "If you don't love your brother" (which is worth the price of the book alone!). In this chapter Sue looks closely at the trials and losses of Job. For brevities sake...I can't go into detail--suffice it to say she reminds the reader "there is something going on that we cannot see, and learning to walk with God in the midst of fires and earthquakes and floods and floggings may not be our idea of good training, but who are we to say we know ourselves btter than the Potter? We're the clay! ......We don't even know what He's creating, so how can we know what doesn't belong in the finished product?....Sometimes it can feel like He's thrown us in the kiln before He's finished molding us, but it's really just the friction of His hands upon our flesh. We've got to be willing to remain upon that altar. What we're going through may not be for us, but for someone else. We don't always get to know. These days when I sense that I am being perfected by the Artist of my soul, I reassure myself with, "this will be great testimony material when it's over." Her challenge to "remain on the altar" even when we don't get the answer we desperately want is key! She quotes Curtis and Eldredge, "Every human being is of great significance to God, but those whom God has drawn to believe in Him ar center stage in a drama of cosmic proportions." We don't understand why some are healed and some are not. We ask why some prodigals return and some don't. The bottom line--we may never know--it is best that we KNOW God and trust His weaving of the tapestry we do not understand.

This is a very sensitive topic--as so many hurt and grieve over the loss of someone so dear, whether by death, or rebellion. Still, as we stand in the gap for our loved ones, we need to focus on the One who sees clearly and promises to make all things good.

Great discussion post!

Diane

Heather said...

I'm currently reading Kierkegaard's Works of Love in which he points out that Christ's love was not for humanly understood happiness: it was not for the immediate happiness of His people, His disciples, nor Himself (unless you call torture and rejection happiness) but for a deeper purpose. I think the same applies to healing.
I know that in James some elders had the gift of healing. I also know that Paul was left with his infirmity.
I know of a family who lost a brother/son to brain cancer. They were accused of lacking faith for healing.
I think this post is a good analysis of the Scripture, an apt understanding of deeper purposes to the story.

Michelle Pendergrass said...

Thank you Diane. I've recently endured the loss of a loved one and while I wish to stay away from the details at this point, I can say that the death has been one of the biggest lessons I've yet to be taught.

Heather--I'm going to look up Works of Love. Sounds like it is something I'd be interested in reading. Thank you for your kind comments.

I've been deeply blessed by both of you commenting on "wise words" and "apt understanding" I often feel lost in the shuffle. Thank you for reading and commenting!

K. Jimmy said...

dear michelle,
wow!!! what Divine hand led me to your blog??!!
several years ago a very dear friend of mine was diagnosed with a savage and swift-moving cancer, and she passed away within a month of the diagnosis. we had prayer meetings galore, and when she wasn't healed i was confused and devastated. i know better than to question God and his purposes, so for years i've just sat on the hurt- till lately. i've recently moved back to my hometown after several years away, and being back here has brought it all back again, so ive been thinking about it a lot. anyway, without going on about it, i wanted to thankyou for what you've written here with regards to healing. it's really helped me.
i came here to your blog from christian writers. i started this thread in the "encouragement for writers" forum, challenging everyone to read each other's blogs and encourage one another in our writing. but since taking up the challenge myself, i've been the one who's been encouraged! thanks again for sharing your thoughts, your wisdom and your passion for God and His people.
God bless, Karen Jimmy

Michelle Pendergrass said...

Thank you, Karen. I'm humbled that this post has been such a blessing.

Cyndi said...

Michelle,

What a heartfelt and thought-provoking post. I'd like to share something from a Bible study I did recently, which really helped refine my thinking on this. (It's from Beth Moore's Daniel study.)

When "fiery trials", in whatever form, come into the lives of God's people there are 3 possible scenarios:
1- We can be delivered from the fire, in which case our faith is built. (Dan. 3)
2- We can be delivered through the fire, in which case our faith is refined. (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
3- We can be delivered by the fire into His arms, in which case our faith is perfected. (Heb. 12:1-2)

This has helped me so much, because no matter how it plays out in His plan... we are delivered. Glory to God! Thanks for your sweet comment on my site this week. Your blog has blessed me today!

beepbeepitsme said...

My serious opinion on "why he heals some and doesn't heal others?"

The reason that makes the most sense is >> He, she or it doesn't do anything.

He, she or it only exists as a cultural meme which makes us feel emotionally cared for.

And in a world where care, concern and love is sadly lacking in many people's lives, an imagined love and concern is better than none at all.

I always feel like the child in the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes" when I say that.

No one else was brave enough to say "the emperor is naked."

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I used to feel the same way, so I can understand your comment. I thought maybe I should delete it because it could potentially cause harm to someone who might be reading in a moment of crisis in their lives. But I thought some more and decided to leaave it.

I'm not sure how you came about finding my site, I usually don't attract atheists anymore. It's kind of ironic on many layers to see that even after SO many years, things haven't changed all that much. The thoughts and arguments are still the same.

I always feel like Paul when I say that. He was persecuting Christians until one day on his way to Damascus. I was the same way. Just on a different road. But "persecuting" Christians just the same. Til God got ahold of me. :)