The Real Jesus
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The Real Jesus

Chapter 12

Miracles and Healings —

Signs of His Messiahship

   A miracle is a miracle is a miracle.
   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.
   Jesus said, "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 of great compassion or following an example of particular perseverence on the part of Jews as well as Gentiles.
   Even though Jesus mostly healed privately and repeatedly told people not to tell anyone about it, and even though the Bible plainly records that the great healings during Jesus' 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 (Matt. 8:16-17, Matt. 11:2-6).
   Immediately following the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:7) there are many accounts of healings in the subsequent chapters.
   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 Jesus 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 that 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"! Jesus 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 — become 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 Jesus was there with only a handful of His own disciples.
   Otherwise, you could not understand why Jesus 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 Jesus 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 Jesus "could not enter into the city" and so went apart into a desert place nearby where no one knew where He was.
   Later, Jesus 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 and 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 the 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 Jesus' 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 Jesus' abilities a little earlier.
   The forgiveness of the man's sins according to these accounts (Matt. 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," Jesus 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.
   Only a few ranks away from Jesus, in crowded marketplaces, in streets and along roadways, the hundreds of people thronging around could not even discern which one He was. In jumping up and down, looking over the shoulders and heads of others, trying to spot precisely where the center of action was, many of them pushed, jostled, shoved and elbowed one another. Jesus was no doubt afraid of personal injury, when from time to time He was caught in the midst of a mob. His escape to the top of a nearby mountain where the "Sermon on the Mount" was delivered was perhaps a sermon of convenience, as he sought to outdistance the crowd below. Jesus had to scramble up to a high place, possibly even having to run, in order to escape the crowds. His disciples came puffing up behind Him to likewise escape the crush of the crowd. As a result, these circumstances were to provide a mountain environment for the delivery of the most famous sermon in all of history (compare Matt. 4:24-25; Mark 3:7-13; Luke 6:17-19).
   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 Jesus 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 Jesus 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 in Jesus' own country.
   Next, even though the Roman plainly told Jesus 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 exam pie 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 chariot, 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 he 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 Jesus (Matt. 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.
   Jesus 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 lying there grievously ill with a high fever.
   Jesus, 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 says this helped fulfill Isaiah 53:4 ("He took our infirmities and bore our diseases," Matt. 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 that 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 Jesus to 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. Jesus 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 Jesus' outer cloak.
   The Bible says Jesus "felt virtue flow out of him." Jesus 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 Jesus' 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 Jesus 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 Jesus 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. Jesus 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 sure 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 Jesus' 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, Jesus 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 girl's 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 Jesus had a distinct purpose in telling the people in advance, "Don't worry about it, she is only deeply asleep."
   Jesus no doubt said that because 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 hand 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 this abroad. Be happy about it, and rejoice over it — but 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. Jesus 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."
   Jesus had been healing a large number of people in some of the Gentile towns, probably in the Decapolis, where large crowds were following Him about, and He "healed them all" (Matt. 12:14-15). This fact is further proven by the statement of Matthew that this practice of Jesus asking people to keep silent about their healings "fulfilled" that which was spoken by Isaiah ("Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased; I will put my spirit upon him and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry: neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets" (Matt. 12:18-19, taken from Isa. 42:1-3). This prophecy was beautifully fulfilled by Jesus, for He not only avoided large calamitous public confrontations in the main, but also continually charged those whom He healed not to make it known to others. Jesus' whole attitude was totally different in the accomplishing of His healings and miracles from what is imagined by many sincere, Bible-believing folk who have read all too casually the inspired accounts.
   Not long after the many miraculous events around the Sea of Galilee, Jesus 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 "Jesus, 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 Jesus 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.
   These amazing, mind-boggling miracles were the clearest stamp of Jesus' authority, together with His teaching of God's law (as carefully prescribed by Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
   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 Jesus' 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, never 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."
   I well remember one of the most (to me) obscene sights of my life.
   When I was a very young man, my wife and I, with another couple, decided out of mere curiosity to go to one of these advertised "healing campaigns" in the southeastern part of Los Angeles, which was to be held under a great sprawling tent. I would prefer not to name the would-be faith healer who is no longer in the land of the living.
   Fortunately, we were able to find seats well in the rear. During one session of the meeting (it seemed to go from one carefully rehearsed segment to the next, punctuated by three shockingly commercial offerings, which I will describe), the wildly waving, hoarse-voiced, colloquially accented Southern evangelist who claimed to be having almost daily communication with "the Lord," was calling upon personal testimonies from the audience. From time to time, a person (nearly always a woman it seemed to me) would rise, wave both arms, and scream out some unintelligible utterance. Some were actually speaking in a kind of babble which I took to be a combination of gibberish, tongue bitings, and suspected Spanish epithets. In any event, it seemed to be both enjoyable and intelligible to many others in the crowd because it would usually bring forth shrieks and moans of ecstatic agreement.
   There was a group of teenagers sitting directly in front of us, and they seemed to be under the tutelage of an amply overstuffed older teenage girl who was urging her younger brother, "Go ahead, you can do it, there's nothing to it," and gave him an outpouring of other similar urgent instructions.
   On a moment's sudden inspiration, and adding to our growing and acute discomforture, because suddenly all eyes were turned in our direction, the girl jiggled herself into position and springing onto the seat of her chair with all the grace of a rhinoceros began to wave her arms ecstatically in the air and shrieked a series of piercing "testimonies," interrupted by breathless screams of "Bless you Jesus! Praise you Jesus!" Then she said, and I do not even wish to repeat it that many times even in quotes, the name "Jesus" over and over again in mindless repetition!
   Even though those of us sitting immediately behind her knew that all of this was a carefully contrived demonstration in which she hoped to encourage her younger brother to throw off whatever remaining constraints of etiquette and propriety he may have had (and I could not imagine that he could have retained very much beyond this point), the wildly gesticulating figure came to the immediate attention of the hoarse-voiced evangelist on the platform who then confidently affirmed in the loudest possible terms over his microphone that what was happening in our vicinity of the tent was in fact a "direct message from God!" Then, knowing that most eyes were turned in our direction, and with the supreme confidence of the circus barker in center ring, the evangelist proceeded to take off his jacket, loosen his tie, and help himself to a drink of water. (I was a little chagrined, for I felt he wasn't paying this message from God the kind of rapt attention it both deserved and demanded, especially when it appeared for a time as if the whole meeting was going to be taken away from him.)
   Soon, it came time for the taking up of an offering. This was my first and only experience with what I heard described as a "silent offering."
   The evangelist said he only wanted to hear the "whisper of bills." No vulgar, noisy, obscene jingling of change! He then gave a quick financial report which was delivered with the same fervor and intensity of portions of his sermon, punctuated by frequent references to "the Lord."
   It seemed that "the Lord" had managed to send him head-over-heels in debt, and the evangelist then proceeded to enlighten us regarding exactly what the tent cost, what it cost to pack it up, store it and lug it from city to city in those huge trucks outside, what it cost for payments on his buses, trucks and other vehicles in the traveling caravan, and many other costs which soared up into the thousands of dollars.
   Then followed the promise of yet stranger miracles. But these miracles were the other edge of the sword. Many of the devoted were warned with absolute assurance that if they held back their money, it was quite likely they would arrive home and find it in flames! They were threatened with head-on collisions at intersections, heart attacks, a telegram saying that mother had died, and everything from liver attacks to instant senility.
   It must have frightened the daylights out of enough of them that they parted with a surprising amount of their money, but even this was insufficient, because after what was apparently one of the quickest tabulations in all the history of accounting procedures, the evangelist and his staff took up yet another collection a few moments later in which they demanded only $100 checks, stating that they were something in the neighborhood of $700 short, which meant that the evangelist had to convince only seven people in this vast crowd of thousands that God had especially called and appointed them for the purpose of providing his, the evangelist's, most urgently "required deliverance."
   I was beginning to get a clue as to what was meant by "special blessing night" or "double portion night" or that we would "see miracles." The evangelist was receiving very special blessings, double and triple portions, and it surely was a miracle the way those people parted with their money.
   Along about then, after uproarious applause would ripple through the tent at each hand that would be raised as the individual called an usher to him and deposited a $100 check into the coffers, the evangelist began a shouting, screaming, exposition the way he said the "Holy Spirit was moving in the tent just then," and claimed that his very hands were glistening with "holy oil."
   I could see that his hands were glistening, even from my distant vantage point, but strongly suspected it was merely from the perspiration he had been fervently wiping from his brow. (Even if it were oil, I could not really testify there was anything especially "holy" about it.)
   He then latched on to one scripture concerning the "living waters" and proceeded to pick up the pitcher of water which was on the pulpit, talked about "being filled with the Holy Spirit," and began splashing water all over the stage, himself and a couple of interested bystanders as he filled the glass brimful and overflowing by pouring it in a substantial torrent from the mouth of the pitcher.
   It was still later that we were told that a "noisy" offering was now going to be taken up, as the earlier contempt toward the terrible "jingle of change" voiced during the "silent offering" had somehow been miraculously cured. Now the people were urged to empty their pockets of whatever loose change they had. Our own nods of negation or raised shoulders of helplessness (not only were we unable, but quite unwilling) to add to these offerings brought hostile, level stares from the ushers who passed near us and now strongly suspected we were not quite part of the proceedings, since we had never once applauded, moaned, shrieked, wailed, given testimony, or stood on our chairs.
   The procession of people, at the highlight of this very educational meeting, were pronounced to be healed of everything from "dropsy" to epilepsy. I never had an opportunity, and did not attempt to seize it, to talk to any of the alleged afflicted, either before or after they claimed to have been "healed."
   But my wife and I and my friends left the meeting, I must admit, with a deepening impression we should omit the word "almost" from the statement "people will believe 'almost' anything."
   There is not one subtle innuendo anywhere in the Bible that Jesus, the real Jesus, ever involved Himself during His earthly ministry in such charades, and there is ample proof and testimony that He was surely not involved in the one which we witnessed.
   Though I cannot document it, I have heard tales that any number of simple folk have willingly paid a certain amount of money for a square inch of cloth, cut with pinking shears, from the shirt of one of these would-be healing evangelists following a particularly exhausting evening of performing "miracles and wonders." (What a blessing that The Robe is pure fiction. What a blessing that no one really knows what happened to the garments of Jesus after they were ripped off, gambled over, and later worn out by Roman soldiers. Can you imagine what a square inch of Jesus' own robe would be selling for today?)
   Never did Jesus set up a large public meeting, announce that He had come to a city for the express purpose of healing the sick and proceed to hold a revival or a "healing meeting."
   There were tens of thousands of bodies lying in graveyards which Jesus did not touch: thousands of lepers whom Jesus never cleansed; many thousands of deaf, blind, twisted, injured, or sick individuals whom Jesus 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 Jesus' 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 Jesus' ministry, and though the cause of his death is not revealed, it is evident that Mary was alone through Jesus' ministry.
   The point is that even though Jesus 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.
   Once, some family members brought a deaf mute to Jesus. There is nothing said about the mute's own wishes in the matter. There is no indication at all that he was mentally alert enough because of the terrible affliction he suffered to do much more than to look wonderingly about him, and most certainly, even though his parents would have attempted sign language to indicate to him what they hoped to accomplish, it would have been quite difficult to have conveyed to him what was to happen.
   (This example is a particularly touching one to me since I have two deaf sons.)
   Jesus wanted the boy to be alone, just with Him; Jesus wanted to have no one else around, so the boy could overcome all embarrassment, and really concentrate without distraction on what Jesus would indicate to him.
   So Jesus took him aside privately, and then, looking intently into his eyes, began to communicate with the lad through touch. He reached out and put both of His index fingers deeply into the lad's ears, nodding purposefully, and indicating a positive and encouraging attitude of faith toward the boy. This was Jesus' method, through touch and sign language, that He was about to remove the blockage from the boy's ears.
   Then Jesus indicated that the growth that had fastened the boy's tongue so that he could not speak would be removed through the divine power of God. In an attempt to explain how this growth should be ejected from his mouth, Jesus turned, and with a meaningful look at the boy, spat on the ground. Then, Jesus pointedly looked up to heaven, to indicate to the boy that He was calling upon the divine power of God, and moving His lips so the boy could see, pronounced, "Be healed!"
   The boy felt something in his mouth, turned, spat it out, and suddenly began to talk! And as he looked at Jesus, realized that he was hearing the sound of a bird in a nearby fig tree! He laughed, he thanked Jesus profusely, grabbed Him in an embrace, with tears filling his eyes, and went to tell his parents what had happened!
   Jesus told the excited family and the boy to "keep it quiet" but they were too elated and ecstatic to obey, and this miraculous healing contributed further to His notoriety.
   One of the strangest healings of all was in Bethsaida when a group of people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged Him to touch the man, firmly expecting that he would be healed and regain his sight.
   Jesus looked at the man, and saw that the poor man's eyes were so hideously deformed that they shone like dull, whitish orbs, covered with dirt and dust.
   Jesus was filled with pity for the man, but because He knew very few would understand what He was about to do, He decided to lead the blind man by the hand, walk out of the village of Bethsaida, and try to find a private place, alone. He either related this to His disciples or perhaps one or two of them went along, because only Mark, of all the gospel writers, tells the story.
   Finally, after several occasions of quietly warning the man of steps, obstacles, or steep paths, Jesus brought him to a place away from the crowds conversing in their doorways and the public squares, or selling their wares along the roadsides, and stopping the man, turned to him and deliberately told him what He was about to do.
   Then, lacking water, Jesus actually used saliva, gently applying it to the man's dust-filled, sightless eyes. He asked the man, "Do you see anything yet?"
   The man looked, and seeing passersby walking through a nearby intersection, said, "Yes, I believe I see men, but they almost look like they were trees walking!" The second time, Jesus reached up and touched the man's eyes gently, and this time, the man's eyesight was restored fully.
   Perhaps because of the unusual elements of the manner in which Jesus performed this two-part healing, He told the man, "Go ahead to your own home, and be careful not even to go back through the village we have just left, I don't want you to tell anyone about this just yet."
   The man, no doubt overcome with emotion, grasped His hand and arm, and looking straight into His eyes, thanked Him profusely and assured Him he would do as He said. Jesus was extremely careful on this occasion, because He intended trying to ease the pressure during this phase of His ministry by going into what Bible scholars refer to as His "fourth retirement" in the area of the villages of Caesarea Philippi on the slopes of Mount Hermon, where no significant hostility against Jesus had yet developed, and where He could spend some months with His disciples teaching them quietly and privately without arousing public protest.
   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 Jesus, 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!"
   Jesus said, "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" (Matt. 16:13-20, paraphrased).
   Jesus 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 Jesus 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 Jesus was the Messiah the Christ, the very Son of the living God, grabbed Jesus 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!"
   Jesus 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 you're 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 Jesus, His message, and His personality.
   He continued His 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 accompaying 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" (vv. 21-28).
   Jesus continued to teach, as they went about the small villages of this area of the tetrachy of Herod Philip, and it was six days later that Jesus 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 Jesus' 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 the very skin of Jesus 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. Jesus 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 Jesus 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 Matt. 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 Jesus singled out certain disciples for certain crucial lessons, important healings, or as in this case, this remarkable vision.

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Publication Date: 1977
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