13th June 2015

Luke 18.35-43

Jesus heals the blind man ‘Healing in the name of Jesus’

with Canon David Stranack

We have just heard how, as Jesus entered the town of Jericho before ascending to Jerusalem, a blind man persistently called out to Jesus ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
In St Mark’s Gospel he is named as Bartimaeus. The crowd tried to silence him. They clearly thought Jesus would have no interest in a blind beggar but Jesus stopped and called for him. The fickle crowd then saw the man as something of a celebrity because Jesus was calling for him.
Although the man was clearly blind, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The man said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’ 42Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.’ 43and immediately he regained his sight.’
What can we learn from this encounter? Three important things. Firstly that no one is unimportant or insignificant in his eyes. Whether a person is a rich young lawyer, a leader of the synagogue or a prostitute or a humble blind beggar, each person is loved by God equally and receives the same love and attention by Jesus.
No one is ever outside the scope of God’s love as we see in the ministry of Jesus. So each one of us here today are loved by God and are dear to his heart.
Secondly, we learn that Jesus wants us to articulate what is our hearts desire. Jesus does not force his will on any person but rather wants the blind man to say what he wanted of Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
When we come to God through Jesus he wants us to tell him what is in our hearts; to tell him what we would like him to do for us.
In Matthew 7 Jesus tell his disciples: ‘Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened’. So we are to go to him as we do this evening to humbly ask from our hearts desire.
But in that passage Jesus goes on to say, ‘9Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
This tells us that when we pray to God, when we ask for his help, we must never assume that his answer will be exactly what we expect. He knows how to ‘give good things to those who ask him.’ If we trust him, his love and compassion will be evident in his answer to our prayer, even when that prayer is answered in a different way from what we think is best.
St Paul tell us in his 2nd letter to the church at Corinth that to keep him from boasting, ‘a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Cor 12.7) ‘My grace is sufficient for you’.
When we pray for healing for ourselves what we can learn from Paul’s experience is that God first and foremost gives us his grace. Other healings, physical, mental or emotional may flow from that, but what is assured, when we turn in faith and trust to God, through Jesus Christ what is assured is his love and grace, his spiritual healing.
Yesterday at our Taizé Service we had a reading from St Matthew 9: Jesus had been criticized for dining with tax-collectors and sinners. When Jesus heard this he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’ (Matthew 9.9)
This implies that those who are caught up in sin, one might say, those who are trapped by sin, they also need healing. So I think that, sort of, includes us all. Sin cuts us off from God, sin separates us from God, and it can only be when we turn to him in sorrow and ask forgiveness that he can open up that channel of communication, that channel of his grace for us through forgiveness, and so make possible his spiritual healing.
Where there is sickness we pray for healing and, as I say, that healing may be different from what we hope for or expect. We understandably pray for the restoration of full health. But we have to bear in mind that none of us will live in this life forever. So we need to remember that, as our bodies wear out we will all die to this life at some time of another.
But that does not mean God has failed us for as we believe in the resurrection and in life after death through Jesus Christ we can know that when we die to this life as believing Christians we will be made whole.
In Revelation 21, the writer says: ‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth …. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. …… ‘ and he adds, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’
We know, as St Paul says, that Heaven is our true home, our true destiny through our Saviour Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3.20) So the ultimate healing is eternal life. And that is God’s compassionate healing for us all at the end of our days in this world.
So to sum up: there are different kinds of healing but first of all there has to be spiritual healing and we have to trust God for that.
Now to return to our Gospel reading: Jesus said to blind Bartimaeus, ‘your faith has saved you.’ Faith is the starting point. It is about trust in God, trust in Jesus. We may not, indeed we do not, fully understand the ways of God. Just as a child does not always understand the guidance of a loving parent but trusts anyway, so we must trust God, put our faith in him.
And in preparation we need to pray that he will remove those things that get in the way of the trust, that weaken our faith in him.
St James in chapter 5 of his letter says, ‘13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5)
So I suggest we have a few moments quiet before we invite you to come forward for the laying on of hands and for anointing so that we can pray silently for the removal of all those things that hinder the work of God’s healing power.
Pray for the removal of feelings of anxiety so that we may relax into God’s loving hands.
Pray that any feelings of anger or bitterness, which may even go back to our childhood or adolescence, may be removed.
Pray for the grace to forgive those who have wronged us or abused us in the past.
Pray for that inner peace that God alone can give, that peace of God that is deeper than we can ever fully understand.
So I will begin the silence with this prayer to direct our thoughts in preparation for healing:
‘Let us allow the healing, forgiving spirit of Jesus to penetrate our whole being and lead us to wholeness.’
‘O God our Father, you are the source of all life and health, all strength and peace: Teach us to know you truly; take from us all that hinders the work of your healing power, all our sins, all our anxieties and fears, all resentment and hardness of heart; and help us to enter into stillness and peace with you, and to know that you are our healer and redeemer; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’