Desperate measures

Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came to Jesus for help when his daughter was at the point of death. Even though Jairus fell at Jesus feet when he greeted him, it is unlikely that Jairus was a believer. It was customary at that time, when someone wanted to show reverence to another person to bow down as he greeted him. What Jairus was doing was acknowledging Jesus’ authority and rank as a spiritual leader. Jairus’ public display of humility was probably what prompted Jesus to accompany him to his home. On their way, a woman that had heard about Jesus’ ability to heal the sick came up behind him and touched his robe or outer garment because she thought, “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole” (Mark 5:28). Rather than continuing on, Jesus decided to stop and use this woman’s example of faith to teach Jairus an important lesson about the desperate measures she was willing to go to in order to be rid of her disease.

It says in Mark 5:25 that the woman that touched Jesus had an issue of blood twelve years. This meant she was ceremonially unclean and was not allowed to enter the temple or to have close contact with anyone associated with God’s work. She was probably filled with shame and was hesitant to approach Jesus while Jairus was present. In spite of this, she made her way through the crowd that surrounded Jesus and got close enough to grab ahold of his robe long enough to experience his miraculous power flow into her body and stop the bleeding. It says in Mark 5:30, “And Jesus immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?” The woman, who was trying to escape without being noticed, came back “fearing and trembling” (Mark 5:33). The woman’s reaction may have been due to the fact that she had been healed without Jesus’ permission. It says that she “came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth” (Mark 5:33). The truth probably being the sin she had committed that she believed was the cause of her flow of blood for twelve years.

While Jesus was interacting with the woman that touched him, Jairus received word that his daughter was dead. It says in Mark 5:36, “As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.” It almost seems as if Jesus intentionally waited for the news of the girl’s death to come before he interacted with Jairus. Jesus’ warning to not be afraid could mean that Jairus was suddenly made aware of his own spiritual failure. Like the woman with an issue of blood for twelve years, Jairus was no doubt guilty of some sin that he likely blamed for his daughter’s death. Jesus wanted Jairus to see that his need involved more than just a physical healing of his daughter. The desperate situation Jairus was faced with required an act of faith, something he probably didn’t have until after he saw the woman healed who had touched Jesus’ garment. When he said, “only believe” (Mark 5:36), Jesus was telling Jairus to give up on his own method of obtaining righteousness. The only way for his daughter to be healed was for Jairus to entrust his spiritual well being to Jesus (4100).

Great faith

Jesus focused his attention primarily on the population of Jews that lived in the areas of Israel that were occupied by Rome. These areas were known as the Decapolis, Tetrarchy of Phillip, and Tetrarchy of Herod Antipas. Among the Jews were numerous Roman soldiers that enforced the laws of Rome and kept the Jewish people from rebelling against the Roman Emperor, Tiberius Caesar. Some of these Roman soldiers were influenced by Jesus’ teaching and came to believe that he was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54). One of the incidents, when Jesus interacted with a Roman soldier, is recorded in Matthew 8:5-13. In Matthew’s account, the man, who was called a centurion because he was an officer in charge of 100 soldiers, came to Jesus asking him for a favor, “And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented” (Matthew 8:6). Although it is not stated, it is very likely that the centurion’s servant was a Jew. Jesus responded to this man’s request by stating, “I will come and heal him” (Matthew 8:7).

The centurion didn’t want Jesus to come to his house. He went to Jesus to ask him to do a miracle for him, but this Roman soldier understood something that no one in the Jewish population seemed to get. He said to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” (Matthew 8:8). Jesus’ authority as the Son of God made it possible for him to command the spiritual realm by merely speaking a word. The apostle John described Jesus as the living word of God and testified that, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Because the centurion was a man with authority and was able to command others to do what he wanted them to, he realized that it was possible for Jesus to heal his servant without even seeing him. The centurion explained, “For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth: and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (Matthew 8:9).

Jesus’ reaction to the centurion’s profession of faith demonstrated that he was not concerned about who asked for help, but only that there was a genuine belief that he was capable of doing what was being requested of him. Jesus said of the centurion, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel” (Matthew 8:10). Jesus’s criticism of his own people was followed by an indictment against them that their inheritance as descendants of Abraham would be given to those that truly believed in him. Jesus declared to the Jews, “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:11-12). Afterward, Jesus concluded the incident by rewarding the centurion for his great faith, and said to him, “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee” (Matthew 8:13).

Spiritual health

Some of the people Jesus healed were suffering from spiritual afflictions. During one of his visits to Jerusalem, Jesus went by a pool of water where miraculous healings were taking place. The Apostle John said of this incident:

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in, was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt Thou be made whole?

The Greek word Jesus used that is translated whole, hugies (hoog – ee – ace’) means healthy (5199). The base of this word indicates growth or enlargement (837). The way that we know that Jesus was dealing with this man’s spiritual condition rather than his physical condition is the command he gave him after he was healed. Jesus said to the man, “Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

The Hebrew term for whole, raphah (raw – faw’) means to mend(7495). Raphah is used figuratively to refer to someone being cured and is also translated as heal and physician in association with spiritual sicknesses identified in the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 13 -14). Raphah as a primitive root word means to slacken and is translated in various passages in the Old Testament as feeble, fail, weaken, and faint (7503). In Job 5:17-18 it says, “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: for he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” Psalm 119 uses the phrase “whole heart” several times in reference to a believers relationship with God and a healthy desire for his word. This might suggest that the healing that took place when Jesus made the man at the pool of Bethesda whole was a healing of his heart. Jesus made the man’s heart whole again.

One of the illustration’s the prophet Jeremiah used to convey the unrepentant attitude of God’s people was an earthen bottle or jar made of clay that was broken because of it’s hardened state. God told Jeremiah, “Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee. And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again” (Jeremiah 19:10-11). It is possible that the man Jesus found lying by the pool called Bethesda was suffering from a broken heart that had caused him to become so weak that he was no longer able to get out of bed. Today we might say the man was suffering from depression or some other type of mental and/or emotional illness. When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made whole (John 5:6), he was essentially saying, Are you ready to let go and begin to live your life again? Perhaps, what this man really needed to do was forgive himself for some mistake he had made that had brought about the tragedy that happened to him 38 years earlier. When Jesus commanded the man, “Rise, take up thy bed and walk” (John 5:7). It says in John 5:9, “immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked.”

Miracles

Jesus’ ministry began with a great display of the power he possessed as the Son of God. This supernatural activity drew a lot of attention to Jesus’ ministry and resulted in both good and bad circumstances that he had to deal with throughout the rest of the three years he ministered to God’s chosen people. Matthew described the start of Jesus’ ministry this way.

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had palsy; and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24)

Jesus’ ability to cure any and every disease by supernatural means was recognized as a sign of his deity. Not since the time of Elijah and Elisha, hundreds of years earlier, had God’s people seen such a display of God’s power. Mark’s account of the launch of Jesus’ ministry focused on the authority with which he worked his miracles. He said,”And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him” (Mark 1:27).

One of the keys to understanding Jesus’ approach to his ministry was the connection made between sin and disease in the mind of God’s people. The Mosaic Law stated that disease was a consequence of sin. Shortly after the Israelites left Egypt, Moses told them “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26).

Perhaps the clearest demonstration of Jesus power, authority, and compassion for the sick was displayed when he healed a paralyzed man who was let down through the rooftop tiling by his friends so that he could get close enough to Jesus to be healed. Luke’s gospel states:

And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason he in your hearts? Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that he may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. (Luke 5:20-25)

John’s account of the start of Jesus’ ministry provided a timeline of the first three days of his activities and recorded that only a few days into his ministry, Jesus declared his intent to rise from the dead after he was crucified. This final miracle was to be the ultimate sign to the Jews that Jesus was in fact their Messiah. After cleansing God’s temple, the Jews confronted Jesus about his unorthodox behavior. It says in John’s gospel, “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:18-21).

The power of prayer

You may wonder, Can one person make a difference in the world? Is it possible to change the course of history? Hezekiah, king of Judah reigned from 715 B.C. to 686 B.C. during a critical time period when the Assyrian empire was spreading rapidly throughout the middle east. In 722 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by Sargon II, king of Assyria and its people were taken into captivity. In 701 B.C., Sennacherib, king of Assyria attacked Jerusalem, the capital of the nation of Judah. Shortly before this, Sennacherib led a campaign against the strongholds of Judah and took them (2 Kings 18:14).

It says in 2 Kings 20:1 that “in those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die and not live.” Isaiah’s use of the words “thus saith the LORD” indicated that God had sovereignly ordained Hezekiah’s death. In response to the news, Hezekiah cried out to the LORD. It says in 2 Kings 20:2-3, “Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying, I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.”

In the early years of his reign, Hezekiah had instituted many reforms in Jerusalem in order to counteract the evil behavior of his father, king Ahaz (2 Kings 18:4). Much to his credit, it says of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:5, “He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.” Hezekiah’s relationship with the LORD gave him the confidence he needed to ask God to change his mind. It says in 2 Kings 20:4-6:

And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the  God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears:  behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.

Based on the LORD’s message to Hezekiah, “I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria” (2 Kings 20:6), it appears that the  LORD intended to give Sennacherib victory over Jerusalem after Hezekiah’s death. It could be that the LORD planned Hezekiah’s death in order to spare him from going into captivity in Assyria. Whatever his intent, the LORD saw Hezekiah’s sincerity and decided to deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrian army instead.

An interesting aspect of Hezekiah’s situation was that he asked for a sign that the LORD would actually do what he said he would. “‘Signs’ are attestations of the validity of a prophetic message” (226). In essence, Hezekiah’s request for a sign meant that he doubted what Isaiah said was true. Perhaps, because he knew he could not defeat the Assyrian army. Isaiah gave Hezekiah two options. “And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?” (2 Kings 20:9).

The only miracle recorded in the Bible comparable to what Isaiah suggested the LORD would do for a sign to Hezekiah was when the sun stood still while Joshua and his army fought the Amorites. In that instance, it says, “the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day” (Joshua 10:13). Since we know now that the sun does not revolve around the earth, but the earth around the sun, what actually happened was the earth stopped spinning for about 24 hours.

In Hezekiah’s case, what Isaiah was suggesting was that the LORD could make the earth rotate in the opposite direction, equivalent to 10 degrees of movement, so that the shadow would go backward instead of forward as it usually did. Based on what we know today, this was scientifically impossible. The amount of time that would have been gained or lost would have been about 20-40 minutes, a somewhat insignificant amount of time compared to the whole day that Joshua gained. Therefore, the evidence of the shadow made it possible to verify that is actually happened.

Hezekiah’s response indicated that he wanted God to do the impossible. “And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz” (2 Kings 20:10-11).

Intercession

The ability Elisha had to perform miracles was not dependent on prayer, nor was he limited in the kinds of miracles he could do. On two separate occasions,  Elisha asked the person he intended to bless what she wanted him to do for her, as if he could do anything (2 Kings 4:2,13). Elisha gave one the resources to pay off all her debts (2 Kings 4:7), and the other who was childless, a son (2 Kings 4:17).

Unlike most prophets that proceeded him, Elisha was not a spokesperson for the LORD, but an intercessor on behalf of the people. Like Elijah, I believe Elisha had the ability to see what was going on in the spiritual realm, as well as, the ability to discern motives and intensions. When the woman to whom Elisha had given a son came to him with an urgent request, her problem was hidden from him, indicating Elisha’s ability was blocked (2 Kings 4:27).

The source of Elisha’s power was attributed to the spirit he received after Elijah was taken up to heaven (2 Kings 1:11). The spirit was “the mighty penetrating power of the invisible God” which enabled Elisha “to feel, think, speak, and act in accordance with the Divine will” (7307). In essence, Elisha experienced a life similar to that of Jesus Christ. Although Elisha was not God, he had the ability to act like he was.

When Elisha went into the woman’s house and saw that her child was dead, “He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD” (2 Kings 4:33). The Hebrew word translated prayed in this verse is palal, which means to judge (6419). Elisha was acting as a mediator between the woman who had lost her son and God. In this sense, it was not really Elisha who was praying, but the spirit that was upon him that was praying on the woman’s behalf.

The mother of the child that died is described as a “great woman” (2 Kings 4:8).The meaning of the word translated great is twofold. First, the woman was older. She may have been past the age of having children, but most likely she was capable of having a child. Second, the woman was probably wealthy. She and her husband provided a room in their home for Elisha and his servant Gahazi. Elisha’s intention in giving the woman a child and then bringing him back to life after he died was not to reward the woman for her generosity, but to show the woman that God was concerned about her well being and would go to great lengths to make her happy.

Elisha’s behavior demonstrated God’s love for his people. The miracles he performed were not so much to make people aware of God’s power, but to let people know that God’s power was available to everyone. It was God’s desire to bless his people and Elisha made it possible for everyone to see that God could and would take care of them if they gave him the chance to.