Friday, November 19, 2010

God With Us

Reading: Matthew 1-4
As I was reading this text Wednesday morning I was struck by a few things. First, that Jesus, being given the name Jesus, Yeshua (meaning 'O save Yahweh', or 'Yahweh is Salvation'), “because he will save his people from their sins” (1:21), is fulfilling the statement, “'and they will call him Immanuel' —which means, 'God with us.'” We begin getting a hint here in Matthew, of what will become clearer and clearer as we go, that Jesus is God with us—the Lord our Redeemer.
And then, we get to chapter 4:23-24:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.
I can't help but wonder if this is the fulfillment, in a sense, of a promise all the way back in Exodus. Here, Jesus (Yahweh is Salvation) is going throughout the land teaching and preaching. News or reports, literally “hearing,” about him spread all over, to include even Syria, and He is healing all their diseases. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, that word 'hearing' is first used in Exodus 15:26 where we read:
If thou wilt indeed hear the voice of the Lord thy God, and do things pleasing before him, and wilt hearken to his commands, and keep all his ordinances, no disease which I have brought upon the Egyptians will I bring upon thee, for I am the Lord thy God that heals thee.”
Here in Jesus, God is with us as the Lord, Yahweh, that heals us. The question that the Gospels ask over and over in various ways, “Who is this man?” is being answered: He is the Lord.
Sometimes I wonder if we forget this great truth about Christ being the Lord that heals. James tells us,
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. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:14-15)
As an elder in a church that, like most churches, has plenty of sickness to go around, I wonder why we don't more frequently get called to anoint with oil in the name of the Lord. I'm not talking about every time someone has a headache. I'm talking about the more serious stuff. I must say that it reveals an area of lack in our pastoral teaching that we don't see more of it. (It does exist, thank God!) We need to know that Christ is the Lord our healer. What a glorious truth that is. Yes, I realize that God doesn't heal everyone when we pray right away. I realize that we will all eventually die from something. But I wonder, if in the delayed turning to Christ in prayer, a seeming indifference to calling for elders to anoint with oil, if it reveals a misplaced trust. We wisely go to the doctor, and even specialists, explore various remedies, but would to God that we would first go to the Physician of our souls who has authority not only over our bodies and disease, but over the very core of our beings, over our souls as well.
Of course, pastors (elders) might be much busier if church's did more of this, but busier doing what it seems should be done.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,