As we approach the 21st Century, it behooves us as ministers of Christ to gaze again on the ministry of Jesus. In recent reflection, there are many things in Christ's ministry to hurting humanity which are noteworthy…too many to discuss here. However, in all His greatness, one dimension is often overlooked, especially by the evangelical and the charismatic ministers.
Scripture reveals that Jesus only did what His Father told him to do…and that He be about doing good (God things), healing all oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him (Immanuel). In recognizing that Jesus acted on the Father’s desire, doing the work He was called to do, we see an influential intent of immense importance.
- Sin causes isolation.
- Sickness causes isolation.
- Mass choices in society create isolation.
Isolation and unfamiliarity create division, ignorance and blindness of soul, often institutionalized over generations (racism, ageism, sexism, Christian sin, etc., ad nauseum). The distinctiveness of Jesus' ministry can be seen in His incredible ability to bring Good News to poor souls, removing the barriers to social intercourse, opening wide the door to disenfranchised, isolated individuals and groups (including families) who were once far off, now brought near. Examples of this could fill volumes. A few instances will suffice.
Consider the leper in Matthew 1. Charismatics will concentrate on the power encounter and the miraculous healing wrought by the touch of the Master (see the woman with issue of blood). The more liberal theologians will see the humanitarianism of Christ while wondering why He did not establish Christ Hospital in Palestine.
But notice the greater intent of Christ's example.
In verse 4, after the leprosy was removed by the power of God, Jesus urges (commands) the man (him, not the former leper!) to "show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded (Lev 14:1-32) for a testimony to them".
How often I have read this passage while missing a key element. The offering to the priest, the testimony given was not to brag on God alone (or as in many charismatic circles, to brag on ones worthiness to receive, or God's good judgment in choosing me for a miracle, healing, or blessing) but also for the priest, as representative of the faith community, to acknowledge that isolationist treatment of the leper could no longer be given, and that acceptance into the community of faith was mandated.
The woman at the well (John 4:7-30) gives another example of Christ's ministry of wholeness. This woman was isolated and unacceptable to polite society; she could only draw water by herself, devoid of the fellowship of the other Samaritan women. Her healing of soul occurred through the revelation of Jesus as the Christ (the first one to receive it); He removed her shame and transformed her purpose, which led to national revival.
It has been justly stated that all brokenness occurs within relationship. Long before divorce there existed a happily married, hopeful couple. Prior to the alcoholic, drug addict, abuser or victim was a person, created in the image of God with infinite worth and potentiality. All brokenness can be traced to relational wounds found in family, society, religious articles, and directly with God himself (all have sinned and fallen short …the wages of sin is death, or isolation from God (Romans 3:23, 6:23).
Just as brokenness occurs through relationship, no healing will occur without it.
Two Remarkable Things
In all of Jesus' ministry, two things stand out to me, and are so vitally needed in the 21st Century. These two things seemed to resonate in Christ, and He responded to them with remarkable power, delight; faith and community.
Whenever Jesus found faith (expecting that a good God can and will act on our behalf), bells and whistles went off. The leper beseeching Him, the woman at the well engaging Him, children coming to Him, roofs removed for friends to get to Him, little men climbing trees to see Him, the young man who squandered his inheritance, returning still smelling of pig and whore, all had two things in common.
First, they were all marginalized people.
Some were rich, some poor, with differing cultures and races represented. All were wounded by relationships, and all were humble enough to admit they needed a savior.
Second, each expressed their faith in their own way.
Jesus, with true eyes of compassion, was able to look beyond their brokenness (causing isolation from community) and responded to faith with virtue (power/life). Unlike modern Church life (the worst example of which is the so-called "televangelist" who unknowingly encourages isolation. He says, "Send in your offering, touch your T.V. screen for a healing." The process is all done with anonymity and isolation. Where much of the modern Church emphasizes miracles or healings, Jesus emphasized the return to community -- a return which should have been in most cases unnecessary, and in rare cases resulted in full, complete and immediate restoration (see the Prodigal son).
Jesus understood (and so must we) that there is something much worse than being without eye or limb, or from one culture or another. Being separate from the Kingdom of God (the true Christian culture) is the only tragedy! Jesus ministered to the whole person, with a focus on returning to community those who, from a poverty of spirit, responded in faith to His message of hope -- a message they believed without reservation.
Which brings me a greater question..."What was it about Jesus that made it easy for the child, the leper, the prostitute, the tax collector, the embarrassed wedding host, etc. to come to Him?"
The answer is painfully obvious, but only the blind can see it.
Jesus was blind to leprosy; He did not see a leper, He saw a man.
Jesus was blind to the adulterer; He did not see the adultery, He saw a woman.
Children were not a nuisance, but the inheritors of the Kingdom.
There was no woman of Samaria, just a woman with thirst. No soldier with a sick daughter, just a father with a broken heart. What made Jesus so very approachable, and what seemed to release God's power through Him when faith was present, was the compassion He felt for the "whosoever will" of His day. What made Jesus so desirable, what seemed to release God's power through Him was manifested faith that triggered the compassion He felt for the common man.
The Church of the 21st Century must somehow return to the ministry of Jesus Christ!
We must acknowledge that brokenness is everywhere, and our incessantly morbid need to analyze the cause before providing the cure must close. Who cares (does God?) how the AIDS, cancer, divorce, homosexuality, came to be. If faith can be formed, we must look beyond the color, race, socioeconomic status, denomination or any other thing that divides us, seeing instead the wonderful person, created in God's image, in need of God's grace, to be administered to by God's servants, to open again (where wholeness will occur) to them the Christian community, the Kingdom of God. People knew Jesus saw beyond their label and was moved with compassion to call life from death, hope from despair, friendship from isolation.
The last thing Jesus taught before His death was the importance of community. In the Upper Room He washed the disciples' feet, showing humble servant-leadership to be a requirement for Kingdom service. He gave them the ritual meal, becoming the common bond for all believers throughout the ages, to be celebrated as often as we gather. He instituted in His apostles the vital truth that unity in love was/is the goal; all else is secondary to our vibrant love for one another.
Oh, how far hard we have struggled and how far we have to go!
We must return to the way of Christ!
Jesus built a community of faith which was to be inclusive (not exclusive as the Jews of His day, or the Romans, Greeks and many present cultural groups), motivated by love, invigorated by a level of faith in God's ample provision. His disciples took the ministry and methods of Jesus (in limited scope, according to their gifting, limited worldview, measure of faith) and applied them in their cultural context.
We, His ministers of the 21st Century, are challenged to do the same.