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The Centurion’s Servant

Author: Dr. George M. Flattery

The Centurion’s Servant

Thoughts from John 5:1-9; Mark 9:14-29; and Mark 1:40-45. 

These are Scriptures about Divine Healing.  We often are called upon to pray for the sick.  Because we believe in divine healing, this is a part of our ministry to each other.  On the one hand, we have seen many answers to prayer for healing.  On the other hand, we know that some people we pray for are not healed.  Moreover, any given person may be healed on one occasion and not on another.  Because of this, we may wonder when we are asked to pray for the sick, “How shall I pray?”

Some people pray very positive prayers for healing.  They may or may not wish to discuss those who do not get well.  Others always pray passively.  They simply ask God to act according to His will.  Never would they say to a lame man, “Rise up and walk.”  (Acts 3:6)  With these differences in mind, I will discuss with you several central healing issues about healing.  After discussing these issues, I will suggest ways to pray for the sick.

We often are called upon pray for others, but we also face times when we ourselves need healing.  As we pray for our own healing and ask others to pray for us, we face the same central issues.  Probably all of us have recovered many times from illness.  Although the healing may not have been a dramatic event, we have recovered.  On the other hand, many of us have physical problems that endure.

More Thoughts Concerning Healing. 

We will consider four issues with regard to divine healing.  The first issue arises in John 5:1-9 where John tells the story of a man who had been sick for many years.  Jesus raised the issue.  It is (verse 6), “Do you wish to get well?”

Jesus raised this issue at the pool of Bethesda.  The pool of Bethesda was near the sheep gate in Jerusalem.   Large numbers of people with disabilities would gather there–people who were “sick, blind, lame, and withered.”  Many came, I am sure because they had hope of being cured.

When Jesus visited the pool, an invalid was there who had been thus for 38 years.  We do not know how long he had been at the pool, but in some way, Jesus knew that he had been in this condition a long time.  Neither do we know the exact nature of his physical illness.  We do know that he was disabled.  He could not get into the pool by himself.

Jesus went to the source of the problem.  In this case, the deepest need was not physical.  He asked, “Do you wish to get well?”  Jesus knew that this man lacked a strong desire to get well.  We do not know why, but we can imagine.

Perhaps this man was just discouraged.  According to our text, it was thought that getting into the water when it was stirred would bring healing.  In his answer, he complained that he had no one to help him into the pool when the water was stirred.  This invalid said that someone else would go down ahead of him.  He may have lost his motivation due to discouragement. Or, there may have been some other reason.

Whatever the reason, in this case, Jesus put the spotlight on his motivation. Then, after stirring his desire to be well, Jesus healed him.  He said, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” Immediately the man became well.  He picked up his mat and walked!  More about motivation in my next “thoughts.”

More Thoughts from John 5:1-9. 

At the pool of Bethesda, Jesus talked with a man who had been ill for 38 years.  Jesus asked him, “Do you wish to get well?”  In this man’s case, Jesus put the spotlight on motivation.  Not everyone who is sick lacks the desire to get well.  Many people desperately want to be healed, but are not.  Others are healed.

There are people, however, who do not wish to get well.  The reasons for this are many.  Some people have asked for prayer for years.  Now, they are discouraged.  Other people are living in such conditions that they do not want to go on living.  It may be that they are living with great pain.  Many strong believers simply look forward to being with the Lord.

We could go on, but these points illustrate the issue.  In some cases, we should not try to stir up the motivation to get well.  Older people especially may feel it’s time to be with the Lord.  However, many others need a miracle of motivation.  With them, the miracle before the miracle is the blossoming of the desire to get well.

The second and third issues with regard to healing are raised in Mark 9:14-29.  These issues have to do with the ability of Jesus to work a miracle and the possibility of the sick person believing that He can. I will discuss the second issue in my next “thoughts.”

Thoughts from Mark 9:14-29. 

We are discussing four central issues with regard to divine healing.  The second and third issues were raised when Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration.  The second issue (verse 22) has to do with Christ’s ability to heal.

A crowd had gathered, and the scribes were arguing with the disciples.  When the crowd saw Jesus, they ran up to him.   A man approached Jesus with His son and explained what had happened.  He had brought his son to the disciples for deliverance.  He said that his son was possessed “with a spirit” that made him mute.  Not all sickness is caused by evil spirits or demons, but the illness of this boy was.  The disciples could not cast out the spirit.  No doubt the scribes were delighted at the failure of the disciples.  Now, the man was bringing his son to Jesus.

Jesus (verse 19) rebuked “the unbelieving generation” and asked to see the boy.  When they brought the boy, the evil spirit convulsed him and threw him to the ground.  Jesus asked how long the boy had been experiencing this.  The father answered that it was from childhood.

The boy was in pitiful condition.  The evil spirit had caused much suffering.  Our text gives the details.  The heart of this father must have been broken.  This is a stirring and poignant moment.  With his son convulsing on the ground, he raises the issue of the ability of Jesus to help.  He said, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

We can understand the man, perhaps, for raising the issue.  The nine disciples had just tried and failed to cast out the evil spirit.  The father was not completely without faith, but his faith was weak.  I do not sense that he was mocking or lacking in respect.  He just was not sure.

On theological grounds, we know Jesus can heal.  Jesus is the Son of God.  He, along with the Father and the Spirit, is omnipotent.   We cannot limit God in any way. He has all power.  On experiential grounds, too, His ability to heal is well attested.  Many of you can testify to His healing power.  Pause a moment to remember the times God has healed you and your family members!

More Thoughts from Mark 9:14-29.

Today our focus is on a third central issue about divine healing.  A loving father brought his son to Jesus saying, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”  Jesus replied, “‘If You can!  All things are possible to him who believes.”  Mark 9:23.

According to the King James Version, Jesus answered the father by saying, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”  When you read the verse this way, Jesus makes the father’s ability to believe an issue.  The question Jesus asks is “What can you believe?”

Literally, Jesus said, “If you can.”  Using this translation, many commentators maintain that Jesus was quoting the father.  With this response, Jesus indicates that the father had some doubt about His ability to heal.  The response of Jesus may have indicated some degree of surprise, an awareness of the father’s unsure faith, and perhaps a mild rebuke.

Whether we take the “if you can” comment to refer to the faith of the father or to the ability of Jesus, the result is the same.  Jesus went to say, “All things are possible to him who believes.”  The real question is the man’s ability to believe, not the ability of Jesus to heal.  Jesus challenged him to have faith!

We must not overly generalize.  Many people suffer, not through a lack of faith, but for other reasons.  It is true, however, that many do not believe that Jesus can heal.  The boy’s father believed.  He exclaimed (Mark 9:24), “I do believe; help my unbelief.”     Thereupon, Jesus commanded the deaf and mute spirit to leave the boy.  When the Spirit left the boy, he fell down as though dead.  Then Christ took him by the hand and lifted him up–healed!  With all this in mind, we come to the fourth central issue.  This is the issue of God’s will in our specific case.  We will discuss this issue in my next “thoughts.”

More Thoughts About Divine Healing. 

Today, we will focus on Mark 1:40-45 and the fourth issue concerning divine healing.  On the Sabbath, after preaching His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proceeds to Capernaum.  On the way He passes through a town where a leper came to him in the middle of the great crowd that went along with Jesus.  The man with leprosy fell on his knees and said, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  He raises the issue of the will of Jesus in healing him.

The leper wishes to get well.  He does not doubt the ability of Jesus to heal.  He believes that Jesus can.  For him, healing is only a question of whether or not Jesus wants to heal him.  As far as He is concerned Jesus can heal him!  Jesus was moved with compassion.  He reached out His hand and touched the leper, a very significant laying on of hands.  Many would not touch lepers.  Jesus said (verse 41), “I am willing; be cleansed.”

The leper’s question is our question too.  Is it always the will of Jesus to heal?   Broadly speaking Jesus wants us to be healthy and strong.   Moreover, the truth is that we are more often healed than not!  How many times in our lives have we been sick?  How many times did we get well?  We may attribute the healing to natural causes, but we can also recognize God at work.  He is the great healer and giver of life.

Yet, there are times when in an immediate sense, we are not healed.  We seem to be unable to appropriate this blessing for our physical well-being.  Sometimes this is due to our own negligence, lack of faith, or other inadequacies.  At other times, however, we must simply have to rest in the fact that God has a different purpose for us.  Although we may not know the purpose, we can be assured that He does.  He has an individual plan for each of us.

When we think about healing, it helps to consider both the “short-run” and the “long run.”  Peter says, “by his wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).   In an ultimate sense, we already are already healed.  We will receive, after death, a glorified body.  In the long run, we will be totally free from sickness.   This does not mean that we should deny pain and sickness now, in the short run.  We have been healed, but we may not have experienced this blessing.  Until we have, our sickness is very real.  We must be realistic, yet fully trust in the Lord.

When we pray for others who are sick, as well as for ourselves, how shall we pray?  We will consider this question in my next “thoughts.”  Your comments are welcome.

More Thoughts About Healing. 

We have discussed four central issues raised in the Gospels concerning divine healing.  These issues are: (1) Does the sick person wish to get well?  (2) Does Jesus have the ability to heal?  (3) Does the sick person believe that Jesus can heal? (4) Is Jesus willing to heal the sick person?

How, then, shall we pray for ourselves or others who may be sick?  We are concerned about the present as well as the future.  We are praying for people who want to get well.  We know that Jesus can heal today.  We believe that He is the healer.  Now, we want to know His will.

I have no specific formula to offer.  We must be led by the Spirit.  Jesus deals individually with the sick and with those who pray.  It is a dynamic situation.  No one procedure will always be appropriate, but here are some guidelines:

First, we normally should simply express our desires in prayer.  Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; And he will give you the desires of your heart.”  When someone is sick, we desire to see him or her well.  Let us express our desires to God.  We know, of course, that the time comes for everyone when life on earth is over and life in heaven begins.

Second, obviously, our desires are subject to God’s will.  Sometimes a higher purpose than immediate physical healing prevails.  When we pray according to the will of God, we simply acknowledge His leadership.   In my view, it is never wrong to pray that God’s will be done (I John 5:14-15).

Third, sometimes we simply do not know how to pray.  This situation is covered in the Bible as well.  We can become instruments of the Spirit’s prayers.  The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

Fourth, at times it is clear that we ought to pray forcefully and with faith for an immediate result.  Peter and John encountered the lame man at the temple gate.  Peter prayed this prayer for him: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk! (Acts 3:6).  When the Spirit leads us to pray in this way, we should pray with confidence.  However, we must always recognize that we are not the healer.  It is Jesus who heals.

As we conclude this series on healing, let us remember that God deals with each of us as an individual.  This is why we must always seek the leadership of the Spirit as we minister to people who are sick.  My desire for you today is that you be in good health (3 John, verse 2).

George M. Flattery, Ph.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.

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