Series: It’s All About Jesus!
Sermon: The Power to Heal
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
February 19, 2017
Scriptures: Psalm 30:1-12 NRSV and John 4:46 – 5:9 NRSV
We continue our study of the gospel of John today with two stories of healing. They are presented back to back, following the stories of transformation – our need for rebirth by the Spirit and the Living Water that Jesus offers the world, starting with an outsider – the Samaritan woman at the well.
Jesus had returned to the Galilean region after leaving the Samaritans where he had stayed two days. This itself is a witness to Jesus offering the grace of God to those outside the boundaries known in his culture. Jesus goes on a missionary journey close to home, telling his disciples who have returned with take-out for lunch that the fields are ripe for harvesting. There are people hungry for the good news of Jesus Christ, not because of teaching and groundwork they have laid, but because God has already been laboring to prepare their hearts to receive Jesus’ love and redemption. This is no less true today than it was then. The Holy Spirit is at work in our midst.
Jesus has made his way back to Cana of Galilee, the place he turned the water into wine. He passed by his hometown of Nazareth, knowing that there would be no welcome from the people who knew him as a child. Instead, he travels on to Cana, farther northeast into the Galilee region. It is there that he is approached by a royal official whose little boy is suffering a fever that has him near death. This man has traveled 20-25 miles, depending upon the route, all uphill, in an effort to save the life of his son. He has heard Jesus is there and invites him to return to Capernaum to lay hands on his little boy, and heal him.
Jesus questions this father’s belief, knowing that others have refused to believe until they have seen the “signs and wonders” Jesus was able to perform. The father’s response is one of urgency and love for his son. “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” There is no doubt in his voice, just desperation. Jesus is moved by his response, sensing the anguish of a parent with a sick child. He tells dad to go home. His son will live.
You and I might have insisted Jesus come with and touch the boy, but this father leaves without question and on his way home is told that his son’s fever has broken – at the very time Jesus had said “your son will live.” His faith in Jesus’ power is confirmed and he and his whole family believed in Jesus.
The next healing story is of a paralyzed man at the pool of Bethsaida. Jesus has returned to Jerusalem and sees a whole crowd of invalids in need of healing. He approaches a man who has been there for 38 years – a long time to wait to be healed, and asks him “Do you want to be made well?”
I find it curious that the man doesn’t say yes, but instead tells his story of not having anyone to help him get into the water when it is stirred up for healing. Someone else always beats him to it. Jesus has compassion and tells him to do something he hadn’t been able to do for 38 years; “stand up, take your mat, and walk.”
If we read on in the text we learn that the formerly paralyzed man didn’t even know who Jesus was before this event. He didn’t recognize him or have faith in him first. In this case, Jesus’ power to heal was not dependent upon the man’s faith. It was a product of Jesus’ compassion as he did his Father’s work.
I believe that healing does take place, even today, by the power of the Holy Spirit…Jesus’ power. Yes, some people die before we are ready to lose them, but even so, healing can take place – spiritually, mentally, and relationally if not physically. There are those who suffer injuries that they live with the rest of their lives, and like the man at Bethsaida, need people to help them manage and cope.
Through the power of a praying community, people are brought to new life, healed of loneliness and despair because they are loved and cared for and given hope.
We have heard stories of loved ones who have had heart attacks, near death, being flown to receive treatment, and arriving to receive the news that there was no permanent damage to the heart. We have experienced numerous people in ICU’s hooked up to ventilators and all manner of IV’s and equipment, who survived and thrived for years after. Transplants have taken place successfully. Another who had been in a coma is recovering and hasn’t had a drink since. We have friends and loved ones who had cancer that survived treatment and are still with us today.
Some would credit medical professionals with these stories of survival, and we cannot deny the importance medicine played, but the power of prayer – calling on the Holy Spirit to bring healing – also plays a role.
The way a person’s spirit can be calmed in the midst of incredible stress, without drugs, is a gift of God. When the community of faith – the church – surrounds an individual or family with support through a difficult time, it nurtures hope and confidence that they are not all alone. The Spirit of Christ is with them, made visible by these helpers. When 12 Step programs surround an addicted individual, they receive the help from the Higher Power we know to be God and have hope of a life set free from the addiction. When the forgiveness God expects us to give and receive takes place, relationships can be healed and a new future begins.
There are lots of different kinds of healing. We take part in our own physical wellness by eating well and getting rest and exercise. God hopes we will all do everything in our power to care for our temple – our body – so that we can live long and happy lives in bodies that work the way God created them to work.
We know that we cannot control God by our prayers. Sometimes we pray hard, and we do not see the outcome for which we prayed. Even during these times we need to remember to pray “Thy will be done” and trust in God’s infinitely bigger picture, and that, in time, we will come to understand why things turned out the way they did.
When we pray, it changes us. As we entrust ourselves to God in prayer, revealing our deepest hurts and hopes, we are changed. A wife that no longer loved her husband prayed that God might heal their relationship. Life was in turmoil and they never communicated. Their values seemed to have drifted apart. But for the sake of their wedding vows and their children, she asked God to help them. Over time, that prayer was answered. Their marriage survived and she loves him more today than ever before.
Our prayers have the power to change the future, through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we pray our Lord’s Prayer, we are asking that God’s kingdom would come and heal our broken world, so that the same peace that prevails in heaven would reign here on earth. But for the healing of our human relationships and the health of planet earth, we need to open our hearts to living and thinking differently. We cannot expect to suddenly wake up one day and see things magically repaired. We must cooperate with God, just the way the wife who wanted her marriage to be healed cooperated with God.
It takes sacrifice and intention. It takes participation in the process. The paralyzed man had to wait 38 years for healing because no one around him helped him. They lived in competition rather than cooperation.
As children of our heavenly Father, each beloved and gifted by grace, we will be healed of our warring madness when we learn to love one another the way God loves.