Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 18 2020 - Mark 1:29-2:12 – Healing

The passage that we have read this morning tells of Jesus healing the sick. The accounts are piled one on top of the other: the healing of Peter's mother-in-law in Capernaum draws the crowds who bring their sick and demon possessed to be healed. Jesus then leaves to take his message to other nearby villages, "preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons" (Mark 1:39). We are told of a leper being cleansed of his leprosy. Despite being told by Jesus to keep quiet about what had happened to him he, quite naturally, tells everyone he meets with the result that Jesus has to leave town to escape the crowds who are seeking him out.

Eventually Jesus returns to Capernaum and again the crowds gather to hear what he has to say. A paralysed man is brought by his friends to be cured by Jesus. Since they cannot get to the door of the house where he is speaking because of the crowds, they climb upon the roof, remove some of the roofing and lower their friend to Jesus. Jesus not only heals the man, he also declares that the man's sins are forgiven, scandalising the teachers of the law who were present, but filling the crowds with wonder as they declare, “We never saw anything like this!”

Healing is not incidental to Jesus' ministry. Even the most cursory reading of the gospels makes it clear that the healing ministry of Jesus was central to his mission. Nor is it simply a visual aid, as if his healing of physical ailments were simply to demonstrate that he can heal the soul. To be sure, Jesus here links the forgiveness of sins with his healing of the sick; his ability to heal is a demonstration that he has power to forgive. But that does not make healing secondary. Jesus came to heal the world; to heal it of all that has come into the world through sin; to heal the world of sickness, sin and even of death. This was why he had come; this was the substance of his preaching of the kingdom; this was the meaning of his death and resurrection; this is the hope we have in him.

Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;   
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Jesus’ healing ministry was a sign of the kingdom – the age to come, breaking into this present age.

We have friends and relatives who are sick and suffering from various illnesses. We long that we could take them to Jesus as the friends of the paralysed man did in Capernaum. True, we can bring them to Jesus in prayer and there are times when we witness wonderful healing, but all too often we see little change. We long for the day when Jesus shall return; the day when sickness, suffering and death shall be no more. But this is no get-out clause. In the meantime we are called to bring healing to a broken world through the power and presence of the Lord Jesus – the healing of sins forgiven, broken relationships mended, suffering alleviated and broken lives made whole.

Lord Jesus, I long for the day when this broken world will be healed; I long for your kingdom to come in all its fullness. Help me to know your healing power, and by your risen presence within me, help me to bring your healing to those I meet today.

Jul 18 2019 - 2 Kings 18:1-16 – King Hezekiah

The prophets had warned the northern kingdom of Israel that their lack of faithfulness to the Lord would lead to judgment and to them losing the land which God had given them. In today's passage we read that:

[In] the seventh year of Hoshea … king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. At the end of three years the Assyrians took it… The king of Assyria deported Israel to Assyria and settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the River Habor and in towns of the Medes. This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated his covenant – all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded. They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out. (2 Kings 18:9-12)

Hezekiah was king of Judah at this time and he was a man who "trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel" (v.3), and who wanted the nation to be faithful to the Lord their God:

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (vv.3-4)

Indeed, it is recorded of him that, "There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him… And the Lord was with him" (vv. 5,7).

Hezekiah destroyed the idols which had led the people of Judah astray. The "high places" were the sites of Baal worship – you stood a better chance of catching the attention of a god on a mountain top! Sacred stones marked traditional places of idol worship and Ashterah poles were kind of totem poles – carved trees – dedicated to the Ugaritic mother-goddess Ashterah. The destruction of these is quite understandable, but Hezekiah also "broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made." This snake on a brass pole had been made by Moses at God's command and had been a symbol of the healing power of God – and an anticipation of the cross of Christ. But this sacred object had become the focus of idolatrous worship and so it too was destroyed by Hezekiah.

This incident is recorded as a warning to us. Symbols, such as a cross, which can be helpful in reminding us of all that God has done for us, may become objects of superstitious reverence when they are viewed as having virtue in themselves rather than pointing to Christ. We always need to watch over our own lives that the focus of our faith is always upon our Triune God and his saving power and not upon anything which has been made by human hands.

Hezekiah's trust in the living God enabled him to win notable battles against the Philistines and to resist the power of the Assyrians. But in the fourteenth year of his reign, "Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them" (v.13). Hezekiah, fearing that Sennacherib would attack Jerusalem, stripped the temple of gold, even the gold coverings of the doors and doorposts. Along with an apology for resisting Assyria's power, Hezekiah sent about ten tons of silver and a ton of gold to Sennacherib – imagine the contemporary worth of such treasure! But, As we shall see, these costly treasures did not prevent Sennacherib from continuing to threaten Jerusalem.

Faithfulness to God does not guarantee freedom from trouble – maybe even costly trouble. We need to trust God as our help in time of trouble knowing that though we may suffer the loss of many things, we cannot lose his love and the place he has purchased for us in his family.

Father God, teach me to trust in you and in you alone in days when all seems to go well and in days when I suffer all kinds of threats, trials and loss. Help me to know that you are unchanging in your faithfulness, goodness and love.

Peter Misselbrook