Tag: Miracles

The double healing of a blind man (Mark 8:22-26)

by on Aug.08, 2010, under Sermon

Let me tell you about the second scariest day of my life. When I was 17, and newly arrived in Sydney to attend university, I awoke one morning to find that I could not open my eyes because any light brought me intense pain. The day before one eye had been very bloodshot, and I had gone to hospital to get treatment, but was sent home with some ointment, an eyepatch and the doctor’s advice that they couldn’t see a problem. But there was no ignoring it this time – I am reliably informed by a (female) optometrist that this kind of pain is of a comparable level with childbirth, except entirely concentrated in one eye!

I called my Dad, a GP, who drove 2 hours to reach me and take me to Sydney Eye Hospital. At this point I began to wonder whether the cure might not be worse than the problem. On the long list of things I hope never to hear again, the phrase, “Please hold still whilst I take a ‘sample’ from your eye with my spatula,” rates very close to the top! I am proud to say that I held rock steady whilst this went on (and quite possibly for some minutes afterwards) though I did plenty of trembling later.

Why was I so afraid? I think perhaps it was because since before I can remember I have been so dependent upon my eyes for everything I do. Whilst my eyesight is far from perfect, with a bit of assistance it suffices for most things that I would ever want to do. This dependence was brought home to me in the week that followed this particular incident, since both my eyes were kept completely dilated and I was not able to focus upon anything and so I couldn’t read, couldn’t see the friends who came to visit or do much of anything else that I wanted to do… I was reduced to listening(!) to television, and it doesn’t get much worse than that.

Imagine, then, the tragedy of a man born with sight that he later loses, such as Mark records for us. Whilst I was at risk of losing sight in one eye, this man had lost sight in both eyes. (We deduce that he had, at some time, had sight by the fact that he can recognise trees and people when he does see them.) This happened in a society lacking the blessings of guide dogs, braille, text-to-speech computers and so on – meaning that he thus became completely dependent upon others for everything.

Bring your friends to Jesus… and let them bring you!

We become aware of this dependence straight away: ‘some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him’ (v. 22). This man had friends who had obviously heard of Jesus, and the wonderful things he had done. This was in Bethsaida, Peter’s hometown,1 so perhaps they had even met Peter’s mother-in-law, whom Jesus had healed from a fever,2 or one of the many others that Jesus had previously healed there.3 In doing so, they acted in faith, believing that Jesus could heal their friend.

Do you bring your friends to Jesus? If you are a Christian, the best and most important thing you can do for your friends is to bring them to Jesus, making requests on their behalf if need be. I have a good friend who is overseas at the moment, and undergoing an intensely difficult period in his life. Throughout this, I have noticed something disturbing in myself: a frustration that, since he is on the other side of the world, ‘all’ I can do is pray for him, as though that weren’t sufficient. Yet this is the first and most important thing I can do. Were he here, I might run around doing other things, so-called ‘practical’ things, but if I do so at the expense of bringing him to Jesus in prayer then I would be doing him no favour at all.
There is no need that your friend be a Christian for you to bring them to Jesus. There is no indication in this account that the blind man asked to be brought to Jesus, and it is the friends who do the asking. In fact, it is your non-Christian friends who most need the healing that only Jesus can bring! Don’t be timid – these friends ‘begged’ Jesus to heal their friend. Here’s how the conversation didn’t go: “Um, Jesus, if you’re not too busy, could you please, if you don’t mind, give our friend back his sight, or at least some of it.” And it didn’t go like this either: “Oh Lord, who art the Great Physician and healer of all the earth, we humbly beseech the that thou shouldst turn thy healing hand to the restoration of our friend’s ocular faculties…” No, the request was at once both simple and profound: please heal our friend.

Equally important, though, do you have friends who will bring you to Jesus? One of my earliest experiences of the power of this was when I was 10. I had just come to Christ, as part of a Christian holiday camp. About a week later, I was picked up early from vacation care and told that we had to go to Sydney because I had been diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumour. Whilst what followed should have been extremely traumatic for a 10-year-old, amongst my most precious memories from that period is the feeling of wonder I had at hearing that my church was holding special gatherings to pray for me and my family, and that others were praying for me throughout Australia (and a few in New Zealand). This brought with it a sense of great peace: I had friends – some of whom I had never met, yet friends nonetheless – who loved me enough to bring me to Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, bring your friends and family to Jesus as your first and highest priority – and allow them to do the same for you. The Lord may well have a plan for actioning your prayer that involves you acting, but he is waiting for you to first bring it to him before he reveals what that is. On the other hand, his plan may not involve you at all, as was the case with these friends. Their only contribution was to bring their friend to Jesus. Pray first, then act if necessary – but trust Jesus for the how.

Trust Jesus for the how

What do I mean by ‘trust Jesus for the how’? Consider the specific request these friends made: ‘some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him’ (8:22). They had probably heard stories of people being healed with a touch, and wanted the same for their friend. But when the touch comes, it is not at first a healing touch: ‘He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village’ (8:23).

There may have been a number of reasons for leading the man outside the village. Mark consistently shows Jesus avoiding misguided veneration from crowds.4 His mission was to preach the kingdom of God, and healing the sick was secondary to that; and public healings sometimes made it impossible to preach.5 This is confirmed at the end of this story where ‘Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”‘ (8:26)
In this case, however, I believe the reason is a little deeper. Jesus touches the man in order to enter into the man’s blind world in a personal way, for where sight is absent sound and touch become more important. He leads the man by the hand in order to engender trust, for a blind man must implicitly trust the one leading him. Up until this point, the blind man has been entirely passive; Jesus is encouraging him to engage his faith and trust in Jesus.6 To do this, he must leave the crowds (some of whom, no doubt, hoped themselves to be healed), and so we get a little bit of an insight into Jesus, the Good Shepherd who is willing to leave the 99 sheep for the sake of the 1.7

Then Jesus spits on the man. This is, to our minds, strange at best and disgusting and degrading at worst. In truth, it wouldn’t have been much less strange in that culture,8 although this is the second time in Mark’s gospel where Jesus employs saliva in a healing.9 This is almost certainly not what the blind man or his friends had expected when they approached Jesus for healing. They could have taken offence as Naaman did when Elisha told him to bathe in the Jordan to cure his leprosy.10 But to do so would have been to miss out on the blessing that Jesus had in store for this man.

We don’t get to dictate terms to God. To do so is a form of idolatry, since we make an idol of whatever it is that we want, and we ask God to serve that idol. Instead, we need to bring our needs to God and leave it up to him to decide how to meet those needs. This means that sometimes the results will be very different to what we might have hoped for.

One of the great joys of being a Dad is that I have a legitimate excuse for reading kids’ books. Many are trivial or mundane, as might be expected, but every now and then you come across one that is beautiful and thought-provoking in its very simplicity. Such a book is Claudia the Caterpillar.11 Claudia the Caterpillar looked out at the butterflies and thought, ‘That’s the life for me – I was born to fly.’ After two failed attempts at flying, she brings her problem to God who leads her to the top of the tall tree she had been trying to fly from, and instructs her to climb into the chrysalis he has prepared. Claudia, dismayed, says to God, ‘If you make me go in there I’ll die.’ She had asked God for wings to fly, and the answer was a closer confinement than she currently experienced. It wasn’t what she wanted, but it was the necessary first step to get there. God knew what was needed, and Claudia had to trust him.

This lesson was brought home to me a couple of years ago. A dear friend of mine had been battling against cancer for some years. One particular day, many of us gathered to pray on her behalf – to bring her to Jesus for healing just as the friends in this story did. Late that night I was reading the scriptures prescribed for that day in my reading plan, which included James 5. I read these words: ‘Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up’ (James 5:14–15). Once again I felt compelled to pray that prayer on behalf of my prayer and did so. After some time, I was overwhelmed by a sense of peace like I have rarely felt before or since; I went to bed rejoicing, convinced that she had been completely healed. The next morning I found out that she had indeed been healed… but not at all in the way I had hoped and prayed for. Instead, the Lord had called her home.

Was the Lord playing some kind of cruel joke on me? Of course he was not, any more than he was taunting Claudia the caterpillar by confining her in a cocoon when all she wanted was freedom to fly, or being callous towards Naaman the leper by sending him to wash in the Jordan, or offending the blind man by healing him with saliva. God doesn’t owe us any explanations for how and why he does what he does; instead we owe him our faith and trust because he is a God who cares for us and works all things for his glory and our good.12

Brothers and sisters, bring your friends to Jesus (and let them bring you too!), but trust Jesus for the how. And when you do, watch closely, because lives will be transformed.

Watch as lives are transformed

It is at this point that the story gets a little bit strange. Because, having spit and laid hands on the blind man, Jesus asks him what he sees and it becomes clear that the healing is only partial. The man can see, but people look like trees. Has something gone wrong?
The unusual nature of this healing has led many commentators to believe that Jesus is here acting out a parable. If true, this would be in the tradition of many of the prophets who God called to perform specific actions as a means of prophecy. For example, God told Hosea to marry a prostitute13 and Ezekiel to lie on his left side for 390 days followed by 40 days on his right side in order to make a point.14 In this case, the likely target is the disciples, who would likely have been present at the healing, suggesting that they were spiritually blind, have now been given some measure of sight, but will require further intervention from Jesus before they see everything clearly. There is some justification for this as Jesus has just rebuked the disciples for their lack of understanding,15 and this healing and the healing of blind Bartimaeus form a matched pair framing the journey of Jesus and the disciples to Jerusalem during which he seems to focus on teaching them. However, it is not clear what event the completion of the healing is supposed to refer to: is it Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah in the next section? Christ’s death? Resurrection? Second coming? And so I don’t really think that this interpretation really helps us to understand this healing much better than if we take its plain meaning.

The truth is, I don’t know exactly why this healing took place in two parts. As I said earlier, God doesn’t owe us any explanations for what he does; instead we owe him our faith and trust. What is important to note, however, is Jesus’ patience. He could have sent the man away with his imperfect vision; after all, he is a good deal better off than when he came to Jesus. But Jesus persists, with the result that the man ends up with perfect vision. Mark is at pains to emphasise how well he saw: ‘Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly’ (8:25).
This healing occurred in two stages – and we’re all agreed that it was a miracle. The man couldn’t see, and then he could. But would it still have been a miracle if it took three stages? Or four? What about if it took a day? Or a week? Or a month? The man was blind, right… no matter how long it takes, the result is what counts here! This is an encouragement for us, because whilst some of us may have experienced miraculous healing, chances are most of us will be healed in more ‘ordinary’ fashion… yet does that make it any less miraculous when we are healed? Some of us may be converted to faith in an instant, but most of us awaken to faith gradually… yet does that make it any less miraculous?
Contact with Jesus results in more than just minor course corrections; he does not settle for half-results. His goal is complete transformation. Claudia the Caterpillar asked for her current life to be augmented; God responded by transforming her very nature. This series is about Jesus the life-changer, and we will see the same pattern over and again. Where there is blindness, he brings sight, perfect sight. Where there is darkness, he gives light, light that no darkness can overcome. Where there is death he brings life, and life to the full, life that lasts forever. When he calls, people follow; when he speaks, people are changed; when he touches, nothing can remain the same. He does it in his own time and his own way, but he does it!
Friends, bring your friends to Jesus (and let them bring you too!), trust him for the how, and watch closely as lives are transformed.

Bibliography

Keener, Craig S. The Ivp Bible Background Commentary : New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Lane, William L. The Gospel According to Mark; the English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes. Grand Rapids,: Eerdmans, 1974.
McDonough, Andrew. Claudia the Caterpillar, Lost Sheep Series 2. Unley, S.Aust.: Lost Sheep Resources, 2006.


Endnotes

  1. John 1:44.
  2. Mark 1:29-31.
  3. Mark 1:32-34.
  4. e.g. 1:35-39, 45; 3:7-9; 6:45.
  5. e.g. 1:45.
  6. William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark; the English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Grand Rapids,: Eerdmans, 1974), 285.
  7. Matt 18:12-13.
  8. Craig S. Keener, The Ivp Bible Background Commentary : New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 156.
  9. cf. 7:32-37.
  10. 2 Kings 5:11.
  11. Andrew McDonough, Claudia the Caterpillar, Lost Sheep Series 2 (Unley, S.Aust.: Lost Sheep Resources, 2006).
  12. Rom 8:28.
  13. Hos 1.
  14. Ezek 4.
  15. Mark 8:21.
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Miracles

by on Jun.18, 2008, under Essay, Theology

Question

How does an understanding of miracles as a limited foretaste of the consummated kingdom help us in approaching the question of miracles today? Should we expect similar miraculous occurrences today as are recorded in the NT? At a practical level, how should we go about dealing with sickness and other personal needs in our congregations?

Abstract

Miracles are a dividing issue for Christians and non-Christians alike. This essay will show that this is as it should be, since they are intended to provoke a response; that a concentration of miracles around the apostles does not mean that they are limited to the apostolic age; but that the Christian is to respond prayerfully, rather than powerfully, when facing needs of all kinds.

Essay

Miracles are inextricably linked with Christianity. Ask the man on the street what he knows of Jesus and he will likely describe one of two things: Jesus the Great Moral Teacher; or Jesus the Miracle Worker. Their motives and attitudes in doing so are many, across the entire spectrum from awe to skepticism. Opinions amongst Christians are scarcely less diverse. Most will agree that Jesus worked miracles himself, although that opinion is not universally held, even amongst Christians.1 Where the most substantial divergences of opinion occur, however, is in how we are to understand the significance of scriptural miracles in general and Jesus’ miracles in particular. Should Christians aspire to emulate this aspect of Jesus’ ministry? The question is not idle for, particularly in the case of healing miracles, the stakes are high; it is literally a question of life or death. To begin to answer this question, we must carefully consider the rôle miracles played in Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus declares his mission at the commencement of his ministry (Luke 4:16ff.), quoting from Isaiah 61:1-3:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for all those who mourn in Zion – to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

This is a messianic prophecy, and Jesus here proclaims himself as God’s Messiah. ‘Then he began to say to them. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”‘ (Luke 4:21). His listeners cannot have missed the royal implications of his statement; the Kingdom of God is ready to be inaugurated, the LORD’s favour is to be proclaimed; and miracles are the signposts that it is near. As Wayne Grudem (1994, 360) writes, the miracles of Jesus serve to ‘bear witness that the kingdom of God has come and has begun to expand its beneficial results into people’s lives’.

Saucy (1996) points out that Jesus seeks more than establishing the fact of the presence of the inaugurated kingdom. It is response that he desires, and Jesus’ teachings and works, including his miraculous works, are all geared towards eliciting a response. Thus it is no surprise that miracles form a point of divergence for Christians and non-Christians alike.
Wallis (1992) refines this: miracles free people to respond to God. This expectation of response is seen most clearly in Matthew 11:

Then [Jesus] began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. (Matt. 11:20).

John the Baptiser was the first to proclaim Jesus as Christ (John 1:29); later, in prison and facing death, John sends messengers to Jesus for confirmation that he was not mistaken (Matt. 11:2-6). To answer, Jesus points to his works: ‘the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them’ (11:5) – referring to another messianic prophecy in Isaiah 35:5-6.
At least some portion of Jesus’ ministry, then, is a function of his unique identity as the Christ. But how much is unique, and how much is exemplary? Should Christians today seek to emulate Christ’s miraculous acts, or are they to follow another way? Were Jesus’ acts the works of incarnate God, or are they the works of Spirit-filled man?

For Warrington (2000), the answer is clear cut: Jesus’ miracles, and particularly his healings, ‘are uniquely linked to his mission to initiate the Kingdom’ and thus ‘it is difficult to see how believers today may emulate him’. Williams (1993) goes the other way, arguing from Luke 6:40 that Jesus trained his disciples to do as he did. ‘If Jesus trained His disciples to reproduce His message and ministry of the kingdom, then we should expect that they, in turn, were to train the Church to do the same.’

Unfortunately, Jesus does not provide us clear and explicit teaching on the difference between the unique and exemplary components of his works, nor does he offer us nice neat categories in which to understand his actions. We may, however, learn much from the commandments given to his disciples, and the example they set for the church that followed them.

In Luke 10, parallel to the passage we have just considered from Matthew 11, the judgment on the unrepentant cities is offered immediately following the successful mission of the 72, where the acts of power were done not by Jesus himself but by his disciples. Similarly, in the miracles of feeding the 5000 (Matt. 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:4-13), it is entirely possible that the multiplications took place in the disciples hands rather than in Jesus’. One must be wary of appropriating a mission not one’s own, particularly if unwilling to be subject to the same restrictions imposed on that mission, such as not going to the Gentiles or the Samaritans (Matt. 10:5) and not taking a bag (Luke  10:4) etc. (Carson 1992). Nevertheless, the impetus is clear: ‘proclaim the kingdom of God and… heal’ (Luke 9:2). The kingdom of God is here, and this is what it looks like.

John Wimber, in his influential work Power Evangelism (1985), seizes upon this idea. His reasoning is that the Kingdom is still here, and is still to be demonstrated. Many of the miracles recorded in Scripture, he suggests, have the effect of freeing people to respond to the gospel; he calls these events ‘power encounters’. Examples from the gospels include Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and his numerous exorcisms (Matt. 8:28ff.; Matt. 9:32ff.; Mark 1:21ff. etc.). Wimber seems more interested, however, in the ‘power encounters’ found in Acts, which he considers to be normative for Christian experience. In Acts ‘we see the birth of a warrior nation, the army of God, the church’ (Wimber 1985, 134). The inauguration of God’s Kingdom brings it into conflict with the powers and principalities of the earthly kingdom. Though the decisive battle has been fought and won by Christ, the war rages on to this day.2

James Montgomery Boice, in his critique of Wimber’s teachings, notes that any Christian reader of Ephesians 6 cannot help but acknowledge the truth of spiritual warfare.
However, we will also remember that Ephesians 6 does not promote miracle-working as the way to do battle against Satan but instead admonishes us to be clothed with Christ’s righteousness and to be armed with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (v. 17). The Spirit’s weapon, therefore, is not additional revelation, nor “power encounters,” but the written text of Holy Scripture. We are constantly reminded that the way to defend ourselves against Satan’s onslaught is not by miracles but by the effective proclamation and teaching of Scripture. (Boice 1992, 123)

According to Boice, Wimber’s writings demonstrate a serious shortcoming: they make much of the church working ‘signs and wonders’ and no mention of the gospel. It is ‘an evangelism without an evangel’ (129).

Aside from this issue, Boice’s primary criticism of the so-called ‘signs and wonders’ movement is that they appropriate the ‘signs of the apostle’ (Acts 2:43; Acts 5:12; 2 Cor. 12:12) for themselves. This is, in his view, an unwarranted hermeneutical leap as the apostles played a unique rôle in testifying to the risen Jesus and establishing the church. Boice is not the only one to draw this distinction; Warfield ([1918] 1972), Woodhouse (1987) and Carson (1992) are all in agreement with Boice on this point. This is not to say they teach a full cessation of genuine miracles after the apostles, but rather that the authority granted the apostles for miraculous signs and wonders is not transferable to their heirs. ‘We believe in a wonder-working God; but not in a wonder-working church.’ (Warfield [1918] 1972, 58)

Wayne Grudem (1994) argues strongly against this teaching. He outlines the scriptural evidence for limiting miracles to the apostle, claiming that the case rests primarily on two key texts: 2 Corinthians 12:12 and Hebrews 2:3-4. He then goes on to argue that, in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul is attempting to distinguish himself from non-Christian pretenders to the apostolic office, rather than non-apostolic Christians. Similarly, Grudem discounts arguments from Hebrews 2 as drawing more from the passage than is actually there. Even if it can be understood to mean that God confirms by miracles the words of those who heard Jesus, it says nothing of whether or not God will do likewise for those who have not directly heard him. Just because there is a particular concentration of miracles surrounding the apostles does not necessarily imply that they are only for the apostles.

Thus far we have considered miracles only on an a priori basis, but some adopt an a posteriori line of reasoning. Wimber (1985, 151-174), for example, furnishes us with a list of miracles attested throughout the history of the church, as well as a separate list for miracles of the 20th century. His implicit argument is that we should start with the fact that miracles in a Christian context occur today and we therefore should read and interpret Scripture in the light of this reality.

In a similar vein, Wenham (1986) notes the ebb and flow of miracles throughout the Old Testament, with peaks at the times of Moses, Elijah & Elisha, and a relative scarcity at other times. He sees a similar trend in the New Covenantal era, with miracles clustered around fresh movements of God’s Spirit in what are often termed ‘revivals’.

Contrast these with Warfield ([1918] 1972), who provides a more detailed list, drawn from much the same material, yet with vastly different conclusions. His stated argument is that there are few well-attested miracles in the 1st century; that those of the 2nd and 3rd centuries are syncretistic adoptions of heathen aretalogy; and that most, if not all, subsequent accounts of miracles are suspect as fiction legitimised by tradition. Clearly all three authors have their own agendas, and each claims historical evidence in his argument. Such an approach then is fraught with difficulty.

Even should one be able to establish beyond all doubt that genuine miracles have or have not occurred since the apostolic age, the application to the subject at hand must be carefully considered. Miracles have no intrinsic meaning; they are given meaning by the words that accompany them. Jesus warned that many would come working miracles in his name in an effort to deceive the elect (Matt. 24:24), and people on both sides of some of the most crucial theological divides claim miracles as vindication of their cause. As Warfield puts it, ‘heretics of all ages are at least as well provided with supporting miracles as the church itself’ ([1918] 1972, 67).3

We may summarise our findings thus far as follows: Jesus worked miracles, as attested by the canonical gospels, but there is doubt as to what proportion of his miraculous acts are paradigmatic for today’s Christians. Instead we look to the example and teaching of his disciples, who worked miraculously in the regular course of their ministry. Whilst noting the unique rôle of the apostles in establishing the church, there is no compelling reason to suppose that their miraculous works were done solely for this purpose, nor that they were intrinsically tied to their office as apostles. Thus we may rightly expect miracles today, as a foretaste of the Kingdom of God.

But how much of God’s Kingdom should we expect to see manifest here on earth today? Casual readers of James 5:13-18 may be forgiven for believing that all illness and disease should be overcome through the simple expedients of confession, prayer and anointing. How then are we to reconcile this with our experience of suffering and death even amongst the most faithful of Christians?

‘Are any among you sick? They should call the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.’ (James 5:14). Kendall (2002, 288) rightly points out that the context is members of a church; this is not a mandate for us to go out and heal people in the street. Furthermore, he argues, the sickness described must be serious4, and the initiative lies with the person who is sick to call the elders; the elders are not instructed here to wander around the church looking for aches and sniffles to heal.

Kendall goes on to explore the link James draws between sickness and sin, noting that whilst sin is not always the cause of illness, sometimes it is (2002, 287). God does this for disciplinary rather than punitive reasons (Dickson 2006, 111-2). For this reason, it is one’s own elders to be called when sick, as they are the best suited for enquiring about sin and facilitating repentance (Shogren 1989).

What of the oil? It has been variously understood to represent: the medicine of the day; the Sacrament of Extreme Unction; a Psychological Reinforcement, i.e. a placebo; and a symbol of divine favour (Shogren 1989). Shogren, Kendall and Dickson all find agreement on the latter, with Kendall arguing that the oil performs the same symbolic function as the bread and the wine of the eucharist: ‘It’s a visual, tangible reminder of the Spirit and his power to heal’ (2002, 292).

James continues: ‘The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective’ (James 5:15-6). Prayer is key in James’ thinking. It is prayer that saves, rather than elders, oils or even faith. Kendall puts is aptly when he writes: ‘The prayer of faith takes place… when there is a simultaneous coinciding of the believer’s faith and God’s will’ (2002, 299).
As yet, we have only a limited foretaste of the Kingdom of God; we must live, act and teach accordingly. As Wallis (1992) writes,

if we stress the in-breaking of the kingdom in Jesus’s ministry, we raise hopes that freedom from suffering and healing will be experienced now; but if we offer the cross as the controlling symbol for Christian discipleship, we encourage the view that suffering is a necessary – if unpleasant – travelling companion through this life.

Reference List

Boice, J. M. 1992, “A Better Way: The Power of the Word and Spirit”, in M. S. Horton (ed.), Power Religion: The selling out of the evangelical church?, Homebush West: Anzea, 119-136.

Carson, D. A. 1992, “The purpose of signs and wonders in the New Testament”, in M. S. Horton (ed.), Power Religion: The selling out of the evangelical church?, Homebush West: Anzea, 89-118.

Dickson, J. 2006, James: The wisdom of the brother of Jesus, Sydney: Aquila.

Grudem, W. 1994, Systematic Theology, Nottingham: IVP, 355-375.

Kendall, R. T. 2002, The Way of Wisdom, Waynesboro: Authentic Media, 285-319.

Saucy, M. R. 1996, “Miracles and Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 153 (July-Sept 1996), 281-357.

Shogren, G. S. 1989, “Will God Heal Us – A Re-examination of James 5:14-16a”, EQ, 61/2 (1989), 99-108.

Wallis, I. G. 1992, “Christ’s continuing ministry of healing”, Expository Times, 104/3 (Nov 1992), 42-45.

Warfield, B. B. 1972, Counterfeit Miracles, London: Banner of Truth (first ed. 1918).

Warrington, K. 2000, Jesus the Healer: Paradigm or Unique Phenomenon? Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1-29.

Wenham, D. 1986, “Miracles Then and Now”, Themelios 12/1, 1-4.

Williams, D. 1993, “Following Christ’s example: a biblical view of discipleship”, in  G.S. Greig & K. N. Springer (eds.), The Kingdom and the Power: are healing and the spiritual gifts used by Jesus and the Early Church meant for the church today?, Ventura: Regal, 175-196.

Wimber, J. & Springer, K. 1985, Power Evangelism: Signs and Wonders Today, London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Woodhouse, J. 1987, “Signs and Wonders and Evangelical Ministry” in R. Doyle (ed.) Signs & Wonders and Evangelicals, Homebush West: Lancer.

Bibliography

Adamson, J. B 1976, The Epistle of James, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 196-202.

Brown, C. 1985, That You May Believe: Miracles and Faith Then and Now, Grand Rapids/Exeter: Eerdmans/Paternoster, 151-175.

Johnson, B. 2005, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles, Shippenburg: Destiny Image.

Lewis, C. S. 2002, Miracles, London: HarperCollins.

Marshall, C. D. 1992, “Ghostbusters – Then and Now”, Reaper, 74/5 (Oct-Nov, 1992),14-16.

Motyer, A. 1985, The Message of James, 2nd ed., Leicester: IVP, 186-214.


Endnotes

  1. The Jesus Seminar, for instance, discounts the majority of Jesus’ miracles recorded in the canonical gospels, including his resurrection, as fanciful interpolations by later editors.
  2. Wimber uses an helpful illustration here, borrowed from German theologian Oscar Cullman. The turning point in World War II was D-Day, when troops landed on the shore of Normandy, but peace was not declared until V-E Day, some 11 months later. We live, he says, in the time between Christ’s decisive victory on the Cross (D-Day), and his parousia (V-E Day) – and there are still battles to be fought. ibid., 33.
  3. This, in large part, appears to be the motivator behind Warfield’s animosity towards what he calls ‘ecclesiastical miracles’. He is implicitly fighting the Roman Catholic assertion that God vindicates the Roman church over against the protestant church through provision of miracles.
  4. He argues this based on James’ choice of sōzō (I save) rather than therpeuō or iaomai (I heal) in verse 15.
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