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Commentary Life

Jesus Healed Body and Soul

It struck me this week reading Luke 9 that everywhere Jesus went, as he taught people about God and his kingdom, that he also met physical needs.

Sometimes it was giving food. Sometimes healing. Sometimes exorcism. Sometimes physical touch. Sometimes simple friendship around the table.

I’ve always known this of course, but perhaps because of the social and cultural moment we’re in, it hit me differently.

It was Luke 9:11 this time. “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”

He healed those who needed healing.

We never see Jesus saying, “Oh, you need physical help? Well my real ministry is preaching the gospel.” He never once retorts, “Oh, you need a tender touch? Well, I only came to tell you about God, not show him to you.”

No, Jesus came to tell and show who God was and what he was up to.

To Jesus, healing body and soul went hand-in-hand.

He’d forgive your sin. Then he’d tell you to stand up and walk for the first time.

Jesus brought God’s kingdom. And to Jesus, the kingdom of God meant freedom (see Isaiah 61 and Luke 4). Freedom was God’s gift to humanity. And physical healing was a demonstration of spiritual healing that could not be seen. Physical healing was a precursor of the great and final healing and restoration that would come on the last Day.

It was a signpost of that day when there would be no more need for physical healing.

Of course, Jesus didn’t heal every single person in Israel. He still doesn’t. The kingdom has come and also is yet to come.

It’s hard for us to comprehend this and deal with the tension, but we must.

Especially in our churches and ministries. And as we deal with the tension, the way Jesus ministered should also inform our priorities. As we preach the gospel and teach and train, are we also actively seeking to bring real, tangible, physical healing to the hurting, sick, oppressed, broken, and forgotten? This can mean anything from providing food and backpacks to helping groups and communities overcome and breakdown injustices.

This isn’t a social gospel. It’s not a liberal agenda.

It’s the exact thing Jesus did.

I can hear an objection and it sounds like this, “But Paul!”

Most Christian (particularly evangelical) ministries love Paul because of his (seemingly) propositional and theological approach to ministry.

As in, if we follow Paul, we just get to bypass the kind of ministry Jesus did. We’ll just focus on the spiritual and leave the physical to the hospitals and private schools and soup kitchens.

But remember it was Paul who said, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (Gal. 2:10).

It’s clear Paul’s ministry was to expand the gospel’s reach around the Roman Empire where it had no presence. His letters don’t expound a full theology or practice of serving the poor, but they weren’t designed to do that. Instead, it’s sprinkled in, like in Galatians 2. And it’s clear Paul’s ministry, at least in some sense, imitated Jesus’.

Jesus didn’t have a “preaching ministry” and a “healing ministry.” He didn’t emphasize one over the other. He sought to bring God’s healing and freedom to men and women, from the inside-out.

If he is truly our Master and our model, then shouldn’t we seek to follow him in his methods?

Categories
Ministry Theology

Leading on Empty Review

Leading on Empty, by Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, is a book about ministry burnout.  It chronicles Cordeiro’s journey through burnout and what he learned on the roach to recovery

For the most part, the book is helpful.  The book gave me some road markers to watch for in the future.  Two of the more helpful chapters were on depression.  It was scary to read actually, because I’d be willing to bet that most people would be lying if they said they didn’t experience most of the symptoms at varying times throughout a normal year!

One of the underlying themes of the book was simply to have our priorities in order.  This seems easy enough, but how often do we forget our priorities?  Cordeiro asks the reader to do an exercise to narrow down the essentials of life.  He says to list what the most important five percent of your life is.  This could be anything.  He lists things like his relationship with Jesus, his wife and kids, and pleasing God with his ministry.  “We won’t be held accountable for how much we have done,” he writes, “but for how much we have done of what He has asked us to do” (p. 79).

Later, he asks the reader to write down a handful of things that drains you and fuels you — whatever they are.  He says, “Your soul is like a battery that discharges each time you give life away, and it needs to be recharged regularly” (p. 88).  I found this helpful to re-discover what I really enjoy doing.

The only criticism I have is that the book can sometimes have a self-helpish feel.  Cordeiro says that it isn’t a self-help book, but at times he’ll write something like this: “Your greatest source of motivation is finding untapped potential yet within you.  You see, your future is not what lies ahead of you.  It’s what lies within you” (p. 205).  Out of context, that looks like a Joel Osteen sermon quote.  In the larger context of the book, the reader will know that Cordeiro believes that the gospel is our only healing power — that a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus is our only hope.  However, sometimes he fails to go far enough in being absolutely clear that this is what he means.  As a Christian reading a Christian book, I know what he means.  But will it be absolutely evident to other Christians?  I don’t know.  Our potential is within us, yes, but it’s in us only by God’s power.  Outside of the gospel we have no real potential.