Cleansing and Healing
"Cleansing and Healing, The Table of the Lord" by Danny Shumaker
I wonder if any of you have ever had the experience of having a topic that you just can't leave alone. It's like God has only one or two lessons to teach you your whole life and everything seems to come back to that? Well, with me, for many years, it's been the topics of healing and forgiveness. Particularly the number of times that both are mentioned in the same context. I have come to the conclusion (as I will attempt to bring out in this post) that those twin blessings, forgiveness from sin and healing from physical disease, outlines breifly what God's grace is.
I also would like to point out here at the beginning that I've never been inclined to be a "charismatic", having a natural skeptical inclination and being raised in a church that had a anti-supernatural bias. I believe this is why God choose to teach me this lesson, because He realized that for me to be convinced that God heals, in actual, physical and scientifically measurable ways would take some doing. The evidence, from scripture, is overwhelming.
I was taught, in my former denomination, that healing was merely an add-on. A side issue, almost God's afterthought. That only some people were healed and then only as a "sign" to "confirm the word" and that now that we have the Bible we no longer pray for healing. I now believe that healing is every bit the equal of forgiveness when it comes to the central message of God's favor towards humanity. Note the number of times that both are mentioned in the same context and given equal weight. In fact, this happens so many times throughout the Bible that it would be impossible to go into every passage. I will mention a few contexts, so that you will be given the basic concept, and can find other contexts for yourself.
In John, chapter 5, Jesus heals a lame man, who is then questioned by the religious leaders. beginning in verse 11 (my emphasis):
"He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, THOU ART MADE WHOLE: SIN NO MORE, lest a worse thing come unto thee."
Have you ever thought about why the reference to sin, in the same context as the healing of this man's physical infirmity?
Luke 5, the story of the man who was lowered on a stretcher through the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching. Beginning in verse 20: "And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, THY SINS ARE FORGIVEN THEE. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?"
Notice the man has been brought to Jesus for physical healing, but Jesus begins by talking about the man's sins. Has you ever taken an interest in this?
"But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? WHETHER IS EASIER, TO SAY, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house."
Have you ever thought about what a profound question Jesus asks here? Is the forgiveness of our sins any less a "real" act of God, a "miracle" if you prefer? Which is the easier thing to do? My point is, here once again. Physical Healing bound up in the same context as Forgiveness from sin.
Another passage, James 5:14ff:
"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: AND THE PRAYER OF FAITH SHALL SAVE THE SICK, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Notice in the context, how intrinsic one thing seems to be to the other. Forgiveness is linked to healing in a way that you can't separate the two.
Now, what does this have to do with the Table of the Lord? Just about everything. Jesus instituted the practice as a Christian continuance of the Jewish Passover (although, now, it commemorates the death of Jesus "as oft" as we do it, not just one time a year.) The Passover then would be a type/shadow of the substance which is Christ. I go back to the original observance to pick up the meaning.
Each household was to take a lamb without spot or blemish. Take it into their home and care for it, become attached to it (I'll bet you never thought about the emotional sacrifice that each family made.) Then on the appointed day, they killed the lamb, taking it's blood they painted the doorposts of the house. You see, a death was required in EVERY house in Egypt. The blood was a symbol of that life given. When God saw the blood, he spared the firstborn, passing over that house. Everyone inside was safe, their personal righteousness had nothing to do with it. It was the blood of the lamb, and God's mercy that saved their life. But, there was another element to this passover. They were to roast the lamb, and everyone inside was to eat the roasted lamb for strength. How effective was this?
I'm sure most have watched Cecil B. Demille's movie, "The Ten Commandments". It's one of my favorites, but there was something in the movie that he got absolutely wrong. He has folks leaving Egypt on crutches, and even has one old guy so weak that he can't quite make it out of Egypt before he dies. The Biblical testimony is quite different. The Psalmist later says (Psalm 105:37) that there was "not one feeble person among them". Imagine that! After 400 years of slavery, around 2 million people, as young as babies in the womb, and as old as they could get. Not only was no one sick, not ONE feeble person, no weaklings....a miracle of healing had to have occured that night as well.
Moses didn't say, "you better examine yourself,
and make sure you are worthy before drinking this
water." The sweetening of the water was none of their
doing. it was ALL God's doing, by the agency of the
tree. A clear type/shadow of Jesus, by whose death
releases us from the bitterness of sin.
But there is a secondary element. God continues (v. 26),
"...And said if thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice
of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right
in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments,
and keep all his statutes, I will put NONE OF THESE DISEASES upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am YHWH RAPHA'. (the LORD that heals.)" The point that I make from this passage is this. God here, reveals using his covenant name, an element that is central to His very nature. Healing is NOT an afterthought, not just a sign to "confirm the word"...it is God's very nature to Heal, it is part of His Name.
It is God's business to heal, the problem is that we religious folks have a tendancy to tell God how to conduct his business. The charismatics have a tendancy to look at the use of medicine and time as a lack of faith. And the "faith teachers" will tell you that if you're not healed you must not have enough faith. God promises to heal, but he never promises when. And from my own background, the non-charismatics, how often do we pray for healing, and then say, essentially, "But, God, do it in a way that I can explain...stay in my theological box." Oh we don't say it that way exactly, we say 'Be with the doctors and "providentially" restore him to a portion of health." (whatever that means) We essentially are telling God how to heal the person. Now Lord, be sure not to do it miraculously. haha, we are so goofy!
God is Yahweh the Healer. That is His very nature. Personally, I believe that everyone is healed in the same way that everyone is forgiven. And that no matter how it happens, all healing comes from God. We don't have to beg Him, or twist His arm, or whine or nag. Healing comes as natural to God as breathing is natural to us.
I'm getting to the table of the Lord, trust me.
1 Corinthians 11:23ff "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, UNWORTHILY, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord."
Note: it's "unworthily", an adverb modifying the action, not an adjective describing the person doing it. We are never told to examine ourselves to determine our worthiness. We are told in this context to examine the manner in which we partake. To partake in a worthy manner, is to recognize and discern the body and blood of Christ. Taking the focus off of Jesus, and on to ourselves by loading up on guilt, that action itself makes the action in an unworthy manner. Guilt is not an appropriate attitude, but we should merely have gratitude. Just raise the cup, and remember the blood, the forgiveness of sins and say "thanks." It's not our doing, in any way. NONE of us are "worthy", it is the worthiness of the sacrifice that we commemorate.
(v. 28) "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh DAMNATION to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."
"Damnation" is a somewhat inaccurate KJVism. The word is Judgement or Chastisement. I believe Paul is making the case that sometimes physical illness is a chastisement from God. He says this plainly (v. 30) "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep." I would ask you, if this is not the point that Paul is making, then what does this passage mean?
So then, this brings us to the two elements of the Lord's Supper, and what they symbolize. If we are only commemorating the forgiveness of sin, then only one symbol is needed, the fruit of the vine, which is a symbol of the blood. But then, we have the bread, which is a reminder of the roasted lamb, eaten for strength, which caused not one of them to be feeble.
Isaiah 53:4-5 "Surely he hath borne our GRIEFS, and carried our SORROWS: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes were are healed."
This passage was quoted or alluded to by New Testament writters as being fulfilled in the ministry of Christ. The Hebrew Language is vague enough to leave it as "griefs" and "sorrows" in Isaiah. However, the Bible of the earliest Christians was the Greek Septuagint version, which was quoted by Matthew, in the context of physical healing, which leaves no room for speculation as to it's meaning.
(Matthew 8:16-17) "When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our INFIRMITIES, and bare our SICKNESSES." Physical Healing then is shown to be a central part of the work of Jesus.
Another allusion to the Isaiah passage, I Peter 2:23,24:
"Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
Jesus paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins by shedding his blood, and for our physical healing by the stripes laid upon him. Both are symbolized in the table of the Lord. The blood sprinkled on the doorposts saved them, they ate the lamb inside the house for strength. Now we remember and show our faith in the work of Christ, to forgive our sins and to heal our bodies. BOTH are a part of the reconciliation and work of Jesus. BOTH are equally symbolized by the memorial feast.
AND, I contend that both are the inevitable result of God's grace. We should affirm, in eating the bread, by his stripes we are healed. Our physical healing is provided for, and will happen. Sometimes, healing happens now. However, even if we die waiting in faith for the promised healing of our physical bodies, in the next instant of our conscious existence, in the ressurection we receive the fulness of the promised healing. A perfect, disease free, PERMANENTLY healed body. It is this hope of the resurrection that is a promise pictured at the Lord's Supper equally to the forgiveness of our sins.
I conclude then, this long post, (and ask your forgiveness once again for it's length) with the prayer of Paul for the Thessalonians (I Thess 5:23) "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Peace, Danny Send Danny Mail