I went through the gospel of Matthew this morning while sitting a Starbucks, my other refuge when I’m not busy. I ventured there this morning in part because I woke up with a question bearing on my heart and mind: how did Jesus engage the people?
Originally, I asked how He engaged culture but thought better to focus on flesh-and-blood because sometimes we are too content to target a something and not a someone.
As I read storied of Jesus encounters, I stumbled upon Matthew 9:35-36, a passage where the participials jarred me in a way they had not before
Jesus ministered to the people, engaging them by doing the following:
(1) Teaching them
(2) Proclaiming the good news of the kingdom
(3) Healing every sickness and disease
He consistently delivered people from sickness, disease, and demonic oppression and possession. This aspect of Jesus’ ministry was not an occasional occurence. You’ll find it in Matthew 4:23-24. You will even see essentially the same emphases in Matthew 10 when Jesus sends out the Twelve. There, Jesus commands them to:
(1) Proclaim the nearness of the kingdom of heaven
(2) Heal the sick
(3) Raise the dead
(4) Cleanse the leper
(5) Drive out demons
I’ve been a Christian since I was 16 years old. In the 18 years I’ve been a member of five churches, only two of those churches that at least referenced the importance of a wholistic, Spirit-empowered healing ministry as part of the charge and ministry of the gospel. Cessationism has never made sense to me and it makes even less sense to me now. Proclaiming the Good News and teaching sound doctrine are non-negotiables of any authentic, Christ-centered ministry.
But so is healing and deliverance.
The entire bok of Acts is not just a mere historical record of the early church meant to collect dust in the vault of “The Good Ole Days.” Rather, it is a foretaste of what will happen when Jesus people walk in the authority He gives us to preach and to heal and deliver people from demons.
Some may object on the grounds that the Great Commission does not include any specific reference to a permanent healing/deliverance ministry. Yet, that did not stop the apostles from performing signs and wonders in accordance with preaching the gospel.
Jesus used miracles to see the kingdom demonstrated and announced so that people would repent. Matthew 11:20 is telling in this regard:
“Then Jesus began to denounce the town in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent” (TNIV).
The miracles appear to have become just another show in town but Jesus would have none of that. Yet, Jesus does not stop performing miracles. Nor does He construct a suffocating theology that smothers the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit in the name of “sound” doctrine. Indeed, the apostle reminded the Corinthians that:
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Cor. 2:4-5 TNIV)
Later in 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 where Paul, besides referencing the convicting power of the Spirit that leads to repentance, also states the “gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power” (v. 5). The Greek word for power is dunamis, the miracle-working power of God.
So where is that power today in the American church? And I’m not referring to charlatans putting on a show to deceive people. Just as there were Simon the Sorcerers in the early church, so are there still today.
While some theologians, leaders, and denominations ague about the place of miraculous spiritual gifts in the Church, I pray to God to be a faithful steward of the authority He has entrusted me with.