And behold, the Lord passed by, & a great & strong wind rent the mountains & brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: & after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the eathquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: & after the fire the thin sound of silence. 1 Kings19:11 & 12

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Communion of Healing.

And so we come again to communion.

Oh, you may be saying to yourself.  What more is there to say about communion?  we’ve discussed the bread & the wine & the cup of the kingdom.  We remember our Lord’s sacrifice.

So much happened we can’t think of it all at once so the aspect of communion I want to look at today is healing ~ & the kind of healing that took place on the cross for us.

I am going to start with the word Gethsemane.  Yes, that is the name of the garden where Jesus went to pray.  The garden where Judas betrayed him.  The garden where Roman soldiers arrested him.  It still exists today, though the olives that would have been young saplings in Jesus day are full grown trees now.  

Now scripture doesn't do anything by default.  God is very careful & he is particularly careful about names & so the meaning of this name is important & tells us something.  Gethsemane means oil press.  That is somewhere where the ripe olives were put under pressure to release their oil.  Now recent studies of Gethsemane’s olive trees have revealed they are amongst the oldest in the world & are all the shoots from just one parent tree.  Stop & think about the implications of that for a moment.  Oil is almost always symbolic of the anointing of the Holy Spirit & so you have something very beautiful taking place here.  It will not come into fullness until the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out but the pressing takes place at Gethsemane when the sins of the world are laid upon Christ in the garden.  

We are prone to think that the weight of the world’s sin fell on Christ at the cross but it is here in the garden it begins.  See it was sin that was nailed to the cross.  For that to be so Jesus must already have been made sin for our sakes.  It is a process, tied into Jewish religious custom from the scapegoat to the High Priest’s robe woven as a single cloth.  Under the old covenant, as under the new, the was no redemption without the shedding of blood.  There was blood shed in the garden as the weight of mankind’s sin was transferred to Christ.  It was a struggle.  He was in agony ~ from agon which means a contest, a fight ~ so much so the extreme mental & physical stress caused the blood capillaries to expand then burst so that Luke could say Jesus sweated drops of blood.  It was so agonising Christ begged that if it were at all possible the cup would pass him by.

If we read John 17 carefully we find something very beautiful taking place. Yes, we know Jesus is praying for us; us in our time, before we were even born! But look at what He is praying! I in them & you in me.....that they may be one in us...There is only one way that happens ~ if the Holy Spirit abides in us & we abide in the Word. When you study the Greek in this passage you discover that what Jesus is saying is that he is willing (thelō) , He's exercising His will properly to bring this about.  In the process, in order to accomplish this for us, He is crushed, in God's olive press, just as the olives were pressed to release their oil!  

Hebrews 5 :8 remarks that Christ learnt obedience through what he suffered.  Here too I find something very amazing because what holds Christ steady in His purpose, a purpose that has been foreseen from the beginning of the world?  His friends fall asleep at the critical hour, then desert him.  On the cross even God turns his face away.  But Jesus is a rabbi.  He not only is the Word, he knows the word & what the word says is Surely he hath borne our griefs & carried our sorrows….or as Matthew says Himself took our infirmities & bare our sicknesses.  

Redeeming us from sin is one thing.  Redeeming us from the effects of sin is another & greater work!  When sin entered the world, sickness, death & destruction came in his train.  It was not only our sin Christ took to the cross, it was our sicknesses, our diseases.  When we are redeemed from one, we are also redeemed from the other.  The two go together.  There was no sickness, no disease until sin came through Adam.  When Christ took our sin upon himself he also took on our sickness.  If you are unsure of this go through the scriptures & see how often Jesus tied healing to forgiveness.  When the condemnation sin brings is removed, healing & health become possible because we no longer believe we deserve to be sick.

We have read the story of Christ’s crucifixion so often, watched it in gory detail on the big screen & given it cursory acknowledgement when we come to communion that much of it’s impact is now lost on us.  So we will stop & consider what Christ was doing from the moment he stood before the Sanhedrin betrayed & unjustly accused.

No~one spoke for Christ.  He took the unjust accusations that we might stand before God, declared righteous though we are not of ourselves righteous.  This is a fundamental healing of the relationship between us & God.  We must never forget the first purpose of Christ’s suffering was for restoration: of our relationship with God, of our personhood as originally envisioned by God, of our relationships with each other.

Peter, quoting Isaiah, tells us that by whose stripes ye were healed...healing for the body.  The 40 stripes minus one, to try & ensure the beating didn’t kill a person, was for our physical healing.  It is a very well known verse as it is the one quoted most often.  Thus we overlook that Christ was despised & rejected of men, a man of sorrows & acquainted with grief.  

The crown of thorns was probably made from the jujube tree that produced barbs an inch or more long.  As so often in scripture the symbolism  works on multiple levels but I do not want to focus on the redemption of the land from the curse of thorns & thistles but on the redemption of our minds & emotions.  When Paul tells us to take every thought captive to Christ he can because Christ bore our mental & emotional anguish   The crown reminds us both of his anguish & that he is indeed king of kings & lord of lords & his reign extends beyond the physical to the mental & spiritual realms as well.

All of this Christ took with Him to the cross & bore until the moment He gave up His spirit into the father’s hands.  At that moment he declared IT IS FINISHED, the words the high priest uttered ritualistically after the final Passover lamb was slaughtered.

The redemptive work of Christ was finished in that moment.  He gave everything to redeem all of us: our minds, our bodies, our spirits.  There is healing for every part of man through Jesus Christ.

Both John 14:30 & 1 Cor 2:8 tell us that if satan had known what the cross would accomplish he would have prevented Christ from ever getting there!  

During His time on earth Jesus ministry focused on three thing: Teaching, preaching, healing.  He proclaimed it, he taught it & he demonstrated it.  He went to the cross to restore everything that had been lost in the fall. 

 If you are in need of healing today bring your faith to the communion table. I am not talking superstitious nonsense. I am telling you to do what scripture tells you to do: to exercise your faith & not doubt. As Abraham did.  As Joshua did. Your God knows your every need.  He is the Lord that healeth thee.  Receive & give thanks.