Input Session 1: Me and Jesus the Healer
Disclaimer: the non–theological observations contained in this document do not claim any particular authority. Definition: “church” means a community gathered around Christ. It is not restricted to special buildings or services but finds multiple expressions in the world, including the medical sphere. (Example: “tell them to sell the buildings and give the $30 m to missions’. JY – it is a mission (Acts3:19-21)
1. Some contemporary challenges
Affluent postmodern society generates an array of challenges to Christian pastoral care (considered in the widest sense). These include:
1. The rise of specialisation: over against the integrated treatment of the whole person, this includes not only a possible neglect of the spiritual dimension but the tendency to abstract the spiritual from the ethical and so on.
2. Professionalization: increasingly sophisticated and specialised knowledge is often coupled with a clinical detachment from the patient and their being treated in a less than fully personal manner. (J.Y. radiology example.)
3. Corporate mind: the lure of image and the power of marketing in opposition to Christian faith, simplicity and prayer. (Matron Beryl Hill example “THIS HELP WAS NOT SOLICITED”.)
2. Prelude: Sickness and Jesus as Universal healer
1. In the original state of creation there was nothing corresponding to human suffering; it is “very good” (Gen1:31) and saturated with joy (Gen 2:4 -25)
2. The origin of all unwellness is sin, “the loss of the glory (i.e. presence and pleasure) of God (Rom3:23).
3. Adam knew himself essentially as God’s creature and son (Luke3:38) through the creative Word of God that spoke him into existence (Gen2:17) and directed him in life (Gen2:17).
4. This life – giving Word was the person of Christ (John 1:1 – 3; 1 Cor 8:6;Col1:16; Heb 1:3 cf. Prov8:22-31).
5. As long as Adam remained in fellowship with the Word of God he was a whole person – a complete unity of body, soul and spirit (1 Thess5:23).
6. His heart belief in the authority and integrity of the indwelling Word preserved him in the divine power against all possible harm (cf. 2 Pet 1:3 – 4)
7. Rejection of the Word was a rebellion against his proper dignity and identity as creature and son.
8. God signifies this in judgement to the human conscience by the inward presence of shame and guilt and by the bodily presence of unwellness and suffering (Gen 3:7; Ps 32:1-5; 38:3-8 cf. James5:16).
9. These are corruptions in the crested order that make us know we are now, by our own volition, not “very good”, and outside of the full pleasure of God.
10. It follows then that healing in its widest meaning, a salvation incorporating all the dimensions of life, can only come when humanity is reunited to the indwelling Word as creature and son.
11. This is precisely what the story of the Incarnation, the Word becoming flesh (John 1:1- 18), is all about.
12. All genuine healing that has ever occurred in human history, under whatever name or description – natural healing of the body, traditional healing, spiritual healing or medical healing – owed its power and reality to the work of the indwelling Word in creation, who was yet to be identified by the name of Jesus (John 1:9).
3. Jesus and the Meaning of “Bethesda”
1. The literal meaning of the Aramaic “Bethesda” (probably) used in John 5:1 is “house of mercy”.
2. At one level this obviously relates to the healing activity of God at the site in Jerusalem. (John 5:4 is not an original reading but elaborates on a situation implicit in the Gospel story.)
3. More foundationally, particularly in the thought forms of John’s Gospel, the true meaning of “Bethesda” can only be found in terms of the person of Jesus. (Cf. Jesus is the resurrection and the life (11:24), the “true light” (1:9), “true bread” (6:32), “true vine” (15:1) etc.)
4. This means that Jesus is the reality ofBethesda; he is the true “house of healing” and all the healings which preceded his coming were signs pointing to the fullness of healing that is in him.
5. Jesus’ own creaturely body is the house of God. In John2:21his body is explicitly identified with thetempleofGod. (This is fully explicable against the Old Testament background where thetempleofGodis characteristically designated as the house of God e.g. 2 Sam 7:5; 1 Ki 5:3,5 etc.)
6. The temple is the house of God because God makes his dwelling there (1 Ki 8; 13; 2 Chron 6:2; Ps 132:14 etc.). This why the temple is the site of the manifestation of the divine glory e.g. 1 Ki 8:11; 2 Chron 5:14; 7:1; Isa 6:3 etc.)
7. In the Old Testament, idols in the temple were material representations in the house of God of a spiritual reality in the heart of God’s people (2 Ki 21:7; Ezek 8:1- 18; 14:3 – 4, 7). This resulted in the withdrawal of God’s indwelling presence and glory.
8. From the beginning of his enfleshment, God the Word dwells amongst humanity (John 1:14). The key term here (skenow) is the word regularly used for the tabernacle in the wilderness in the Greek Old Testament.
9. The Incarnation means that God made all of his fullness dwell in Jesus. John puts this in terms of the Jesus’ Sonship, glory and grace (John1:14-16, 18), as well as the presence of the Spirit “without measure.” (John 3:34). Paul says “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” (Col1:19).
10. The purpose of the fullness that is in Jesus is the salvation of “the world” (John 3:17;4:42) or the reconciliation of “all things” (Col1:21).
11. The fullness of God dwelling in Jesus is not a static condition regarding his reality as God the Son. It is a dynamic statement that is operationally true of the identity of Jesus’ in his role as the universal healer (Acts 3:19 – 22; Eph 1:10) .
12. According to the Gospels, the Spirit dwells more intensely in Jesus from the time of his baptism in water (Matt3:16; Mark1:10; Luke3:22; John1:33).
13. Functionally, this is described in Peter’s preaching, who alludes to the fact that prior to baptism Jesus did no healings: ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts10:38).
14. The words spoken to Jesus at his baptism are drawn from Old Testament texts that relate to the suffering of God’s chosen servant and son (Gen 22:2; Isa 42:1). They connect this to the ushering in of the rule of thekingdomofGod(Ps 2:7), which is the presence of his healing power.
15. This can be described in almost material terms: “the power of the Lord was present to heal” (Luke5:17), “power came out from him and healed them all” (Luke6:19), “Someone touched me, for I recognised that power had gone out from me.” (Luke 8:46).
16. More intimately however, Jesus attributes his words and works to the indwelling Father (John5:19, 36;8:28;10:32;14:20;15:10) and the Spirit (Matt12:28).
17. The power of healing in Jesus is ultimately to be understood as the self – communication of his own life with the Father (John5:26;6:57; ) in the power of the Spirit. What heals is a love relationship with God experienced by Jesus as creature and Son that is known inwardly and flows outwardly.
18. The extension of the divine healing power through Jesus is in proportion to the communion of love into which Jesus is taken as the mediator of humanity.
19. The peak expression of this reality is that Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30;17:21- 23).
20. This must be taken as a statement concerning Jesus as a person, that is, the Son of God as a creaturely human person is completely indwelt by the Father in unimpeded communion.
21. The experience of the cross therefore must be understood as the complete reversal of the wholeness of his own life as creature and Son. To bear sin (2 Cor5:21; 1 Pet2:24) is to be cut off completely from the pleasure God takes in the goodness of the harmony of his creation and the enjoyment of his children (Mark15:34= Ps 22:1, 3, 5, 6; Job 25:6).
22. This is to participate volitionally (as one of us) in the pain of the reality of what unwellness means not only to humans but also to God. This is the anguish of sharing God’s broken heart over the state of humanity as a place in which he could not fully dwell (cf. Gen 6:3; Ps 104:29; Ezek18:23; Lam3:33).
23. The grief of God and the grief of the second Adam are therefore one in the experience of being separated. The cause and so the condition of human unwellness has therefore been taken away forever in Christ (Isa 52:13 -53:12; John 1:29).
24. This reality is manifested in the resurrection of Christ from the dead – the temple or house of Jesus body is now absolutely filled with the divine glory, all the fullness and pleasure of God (Rom 1:4; 1 Cor 15:42 – 49; Phil 3:21; 1 Tim 3:16).
25. This is an intensification of the indwelling of God (John 17:5) to such a degree that Jesus is now both the origin and content of not only the temporal but also the eternal healing of humanity (Rom6:23; Acts 3:1-11;5:12-16; 6:8; 8:5-8; 9:36;14:8-10; 14:19-20; 16:16-18; 19:11-12; 28:3-5; 28:8,9; Phil 2:25-30)
4. The Christian as a House of Healing Mercy
1. Jesus continues his healing work on earth through his people (Acts 1:1).
2. This is possible because the individual believer in Christ is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor6:19cf. 2 Cor 5:1; 2 Pet1:13- 14).
3. Similarly, Christ and his Word dwells in us by faith (Eph3:17;Col1:27;3:16).
4. God has made his home in us (John14:23).
5. This means that the whole of the Godhead (2 Cor13:13etc.) is in immediate communion with every Christian. (This is the content of salvation.)
6. Following the pattern of the history of Jesus life, the communion of the divine persons will be experienced to the degree we believe in our hearts in the will of God as our Creator and Father (Eph 3:14; 1 Pet4:19 etc.).
7. This is “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5;16:26) that pleases God (Hab 2:4; Heb10:37- 38; 11:6).
8. The reward this sort of faith seeks and finds is to be conformed to Jesus in the likeness of his death and resurrection (Phil 3:9 – 11). This can only be a faith that is exercised in works (James2:22; Eph2:10) of sacrificial mercy for the sake of the healing of others.
9. The Christ who lives in us is intimately connected to the whole of creation and struggling humanity by virtue of his universal presence as the creating and preserving Word and Redeemer.
10. Jesus returned to the Father with the express purpose of “filling all things through church” (Eph1:22;4:10).
11. This must involve the expression through us of all the gifts and graces that we see both in the earthly life of Jesus e.g. compassion (Matt9:36;14:14;15:32), and in the life of the early church (Acts 1:1; 1 Cor12:14; Gal 3:5; Heb 2:3-4; James 5:13 – 16).
12. The present healing ministry of Christ must therefore embrace every form of healing that he himself has placed in the universe as it is presently on its way to the new creation where these powers (in their present form, Heb 6:5) will no longer be needed (Rom8:18-25).
13. This will be when the dwelling place of God is fully with humanity and is complete (Rev 21:3 -4).
14. According to Paul, this vision of present and future reconciliation (2 Cor5:16- 21) and renewal is compelling: “the love of Christ leaves us no choice” (2 Cor 5:14).
15. Jesus could say with complete authority, “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke6:26) because he totally believed in his heart that he was personally the full expression of the divine mercy.
16. This inner knowledge of the indwelling Christ (John 17:3) is also the key to our confident and extravagant expression of mercy in Jesus’ name.
17. What blocks the sense of the indwelling Jesus is indwelling sin and idolatry (Rom 7:18; 1 Cor10:14; 2 Cor6:14- 7:1; 1 Pet 4:3; 1 John5:21). (JY “father projection” and glass walls picture examples.)
Personal Reflection 1
Read Colossians 1:15- 29 with special focus on v.27.
1. Ask Jesus to reveal to you any areas of life where you lack a sense of his indwelling presence.
2. Ask him to speak to you about why this might be so. E.g. to highlight any fears you may have of rejection.
3. Ask Jesus how he wants to heal you in relation to these blocks to the free movement of his love and Spirit. This will always involve some form of personal sacrifice i.e. participation in the way of the cross.
4. Repeat this process in relation to your ministry commitment to those in need of healing i.e. what blocks exist between Jesus in you and others and how might he work in your life so he can freely reach out through you to those in need of mercy.
Group Discussion 1
This is an opportunity to personally reflect back to others what you believe God has been saying to you so far today. This should help bring a wider sense of direction and coherence.
Input Session 2: The Church as a House of Healing Mercy
1. The fundamental principles discussed above also apply at the corporate level of the body of Christ.
2. The “dwelling place of God in the Spirit” is the people of God (1 Cor3:16; Eph 2:21- 22).
3. “Come to him the living stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 2:4 -5)
4. The mortar that holds together the living stones of believers in relationship is love (Col3:16).
5. Love for one another constitutes the oneness that is the distinguishing mark of Christianity and the compelling evidence that Jesus is sent by the Father as the Saviour i.e. Healer of the world (John13:34-35;17:21- 23 ).
6. “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col1:27) is a shared reality.
7. This means that the degree to which a group of believers in a locality obey the command “love one another deeply” with a “love that covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8) the more Jesus will indwell the personal space in which they, and others, “live and move and have their being” (Acts17:28).
8. This is popularly described as “the manifest presence of God”.
9. Since the ultimate healing of the universe stems from the forgiving power of the cross (Eph 1:7;Col1:14), forgiving one another holds a central place in the plan of God to create a healing environment on the earth today (Eph4:32;Col3:13).
10. A prerequisite to this is humble mutual confession (James 5:13-16; 1 John 1:5–10).
11. None of this can happen without prayer for and with one another; “taking up the shield of faith” and “praying in the Spirit on all occasions” are, for instance, community endeavours (Eph 6:10- 20).
12. When these simple foundational principles are followed we may confidently anticipate the manifest presence of God to heal in every way.
Group Discussion 2
What practical ways are there to grow in Christian love as a community of believers in the day to day running of Bethesda hospital? E.g. are all meetings opened and closed with prayer? How is the scripture used? Where is the name of Jesus? Etc.
This is an opportunity to share and pray over what the leadership group of Christians inBethesdacan do together in order to strengthen their relationships. The object of this is that you may be a living house of mercy.