Healing and Restoration

Reading: Mark 5.21-43

Driving between Ingham and Cairns we have been very conscious of the devastation resulting from Cyclone Larry. We first noticed the damage to the trees, then, through Innisfail, the many houses and buildings with tarpaulins still keeping the weather out.

We were in Newcastle when Larry struck and observed from a distance the privations that the locals were going through. We take essential services like water, electricity and sewerage for granted, and here were people having to cope without them, not just for a few hours, but for days and even longer.

But we also saw damaged trees burgeoning with new life – shooting out all over like trees after a bushfire. The banana trees had looked so dismal on television, but new suckers green with life fill the paddocks. Farmers are cutting back the number of suckers so that there won’t be a glut on the market.

We are living in a broken world. There has been a Fall, and many things aren’t the way the Creator intended them to be. But at the centre of our history God sent his Son, the Lord Jesus. He gave his life as a ransom for human sinners and we begin to see in this life healing and restoration. Paul says that the whole creation has been affected by the human Fall and looks forward to the time when “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom. 8.19-21).

Healing and Restoration

The whole of Mark 5 is about people being. The first of these isn’t part of today’s reading. It is about the man possessed by a “legion” of demons. It took place  in “the region of the Gerasenes”. A footnote tells us that some manuscripts have “Gadarenes” and other “Gergesenes”. The NIV gives all those options for the accounts in Matthew and Luke as well. It becomes part of the issue of where the exact place was.

In February 2001, our bus driver stopped at this point because he had been in the army fighting here against the Syrians and there was a memorial to Jewish soldiers who had died here (http://peterjblackburn.com/israel/lgolan01.htm). Our guide said this is the only spot on the shores of the lake where the pigs could have “rushed down the steep bank into the sea”. Whatever the “exact spot”, the miracle had really happened. Since the healing of this man had affected their “bottom line”, “the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region” (v. 17).

Jesus crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake – most probably to Capernaum (http://peterjblackburn.com/israel/lcaper01.htm). Not mentioned in the Old Testament, Capernaum was an important city on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee by the time of Jesus. It was the centre of his Galilean ministry. The present synagogue ruins (http://peterjblackburn.com/israel/lcaper06.htm) most probably come from a couple of hundred years after Jesus’ time. It was built on the remains of the “Synagogue of Jesus”.

One of the synagogue rulers, Jairus, came to Jesus with the urgent request for the healing of his dying daughter. Jesus went with him, followed with a large crowd of curious onlookers.

Among the crowd was a woman who had been suffering from a haemorrhage for twelve years. The medical world had been unable to help her. She thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed” (v. 28). When she touched his cloak, “immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (v. 29).

But more than physical healing, she needed a relationship with Jesus. “Who touched my clothes?” Jesus knew that healing power had gone out of him. In a crowd, you may be rubbing alongside others all the time. The woman who had been healed “trembling with fear” came forward and poured out her whole story. “Daughter, your faith has healed (lit. saved) you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (v. 34). The woman needed and received more than physical healing.

At this point a message comes from Jairus’ house, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher any more?” (v. 35) Healing is one thing. While there is life there is hope, the old saying goes. But death is the end of hope – or is it? “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (v. 36).

Last week we were talking about fear and faith. Here we have those two together again. Fear would be the end of the journey. There is nothing further to be done. Nothing further can be done. The journey of faith isn’t over. We are looking beyond ourselves, beyond our own resources. We are depending on the Lord to do what is totally beyond us.

Jesus took the girl by the hand and said, “Talitha koum! Little girl, get up!” (v. 41) She was instantly restored to life and full health – standing up and walking around.

The Ministry of Healing

A few years ago a girl in a year 5 Religious Education class came up to me and asked, “Mr Blackburn, do miracles still happen today?” Before I had the chance to respond, the girl next to her had come out too with a beaming smile, “There are hundreds of miracles every week at our church!” Yes, miracles still happen – perhaps you have experienced one! But they don’t happen to our ordering. Something is seriously wrong when we begin to glorify our particular church group. Let me illustrate with two personal stories.

My father was a Methodist minister. Mum and Dad had their first son, Kenneth, when they were stationed in Enoggera in Brisbane. They moved from there to Charters Towers, where Robert was born. The next appointment was Murgon. Kenneth, now five, began school. The family was happy with the prospect of a third child to be born soon. One Monday Kenneth came home sick from school. He didn’t improve and died on Saturday morning. David was born that afternoon. I was born in Murgon four years later.

When I was a month old, we moved to Kedron in Brisbane. Here Dad contracted tuberculosis. After a time in Chermside hospital, we moved for recuperation to the cold dry climate of Stanthorpe. While we were there, I became sick and was admitted to hospital. Diagnostic tests showed that I had a fortnight to live. Dad’s diary at the time records that folk from the church picked them up (they had no car) and took them to the parsonage where a group had gathered to pray for me.

I am sure that the people of Murgon prayed with as much fervour and faith for Kenneth as the people of Stanthorpe prayed for me. There is no simple answer to the question why Kenneth died and I am alive.

The ministry of healing has to be rescued from the hands of showmen and charlatans and restored to its rightful place in the life of the Church. Some of the teaching that has been around has caused grief, guilt and even unbelief where promised outcomes haven’t been achieved.

One woman’s husband had died after two ministers and an elder – all strongly involved in healing ministry – had visited and prayed weekly for him. Hadn’t they had enough faith? Another woman knew she was dying of cancer. In the midst of her suffering she was excited about going to be with the Lord. But some time before her daughter had taken her to a healing meeting where she was pronounced “healed”. The daughter had believed that healing word and was quite unprepared for the obvious approaching death. Or another situation where a man died and his widow told her mother that she and the boys weren’t grieving because they had a “word” that there would be no funeral as he would be raised to life.

Does God heal today? I stand here alive, knowing that he does. I think about Kenneth and know that it doesn’t always happen the way we want it.

Over twenty five years ago I came across a booklet by Danny Morris entitled, Any Miracle God Wants to Give. He speaks of five miracles of healing that God gives in answer to our prayers. They aren’t original to him. They have helped many people.

· The first is the miracle of the instant cure. I suspect that is what we hope for when we seek a healing miracle. It is what we see so often in the healing ministry of Jesus – the extraordinary inexplicable unaided restoration of health. There was, of course, the blind man who, after the first application of Jesus’ spittle, saw people – “they look like trees walking around” (8.24). He needed another touch from the healing hands of Jesus.

· The second is the miracle of the curative properties within the human body. This is like what is happening to the trees after Larry. You break a bone and it mends – the plaster is to make sure it mends straight. Cut your finger and it mends – the antiseptic and dressing are to keep the germs out. There are other ways too in which medical means work with the body’s built-in curative properties. Thank God for his design!

· The third is the miracle of guidance to a cure. King Hezekiah was dying. Isaiah the prophet had brought that bad news and was on his way out of the palace. Suddenly he stopped, called a servant and said, “Prepare a poultice of figs” (2 Kings 20.1-7). Not all doctors and specialists believe in God. Yet their medical knowledge and insight is a gift of God. Sometimes medical help is at an impasse and we need to pray for the miracle of guidance to a cure.

· The fourth is the miracle of God’s sufficient grace. We aren’t really sure what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was (2 Cor. 12.7). The description of it “in the flesh” makes it clearly a physical ailment – not a difficult person! There are hints in Galatians and elsewhere that it may have been a eye condition known as ophthalmia – contracted on his first missionary journey. He prayed three times for physical healing, but the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9).

· The fifth is the miracle of the “triumphant crossing”. For the Christian believer, death isn’t the end. Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house and would come back to take us to be with him forever (Jn 14.2-3). The ultimate purpose of God is that we grow in knowing him and in being like him. We aren’t promised healing from all the ailments that may afflict this mortal body – it is, in fact, mortal! The healings we experience here are partial and a foretaste. Jairus’ daughter died again, so did Lazarus. John wrote, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Healing and restoration… Jesus came for you. What is your point of need? Are you looking for a zap! out of heaven? Are you open to the Lord – to know and love him better and to make him known? Are you open to his healing miracle in whatever way he chooses to give it?


© Peter J. Blackburn, Cairns Northern Beaches Uniting Church and Glenmead Village, 2 July 2006
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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