October 15-16, 2011
Luke 1:1-4, 24:44-53
Luke: “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,….” (Luke 1:3)
Me: Who was this Luke who decided to write an orderly account? He was an eloquent and knowledgeable writer for sure. He was likely a companion of the Apostle Paul. A doctor? Well, perhaps… It’s not hard to see why tradition has come to say that Luke was a doctor. Throughout the gospel, Luke records all kinds of healing. Jesus healed in the cities…
Luke: “He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee…There was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon. Jesus rebuked [the demon], and it came out of him.” (Luke 4:31-35)
Me: Jesus went to the towns and rural areas making house calls in the homes of his friends.
Luke: “He entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever. He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.” (Luke 4:38-39)
Me: Luke records that Jesus healed all kinds of diseases. There were minor illnesses – like the flu of Simon’s mother-in-law, but also major illnesses…
Luke: “There was a man covered with leprosy… Jesus stretched out his hand, touched, and said… Be made clean. Immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:12-13)
Me: Luke notes that Jesus was even able to raise someone from the dead!
Luke: “…A man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son…[Jesus] said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak.” (Luke 7:11-15)
Me: Sometimes there were physical ailments…
Luke: “There was a man there whose right hand was withered…[Jesus] said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored.” (Luke 6:6-11)
Me: But also, sometimes there were emotional ailments…
Luke: “As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs…Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man…[When] people came to Jesus they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.” (Luke 8:26-39)
Me: In most cases, there was a spiritual dimension to Jesus’ healing…
Luke: “He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)
Me: Luke tells us that Jesus’ healing was available to everyone. He healed men and women, the rich and the poor, the young and the old. He healed friends and strangers. Jews, Samaritans, Romans, and Canaanites.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ healing was available to everyone….
I’m well aware, however, that whenever we offer prayers for healing as part of a worship service or in a home or hospital bed, whether we mean to or not, questions arise in our thoughts…complicated questions….questions that often have no answers.
For example, there’s a woman in our congregation who was diagnosed with cancer. From the time of her diagnosis, she was just surrounded by prayer. She prayed. Her children prayed. Her brothers and sisters prayed. Her friends prayed. Her church prayed.
We prayed at home by ourselves and with her at her bedside. We prayed fervently sometimes with words, sometimes with singing, sometimes silently.
But you know what? She died. What are we to do with that? Was God listening? Did God say ‘no’ to our prayers for healing? Did God heal her but in a way that we just didn’t see? That was not the type of healing we were praying for!
But for every story that ends differently than we had hoped, there’s another story.
There’s a man in our congregation who was diagnosed with cancer. From the time of his diagnosis, he was surrounded by prayer too. He prayed. His children prayed. His brothers and sisters prayed. His friends prayed. His church prayed.
It didn’t look good. It didn’t look good to us. It didn’t look good to his doctors. It didn’t look good to him.
But you know what? He got better! It really seemed like a miracle. He went into remission. So what are we to do with that? Why him and not her?
Or how about the events in our community this week? On Wednesday the obituary section in the Gettysburg Times included the names of two young people who died in motor vehicle accidents. They were only twenty years old. Why didn’t God keep them alive? Why didn’t God protect them – I’ve no doubt that over the years of their too-short lives, Arianna and Jeffrey had family members and friends who had prayed fervently for their safety and protection. Why didn’t God intervene?
Now this is the part in the sermon where it would be really nice to hear Luke’s answer to our questions. It would be really nice if we could pull out a verse from Luke’s gospel where Jesus says, “The reason not everyone experiences cure is…such and such…”
But neither Luke nor any of the other gospel writers give us such an answer. Luke doesn’t say why those who desire healing are not always cured. He doesn’t explain why some people suffer with chronic pain or anxiety or grief or loneliness despite persistent prayers – for months, years, or even decades.
What Luke does say, though, is that though cure is never promised, God promises to be at work in everyone who desires healing and that Jesus was born to be a healer. The good news about Jesus according to Luke is that Jesus heals.
Luke begins his gospel telling the familiar story of the birth of Jesus. The angels announce to the shepherds who are watching their flocks by night the good news that a Savior is born – wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The word Savior means Healer – so let’s listen to the angels again.
Luke: “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Healer, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)
Through Jesus, all things – body, mind and spirit, are healed – they are brought into relationship with God and made whole.
We can be bold in our prayer for healing. Jesus can bring healing. To physical ailments. To emotional ailments. To the little things that annoy us and to the big things that disable us. But most importantly, Jesus offers us healing in our relationship with him.
Let us open ourselves up to that healing power. For to us is born this day in the city of David, a Healer, who is the Messiah, the Lord. Thanks be to God!