Reading Time: 8 Minutes
The other night, a friend told a small group of how she prayed for her son’s healing. Her son had a very troublesome disease that seriously threatened his quality of life and possibly life itself. God heard her prayers and her son is now off of medications and playing basketball.
Today’s Bible passage reminds me of God’s faithfulness to this mother and how he answered her prayers.
Matthew writes, “While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.’ And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples” (Matthew 9.18-19).
Before Jesus could get to the house where the little girl lived, “a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.’
“Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well” (Matthew 9.20-22).
Isaiah wrote during a very difficult time in Israel’s history. He spoke of a time when God would come on the scene and change the circumstances of people. The passages we are reading today and tomorrow are striking examples of Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah wrote,
“Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
‘Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” (Isaiah 35.4-6)
God indeed has come in the person of his Son. His coming provides salvation, healing and deliverance that is desperately needed in this world.
The woman with the twelve year-long illness had enough faith to come to Jesus with her need. She believed that if she could just touch Jesus, her illness would be cured.
The mother I mentioned at the beginning of this article trusted Jesus enough to keep coming to him, seeking health for her son. Jesus granted health and wholeness for them both.
The woman was returned to society. Prior to being healed, she was ritually unclean and exiled from society. The boy was previously denied the kind of fun that children can enjoy. Jesus healed him and returned him to the playful life of a child.
We now return in the story to the ruler’s house. “And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, ‘Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.'” (Matthew 9.23-24).
The professional mourners and family members laughed at Jesus’ statement. However, for Jesus death is not the end. It is like sleep and allows the possibility of waking up. The little girl’s death is real, but it is not final.
To prove this, Jesus put the crowd outside, “went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district” (Matthew 9.25-26).
Jesus raised people like this girl from the dead. After his crucifixion, he was raised from the dead. Through Jesus, we know that death is real, but it is not final. There is life beyond the grave for people who live in a relationship with him.
Heaven is Near
Dallas Willard writes that before the extensive use of pain killing drugs with terminal patients, it was a fairly frequent occurrence for dying people to have glimpses of heaven.
I was asked to go to the hospital room of a woman who suffered from an incurable form of pneumonia. She was on a ventilator and was anxious to get off the ventilator and go to heaven. She wrote on a tablet, “How much longer do I have to wait?” She was as ready as any person I have ever know to get to heaven.
Her doctor finally arrived. I said a prayer. Then the doctor, the nurse, her husband and son, and I all sang Amazing Grace with tears filling our eyes. The ventilator was turned off, and in a few minutes this dear lady was fully alive in the presence of God. Not only was she immediately in God’s presence, we too sensed God’s presence in a powerful way.
Paul talks about death and eternal life in several of his letters. One of my favorite passages is 2 Corinthians 5.
He wrote, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.
“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5.1-2, 5-8).
What is Paul telling us about life and death in these verses?
(1) We have a new body waiting for us in heaven that is perfectly suited for a that kind of existence. This new body is eternal and will never suffer any of the decay of our earthly existence.
(2) The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the guarantee of life in heaven. The main attraction of heaven is that we get to live with God. The personal relationship that we have with God on earth, through the presence of the Spirit, assures us of an eternal relationship with God in heaven.
(3) As we live in our body on earth, we are away from the physical presence of God. While living on earth, our relationship with God is based on faith and not sight.
(4) When our earthly body dies and we receive a heavenly body, we live in the physical presence of God. Faith and sight are reversed. In heaven, we see God and live conscious of his presence at all times. The presence of God is what makes heaven what it is.
** Premature Death
During the Crusades, some people foolishly put themselves in harm’s way during battles. They reasoned that if they were martyred, they would go instantly to heaven. They apparently followed the reasoning, “If heaven is so good, why not die and get there sooner?”
The Bible speaks of an appointment that we all have with death, “It is appointed for man to die once. . .” (Hebrews 9.27). It is my opinion that before this “appointment,” it is possible to have a premature death. The would-be martyrs during the Crusades are an example of dying before God’s appointed time.
The two stories of healing that we have studied today, plus the story I related from the mother’s prayers, are examples of God preventing premature death.
If I am correct in my opinion about premature death, then prayer for healing is very much within the will of God. The mother, who told the story of her son to a small group, is a perfect example. She continually brought her son’s needs to Jesus and in faith spoke words of health for him.
The mother, the woman with the bleeding problem, and the father with a dead child are outstanding examples of prayer for us. They are normal people, who brought their needs to a loving heavenly Father. No special techniques were needed, only enough faith to bring their loved one’s to Jesus. Let’s do the same.
** Today’s Prayer
Dear Jesus, today’s Bible passage demonstrates your amazing love. We praise you for every expression of your love. We bring to you our needs and concerns today, knowing that you love people and are actively present in our lives.