Tag Archives: healing

Don’t say a word.

20.8.04 Blythburgh Free Range Pork Free Range growers.I came across two stories from Jesus’ life in my reading this morning (in Mark 5). The first is the restoration of the demon possessed man, the one known as Legion, and the second is the raising of a little girl back to life –  the daughter of Jairus the synagogue ruler. We recently thought about the second passage in one of our family services at our church.

Jesus is on the Gentile side of Lake Galilee when he encounters the man with the demons. They recognise Jesus as once and beg him for mercy. After the demons are expelled (into a local herd of pigs), the man who is restored is given the commission to “go home and tell them about how much the Lord has done for you, how he has had mercy on you” (5:18)

After a quick boat ride back across the lake, Jesus is teaching a crowd when Jairus comes and begs him for help. Jesus is now on the Jewish side of the lake and Jairus holds a respected position in the faith community. By the time Jesus gets to Jairus’ house the little girl has died, but Jesus encourages them to have faith and he goes into the house and raises her back to life. Then comes the instruction “He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this” (5:43).

So  – two miraculous events, but differing instructions on whether they are supposed to talk about it. Why would he say one thing to one person and another to the other group?

In a way, I can understand Jesus telling Jairus’ family not to say anything. Jesus was already having trouble moving around the area due to the large crowds that wanted him to heal. Gods new kingdom has come. Jesus is demonstrating how the world should, and will eventually, be. There are a number of things, including death, that are not as they were. The world is turned upside down as will be demonstrated ultimately through Jesus death and resurrection. His whole life (and death and resurrection) is a testament to that, not just the miracles. Jesus knows that  a yearning for great and flashy miracles does not result in a secure faith.  The result is people always wanting to be amazed instead of a more secure step-by-step everyday faith.

But I also wonder (and I’m just thinking aloud here) whether part of the difference had to do with the audience being Gentile on the one hand, and Jewish on the other. Religious on the one hand, and non-religious on the other. God often uses miracles to get people’s attention. Many people have had divine intervention to get them started turning their lives around. After that, once on the right path and walking securely with God, the miraculous become more infrequent. Perhaps Jesus expects the Jews to recognise signs of the new kingdom coming in, not just in the miracles he does, whereas the gentiles perhaps needed an added reason to start looking towards Jesus. (Interestingly, their first reaction to Jesus was “Please go home, we’re scared” – 5:17 ). Maybe I’m wrong here, but I wonder if new converts to the faith experience more miraculous signs in their early faith than those who have grown up in the church. (I have no evidence for this, it’s just a hunch based on hearing testimonies and anecdotes). Is this for the same reasons perhaps?

I remember hearing John Piper speak  on suffering, and he noted that in the book of Acts the disciples and followers were given a command to spread the gospel “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” There were many miraculous signs given to the early church too. Yet by the beginning of chapter 8, pretty much all believers were still in Jerusalem. It took persecution and suffering to get them out into Judea, Samaria and further afield. Miraculous signs are great, and we are encouraged to pray for them, but a walk of faith through suffering is often a more powerful testimony than a miracle.


The Secret Life of Bees

Having just finished the novel, The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd in advance of our book group meeting tonight, it just leaves me enough time to write a quick review of it. I have actually read this book before, about five years ago after coming back from a long summer of work experience and holiday in South Carolina, where the book is based and where the novel is set.

It is also, following Generation A by Douglas Coupland, the second book running that our group has read where some of the major developments rely on bees.

Set in the deep south the 1964 , the year the civil rights act was passed, it follows a young teenage girl called Lily Owens who lost her mum when she was four. Her father was a bitter and angry man who ran a peach farm. Since her mother died she was being brought up by Rosaleen, one of her father’s black workers who he plucked out of the fields to work as a nanny. Lily misses her mother and misses real love and affection from anyone except Rosaleen and she treasures the few trinkets she has as a memory of her mother – including an icon of the black Madonna which bears a handwritten inscription, Tiburon, SC.

One day when Lily was about 14, she was accompanying Rosaleen into the nearby town to register to vote. Many of the white men didn’t want blacks registering and Rosaleen gets herself into a scrape which results in her being charged, beaten up and jailed. That night, afraid of the fury from her father, Lily breaks Rosaleen out of the hospital where she is being held and they run away  – towards Tiburon.

There, they stumble into the place which was the origin of her mother’s Black Madonna icon, a pink house of middle-aged black sisters, August, June and May, who keep bees and make Black Madonna honey.  Lily lies about who she is but it later transpires that they knew from the outset – as her mother had been there ten years earlier. She is welcomed and is slowly healed of her hurts and pain, and gradually learns the truth about her mother and the accident that killed her.

It is beautifully written, with deep characters and rich descriptions of the pink house, the process of keeping the bees, and the rather odd rituals of the sisterhood of women. There are also two scenes of racial tension which transport you into the mood of the time. The novel speaks of out need to be loved and accepted right from early on in our lives. When this isn’t there it pervades and colours everything else and one cannot really move on until it is dealt with. In the house, Lily is loved and accepted. There is no pressure for her to tell the truth about who she is but the sisters allow that to come out in her own good time, only after she knows she is safe. Lily had to learn how to trust, receive love without feeling undeserving, and ultimately, to forgive herself for her unwitting part in her mother’s death.

There are many phrases and quotes of the book which I liked. For example, when Lily first enters Tiburon and finds herself staring face-to-face with the same picture of the Black Madonna which is adorning a honey jar in the general store, Lily muses:

I realized it for the first time in my life: there is nothing but mystery in the world, how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, browbeat days, shining brightly, and we don’t even know it.

Some of this mystery comes alive in the author’s description of keeping the bees.

She was also looking for herself. As August was telling the story of a statue of the Black Mary whilst they were both preparing the honey jars, Lily reflects:

I was so caught up with what August was saying I had stopped wetting labels. I was wishing I had a story like that one to live inside me with so much loudness you could pick it up on a stethoscope, and not the story I did have about ending my mother’s life and sort of ending my own at the same time.

Everyone needs a story greater than themselves: this is, I believe, a universal truth of human nature. However, so often, the stories we do construct for ourselves are uninspiring or unhelpful and merely obscure the person we were created to be. Lily learned that she had to own parts of her true story and come to terms with it, as the same time as realising that this story didn’t define her. There was another story of who she was and what she could become.

Ultimately, the novel is about healing, redemption, self-awareness, forgiveness and love. Not romantic love, but the everyday love and stability of a close-knit community that does wonders for an individual’s self-worth and self-perception – the simple act of living life alongside each other. Lily needed to love herself and know that she was loved.

Score 4.5/5. I wonder what the group will think this evening!

There is also a rather fine movie of the book starring Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifa, Alicia Keys, and Sophie Okenedo

Prayer garments and healing

In Numbers 15, God instructs Moses and the people to put tassels on the corner of their garments.

Numbers 9:37-41: The LORD said to Moses, 38 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. 39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. 40 Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. 41 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.’ “

The point of the tassels was to look at and have something physical to remember the commands of God by – to be constantly reminded to live as God made them to live.

In Malachi, one of the Old Testament prophets, there is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah

4:2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.

Interestingly, the word for ‘wings’ is the same Hebrew word that was used for the corners of the garments.

So Jesus arrives, and people are saying that he is starting to fulfil the prophecies of the Old Testament. There is a crowd gathered round him. Jesus is on his way to raise to life the daughter of a local ruler, when a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up behind him and touched Jesus’ cloak. Instantly she was healed (Matt 9).

Oh yes, as a Jewish man who observed the OT law, Jesus would have been wearing the prayer shawl – the garment with the tassels. The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.

Some points from the links:

  • She belived he would be the Messiah
  • She knew the scriptures and acted upon them, to her reward
  • The use of a physical garment as a reminder (and sign) of God’s commands acted as a sign to her as well as a reminder to the person wearing it.
  • The Old Testament really fits together well

Thanks to Rob Bell for this!