We have been considering arguments against healing in modern times. Another point brought up by people is the prayer of Jesus when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. As recorded in Luke 22:42, Jesus prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
Jesus was not asking if his Father was willing to heal him because Jesus was not sick. Jesus was asking if there was some other way to redeem the world other than his suffering and death. The answer to that prayer was "no", but the Father graciously sent an angel to strengthen his Son in his time of anguish.
So the idea of "if it by thy will" (to heal) is not justified by Jesus' prayer before he died. We've looked at suffering on behalf of preaching the Gospel (which Jesus certainly did) in other posts. We will come back to it again soon when we consider Paul's "thorn in the flesh".
Let's look now at the idea of "offer it up" which is another popular response to illness. Offer it up seems to mean that we are to combine our suffering with Jesus' suffering on the cross. Scripture says that Jesus died once for all. I can't imagine that he didn't get the job done or that the redemption of the world requires some suffering from me in order to be complete. Surely not.
But there is a meaning for "offer it up" that is useful. What is offered to God, or sacrificed to God, is placed on the altar. It is literally "given to God" so that the person offering it no longer owns it; it now belongs to God. If we can offer our illness to God, place it on the altar and let him have it, then the sickness is no longer ours. We are free from it.
Perhaps we are hesitant to give him our illnesses. Why would he want to take them anyway? Yet we believe that he takes our sins, which are much worse than our illnesses.
Let us pray. Christ, my Redeemer, I give you today all the things that I have been holding on to that I don't need, don't want and can't handle.
Let's look at another prophet who didn't exactly make an excuse to God, but who recognized his deficiency before he answered a call from God. Isaiah has a vivid vision in which he sees the throne room of God Almighty with angels worshipping in full voice. The room shook and was filled with smoke. The magnificence of the vision terrorizes Isaiah, who cries out, "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:1-5).
One of the angels flies to Isaiah and touches a live coal to his lips as an act of atonement for his sin and remission of his guilt. Being cleansed, he is no longer a man of unclean lips. So when God asks, "Whom shall I send?" Isaiah is able to answer, "Send me" (Isaiah 6:6-8).
Does Isaiah even know what he is volunteering for? Perhaps not. But by cleansing him God has equipped him to speak to a nation where justice is perverted, the poor are oppressed, idols are worshipped and the government looks to pagan nations for help rather than to God. But we see that just as God gave words to Moses and Jeremiah, God supplied words of prophecy to Isaiah. God does not call anyone without equipping them to do the job.
For reflection: To what mission has God called me? How has God equipped me for that mission?
Le us pray. Lord, we bow before your holiness and acknowledge that we too are a people of unclean lips. We see justice perverted and don't speak up. We see the poor oppressed and expect someone else to do something. We see our nation turn for help to anyone but you. Cleanse us of our sin, equip us with your words, and help us to proclaim your righteousness in the land. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
After Peter brought Tabitha back to life, he stayed in the port city of Joppa for a time. Meanwhile a Roman officer named Cornelius, stationed in Caesarea, another port city north of Joppa, has a vision. An angel appears to him and tells him to send to Joppa for a man named Peter. The angel tells him in whose house Peter is staying (Acts 10:1-7).
This story is similar to the story of Saul who hears Jesus audibly speak to him and than Ananias has a vision telling him where to go to find Saul.
What strikes me today is that God spoke to people in multiple ways: audibly, through visions and through angels. Were they unusual - and so they were recorded? Were they just for certain leaders? Were they occurring to many people, but these were recorded because of their notable outcomes?
It is hard to know for sure. These means of communication were not unique to the time of the apostles because we see them throughout the Old Testament also. And since the time of the apostles there have been people throughout the history of Christianity who heard an audible voice or saw visions or had significant dreams. The records exist of what they heard and saw.
But who is Cornelius that he should see an angel? in this Cornelius is not a Jew, not a believer (yet) in Jesus. He is an officer in the Roman army occupying Israel. However, he is a God-fearing man who prays and gives generously to those in need. This story is told, we eventually discover, because of the lesson Peter and the others learned through it (the story continues through Acts 11:18).
For reflection: Do I think visions, angels and audibly hearing God were unusual in the time of the apostles? What about now? Have I or someone I know experienced one of these? Would I be open to God speaking to me in one of these ways?
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, author of the universe, I want to be open to whatever means you use to speak to me. I would rather you speak to me through some unusual means, than that you not speak to me at all. I want to know you in all the ways you can be known.
(Comments are open. Do you have a story to tell of how God has spoken to you? If you don't want to post it publicly, you can send a private email through the prayer request form on the home page or call 301.760.7744 to talk.)
How would you like it if someone called you "stiff-necked?" Or referred to you as "you people?" Stephen didn't mince words when he spoke to the Sanhedrin. He is giving them a scolding. In fact, he sounded just like my mother when he said, "You are just like your fathers!" (Acts 7:51). Let's tune in to his speech:
"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him -- you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."
Stephen has pulled out all the stops in his criticism. He has brought up the covenant with Abraham (uncircumcised), the covenant with Moses (the law and the deliverance from Egypt), and the prophets. He may even have brought up the teaching of Jesus when he said, "You always resist the Holy Spirit" (see Mark 3:29; also see Luke 20:9-19).
The Sanhedrin are angry enough at this tirade when Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, has a vision of an open heaven: "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). It is more than they can bear. In their eyes he has blasphemed. They drag him outside the city gates and stone him without a trial.
For reflection: Have I been stiff-necked? Am I not hearing God? Am I not listening to someone else? Have I criticized my child by saying, "You are just like your father/mother!"?
Let us pray. All-loving Father, I want to be just like you. Help me to hear you when you speak to me directly and when you speak to me through others.
We are working our way through the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. Healings and miracles accompanied the apostles preaching and people began to follow them and believe in Jesus as the Messiah. This caused the Jewish leaders to be jealous so they had the apostles arrested and put in jail. But an angel set them free during the night without disturbing the guards (Acts 5:23), and told them to "Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life."
At daybreak they were back in the temple courts preaching again. Daybreak was a busy time in the temple because people stopped in at sunrise to worship.
For reflection: Has an angel ever brought me a message from God? Have I ever been miraculously delivered from a bad situation? How would I feel if I had been arrested and thrown in jail for witnessing about Jesus?
Let us pray. Holy Spirit, the apostles went from being fearful to being fearless. I want to do the same. I want to tell people about you with the same certainty, the same assurance, the same boldness that they had.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.