Jesus' faith was so superb that, when it served an effective purpose, He quite literally had power over the elements. Yet this was not always the case, for on one occasion when He came among some of the religious teachers of the town where He had grown up, Nazareth, He was "unable to do any mighty work there, save that he laid hands on a few sick folk." In this case, he was said to have "marveled at their unbelief," thus illustrating the fact that, as the Bible reveals, especially in cases of healing, it seems to require both "faith mixed with faith" to produce the miracle.
On a number of other occasions strange miracles occurred which were supportive of Christ's Messiahship and which dumbfounded and amazed His disciples as well as others including detractors and persecutors.
When Jesus walked on water, He knew He would be buoyed up and simply stepped out on the water as if it were concrete or solid ground. Here He was, strolling about on the surface of the glassy waters of the Sea of Galilee when Peter looked out in dumbfounded amazement and recognized him. To Peter, this was another novel "trick" of some sort, and He assayed to leave the boat and walk right out to where he was, feeling that whatever applied to Jesus most certainly would have applied to Peter as well.
Peter thought he might be able to walk on water, but Jesus knew. Immediately, Peter began to sink into the water, and he had to reach out and pick him back up by another miraculous act, and give him a gentle chiding about his lack of faith. In order to provide a further miraculous testimony to His credentials, on one occasion he told His disciples to go to a nearby body of water, catch a fish, and they would find a coin in the fish's mouth! Wonderingly, they did precisely as He said, and sure enough, there was the coin.
Again, anyone who decides to take it upon himself to be a one-man critic of the Bible could simply decide he has discovered that one "loose-brick" somewhere in the foundation walls of Holy Writ which renders him skeptical of the entirety of the remainder.
For the purposes of this book, whether the reader believes it is mere theory or practical fact, the Bible is accepted as being the divinely revealed will and purpose of a great infallible God who cannot lie. Therefore, though most skeptic's would immediately claim they disbelieve the miraculous, for miracles cannot be explained by physical or scientific means, for the purposes of explaining the personality and character of Jesus Christ these miracles are accepted as bona fide fact, as much a fact as is any physical law.
Jesus' faith was built on certain knowledge. He knew His Father heard His prayers; and though He did not have "X-ray vision" like the fabled Superman from Krypton, He did have both the insight and the ability to read the thoughts and hearts of human beings by a combination of body language, the looks in their eyes, as well as a very great amount of spiritual perception which some might call mental telepathy.
Therefore, on some occasions when an individual seemed to have a great deal of faith, Jesus would immediately answer the request for healing or for the expulsion of a demon. On other accounts, even though one sincere believer might have asked for a miracle, he asked that the unbelievers be put out of the environment prior to the healing taking place. On another occasion a Roman soldier, a captain over one hundred men, begged him to come to his home to heal his sick servant. He turned and pointed out to His own people that He, had, not found such faith in all of Israel using the analogy of the Roman soldier.
The military man had said, "You don't need to come all that distance if you don't want to, Lord; I know all you need to do is give, the word and ft will be done! After all I'm a military man; I am a captain over a hundred men. If I give orders for a man to come, he comes; if I say go, he goes. Therefore, all you have got to do is give the orders and I know my servant will be healed!"
Following the Roman's analogy, Jesus gave the object lesson to His own disciples that He had not found such an example of straightforward, simple faith, "No, not in all Israel." He told the Roman, "Go your way, and as you have believed it will occur to you" (Matthew 8:8-10, paraphrased)
On the occasion at Lazarus's tomb, Jesus also reveals that He was in an attitude of prayer a great deal of the time. Upon nearing the tomb, He was met by Lazarus's relatives who came out weeping and wailing and wringing their hands in absolute anguish, telling Him, "Oh Lord, if you had only made it a few days earlier - but its too late now, for poor Lazarus has been dead for four days already!
Then follows another of the misunderstood texts in the Bible. Almost everyone remembers hearing the shortest verse in the Bible, "Jesus wept."
Few seem to know why He wept. Most would assume it was because of His feeling for poor Lazarus, or the terrible loss of His loved ones. But wait. Read the inspired account and you will see that lifted His eyes to the heavens, and said loudly enough for a few of His own disciples to hear it, "Father I thank you that you have heard me, and I know that you hear me always."
And finishing this brief prayer as if an addendum or postscript to lengthy prayers said in private previously, Jesus said in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" Miraculously, and throwing stunned disbelief and shock into the detractors as well as disbelieving joy into the hearts of his loved ones, Lazarus stood up and came out of the tomb still wearing the grave clothes, whereupon he said, "Loose him and let him go" (John 11:31-44). The account proves he knew what He would find and knew of the surety that God was going to answer His prayer to Miraculously resurrect Lazarus from death itself.
Therefore, it is utterly impossible that the brief two-word verse, "Jesus wept," could imply either sorrow for Lazarus, or for His loved ones.But study his life carefully and recall the example of His "being grieved at the hardness of their hearts" on another occasion when a miraculous healing was to take place, or His expressions of grief at His disciples' lack of faith in the case of the healing of the boy who was possessed with a demon that was trying to destroy his life!
On this occasion, the distraught father came to Jesus and told him that the disciples had tried to cast out the demon but were unable; the father was despairing because apparently the spirit was literally trying to destroy the boy, by throwing him into any water nearby, or even into a fire; and the young lad was "torn" by fits and seizures which caused a great deal of trauma and pain.
Jesus commanded the spirit to come out, and even then in the last frenzy of hate, the demon was said to have cried with a loud voice and brought about another violent fit prior to his departure.
Later, the disciples had asked why they were unable to cast the demon out and Jesus said, "Oh ye of little faith," and told them that this kind "will not come out except by a great deal of prayer and fasting."
He knew that His disciples were spending nowhere near as much time in prayer as they should; and He also knew very obviously that they were not fasting anywhere near as often.
Obviously, then, because of Jesus' grief over examples of lack of faith, and the hopelessness of human anguish, His emotion at the tomb of Lazarus was more one of anguish and deep personal grief because of their lack of faith, than for any other cause.
It was, perhaps similar to the anguish of a loving parent, who, though trying time and time again to teach an important object lesson to a child, sees the child slip up repeatedly, only to hurt himself severely. The parent cries out in anguish over the seeming inability of the child to learn the lesson.
Jesus wept at Lazarus's tomb not because of any frustrated feelings of hopelessness, sense of loss, or even necessarily deep compassion toward a loved one; for He knew Lazarus was going to walk out of that tomb in only moments! He wept simply because He was in deep personal anguish over the continual lack of faith of these people!
A custom of the day required the continuous wailing of members of the family over a protracted period of time, and could also even feature the actual hiring of professional "wailers" to do so on the occasion of a funeral. Remember, this wailing and weeping was still going on after four solid days.
Jesus had faith, then, to work whatever miracles were absolutely necessary for the proof of His authority; for the presentation of His true credentials as the Messiah of mankind; for demonstration of the "power of the kingdom of God," for the casting out of demons, for the healing of the sick, and also for a testimony to His own disciples that they might have the courage backed by faith at a later date to perform miracles which he said would be "even greater than these."
The "faith" experienced by most humans today is more of a frantic hoping, a quest, a desire, a deep and sincere thirst for something wanted than it is the calm, full-bodied, confident assurance, the foreknowledge that certain events are going to take place prior to their occurrence!
The greatest detriments to faith are fear, pain, doubt, or vanity. Perhaps the first three are obvious, but what about vanity?
Of assurity, though many would-be faith healers would desperately like to utilize some supernatural power for the propulsion of themselves into a theological limelight to create a vast following, God is never going to honor a request either in private or in public for miraculous events or for the healing of the sick merely to satiate ego and vanity.
On the other hand, how does one explain seemingly incontrovertible cases where individuals claim they had been healed miraculously on such occasions?
Notwithstanding the allegations of circus freaks, appearing and disappearing goiters, people who are not really crippled after all, what of those cases which would seem to defy scientific investigation? Perhaps there is another answer.
Jesus revealed another principle concerning faith: He said on more than one occasion that an answer to prayer would be "according to faith"! When he said, "It will be done, or it will occur according to your faith," He is throwing the burden of proof and the direct weight of responsibility squarely back on the shoulders of the supplicant. It is not impossible to imagine occasions where individuals who were looking beyond the alleged human healer, looking directly toward Christ's own personal sacrifice (the Bible reveals, "by his stripes were ye healed") could be, under those circumstances, miraculously delivered from physical illness or deformity.
Careful study, however, of the examples of the healings found throughout the four gospels, cannot turn up one single healing done in a carnival-like atmosphere for the purpose of gaining attention.
Rather, there are any number of examples where even though a miraculous healing did occur, Jesus privately warned the individual who had been so blessed, "Tell no man, but go your way and show the gift to the priest as the law of Moses commands."
Thus, after performing the ceremonial ritual of cleansing in the case of blindness or a disease such as leprosy, Jesus strongly. urged most individuals who were greatly blessed by being healed that they "tell no one about it," in order that Jesus would not bring too much persecution upon Himself too soon.
What a far cry is this quiet, once-in-a-while blessing, extended toward sincere supplicants, from the blatant-circus like attempts of individuals who proclaim themselves to be evangelistic healers and who advertise widely that they are going to provide a "double portion night" every Tuesday at 10 o'clock!
Perhaps the greatest example of the tremendous assurance which Jesus possessed and which resulted in a miracle is the occasion when He and several of the disciples were aboard a fair-sized boat in the Sea of Galilee, and an unusually strong wind arose which caused huge white caps to nearly swamp the boat. He was in the bottom of the boat asleep and finally was roused by all of the frightened chatter by the disciples who thought the boat was surely going to sink.
Coming on deck, Jesus merely looked at the intensity of the storm, and gesturing to the waves and wind, said, "Peace, be still." The waves began to die down, and within only a matter of minutes, as can occur after the passage of a violent windstorm when a lake which had been tempestuous only the minutes before can become almost glassy-still, the lake took on a great calm. The disciples were absolutely dumbfounded and said, "What manner of man is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?"
On this occasion, while many might be tempted to see Jesus in the role of showman, merely gesturing or posturing in an attempt to gain popularity or notoriety, He was actually saving several lives, including His own! While the account is cursory at best, there is every reason to believe it was a serious enough storm that if Christ had not intervened, it quite literally would have meant the sinking of the ship.
Skeptics would be tempted to say, "Well, so what, He could have walked on the water anyway, couldn't He?" But again, this book is not intended to "bring you to the Lord" or to convince anyone who wishes to disbelieve, but to set forth the simple truth about the personality, nature and character of the real Jesus Christ of Nazareth as closely as the personal eyewitness accounts will allow.
Perfect godly character would have absolutely demanded that Jesus never utilize any special supernatural powers for the mere purpose of show. Furthermore, any attempt to utilize supernatural powers for such a purpose would have meant the automatic cancellation of miraculous powers in the first place! Nothing is more detrimental to faith than vanity and ego!
Entirely too many people feel miracles are 'credentials' of personal righteousness, holiness and power, instead of aids to evangelism. "Signs" were utilized by God's prophets to dumbfound and convince skeptics and unbelievers; special blessings from time to time have come from God in especially outstanding cases to display God's mercy. But most assuredly, God will never permit real godly miracles to be prostituted in a form of spiritualistic gimmickry for the purpose of inflating the ego of would-be spiritual leaders.
Even as the teaching of the real Jesus is virtually intolerable to so many today, it was also intolerable to the religious leaders of His day. He actually attempted to begin the formal segment of His ministry by honoring His own country, sadly but fully expecting to be rejected by His own people. Some interesting doctrinal truths are discovered in his first rejection at Nazareth.
Read Luke's account, chapter four, verses 16 through 30, and you will find that He was appearing in His own hometown synagogue. Jesus had already been in Judaea and had understood that the Pharisees were rumoring that He was becoming more of an important figure than John, allegedly baptizing even more people than John, and therefore looming as a larger competitive threat in the religious market place (at least in their minds). So he left Judaea and went again into Galilee. However, it required Him to pass through Samaria (John 4:1-4). It was during this journey that he met the woman at Jacob's well and gave the Samaritan woman the lesson about "living water."
Following Jesus' miraculous ability to tell the woman many details of her past, plus His plain teaching about a "well of water springing up unto eternal life," many of the Samaritans began to believe that He must be the prophesied Messiah or Savior. It was only two days later (John 4:43) that he went into Galilee. He had said earlier (Luke 4:24; Mark 6:4; Matthew 13:57) that no prophet has any acceptance in his own country.
In Luke 4:16, Jesus was in Nazareth, where He was brought up, and "as His custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day." On this occasion, according to the custom of the synagogue, He was asked to read. He found the place in Isaiah where it was written,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:16-19, RSV).
After reading this segment from Isaiah 58:6 and 61:1-2, He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. There was a protracted silence, with all eyes still upon Him, when He confidently proclaimed, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
He went on to proclaim Himself as the Messiah who was actually fulfilling those centuries-old pronouncements from the scroll of Isaiah. Everyone listened intently, and began to wonder at both the eloquence and the vast biblical knowledge, as well as at the sincerity that gave His words a ring of truth.
But true to His predictions, their hometown prejudices began to get in their way.
Some began to reason, "Isn't this Joseph's boy?" Many of them had perhaps not paid much attention to Him in the last several years, though some few must have recognized Him as the young man who had grown up right in the city as a laborer at His father's side and who had been conducting His father's business together with His several brothers since Joseph's death.
Recognizing their beginning doubts He said , "Probably you are going to repeat to me the tired old parable 'Physician, heal yourself!' Since we have heard all those marvelous rumors about what you did in Capernaum why don't you do the same things right here in your own hometown and show us?" He went on to say that "no prophet is acceptable in his own country."
Then followed a very concise statement which is impossible for most people to believe, even today.
Jesus said, "I am telling you the truth - there were many widows in Israel during the days of Elijah when the heaven was shut up three years and six months; and great famine came over the whole country. In spite of all the terrible duress, Elijah was not sent to any of them but only to Zarephath in the land of Sidon unto a woman that was a widow." (Obviously, the implication was that even though a major prophet of Israel, Elijah was sent to a Sidonian and therefore to a Gentile.)
"Also, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha's prophecies, and none of them was cleansed but only Naaman the Syrian" (II Kings 5:14).
They were all so enraged at His obvious inference that great prophets and men of God who were champions and heroes of Israel had actually turned away from their own people because of their paganism, and had been sent to isolated Gentiles for special purposes, that they "were all filled with wrath."
As the men in the synagogue heard there things they
"rose up, and cast him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereupon their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way" (see Luke 4:22-30).
Much can be gleaned from this account - not the least of which is additional confirmation about the obvious plainness of Jesus' appearance, necessary for Him to be able to lose Himself in the crowd.
But perhaps more importantly this abortive attempt of the beginning of a public ministry in His own hometown is illustrative of a major scriptural truth rejected by so many millions today: to wit, Jesus did not come to save the world then, and He is not setting His hand to save it now! The concept held by the religious leaders of the day demanded a returning, conquering Messiah who would once again exalt the nation of Israel to its Davidic greatness, or the glitter of the reign of Solomon. They wanted a military king; one to overthrow the yoke of the Roman conquerors, and to so expand their own borders, commerce, domestic economy and social order that they once again became a great kingdom.
Many other examples in the four gospels illustrate the same point. Jesus had said repeatedly, "Why do you call me Lord and yet do not the things which I say? Not everyone that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall in anywise enter the kingdom of my Father."
"None can come to the son except the spirit of the Father draw him." And, in answering His disciples' queries as to why He spoke in difficult-to-understand similes and parables, He plainly referred once again to a prophecy by Isaiah in which He instructed His disciples, "Because as Isaiah said their eyes are totally blinded and their ears are deafened and they stumble at my teaching, lest at any time they should turn and be converted and I should heal them."
Read the thirteenth chapter of Matthew and you will discover a profound truth which is rejected by most professing Christendom today - Jesus deliberately concealed His message from the majority, and privately taught it to a select hand-picked group of disciples for the purpose of raising them up as His immediate successors to form the human building blocks of the New Testament Church of God which He predicted would continue from that age to this.
Never at any time, not during the human life span of Christ of Nazareth when He with His own footsteps trod the pastures, orchards, and grain fields of Palestine, or throughout the intervening millennia, has the real Jesus set His hand to save the world! Anyone who believes in the childish bedtime concept of him trying to save the world must automatically believe, at the same time, that Satan's efforts are infinitely more powerful; that Jesus is weak and inept, and that God seemingly is losing the battle on all fronts.
Jesus' attitude throughout His life was not one of pomp and vanity. There was not one iota of braggadocio in the man - but there was a deepening awareness, especially following the frightening confrontation with Satan the Devil in the wilderness, that His public ministry would result in a growing hostility and resistance on the part of political and religious leaders. Yet he had the faith to see it through.
Miracles prove Jesus is Savior
There is no such thing as "little miracles" or "big miracles." Jesus performed many miracles during the course of His ministry, and, may have performed, at least on rare occasions, private miracles for family members or perhaps a neighborhood friend.
However, to say He "performed" miracles is not quite so accurate as to say Jesus was the human instrument in the hands of His Father, God, who generated the miracles.
"The Father who lives in me, He is the one who is really doing this work."
He said repeatedly to His disciples that the miracles were evidence of His divine origins, His preexistent life with His Father, and His present divine calling and commission. Jesus never took any personal credit for "performing miracles " but insisted continually that it was the combination of the faith of the believer and the spirit of His Father from heaven that accomplished the miracles.
Most of the accounts of Jesus' healings are quiet, personal accounts of miraculous healings performed either out great compassion or following an example of particular perseverance on the part of Jews as well as Gentiles. Even though he mostly healed privately and immediately told people not to tell anyone about it, and even though the Bible plainly records that the great healings during his time and the early years of the Church gradually waned and virtually disappeared even prior to the closing of the New Testament writings, yet many seem to believe that great healings or supernatural phenomena are the test of whether a church body is truly "of God" or not.
Of course others doubt whether healing could take place today, or that it ever could have taken place in the past.
One of the most obvious, oft-repeated and sensationalized facts about Jesus was that He could really heal. He Himself, in telling the disciples of John that they should judge "by the fruits," pointed to healing as a demonstration of His Messiahship (Matthew 8:16-17, Matthew 11:2-6).
Immediately following the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:7) there are many accounts of healings in the subsequent chapter. Jesus was making His way down from the mountain, which had to be only a short distance from Capernaum, and therefore was probably one of the steep hills at the extreme northwestern corner of the Sea of Galilee, when a leper finally got close enough to call out to Him.
No doubt the crowd following along and discussing what they had just heard, parted to allow the man access, giving him wide berth, for he had to follow the prescribed laws of shouting out. "leper,"' or perhaps even ringing a bell to warn of his approach. (Lepers were the "pariahs"' of the society, looked upon with revulsion and distaste, as they still are in some societies today, and suffering a certain measure of isolation, though not necessarily placed in "colonies," as this account reveals.)
The leper finally called out to Jesus "Lord, if you only will, you can make me clean"! He then did something which must have appeared doubly remarkable to everyone around him and something none of them would have dared do. He put forth His hand and actually touched the leper and said, "I will - come clean"! Miraculously, the pasty flesh tones became ruddy, the horrible open wounds and scars disappeared, the disfigurement vanished, and the man stood before Jesus whole! There is no strong indication that dozens were surrounding Him at this moment; rather, it is more likely that many in the immediate vicinity actually fled the leper, and that he was there with only a handful of His own disciples. Otherwise, you could not understand why he said to the man, "See that you don't tell anybody about it, but go your way, be sure to show yourself to the priest and offer the gift just as required by the law of Moses, because this will be a testimony to the religious leaders."
Mark says the man almost instantly disobeyed Jesus' admonition because of his excitement and joy over being healed, and began to tell everybody in sight and "blaze abroad the matter," insomuch that he could no more "openly enter into the city" because of the pressure of the crowds who were clamoring for the healing of their sick, or confirmation of the miracle (Mark 1:40-45).
Though it will anger some, it happens to be a simple fact that many others attempted to be healed by Christ but that He deliberately withdrew into a private place to pray. Mark says the pressure of the crowd seeking Him out to ask for healing for their own loved ones or themselves became so great that he "could not enter into the city" and so went apart into a desert place nearby where no one knew where He was. Later, he was at home in Capernaum teaching many who had gathered to hear.
A particularly determined group of friends brought one of their buddies who was paralyzed, but they found they could not fight their way through the crowd with the poor guy lying there on a pallet. Every time they tried, they were jostled out of the way by all the people pressing around the door, filling up the foyer, standing, sitting all over the house, intently listening to what Jesus was saying.
With some risk and not a little ingenuity, they actually began to take up some of the stones or other roofing material on the roof. Those down below began to notice a crack and sliver of light, and then a lot of dust and mortar tumbling down, and perhaps any in the way stood up, and began brushing off their clothes and hair and began looking anxiously toward the ceiling. Jesus, a bit bewildered, probably stood up, pausing in the middle of the lesson He was giving to the others about, and watched with a combination of patience and bemusement as the hole got larger.
Soon several faces probably peered in, disappeared, and then the light was blotted out while a pallet seemed to cover it. Finally, all noticed a paralyzed man slowly being lowered into the room!
Because of this audacious act of ingenuity, Jesus seized upon the opportunity to present a great lesson of compassion, and at the same time give a stinging rebuke to the religious leaders of the day as well as teach an important spiritual principle concerning the forgiveness of sins to do crowd!
The Bible says He saw their faith (including the buddies of the paralytic, and perhaps not even necessarily the paralytic's own faith) and so He said, "Your sins are forgiven."
After saying this and looking at the man for some moments, some audible arguments began to come from a nearby group of religious types whose garments identified them as leaders of the local synagogue. Immediately Jesus knew He was being judged and criticized for making such an outrageous statement; so He completed the act in two parts by saying, "But that you may understand that the Son of man has the authority on this earth to forgive sins, I'm telling you," and turning to the paralytic He said, "Get up from there, roll up your pallet and go home." When the man did exactly that, a ripple of surprise echoed through the crowd, and the religious leaders took a step backward as if in utter shock, while his disciples looked around at the people, with Peter probably wearing that smug smile that said, "I told you so" to some of those who had been doubting his abilities a little earlier.
The forgiveness of the man's sins according to these accounts (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26) was separate from the healing, which was performed in two parts; the first was Christ's declaration that the man's sins had in fact been forgiven, and the second, after a brief explanation to the crowd and a rebuke of the religious leaders, was the actual command to the man to "get up, roll up your pallet and go on home."
Jesus' remarkable capacity for seeing. knowing, feeling and sensing that "other dimension" of His Father's spirit kingdom, the presence of powerful angels, and the ebb and flow of the power of God's Holy Spirit through Him, had given Him perfect faith so that in issuing such a command He knew it would be honored. Both before and after the famous "Sermon on the Mount," he healed many people who came to seek Him out from all over Judaea, from as far away as Jerusalem and Syria. His ministry began to be spread abroad in towns and cities for literally hundreds of miles, and in the early weeks of His Galilean ministry, He became one of the most famous individuals of that time. The crush of the crowds became so great on some occasions that He had to jump aboard a boat to avoid being crushed in the stampede.
Jesus was no respecter of persons when it came to having compassion for people and reaching out into that "other dimension" of the spirit world for the power of His Father to heal. A Roman officer, having authority over one hundred soldiers, came to him begging Him to heal his slave who was near death. Many lessons can be gleaned from the account of the Roman soldier simply by wondering what our Savior did not say or do.
First, He did not scathingly indict the Roman soldier, standing there in his burnished breastplate, with his sword at his side, or his helmet in his hand. There was no bitter indictment about being in the military, no scathing denunciation because of the brutal Roman occupation of Jesus' homeland, and no contemptuous epithets because the Roman was of another race, from another country, and a stranger to the country. Next, even though the Roman plainly told him his servant was a slave (all the Roman officers had both household slaves and personal slaves and could from time to time commandeer additional help from other private citizens who were not necessarily indentured to them), Jesus did not enter into the internal politics of the land at the time by loudly condemning slavery, though this is not to imply by the remotest stretch of the imagination that His lack of stern condemnation represents, in an argument from silence, that He either condoned or approved the practice.
Perhaps Jesus was a little curious about where the Roman lived, and actually wanted to set the example of walking along the road with a Roman officer so others would notice the kind of companions He was willing to keep. In any event, He said, "Sure, I'll be glad to come and heal him - let's go."
The officer, startled, said, "I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, after all I'm an officer in the Roman army. I tell one of my troops to come here and he simply comes. I tell him to go and he goes. You are in total authority. All you need to do is give the word and I know my servant is going to be healed."
Jesus turned to those nearby and said, "I haven't found an example of faith like this among my own people throughout Israel!" Turning to the Roman he said, "Go on home, and as you have believed and have faith, so will it be done to you exactly." When the officer arrived back home after a rapid ride over some rocky roads, clattering along in his chariots it was to find some excited house servant telling him that his favorite slave had miraculously got on his feet, the fever had left him, and be was standing there looking wonderingly about. The officer found out by a careful comparison of the amount of time it had taken him to ride home and the time the servant told him the slave had been healed, that it was right at the same hour when he had been in personal conversation with our Savior (Matthew 8:5-13, paraphrased).
Some time later, Jesus was staying in Peter's home, and after a brief journey from Capernaum down to Bethsaida walked into the house to find Peter's mother-in law sick with a high fever. He felt bad; here He had arrived with a whole group of His disciples, expecting to spend some time (probably for Peter's own benefit, giving him a chance to visit his family and to be with his wife for a day or so), only to find Peter's wife's mother there grievously ill with a high fever. Thinking of the vastly increased household chores which would immediately be forced upon her, of the throngs of the people who would be coming and going and the heightened activity in the house because of His presence there, let alone His immediate compassion because of the poor woman's condition and the close family relationship, reached out, took her hand, smiled into her face, and said that He was rebuking the fever.
She was healed instantly. Very shortly after sundown that day, evidently a Sabbath, other people from Capernaum had heard the news, and flocks of individuals, knowing that He was at Peter's home, came to Him to be healed. The gospel of Matthew say this helped fill Isaiah 53:4 ("He took our infirmities and bore our diseases," Matthew 8:17, RSV).
Sometimes, at a particular request, Jesus would be on the way to heal one person when someone else would come forward in the crowd and beg His attention. There were accounts of people pressing forward in the crush of the crowd and actually reaching out to touch His clothing and being healed. This was not only attested by three of the gospel writers, but it was said later by Luke that in the early days of the New Testament Church when the early apostles were so filled with zeal, with the newness and freshness of their conversion and their knowledge of God's Holy Spirit, that sick people lying in the streets were healed miraculously when the very shadow of Peter passed over them!
On one occasion, Jesus was on the way to heal a little girl who was near death, who happened to be the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, named Jairus. (Actually, she died while Jairus was in the process of bringing her.). This was an especially important occasion, for Jesus would be visiting in the home of one of the important men of the local Jewish synagogue, a site of so many of His frequent confrontations with the religious leaders. He was keenly aware of His need to show His deep outgoing concern, love and compassion toward people regardless of their background, religion, color, or nationality.
He was on His way to Jairus's home when, surging forward from among the mass of people crowding along behind Him, was a woman who had been plagued with a serious bleeding for twelve long years. The Bible says she had spent her whole living, going from one resort to another, trying everything imaginable from herbs, poultices, teas, baths, compresses; everything in the medicines available in that day, and was still not helped, but rather had become destitute because every bit of her savings was finally exhausted.
The story reveals another important item in Jesus' personal life. When the woman finally got close enough, she reached out, full of desire and faith, and touched the hem of his outer cloak. The Bible says he "felt virtue flow out of him." He said, "Who touched me?" When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, "Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, 'Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.' "
With the crowd there was curiosity, perhaps even suspicion and anger in some cases, but with the desperately afflicted woman, there was deep desire and strong confident faith. She knew that all she had to do was fight her way forward until she could touch that fabulous man. A spiritual contact was made. God actually healed the woman through Jesus' own body, even without him knowing to whom the healing had happened.
"And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace" (Luke 8:43-48).
Jesus had felt, by an actual ebbing or draining of strength from Him that a miracle had taken place. Without launching into speculations which border on the realm of ESP, or implying anything more than that which is stated, it is clear that he could feel not only physical exhaustion, but could literally feel the surge and flow of spiritual power and strength. It is clearly shown that, in His lengthy 40-day fast, in order to gird His spiritual loins for the violent confrontation and matching of wills with Satan the Devil, that he knew He had to be in exceedingly close contact with God, and filled with more spiritual energy than ever before.
On the occasion of praying so hard to select each of his 12 disciples, knowing both that the future of the Church depended on them and that one of them should betray Him, He prayed so earnestly that His brow was running with rivulets of sweat as if they were like "drops of blood splashing on the ground." When He told His disciples they couldn't cast out a demon because "this kind comes not out except through prayer and fasting," Jesus indicated there were moments when greater measures of spiritual power would be required to perform some miraculous act.
Thus, while it is impossible to "feel the Holy Spirit in the sense of implying that the Holy Spirit impresses itself upon a human mind emotionally or through the sensory perceptions, Jesus, with His perfect mind and having the Holy Spirit poured out "without measure" upon Him, could actually be super-sensitized to the fact that a portion of God's own power had flowed through Him, almost as if He were a conductor of electricity, feeling the passing on of power.
He turned, saw the woman standing there, and said, "Good for you, daughter; be of good cheer and take heart, because you had such faith, you are standing there well!" He smiled at her, turned around, and continued toward Jairus's home.
At this point, a weeping servant came running toward them, and seeing Jairus, reported to him in Jesus hearing that it was too late and that Jairus's little girl was already dead. He continued on into the house, stopping at the entry, and following the customary foot washing and slipping into household slippers, turned toward the sleeping quarters. He told the people crowding at the door and looking in with tears streaking their faces, "Don't worry about it, I'm am she is only sleeping."
Hopelessly, with tears streaming down their faces, they looked at Him, and one or two even laughed bitterly, expressing their scorn and disbelief because by now her pulse and breathing had ceased. But you could imagine one of the more scornful present saying, "Are you kidding? Everyone knows she's dead. And I checked her pulse myself", as well as there being irate protests of "Who does he think he is?" coming from the crowd.
However, Jesus eventually got Jairus to clear the room, except for the immediate parents and his own closest disciples, and, after making sure the home was free of all outsiders, He went back into the bedroom, took the girl by the hand, and, praying fervently but quietly, called upon His Father in heaven who was so close to Him in that "other dimension" of the spirit world from whence He had come. With the supreme confidence coming only from the sure knowledge that His Father had heard, he took the girl by the hand and lifted her up from the pallet where she lay.Her mother and father immediately embraced her, and then embraced Jesus, giving Him their thanks in tearful rejoicing. The only ones who saw the miracle were a few of His closest disciples, Jairus and his wife, but none of the household servants.
Jesus continually tried to perform these acts of great mercy and compassion in a private environment to avoid the wildfire tales which would be spread, including the bitterest accusations that He was using some sort of sorcery or witchcraft, which might bring about even more intense persecution, and plunge His whole ministry and the training of His disciples into a chaotic uproar far too early for His purposes.
But so many people had claimed to have seen the girl dead; for example, the household servants who were nearby had known of the girls illness and that she had indeed apparently died.
Though totally divided in their opinions of just how He had done it, or whether she had, in fact, been dead or merely in a deep coma from which she had awakened, many people began widely spreading the account, and Jesus was made the more famous or infamous, depending upon the version of the story that was told. It is obvious that he had a distinct purpose in telling the people in advance, "Don't worry about it, she is only asleep."
He no doubt said that He still wanted there to be sufficient room for doubt later on when they learned the girl was alive. He didn't want this great miracle of raising one from the dead to greatly disturb the local environment, or reach all the way to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem because it could have precipitated a violent reaction bringing about a premature end of His public ministry.
Therefore, when he took the girl by the band and raised her up from the bed, saying in Hebrew, "Get up, you're going to be all right," He turned to the disciples, the parents, and quietly told all of them, "Look, and I really mean this, I don't want you to noise abroad. Be happy about it, and rejoice over it - keep it quiet; let's keep it within our own closest circle of friends and the family."
But the Pharisees had begun spreading the story that Jesus was using trickery, by directly cooperating with demons. He was alleged to be Satan's own cohort, so that He could make it appear, through allowing a demon to enter a person and then having evil power to make the spirit come out, that He was performing miracles and healings when in fact He was only doing it through "Beelzebub the prince of the demons." Not long after the many miraculous events around the Sea of Galilee, he went back to Nazareth, where He had grown up. The local religious leaders knew who He was - knew His family, and His trade, and knew that He was "the son of Joseph." What they didn't know, or want to admit, was that He was also the Son of God.
Shortly after going back home to Nazareth, Jesus went into the synagogue, and began to teach. Here was this ordinary-looking, fairly stocky workman, who had been seen laboring in the sun of Nazareth for many years, suddenly speaking out in a voice ringing with authority about how to live, and about Bible prophecy, especially the predictions about the coming of the Messiah.
The Pharisees were outraged. (Being "outraged" has always been a popular religious pastime, it seems.) They used the shopworn old dodge, "Just who does this guy think he is?" The illogicality of their charges didn't seem to occur to them. They couldn't gainsay the, doctrines He taught. They couldn't withstand the authority with which He spoke. But the fact that it was He - a nondescript, unknown, average working man, whose father and brothers were laborers in the building trade, who was now the center of attention, who was now the subject of such excited conversation by all the people - this was particularly galling.
They said, illogically, "From whence has this man these things?" This plaintive question shows their consternation that Christ wasn't "accredited." He wasn't "approved" by any great rabbinical teacher. He was not a rabbi. He was not a graduate of any school.
They reasoned that it just wasn't "fair," all this success, power and attention coming Jesus' way. They said, "what wisdom is this which is given unto him [with sarcastic accent on the him! ], that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?" No wonder he taught that a "Prophet has no honor in his own country, among his own relatives." Healing was a testimony with two edges!
For one, it was a great witness to those who were healed and those who saw it that Jesus was in fact the Son of God, the Messiah and the Deliverer, that "Prophet" who was to come, a son of David and a son of Israel, and the soon coming King who would establish the kingdom of God on this earth.
Jesus insisted that the law must be obeyed in all its spiritual applications and intent. And having met the test not only of the dozens of prophecies surrounding His birth, His flight into Egypt, His boyhood in Nazareth, and the fact that He was able to perform powerful miracles, but also now that He taught within God's law, those whose hearts were willing could easily prove His Messiahship. The opposite edge of his healings was a cutting indictment as a witness against doubters. They had no further reason to doubt. Some of them, even including Jewish leaders of leading synagogues, saw these miraculous events, and were blessed and touched by them in their own homes and lives.
Still, most rejected Him.
Thus, healing was never performed as a sensational act, done in public before milling throngs and crowds to aggrandize Christ's position, never to exalt Him in the eyes of the people, nor to provide Him with some vehicle for egomania. Compare this, if you will, to some of the so-called healing campaigns and "special blessing nights."
There were tens of thousands of bodies lying in graveyards which Jesus did not touch: thousands of lepers whom he never cleansed; many thousands of deaf, blind, twisted, injured, or sick individuals whom he never healed! There were occasions when, to illustrate that He had been sent "to the lost sheep of the House of Israel," He would refuse to heal those of other races either in the midst of Israel or on their borders.
Some of the most outstanding cases of faith are in those events when Jesus was in the process of refusing to grant healing at the request of a Gentile person.
Look at the remarkable contrast between these biblical facts and the practice of "faith healing" as it has sometimes been sensationalized in our modern era.The sick sought Jesus - He did not seek them.Even in the beginning of His public ministry, Christ repeatedly warned those who were miraculously healed to 'tell no man" but told them to comply with the religious order of the day, by going to the priest and making an offering as required by the rituals of cleansing.Insight can be gained into the principle of healing, too, by understanding another point concerning Joseph.It is universally accepted and everywhere obvious that by the time of the beginning of his public ministry Joseph had already died.
Though there is no sure method of determining Joseph's age, assuming that he was at least 40 by Jesus' birth, he would have been at least 70 by the beginning of his ministry, and though the cause of his death is not revealed, it is evident that Mary was alone through his ministry. The point is that even though he no doubt performed a select number of private miracles within the confines of His own family relating to injury, sickness or disease, He did not prevent Joseph's death from whatever "natural causes" when the man's lifespan and purpose in life had been fulfilled.
God's Word has never promised anyone eternal life in the flesh, and states, rather, "It is given to all men to die once."
The healings Jesus performed were merciful, loving, miraculous acts done out of the deepest feelings of compassion and concern toward the poor folk with whom He so closely empathized. On the other hand, there are many examples in which Jesus did not necessarily grant the first request for healing. Some would keep asking Him along the way, and follow Him for some time until He finally arrived at His own home. Often, it was their mere perseverance and tenacity that impressed Him.
Sometimes He would ask, "Do you really believe that I am able to do this?" If they would affirm that He was, He would then say, "According to your faith it will be done to you" meaning, that He was making a statement somewhat less authoritative than "rise and walk," but affirming that in exact proportion to their own faith and belief the miracle would or would not occur.
It was during this trip into the villages of Caesarea Philippi that Jesus began to wonder about His "press," and asked His disciples, "When you talk to people in the villages, who is it they tell you I am?" Several of them began to answer, and he, bemused, listened to different ones of His disciples, even including Thaddaeus, Bartholomew and Judas, agree together they had heard Him called everything from John the Baptist to Elijah or one of the other prophets.
After all of the strange tales had been related, with one story triggering the memory of another, bringing about amused smiles and perhaps even some roaring laughter from Jesus, He finally said, "All right, so much for all the stories. So they claim I am everybody from John the Baptist to Elijah. Who do you say I am? "Peter spoke up and said with the strongest assurance, "You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God!"
"May the blessing of God rest upon you, Simon, the son of Jonah, because flesh and blood humans would not reveal this to you, but my Father who dwells in heaven, and I'm telling you that your name is Peter [ Petros, a little stone or pebble] and upon this rock [ Petra, a great craggy cliff referring to Christ Himself] I will build my church and the gates of the grave will never prevail against it."
All the disciples had gathered around and were hanging on every word by this time, as Jesus went on to say,
"And I will give unto you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you will decide as a binding decision upon this earth, will be backed up and bound in heaven. Whatever you decide, so long as it does not conflict with the laws of God, to loose on this earth, will be loosed in heaven."
Then He turned to all His disciples and told them again, "I am deeply pleased that you understand that I am the Christ, but I want to warn you again, do not be gossiping about this or telling people about it. It is important that my identity be kept quiet for the time being, and I don't want you to tell anyone that I am the Christ" (Matthew 16:13-20, paraphrased).
Jews knew and understood that in the earlier months His disciples had gone through periods of doubt. He understood deeply that they had become frustrated when in the first year or so of their continual devotion to Him, after being in a state of constant amazement about the miracles He had performed and about the teachings they heard, that He had failed to gather an army, and did not seem to be making any concerted effort to mobilize or to take direct command of all of the potential forces that were steadily gathering around Him.
Somehow, through the flurry of miracles that had occurred just prior to this brief vacation along the foothills of the slopes of Mount Hermon, and because of Jesus' opportunity to teach His disciples quietly, their faith had once again been shored up.
It was during this time that he began to really unload upon His disciples what would eventually happen in Jerusalem. He began to show, from that time, that He was going to have to go to Jerusalem to face the chief priests (Sadducees), the scribes and Pharisees, government and military leaders, and finally that He would be arrested, tried illegally, horribly beaten, crucified and left to die.
Peter, after his statement of deep devotion and assurance to Jesus that he really felt he was the Messiah, the Christ, the very Son of the living God, grabbed him by the shoulders and shook Him, and looking straight into His face, said, "Nonsense, Jesus! Don't talk this way! Nothing like that is ever going to happen to you! We won't let it happen, I won't let it happen!" He turned out of his grasp, and said, "Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking in a spiritual dimension, about the things of God or heavenly things, but your only thinking carnally, humanly, physically - the way men think. Peter, you are a trial and sometimes a stumbling block, to me! Listen all of you, come here! I want to tell you something! If any man is going to truly come after me and follow me all the way, he is going to have to completely deny himself, and take up his heavy cross daily, and follow me. Anybody who attempts to save his life and place his false material values on this human experience is going to lose his life. Whoever will lose his life for my sake and for my cause and especially for the sake of the message I bring. will save it. What good does it do anyone even if he should gain the wealth of the whole world, and yet forfeit his very being? What could a man ever trade for his human potential of living forever?"
The disciples were all quite struck by these words, and Peter was especially chagrined.
Foreseeing what might occur later on when all the disciples would forsake Him and flee, and especially sensitive to Peter's own weakness in this direction, and foreseeing clearly that Peter himself would deny Him In the future, Jesus gave them all a lesson about being ashamed of him, His message, and His personality.
He continued its sharp rebuke by saying, "I'll tell you this,whoever is ashamed of me in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when He returns to this earth in the glory of His Father and with holy angels accompanying Him!
"'And I'll tell you something else and this is the truth, that there are some of you right here standing in front of me who will not die before you have had a dramatic insight into the kingdom of God, and you will see what it is like for the Son of man to come in His kingdom' " (verses 21-28).
Jesus continued to teach, as they went about the small villages of this area of the tetrarchy of Herod Philip, and it was six days later that he asked Peter, James and John to accompany Him into an especially high part of the mountain, leaving all of the others behind.
The journey of hard climbing and walking was two full days in duration until they reached a spectacular part of Mount Hermon, with a beautiful vista spreading in all directions. It was here that a fantastic miracle took place, and Peter, James and John all saw one of the most striking visions recorded in the ministry of Jesus. They were allowed to see his garments take on a glistening white shine that was dazzling.
As they shielded their eyes and squinted at Him, it appeared that He was speaking to two people. It almost seemed they overheard voices, and Jesus identified them as being Moses and Elijah! They too were wearing garments which appeared to be shimmering and dazzling white, and even his very skin was altered so that it appeared translucent, and beautifully shiny.
This probably had happened while Peter, James and John were asleep. They were awakened by the voices, and looked around them to see this bright light shining and discovered the men talking. As they listened, they heard a discussion of Jesus' impending death and many of the events which would yet transpire in Jerusalem, and, as a bright cloud suddenly overshadowed them, a voice came out of the cloud which said, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased, my chosen, listen to Him!" After this booming voice came out of the cloud, the disciples immediately got down on their knees and put their hands and faces to the ground, being terribly afraid. He came and touched each one of them saying, "Come on, get up and don't be afraid any more." They reluctantly looked up and around and saw only him standing there, alone.
On their way back to join the other disciples, they paused for a rest after a number of hours of winding their way along narrow mountain trails. Jesus stopped them and told them, "You be sure you do not tell anyone at all about this vision that you saw, until after the Son of man has risen from the dead"! They nodded assent, but as they were talking, during the remaining few days, they continually wondered about what this "rising from the dead" really meant (see Matthew 17:1.9).
But Why did Jesus take only these three disciples; why not all of the main twelve? On several occasions it is obvious he singled out certain disciples for certain crucial lessons, important healings, or as in this case, this remarkable vision.