Lover of the Sick

Do you ever get that urge to run when someone near you is coughing and sneezing? I know I do.

Jesus is different that way. He goes after the sick. Partly, that’s because Jesus loves to heal the body. In fact, the gospel writers tell many stories of Jesus going after those who were sick and ailing, injured and broken.

But there’s something Jesus loves even more than healing the body. He especially loves to heal the spirit. Even with a paralytic man whom he heals physically, the very first thing Jesus told him was, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20, NIV).

Then, Jesus went out and found a man who needed a different kind of healing, a man who would have been an outcast to his fellow Jews. He was a tax collector, and that was not exactly a beloved profession, to put it mildly. But Jesus told this man, Matthew, that he wanted to include him on his team.

How healing Jesus’ kindness must have been to his spirit!

When Matthew later threw a party for all his fellow tax collectors, so that they could meet Jesus too, not everyone was pleased. Especially not the religious leaders. So they put the question to Jesus point-blank: “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus’ answer demonstrated his immense heart for those who need his healing — and especially for those who need healing of their spirit.

“Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance'” (Luke 5:31-32, NIV).

Are you heart-sick because of your sins? Do you feel a sickening pit in your stomach, sensing that you’re an outcast? Are you discouraged because of serious illness or injury to your body?

Well, here’s some great news for you… Jesus loves to heal those who are sick!

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, March 24, is Numbers 16:36 – 18:32, Luke 5:17-32 and Psalm 37:10-20.

Lord, I’m sick over the sins I commit. My soul is hurting. Please heal me in your blood, Jesus. Do a great miracle and forgive all my sins.

Header image based on "Dear Flickr, I'm Sick." by Courtney Carmody, CC By 2.0

A Target on His Back

Jesus was very busy — doing one good deed after another.

People who had been knocked down in life were being helped back up. The broken and ill were being made whole again. The suffering were being relieved of their hurt and pain. With all this going on, one would think that it would be hard to question Jesus’ heart, or his power and purpose.

But instead of resolving all the questions about Jesus, all this simply served to put a target on his back. His mom and brothers came to proclaim him a crazy person and declare him incompetent. The religious teachers explained it all as the work of Beelzebul — Satan.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons” (‭Mark‬ ‭3‬:‭20-22,‬ NIV).

Have you ever sincerely, with all the right intentions, tried to do something good? Maybe you thought to yourself, “This is really great!” And then you discovered that all your good work was only going to bring intense criticism. Doing the right things in God’s eyes sometimes invites the people of this world to put a target on our backs and throw a lot of darts.

Not fun, is it? And it certainly couldn’t have been fun for Jesus either. But one thing it does tell you is that your Savior understands from experience what it’s like to go through trials like this.

You have a Savior who has been tested and tempted in the same ways you have. His heart is full of patience, empathy and most of all, forgiveness. When we get discouraged, or hurt or angry, or even when we are tempted to retaliate, we need a Savior like Jesus.

Because we can trust that Jesus has the power to heal our wounded hearts too.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, February 17, is Exodus 21:1 – 22:31, Mark 2:18 – 3:30 and Proverbs 5:1-14.

Jesus, thank you for coming down to this earth to be my Savior. It helps so much to know that you have experienced the things I am experiencing. It encourages my heart to know that you will forgive my sinful responses to the sin of others. It strengthens my resolve to continue doing what is right to know that you will heal my wounds.

Header image based on "On Target" by, CC By 2.0

When Are You Going to Get Your Act Together?

Jesus hung out with a strange crowd for someone who made claims to be the son of God. One’s expectation would be that, since God is holy, he would only want to be around people who have their act together spiritually.

Not so. Not even close, actually.

The Son of God most loved to hang out with people who did not have their act together. People like tax collectors who were best known as government-sponsored rip-off artists, and sinners so notorious that they couldn’t hide the fact from anyone — those were Jesus’ dinner partners.

“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him” (Mark 2:15, NIV).

When Jesus overheard the religious people of his day questioning his disciples about this, he told them plainly that these were the very people he had actually come to be with. These spiritually-broken people are the people he had come to serve and heal.

“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners'” (Mark 2:17, NIV).

The real problem is not that you don’t have your act together.

No one does.

The actual damage is done when you refuse to recognize (or simply fail to realize) that you don’t have it all together. Arrogant denial was the hallmark of those religious folk — the teachers of the law and the Pharisees — who never really got what Jesus was about. Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for people like this.

Jesus came for hopeless sinners. People who carry a lot of guilt. Those who are ashamed of the things they’ve done. Men and women who feel like they just can’t stick on a godly path in life because, try as they might, they’re constantly sliding off the path. Folks who feel weak and burdened, beaten down and alone.

Broken people like me and broken people like you.

Our reading for Monday, February 16, is Exodus 19:1 – 20:26, Mark 1:29 – 2:17, and Psalm 22:12-21.

Jesus, thank you for coming to heal me from my sins. I do not have my act together. I need you. I ask for your forgiveness for my sins against you and others. I ask for your Spirit’s strength to change and make those changes stick so I can have the same heart you have.

Header image based on "The Sinner in Me" by Johnston, CC By 2.0

The Hug that Follows the Discipline

I’ve actually seen it occur on multiple continents. I’ve witnessed it here in the U.S. I’ve also watched it occur in Africa and in Europe.

The scene always plays out the same. A parent, slightly distracted, or perhaps simply trusting for a moment that her two-year-old knows how to behave, allows the child to pull free of her hand.

And suddenly the child runs out into the street, a street in which a car is approaching rapidly. The parent reacts. Grabbing the child by an arm, she pulls the child back swiftly, almost violently. And then she bends down and gives the little one a stern talking to. Anger flashes.

Or is it love? Because the next thing is that the child is in tears, and the mother is reaching around to give the child an embrace. Tender words flow from her mouth.

“Mommy just does not want to see you get hurt!”

God is like that. He does not want to see us get hurt. So he pulls us back from sin. The way he does this might appear violent at times. But what God truly loves is to give us the hug that follows the discipline.

Because of Jesus Christ, we are dearly loved children of God. Therefore we can rest assured that God loves nothing more than to protect us when we are in danger; when we are injured, to heal us; when we are lost, to rescue us.

“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you” (Job 5:17-19, NIV).

Lord, thank you that you assure me again and again in the Bible that through faith in Jesus, I am your dearly loved child. I know your deepest desire is to heal me, to help me and to hold me in your embrace. And for that I thank and praise you!

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, January 27, is Job 4:1 – 7:21, Matthew 19:1-15 and Psalm 17:1-5.

Header image based on "I can walk on my own" by Seika, CC by 2.0

Solitude Dismissed. Compassion Summoned.

He just yearned for a brief respite, a tiny quiet space in which to grieve.

Jesus was supposed to be boarding a boat to go somewhere private where he could mourn the death of his cousin, John the Baptist.

“Cousins” was their relationship in the physical universe. But their relationship in the kingdom was even closer. John the Baptist had been the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah. He was the “one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him'” (Matthew 3:3, NIV).

Now John was dead–violently executed by the despot Herod. And Jesus just wanted to be alone for a little while with his thoughts (and with his Father).

But that was not to be. The Bible tells us that Jesus got into a boat to sail across the Sea of Galilee to a solitary place. Suffice it to say, the crowds did not have Jesus’ needs in mind.

And since they couldn’t all fit into a boat, they followed Jesus around the very large lake on foot, until they found him. In fact, it seems they beat Jesus to the punch, somehow knowing where he planned to drop anchor.

What was Jesus’ response to these people refusing to leave him alone? Did he get frustrated? Angry? Upset that they weren’t respecting his boundaries? Was he incensed by the reality that they seemed to always put their own needs ahead of his?

None of those. His response, surprising for anyone but Jesus, was love. But then, there’s a reason why it wasn’t shocking that Jesus responded this way. After all, as the apostle John writes later in his first epistle, “God is love.”

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14, NIV).

Lord Jesus, thank you for being so compassionate toward me. You do this all the time. And not because I’ve done anything to earn or deserve your love. You love me simply because you are love. How awesome to have your steadfast love to rely on every day.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, January 20, is Genesis 40:1 – 41:40, Matthew 14:1-21, and Proverbs 2:12-22.

Header image based on "Galilee Shore" by Emery, CC by 2.0