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He Will Come to Save You
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
September 8, 2013
Isaiah 35:4-7 Mark 7:24-37 Psalm 146
This morning’s combination of Bible readings is another example of how the early Christians used Old Testament passages to help them understand who Jesus was. Two Sundays ago, I talked about the Old Testament term “The Holy One.” In many passages from the prophets this term means Yahweh God Himself. Luke and John make use of this term to indicate that Jesus was that God in the flesh. That is, they assert that Jesus is the God that the Old Testament speaks of. Jesus is The Holy One. Our Bible readings this morning do a similar thing to make the same point. In Isaiah 35, we hear about the coming of God. When God comes, Isaiah tells us,
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the dumb shout for joy (35:5-6).
Jesus does just those things that God will do when He comes. That is, Jesus opens the eyes of the blind, He unstops the ears of the deaf, He makes the lame walk, and the tongue of the dumb speaks. In Mark, the people are amazed at these things. They say, “He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak” (Mark 7:37). John the Baptist wondered about who Jesus was. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus doesn’t give John a simple “yes” or “no.” But Jesus does point to that Isaiah passage. Jesus says,
Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor (Matthew 11:4-5).
This should have been sufficient to tell John the Baptist who Jesus was. The passage from Isaiah said that all these things would happen when God came. This was the fulfillment of the age and Jesus was and is God in the flesh. Jesus is the Holy One of the prophets and Jesus is God who will come in the fulfillment of time.
There are two ways I view the miracles of Jesus. One way is as evidence of Jesus’ identity. That is, the miracles tell us who Jesus was and is: God in the flesh. The second way I view the miracles is how Jesus cares for the whole human race. In this case I do not think about healing the body as much as I think about the symbolism of spiritual healing. The miracles of healing are symbolic of how Jesus heals our souls and drives out demons from us.
A friend of mine recently asked me if I believed that Jesus did the miracles that the Bible says He did. In thinking about this question several thoughts went through my head. The first one was how little I paid attention to Jesus’ miracles. I think that the Gospel of Mark relies heavily on the miracles to make the case that Jesus was a Divine Man. The wonders that Jesus performed made Him greater than ordinary mortals. But my faith that Jesus is God is so intrinsic to my whole belief system that I don’t need Jesus’ miracles as evidence for His Divinity. My answer to my friend’s question would have been, put bluntly, “Yes I believe that Jesus performed the miracles–so what?” Of course I didn’t say that. I said that I believe that Jesus is God and so I believe that He did perform those miracles. For me, it’s almost backwards. Because Jesus is God, he could do the miracles. Not, Jesus did the miracles therefore He is God.
What matters to me most is the example that Jesus set for us to follow as to how to live. Jesus’ life of love and compassion and wisdom are the Divine qualities that the Gentle God show us. And I suppose that the miracles do get my attention. They tell me that Jesus was more than just a wise teacher; that Jesus is more than an extremely enlightened rabbi. They show me that Jesus is in a class other than ordinary humanity. That makes me more committed to the life Jesus led. It pushes me over the edge of belief and tells me, “This is God on earth, showing you how to live.”
Which brings me to the second point about the miracles. The miracles show us how much God loves the human race. Jesus’ whole life was one of service. He eased the hardships of the people He encountered. He healed, took away suffering, and drove out demons. To me, these healings symbolize the way Jesus drives out the evils from humanity and leads us into spiritual health. When Isaiah talks about the coming of God he says that, “He will come to save you” (35:4). This salvation is not just bodily health. To me, salvation means spiritual health. And Jesus’ healings symbolize the health that God leads us all into. Swedenborg describes this as a process:
The Lord remits to everyone his or her sins, since God is mercy itself. Nevertheless they are not thereby remitted, unless a person performs serious repentance, and desists from evils, and afterward lives a life of faith and charity, and this even to the end of his life. When this is done, then a person receives from the Lord spiritual life, which is called new life. When from this new life he views the evils of his former life and turns away from them and regards them with horror, then first are the evils remitted, for then the person is held in truths and goods by the Lord and is withheld from evils (AC 9014).
To me, this passage from Swedenborg is filled with metaphors of healing and life. The process here is one of cleansing from evil and of being gifted with life. Just as Jesus drove out unclean spirits, so He now drives out the evils in us by means of our cooperation. Then just as Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead, so Jesus lifts us up and out of our deadly sins into new life of charity and faith. That is how this church understands salvation. And that is what Jesus does for every human being who asks Jesus for healing.
All this is done by Jesus. Though it looks sometimes like we are personally struggling to the depths of despair, it is God working in us who does this. Paul put it beautifully and so succinctly in Philippians 2:12-13,
Therefore, my dear friends, . . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
This is and always was the message of religion. It was the message of Moses; it was the message of the prophets; and it is the message of Jesus. It is a message that had been forgotten, which Jesus came to remind the world of.
Jesus lived out a Godly life, and showed us the way to worship that had been forgotten. And Jesus brought God to an earth that had lost touch with God. Jesus reminded us of the teachings of Moses and of the prophets. There is no New Covenant, no New Testament, no New Law that differs from the Old Testament. Rather, there is continuity. That is why Isaiah could say that God would come to save, and the writers of the Gospels could say that the same God Isaiah wrote of was Jesus Christ.
As we struggle to live the life Jesus showed us, we have the power of the Divine Human to work with us. As the miracles show, Jesus was and is the Divine Human. And as the healings show, Jesus can and will cleanse us of our evils, heal our souls, and give us life. Jesus will raise us from the dead into heaven’s glory and joy. This is God’s promise in Isaiah and Jesus’ promise through the healing miracles.
Lord, we know that you are the long awaited God that the prophets said would come to earth. We know that you are The Holy One. We know that you are the one who would open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, and lift up the lame so they could walk. You did all these things on earth. You drove out unclean spirits, and we know that you still cleanse us from our sins. You raise us up from deadly sin and lift us into spiritual life. We give you thanks for your saving grace. We give you thanks for your care for the whole human race. Thanks be to you for all that you do to bring the human race into eternal happiness in your home, with you.
And Lord, we pray that you bring peace to this troubled world. May those who harbor ill will for their neighbors learn to understand and see the fellow humanity that they share. May those who strive against each other see that they are like in their wishes and in what they want for their land and nation. Lord, we especially ask that you be with the people of Egypt and of Syria. Comfort those who have been harmed, and pacify the hard hearts of those who use violence to obtain their own will. Lend your wisdom to the United States and the world community to make a compassionate and wise decision in regard to Syria. May all warring factions find their way to peace.
Lord, we ask for you to heal those who are sick. As you worked miracles of healing when you were on earth, how much more can you work healing miracles now that you have risen and have all authority in heaven and on earth. Grant all who are in need your healing love and power.