Healing Through Faith

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, Feb. 10, 2008

Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them (MAR 6:5).

  1. We don't know very much about the first thirty years of the Lord's life on earth.
    1. We know that Mary and Joseph came from Nazareth, a little town that was so distant from the centres of government and learning that it was favoured by outlaws and others who did not want too much official scrutiny of their actions. The reputation of Nazareth was such that when Philip told Nathaniel that Jesus came from there, Nathaniel said, "can anything good come out of Nazareth?"1
      1. The story of how Joseph and Mary came from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the time of the Lord's birth so that He could fulfil the prophecies and be born in the city of Benjamin and David's birth is perhaps the most loved and most familiar part of scripture.
      2. We also remember that Joseph and Mary were warned in a dream that they must not return to Nazareth in order to avoid those who sought to kill the child. So they travelled to Egypt and remained there until word came to them that Herod was dead and the danger was past. Only then did the little family returned to Nazareth and resume their lives.
      3. In Nazareth, Joseph returned to his work as a carpenter.
        1. If we reflect how we ourselves would respond to such circumstances, we might guess that while they remembered what had happened, and may have wondered about what it might mean, the pressure of ordinary life in the world probably pushed it to the back of their minds very quickly as they went about the business of making a living, and raising their growing family.
        2. Mary and Joseph had other children
          1. Sons mentioned by name are James, Joses, Simon, and Judas,2 and it is also mentioned that there were sisters as well, although the number and names are not recorded.
            1. It would have appeared to others that, except for that especially bright oldest child, the family of Joseph the carpenter was just like any other in Nazareth.
            2. Public Ministry
              1. Then, at "about thirty years of age,"3 the Lord left Nazareth to begin His public ministry.
                1. First, He was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.
                2. Then He began to teach in the synagogues.
  • He was, after all, a rabbi4 – a recognized authority in the scriptures who would lead discussions of the Mosaic law and its application to life.
  • He began to do miracles, gradually showing greater and greater power.
  • First changing water to wine;
  • then casting out demons,
  • healing the sick and the blind,
  • walking on water,
  • calming the storm.
  • finally, He raised a little girl from the dead.5
  • Then He returned to Nazareth, and began to teach in the synagogue there.
  • They were astonished at His new ideas:
  • And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, "Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!6
  • They were offended that He had changed so much
  • This is a clue to His childhood. It shows that He must not have done much of anything to attract attention to His Divine nature while living in Nazareth.
    1. It also provides important information about the healing miracles.
  • They were not done by "magic"
  • Sometimes, when reading about the Lord's miracles, we lose the distinction between a miracle and magic.
  • The "magicians" of the old testament, such as the magicians in Pharaoh's court who were able to duplicate the first several plagues derived their powers from their knowledge of correspondences. They were able to influence things in the natural world by tapping into spiritual powers through the correspondences of objects in the natural world.
  • This was possible because before the Lord came into the world in the Divine Human, He was present in the world representatively. When He glorified His Human, He could be present actually, so there was no longer the need for Him to be present representatively, so He took that power to Himself.
  • All the legends that involve "magic" and "magicians" speak with great sadness of the time when the magic stopped. We know from the doctrines when it happened, and what caused it.
    1. But in this context, we are not talking about magic in a technical, doctrinal sense, but rather according to it common meaning, as when something that is completely unexplained happens, we say it happened "as if by magic."
    1. The Lord did not cause amputees to grow new limbs. The Lord did not turn stones into gold. Even when His actions seemed to be "miracles" or "magic" still the Lord does not operate outside of His own laws of Divine Providence.
      1. His miracles of healing were of a type that could be explained or understood by a stimulation of, or speeding up of the body's own powers of healing.
      2. Many of the people who were healed could have been suffering from problems that had a spiritual or psychological cause, but physical manifestations – or in the case of leprosy, the Lord's touch could speed up the body's own process of regenerating tissue.
    2. We don't know the details of how it worked, and for the most part it is not important that we know the details. What is important is to understand how important the person's own will was in the healing process.
    1. The person first had to believe that the Lord could do it for it to be effective.
      1. If your doctor prescribes a diet and you don't trust Him.
        1. You don't follow the diet.
        2. You don't get better.
        3. So your lack of trust in him is proved – the classic "self-fulfilling prophecy."
    2. There is also the well-known "Placebo" effect:
      1. The "placebo" effect is so real that any new medicine or treatment has to be tested against a placebo in what's called a "double-blind" test.
        1. A group of people who all have the same disease are divided into three groups. One group receives the new medicine. The second group receives a "placebo" or a pill that contains no medicine at all. The third group receives no medication at all. After a period of time the results are compared. What's surprising, and what testifies to the importance of a good attitude about your physical health, is that often the placebo will achieve results as good as the medicine!
    3. Many hospitals now routinely arrange for family to stay in the rooms with the patients, and involve the family in the health care procedure because people heal faster and feel better when they are in a loving, caring atmosphere – when they have their attitudes right.
    4. Pastors are welcomed into most hospitals – even intensive care areas where family is not allowed – because it is recognized that they have a calming effect that helps healing.
    1. The same thing is true when healing spiritual ills,
      1. If you don't believe that you are really sick, or, what is the same, if you don't believe that you have any evils at all, or, if you don't believe that the Lord can really help, then He can't help you.
        1. This is why the Lord could not do miracles of healing in Nazareth. The people there had watched Him grow up, and all they could see was the son of Joseph and Mary, not the Divine within.
        2. They could be excused of their lack of faith because of their circumstances. But we don't have the same excuse because we have seen the Lord both transfigured, and risen.
      2. When we do not approach Him for spiritual healing, it is not only a failure of faith, but is in fact what the Lord referred to when He spoke of the sin which cannot be forgiven – blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – the denial that the Lord exists and that He has the power to save.
      3. How can the Lord forgive someone if that person does not believe that the Lord can save him, and so never asks for help? The principle of the preservation of spiritual freedom prevents the Lord from entering our lives without invitation, and so He is unable to save those who do not believe He can or will save them simply because they refuse to ask for His help!
        1. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because your attitude makes it impossible for the Lord to approach.
        2. If He cannot approach, He cannot heal.
        3. And so the doubter is proved right – at least in his own mind.
    1. In order to be cured of spiritual ills, you must first know that you are sick.
      1. And just as your doctor cannot effectively treat you if you just tell him that you feel generally lousy, it is not good enough for us admit to being guilty of all sins.
      2. Just as you cannot treat all disease at once, you cannot shun all evil at once. Besides, even the worst of us is not actually guilty of all sin. Therefore the Lord requires that we come up with a list of specific spiritual symptoms which we can then attack with the appropriate remedy.
      3. This is called self-examination, prayer to the Lord for forgiveness and the strength to improve, repentance, and reformation.
      4. Mutual reciprocation is the key
        1. The Lord reaches out – but nothing happens unless we respond.
        2. He stands at the door and knocks – but we have to open the door.
        3. If we do, the Lord can perform a miracle of healing
          1. For He is the greatest of the prophets.
            1. If only we recognize Him, and see the Divine Human instead of Jesus the Carpenter.

    Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (REV 3:20-22) Amen.

    First Lesson: Numbers 12

    Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. {2} So they said, "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?" And the LORD heard it. {3} (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) {4} Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, "Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!" So the three came out. {5} Then the LORD came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. {6} Then He said, "Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. {7} Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. {8} I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?" {9} So the anger of the LORD was aroused against them, and He departed. {10} And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. {11} So Aaron said to Moses, "Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. {12} "Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother's womb!" {13} So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, "Please heal her, O God, I pray!" {14} Then the LORD said to Moses, "If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again." {15} So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again. {16} And afterward the people moved from Hazeroth and camped in the Wilderness of Paran. Amen.

    Second Lesson: Mark 6:1-6

    Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. {2} And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, "Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! {3} "Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?" And they were offended at Him. {4} But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honour except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house." {5} Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. {6} And He marvelled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching. Amen.

    Third Lesson: Arcana Coelestia 10023.

    The reason why 'laying the hand on' means transmission and reception is that by 'the hands' is meant power and since this power is the capacity to act, whatever resides with a person, thus the entire person engaged in action, is also meant by 'the hands', see the places referred to in 10019; and by 'laying on' is meant transmission on the part of the one who lays them on and reception on the part of the person on whom or thing on which they are laid. Amen.


    1

    JOH 1:46

    2

    MAR 6:3

    3

    LUK 3:23

    4

    MAT 26:25; MAR 9:5; JOH 1:38, 49

    5

    MAR 5:41-42

    6

    MAR 6:2