Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sunday School Lesson: Demonstrated in Acts of Healing

International Sunday School Lesson For Week Ending January 17, 2010

Purpose: To discern in the healing presence of Christ the fulfillment of our human nature.

Scripture Text: Matthew 9:27-34; 11:2-6 (NRSV)

Matthew 9:27-34; 11:2-6
(27) As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David! (28)When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ (29)Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ (30)And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this.’ (31)But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

(32) After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. (33) When the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.’ (34)But the Pharisees said, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.’

Matthew 11:2-6
(2) When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples (3)and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another? (4)Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: (5)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. (6)And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.’

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

In order for us to fully appreciate this passage we need a sense of timing as far as Jesus earthly ministry is concerned. Today's text takes place after the “Sermon, on the Mount” but before the sending forth of His disciples. John the Baptist has been imprisoned and almost Jesus’ entire ministry, at this time, has taken place in Galilee. All of this is probably in the first year of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In total it takes about 1-1/2 years for Jesus to complete the call for His disciples, the call of our writer Matthew is recorded in verse 9 of chapter 9. Immediately preceding our text Jesus raises Jarius’ daughter and heals the women with an issue of blood (probably continual hemorrhaging) and then we get to our text.

Jesus ability to perform miracles of healing and even raising of the dead has made him a very popular figure around the northern area of the Sea of Galilee. It seems almost everybody has heard of the miracles and of His teaching, because of His sermon on the mountainside. The healing that Jesus does in our text is interesting because they come to people without hope. Anyone with any sort of disability was an outcast, and could not worship in the temple, indeed they were all considered social outcast in first century Judea and Galilee. The plight of those afflicted was believed to be God's judgment on them. Jesus later dispels this belief when He heals a man blind from birth. (John 9:2) In that light, it is easy to appreciate the courage that these two had in calling out to Jesus, and in Jesus compassionate response. In crying out “Have mercy on us, Son of David,” the greeting “Son of David” would have been messianic. Those around them may have thought they were asking for “alms” as in David's son Solomon, but Jesus knew that wanted to be healed. Notice the importance of faith and believing as Jesus grants their request. Jesus asks a simple question, “Do you believe I am able?” And then says, “According to your faith let it be done.”

The next case gets a little more complicated, the man is demon possessed and also a mute, or more likely a deaf mute. After Jesus cast out the demon and heals the man, immediately the Pharisees pounce, because they realize Jesus' popularity could get out of hand. As in that day, today too, the most devastating obstacle to the progress of Christianity has been the ruthless corruption at the hands of its own promoters, almost to the point that Christianity is hardly recognizable. How we have strayed from Jesus' teachings on the mount. Unless we are willing to practice what Jesus taught, it is useless to call ourselves Christians.

In the last part of our lesson from chapter 11, we find John the Baptist in a situation where his belief and understanding of what the Messiah was going to accomplish and what he saw Jesus doing was at odds. John was looking for the liberator as promised in Zechariah 9:11, a divine warrior who would set the prisoners free. (As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.)

As close as John was to Jesus and as in-tuned as he was to God, he still looked for something other than what was sent. Why was he still in prison? Didn't Jesus care? or maybe Jesus was not the Messiah, as John had thought. Its funny how, like John, we think it is all about us. Jesus on the other hand, gives John all the proof he needs to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah, but not so much that John does not have to exercise his own faith and realization that Jesus mission involved more than setting one prisoner free, even if he was a close relative and a man of God. Which should be a lesson for all of us, we might be called to suffer and sacrifice for the cause of Christ.

In a few chapters Matthew has shown Jesus command of nature, on the seas, healing, raising of the dead and casting out demons, and responding to John's inquiry. Today we do not hear a lot about healing, but I am sure most of you read of the Hermanstorfers of Colorado, who lost both the life of the mother and the baby for several minutes. The Doctors were sure of the death of both, but miraculously both came back to life in an unexplainable moment. By nature we are all skeptics, but we need to ask the question. Do you think Christ is able? Then, what is my roll in your kingdom? You might be chosen to be the one healed, or the one that suffers for the cause, always knowing that Christ is able. Our healing may come at the close of our life when we will be made like Him, perfect.

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