Healing or Hurt?
“May the words of my mouth... be pleasing to you, O Lord,
my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14)
There are two places in scripture where human saliva is used in a significant way. The first is in John’s gospel where we read of Jesus healing a man who had born blind. We read that,
He spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. (John 9:6)
Since the man was blind from birth we know that there was no way he could ever naturally see.
I discovered an interesting insight into this recently. Many people today have DNA tests done to trace their ancestry. One of the two main methods for obtaining DNA is through saliva. The first century rabbis believed that there were healing properties in the saliva of the first-born son of a Jewish male. In Jewish courts of law, this was actually used to prove first-born claims where there was a dispute.
Jesus had claimed to have no earthly father, rather a Heavenly Father. Demonstrating his healing powers by using his saliva, the religious leaders would have understood that he was claiming to be the first born of His Heavenly Father. This could explain something of the outrage they felt at Jesus as he healed this man who was blind from birth.
Let’s look at the second example where we see saliva used.
So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a sceptre. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. (Matthew 27:26-30)
This was not part of Pilate’s orders. Flogging, yes. Crucifixion, yes. But not this! This was gratuitous violence. Spitting on someone does not harm them physically. The harm is caused through humiliation and degradation. It’s a sign of contempt. In this case, the saliva was used to harm, not to heal.
Out of Jesus’ mouth came healing; out of the soldiers’ mouths came harm.
As I read these accounts, it got me thinking. In the book of James, in relation to the tongue, we read,
“And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:10)
Every day in life, when we open our mouths to speak, we have a choice. Out of our mouths can come healing, joy and gladness to others. Or, out of our mouths can come humiliation, emotional pain and inner wounding. The Roman soldiers chose the latter; we can choose the former.
Let’s try this week, to remember the miracles that were wrought when Jesus opened His mouth, and let us strive to be like Him in everything we say. Like the Psalmist, may we also say,
“May the words of my mouth... be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14)
Resurrection life... today
Jesus called in a loud voice "Lazarus, come out!"
One of the the things I love as I read the Bible is that I know that the miracles of Jesus that happened 2000 years ago still happen today in the 21st century.
When I read of the feeding of the five thousand men plus women and children, I have no problem believing this, because I, myself, have witnessed miracles that defy natural laws.
When I read of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law who had a fever, it has a ring of authenticity about it. Have not many of us witnessed many sick people being healed, and indeed been physically healed ourselves?
Reading of demons being cast out by Jesus out 2000 years ago is thrilling; and equally thrilling is the fact that we have seen it with our own eyes and I was on the receiving end of deliverance four decades ago and have lived in the freedom that that has brought ever since.
However, there is one kind of miracle that I have not personally witnessed - someone being raised from the dead. That used to bother me a bit......until last week.
On Thursday morning, I was taking our usual chapel service in Teen Challenge London. There were a dozen or so men there. We were singing the chorus ‘My God is faithful, my God is truthful’. When we came to the words ‘My God is power’, suddenly, I didn’t just know it in my head that ‘my God is power’, I could feel it rising up inside me. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, such was the knowledge and certainty of it.
It was then, as I was speaking to the men about the power of God that I looked at them and, suddenly, I realised that I actually had seen people raised from the dead. Why had I not realised this before? I saw them every day!! There, standing right in front of me, was a group of men who had been raised by the power of God, from spiritual death. Many of these men have been in prison, all have had life controlling issues....and every one of them have been as dead spiritually as Lazarus was physically. And now, here they were, standing in front of me singing ‘My God is power, my God is glory, my God is ruler over all that is’.
Lazarus was raised from physical death, but there came a day when he died again. Those who are raised from the dead spiritually will never die again but have ‘abundant life’ now and eternal life in heaven.
But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Don’t you think that’s a much greater miracle?
So, the next time anyone asks you if you have seen someone raised from the dead, you can say, “Well, actually...”
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36)
When I was 16 or 17, for one of my major English exams, I chose to write about the topic of ‘Freedom’. I hadn’t yet become a Christian, but I had my own well defined ideas of freedom.
I tried to prove that mankind could never be free. I argued that even if the only possession we had was a shoelace, we could not be free because we had a responsibility to that shoelace. (No, I have no idea why I chose a shoelace and please remember I was no older than 17!!!).
When I became a Christian, I discovered the adventure of true, inner freedom that only obedience to Jesus Christ can bring. I discovered the truth that the more of our lives, and areas of sin, that we hand over to God, the more invisible chains are broken and we begin to ‘soar on wings like eagles’ (Isaiah 40:31).
In John 8:32 we read, ‘And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free’. At Teen Challenge, there are times where we have to talk to one of the residents and reveal ‘truth’ to him about himself. This truth involves the uncovering of sin in one of its many facets. We are very careful about when and how this is done. However, one fact is the same; God always calls for action, for change on the behalf of the hearer. This often comes at a cost to the hearer, but it is always liberating if accepted and followed through.
In Revelation 3:8, God says, ‘I have set before you an open door that no man can shut’. God is offering a life of freedom from self-centredness, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pornography, fear, anger, worry, bitterness, emotional pain, jealousy, unclean thoughts.....the list is endless!!! Come on, who wouldn’t want that kind of freedom?
The wonderful thing though is that, for those who do walk through that open door, it’s not only the person himself, or herself, who benefits from being liberated. Often, those around that person also benefit; family members, friends, work colleagues. All reap the benefit from the freedom of one individual.
When Jesus walked the shores of earth, He set men and women free. From the bottom of my heart, I thank God for the countless ‘shoelaces’ He has removed from my life over the years; the shoelaces of sin that were holding me back from freedom. Friend, what’s holding you back from giving Him your ‘shoelaces’ today?
Chains are falling
Hope is dawning
Bright and true’
I Surrender All
"Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28)
Earlier this week, I went out during my lunch break from Teen Challenge London for my daily exercise. Just before entering the park, I met a young man, a former Teen Challenge resident who left Teen Challenge before completing the programme.
He began to share with me some difficult situations that had come into his life since leaving us. Some were of his own making, some were not. He was struggling in life and admitted that he was worn out trying to carry the burdens.
I felt Christ draw near as we spoke and asked him if he remembered the old hymn, ‘I surrender all’? I gently told him that this was what he now needed to do. His eyes dropped to the ground, and after a few seconds silence, he looked up and said , “I know”.
I prayed with him on the street corner before leaving him (keeping our social distance, of course!).
As I walked through the park, the words of the hymn kept going through my mind.
All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live
I surrender all, I surrender all
All to Thee my blessed Saviour
I surrender all
Interestingly, Judson Van DeVenter, the writer of this hymn, stated, ‘‘For some time, I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full-time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, He caused me to sing.’’
Countless people in the last 100 years have been very glad that Judson Van DeVenter did indeed ‘surrender all’ because out of that surrender came these beautiful words that we still sing today.
Maybe you too are struggling to carry your burdens. Maybe, like my Teen Challenge friend and Judson Van DeVenter, you’re struggling to make that full commitment to Christ.
A day came when Jesus stood before a multitude; he lifted up his voice said,
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
That voice reverberated over the Galilean Hills, reverberated down through time and sounds where we stand today.
The happiest people I know in life are those who have accepted Christ’s invitation and surrendered all to Him.
'They said to each other, "Didn't our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32)
Recently, I was reading the account of the two followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. I wonder what your favourite part of this story is? Is it the part where ‘Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them”? (Luke 24:15). Maybe it is,
'Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.' (Luke 24:27)
I think that my favourite verse in this account is "Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us...” (Luke 24:32)
Almost four decades ago, I sat in a small midweek youth meeting in our church in Glasgow. Mr Hugh Black was speaking to us about his experiences in the Island of Lewis, one of the Hebridean islands off the north west coast of Scotland. He felt God led him there to preach about the baptism in the Holy Spirit towards the end of the great revival that took place there in 1949. Mr Black heard first hand from Christians of how God’s mighty presence had swept over the island and Mr Black himself encountered the supernatural power of God there. He told us of opened eyed visions of angels, the appearance of spiritual light, angelic ministry, miraculous conversions preceded by a holy conviction of sin and much more. While he spoke to us about these things, ‘Jesus himself suddenly came’ and my heart burned within me.
I think that most of you reading this will be able to identify with this experience. You too will have known times when, in speaking with others about the things of God, ‘Jesus himself suddenly came’ and you too could say ‘didn’t our hearts burn with us’.
It can happen when reading a spiritual book, listening to anointed music, singing in church meetings, listening to sermons...the list is endless. Jesus delights in drawing near to his children.
Charles Spurgeon said,
‘Of all the things in the world that can set the heart burning, there is nothing like the presence of Jesus’.
I pray this week as you tune in to our various church podcasts, Zoom meetings, or read your Bible, that Jesus himself will suddenly draw near and your heart will burn within you. And the wonderful truth is that Jesus heart is also burning within him, to reveal himself to us.
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