“Your Faith Has Made You Well”
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19)
I heard your former D.S. Rick Lanford preach on this text once and he asked the question, “How did these ten know that Jesus would be coming down that road?” There were no newspapers then, no internet. Jesus didn’t keep an itinerary and even if He did, He wouldn’t have published it. How did they know He was coming? Maybe they were just hopeful. My little sister used to run away from home and would go to the end11 of our street and sit on the curb hoping our grandfather would drive by and pick her up. What she didn’t know was that if she would have called him, he would have come by and picked her up.
Maybe these ten had heard about Jesus’ healing power. Maybe they knew the Scriptures and the promise of the One who would set prisoners free because that’s what they were; prisoners in their own bodies; banished to the outskirts of town away from their friends and even their own family. They were considered unclean and to come into contact with anyone was against the law and if they did come into contact with someone, they were required to keep their distance and say, “Leper—leper.”
No matter how they knew He was coming or even knew who He was when He did, these ten went out to meet him. “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” They didn’t really go out to meet Him since they were already banned to an existence outside of their village. I wonder how many people are outside of our village, outside of our building, or outside of our circle because we have banned them there. They don’t look like us—they don’t dress like us—they don’t think like us—they don’t deserve what we have. Or so we think, so we banish them! We ignore them!
When you are in need where do you go for healing? Some choose to go to the bottle—or a bottle of pills—or maybe recreational drugs. Some may choose to go to the pharmacy. When I was just a child there were only a few medications for the common cold. Have you been to a pharmacy lately and seen all the choices we have now? You can spend an hour or more trying to choose and don’t dare to read about the possible side effects.
Some people choose to head to their favorite bookstore and spend time in the self-help section. Have you noticed that in some bookstores the self-help section is beside or very near to the religious section?
In some of my time spent in the Good Book this week I came across this text: “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign King Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians” (2 Chronicles 16:12). In the very next verse King Asa died and rested with his ancestors.
Let me be clear here. I’m not saying to stop relying on your physician. I don’t want to get nasty emails this afternoon and I don’t want you telling your friends and neighbors that your crazy preacher has told you to swear off of your doctors. But I am saying that the Lord still heals and needs to be a part of your plan!
In the past couple of months, I have been introduced to the works of Dr. Jack Deere, once an Associate Professor of Old Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and the pastor of a local church in Fort Worth. Now he is the author of several books and a lecturer. One of his books which I’ll be quoting from today is Why I Am Still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, which is a re-write of a book he wrote in 1993. He says he rewrote it because he writes better now. I had the great privilege to sit in one of his lectures at the New Room Conference I recently attended in Tennessee.
He writes and speaks often that the most broken commandment in the Bible is: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Some consider prophecy to be the predicting of the future when what it really means is “communicating God’s message to people.” Since being introduced to Jack Deere and his work I have been praying expressly for those spiritual gifts of prophecy and healing.
n seminary Dr. Deere’s professors told him that God healed and did miracles in the New Testament period to show that the apostles were trustworthy teachers of doctrine. We have their doctrine now in the completed Bible, so there is no longer a need for miracles. This is what he also taught when he became a seminary teacher and a pastor, until he met Dr. John White.
Dr. White was invited to Jack Deere’s church for a weekend conference. At first, he turned down their invitation, but called Jack and said he was available. He asked what they would like for him to speak about, and Jack knew from speaking with his publisher that Dr. White only spoke on things he was researching or currently writing about. He was working on a book about the kingdom of God, and he said, “When I think about the kingdom of God, I think of Christ’s authority”: 1) over temptation; 2) over sin; 3) over demons, which started Dr. Deere to wonder about the invitation. And finally, he wanted to speak about Christ’s authority over disease—which meant he wanted to talk about healing, physical healing, and not only did he want to talk about it, but he also actually wanted to offer a time of healing.
Deere’s argument to Dr. White was that God doesn’t heal anymore, that we have evidence that the apostle’s healed folks, but that gift went away when they were gone. Dr. White’s response was this, “Do you think every instance where the apostle’s prayed for someone is recorded in the Scripture, that maybe some of those they prayed for didn’t get well and it’s just not recorded for us?” He referred to Paul’s letter to Timothy when he said, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (I Timothy 5:23). “You don’t think that Paul prayed for his young disciple’s illness?” This shook Jack Deere’s world completely, and then when he witnessed Dr. White praying for and healing people in his church, well, he was hooked.
When Jack Deere’s church heard about all this they wondered if he had lost it. He and they feared that it would split their church, and indeed, eventually it did. And it also caused Deere to lose his job at the seminary because he got heavily involved in the ministry of physical healing.
Deere says that when he was a cessationist, he never saw God heal anyone because he never prayed for healing. And even after praying for healing it didn’t always work. He wondered how you can pray regularly for something that you can believe God no longer does or that He does rarely. All this proves is that people who don’t believe in miracles and don’t pray for miracles are the people who don’t see miracles. They are confirming what James wrote almost two thousand years ago: “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2).
This is the writing and the words of James—the Brother of Jesus—who would eventually become the leader and the go-to person in the Church of Jerusalem. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I told you how every Great Awakening got started? It was by prayer. In James 5 he says, “Is anyone in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
God gave the gift of the Spirit to ordinary Christians so they could prophesy, heal, and do miracles. We need to be praying—for each other and for His Church! (Prayer Room) Hey, it won’t work every time, even Jesus was limited in His healing (Man by the pool and in Nazareth) but it didn’t stop Him, and it must not stop us either.
At the beginning of this year my encouragement coach asked me to come up with what he calls, first word—last word. It’s a text or a Psalm that I recite when I go to bed and when I rise. That text is this: “Lord I believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Some things have happened in my life since then that I didn’t believe would happen, like being appointed Senior Pastor of the Eastman First UMC. This is where I find myself with the gifts of prophecy and healing, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!
One day this week I was sitting on our back porch with our dog, who I call “Sleeper.” I noticed an ant moving around on the floor at my feet. It was going in all different directions and it made me think about us humans. Don’t we do the very same thing? We hurry from appointment to appointment, and even if we have an agenda it seems that we run in circles trying to accomplish it. Anyone else feel this way?
In our story this morning ten men asked Jesus to have pity on them. All ten went to the priest, as Jesus instructed them, and all were healed on their way. Like the ant on my porch, nine of these men went in different directions but one returned to Jesus and fell at His feet in gratitude. Why only one? As I’ve pondered that this week, I think only one returned because only one believed that Jesus could and did heal him. What say you? Do you believe that Jesus can heal? Do you believe He is still in the miracle business?
When seeking healing, may we also go to Jesus, may we throw ourselves at His feet, and may He say to us, Your Faith Has Made You Well.
Dear God—Let it be!