Sickness and death are the universal consequences of sin
All right, if you’ve got a Bible, go to Acts 9:32. We like to go through books of the Bible, and we find ourselves in the book of Acts.
As you’re finding your place, I’m gonna ask you some questions, and this is the audience congregation participation part of our service. You’re going to need to raise your hand if this question applies to you. It’ll feel awkward, but you’re welcome.
All right, so first question. In the last year or two, if you have lost someone, someone you know, someone you loved died, raise your hand and keep it up. That would include me as well, all right? Keep your hand up.
Number two, if you’re sick— injury, illness, chronic pain, infertility—raise your hand. Okay, keep it up.
So, the first group, keep your hand up. Second group, keep your hand up. Third group, if you haven’t raised your hand yet and this applies to you, we want you to raise your hand: somebody you know, somebody you love, somebody you care about, they’re sick—injury, illness, infertility— it’s a difficult season for them physically. Raise your hand.
All right, if you said yes to any of those questions, raise your hand. Look around the room for a second. You know what that is? That’s everybody— you can put your hand down— or almost everybody. What this tells us is that something has gone wrong. Something has gone terribly wrong. Something has gone fatally wrong.
And it’s not like we’re not trying to fix this problem of sickness and this other problem of death, amen? Health insurance, doctors, God bless all in the medical industry. We’re trying to extend our life. People are doing everything they can to have health and wellness and to extend their days. Yet here we are with sickness and with death, and it’s been this way, and there’s seemingly nothing we can do to ultimately prevent sickness and death. Something has gone terribly wrong, and that is, according to the storyline of the Bible, that sin has entered the world. It affects our soul and causes us to be separated from God; it affects our body, causes us to be sick, and ultimately die; and it affects our emotions, that we grieve, and lament, and mourn the fact that sickness and death are ever-present and seem to be overwhelming, especially in particular seasons.
Hope in the midst of tragedy
Well, knowing this, God made a promise way back in the book of Isaiah. I’ll share it with you. It was that Jesus was coming and that he would ultimately be our hope, that he would conquer sin, and sickness, and death. And this was written 700 years before Jesus was ever even born. “Surely he has borne our griefs,” Isaiah 53:4-5 says. “And carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced—” there’s the cross— “for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities—” there’s his flogging and beating— “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace—” or shalom and wholeness— “and with his wounds—” his broken body— “we are healed.”
The promise is given to a world filled with sickness and suffering, a world filled with destruction and death, that hope was coming, that Jesus was coming, that he would physically suffer for us, that he would be beaten, that he would be pierced, that he ultimately would be crucified and he would die in our place for our sins so that our soul could be healed, we could be forgiven. That additionally, he would heal our bodies, that he would bring physical healing, and that ultimately he would empathize with us emotionally, that he would understand our sorrow and our grief, that he would be a man of sorrows.
From this promise, for 700 years, God’s people were waiting. “Where is this Savior? Where’s this hope? Where’s this one who can deal with sin and its effects of sickness and death?”
Well, then Jesus arrives and Jesus does die for our sin and he does acquaint himself with our sufferings and with our grief. And Jesus heals people. This is an amazing part of Jesus’ ministry. He heals at least 27 different people that we read of in the gospels that are the accounts of his life. He heals 10 different groups of people, and we don’t know the exact numbers. And so healing is part of Jesus’ ministry. Spiritual healing, yeah. Emotional healing, yes. Physical healing in addition.
And so people come to him, and they gather around him, and they receive supernatural, miraculous health from him. And then Jesus dies on the cross, and he dies in our place for our sin, and he’s dealing with our sin problem, which ultimately is the root of all of our sickness and all of our death. Then he rises from death, and he conquers sin and death, and then he ascends into heaven.
What about nowadays?
Then the question is, do we still have access to his power? Will he still forgive our sins if he’s not here with us? Will he still hear our prayers if he’s not here with us? Will he still heal our bodies if he’s not here with us? That’s the question. Once Jesus has gone, has the hope departed? Are we abandoned? Have we been left unto our own devices and God is no longer here to help us, especially when we’re sick and dying? And then the story picks up in Acts. We’ll pick it up in Acts 9:32 today, with a case study of how, because he’s still alive in heaven, Jesus hears prayer, Jesus heals people, Jesus still empathizes and sympathizes, and he, as Lord ruling over all, is still involved in our lives, which is really good news for us— that Jesus is just as accessible to you and to me as he was to the people who surrounded him when he walked on the earth a few thousand years ago, that he’s still that available to us. So what we’re going to read today is a case study of Jesus still doing ministry from his heavenly kingdom, and it’s going to be recorded by Luke. The author here is a medical doctor, and he is going to give us a few case studies of how Jesus deals with sickness and how Jesus deals with death. The first one is in Isaiah—excuse me—Acts 9:32-35. And there we learn that Jesus heals.
“Now as Peter went here and there among them all—” so he’s traveling, visiting the Christians in the churches— “he came down also to the saints.” If you’re a Christian, you’re a saint. You’re holy in God’s sight. Because of Jesus, he sees you with the righteousness of Christ. “Who lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years.” Okay, emotionally, I need you to connect with this guy. How many of you know someone who’s bedridden? Their life is contained in and constrained by a bed. That’s their whole life. Now, go back a few thousand years before all of modern-day technology and medicine. This is someone who can’t provide for themselves, they can’t travel, they don’t have any of the freedoms or luxuries. Their life is really reduced. Do you see that? For eight years.
How many of you men—just think of that. Here’s a man who, for eight years, has not been able to leave his bed. Imagine men, you wake up tomorrow, and you go to get out of bed, and you’re like, “I can’t get out of bed.” And you’re there for eight years. 350
“Who was paralyzed.” Here’s Luke, the medical doctor. He’s giving us lots of details on the case study. Not only is he bedridden, he’s paralyzed. He can’t move, okay? How many of you, this would put you in such a depressive state that you would consider taking your own life? This would be too much to bear. “And Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you.’“ Who heals him? Jesus Christ. Peter doesn’t say, “I’ve got the gift of healing for a gift of $9.95. For a love offering to this ministry we’ll send you the hanky, and if you wave the hanky three times, then shazam, you’re all better. We have this oil we got from Jerusalem, and for a billion dollars a thimble, you can put it on your injury and the Holy Spirit will—” nothing. Peter’s not taking any credit for this. Peter knows that if anyone is healed, it’s ultimately who who heals them? It’s Jesus. Right, it’s Jesus. “Jesus Christ heals you.”
And then he tells him something, “Rise.” Get up. And to get up is an act of faith, right? Some of you know you’re forgiven— you don’t walk in the forgiveness. Walking in your forgiveness, that’s faith. When God heals this man, walking in that healing, that’s faith.
“And make your bed.” How many of you ladies are really glad he said that? You’re like, “I appreciate that detail. “I was looking for a verse where I could tell my husband and my sons, ‘Make your bed,’ and there I have one.” Okay? How many of you don’t like to make your bed? How many of you don’t like your bed? How many of you, like me as a freshman, I actually had a sleeping bag because I didn’t want to make my bed in college, okay? Right, right? Then I got saved and married, and sheets. And so, “Make your bed.”
How many of you don’t like making your bed? I don’t like making my bed, but this guy was really happy to make his bed because it’s the first time in eight years he could make his bed. Next time you make your bed, think of this guy. “Thank you Lord that I can get out of my bed and I can make my bed.”
So, he gets up and he makes his bed. “And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon—” the surrounding towns— “saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” Lots of people became Christians, all right? They wanted to meet this Jesus who healed this man.
Well again, here’s the medical doctor. And let me tell you this, that God works through the natural means of medicine and the supernatural means of miracle. We’re not against medicine. The medical doctor writes this, okay? We believe that you should go to the doctor and go to Jesus, the Great Physician. We believe that you should seek wellness in medicinal ways and also be praying for God to do the supernatural, amen? We believe in both. And so here, we have the medical doctor giving the medical report of the supernatural, miraculous healing, okay?
My question to you is, can God still do this? Can he still heal people, yes or no? He can, okay? He can. Some theologies would say he doesn’t do that anymore. Yes he does. Yes he does and yes he can. Other theologies would say he has to do this and he does this all the time. He doesn’t have to do anything, he’s God, and it’s not like supernatural, miraculous healing is something that is as frequent as maybe we would like, but it’s according to God’s decree. And the miraculous, supernatural healing power of Jesus from heaven is really on display through the book of Acts. I wrote it down, there are 14 different miraculous healings in the book of Acts. Furthermore, 12 of the 28 chapters in this book have a supernatural, miraculous healing. So we do see that Jesus can and does heal. And he doesn’t do it every chapter for every person, but he does it sometimes according to his sovereign will.
Here the case study is—it’s actually in a location that’s basically the modern day Tel Aviv Airport. That’s basically where it’s at if you’re looking on a map. And you see this man, bedridden, paralyzed eight years. Do you think he’s prayed? Yeah. Yeah. Do you think others have prayed? I’m sure they have. Do you think he’s stopped praying? Maybe so. Do you think others have stopped praying after eight years? I’m sure at least some have stopped praying. And Peter knows that that is the day that Jesus has chosen to heal that man.
Two miracles happen here, did you catch the second one? The first one’s pretty obvious. What was the first supernatural, miraculous healing? The physical healing of the paralyzed man. What’s the second supernatural, miraculous healing? The healing of the souls of the people who turned to the Lord. They “saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” This is the healing of the soul. This is the depth of who you are, that sin has infected and affected our soul so that we experience spiritual death. It’s affected our body so that we experience physical death. And Jesus comes and heals this man’s physical body, and the result is that others turn to Jesus and they experience a spiritual healing of their soul. And let me tell you this, God saving someone is at least as much a supernatural miracle as God healing someone, okay? If you’re a Christian, you’ve experienced a healing miracle from Jesus. He’s healed your soul, he’s forgiven your sins, he’s changed you at the deepest level, the core of who you are.
Here’s the miracle, that God saves all of you, that God saves your soul, your immaterial, spiritual aspect of your being, that God saves your body, your physical flesh that you indwell. God also saves and heals your emotional life, and your well being, and your mental state. When God saves someone, he saves the whole person.
We’re seeing here various aspects of Jesus’ supernatural, miraculous healing work. And one man’s body is saved and many souls are saved. Now, what this leads to is a question, and we hit it last year when we were in Acts and I want to revisit it again today. How many of you hope that God still heals people, right? You need healing, right? As a pastor, there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t get a request to pray for someone who’s sick and/or dying. We hope that God hears and answers prayer. We hope that God heals and restores souls and bodies, whole people to whole health. When we see things like this in the Bible, God awakens in us some hope, like, “Maybe I could be healed. Maybe they could be healed. Maybe their life could be extended. Maybe my life could be extended. Maybe their life could be improved. Maybe my life could be improved.” And then this question arises often: can everyone receive healing in this life?
Bad teaching vs. good teaching in desperate situations
Jesus can heal. Even from heaven, Jesus can heal. Jesus does heal. The question is, can we make him heal? And this is where—and I want to be pastorally sensitive here. Sometimes when you’re suffering or someone you really love is suffering, you just want it to be better, amen?
Like Grace and I right now, we’ve got a dear friend of ours that we’re praying for, and it’s a mother with young children who’s been diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. And we love these people very much, we care for them, and the thought of their children not having their mother and this husband not having his wife, we want them healed. We’re praying for healing. But is there anything we can do to make that happen? See, because when you’re hurting, you can become a little desperate. When someone you really love is suffering, you can become a little desperate. This is where people start to do things that are maybe out of character for them. They’re anxious, they’re fearful, they’re frightful. They’re just—they’re trying to make it better. And when they hear that Jesus can heal, then sometimes the question that comes is, “Well, how do we make him do that?”
Let me tell you this. You can’t make Jesus heal. You can’t make him heal. And this is the difference, friends, between Christianity and Paganism. In Christianity, Jesus is sovereign. He lived, he died, he rose, he ascended into heaven, he’s seated on a throne, he’s ruling and reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords, and you can’t make him do anything. He’s in control, he’s in charge, he’s the Sovereign, he’s the King. You can’t make him do what you want, otherwise you’d be in authority over him, and your throne would be above his, and then you could command him, and then he would have to do what you tell him, which means you’re the Lord. But we’re not the Lord, he’s the Lord. We can humbly make requests to the Lord and he could say yes and heal, he could say no, or he could say later. Those are his options.
Sometimes people want to know, “Well, how do I make the Lord heal?” And then sometimes hurting people in difficult, devastating, even desperate places, they then pursue teaching where the teacher will tell them, “Here’s how God will be forced to heal you. “Here’s how you can make Jesus say yes to the prayer and heal you.” And you can’t.
I don’t tell you that to discourage you. This guy had been waiting eight years. Maybe the answer for you is later. Maybe the answer for them is later. Maybe the answer is no. Maybe the answer is yes.
One of the guys in the Bible, in addition to Peter, in the New Testament who is associated with healings, and the supernatural, and the miraculous, is Paul. We’ve studied him in the previous weeks, and here’s what he says. In 2 Timothy 4:20, he says, “I left Trophimus—” this is a godly guy who’s helping in ministry— “who was ill, at Miletus.” What he’s saying is, “This godly guy was traveling with me, but I had to leave him behind because he got sick and couldn’t travel.” Paul’s a guy who, at other points in his ministry, you see God using him to pray for sick people and sick people are healed. Can he heal this guy? No.
So even in the Bible, when somebody is used of God to pray in faith, and God hears and answers the prayer and heals someone; sometimes there are people that the answer is no and God chooses not to heal them. And it’s not—it doesn’t say, “Because they lacked faith.” It doesn’t say, “Because they didn’t trust the Lord.” It doesn’t say anything was wrong. It doesn’t say that they did anything wrong. I need you to know, especially when you’re hurting and you’re suffering, that it may not be that you’ve done anything wrong, that sin has entered the world, that the curse is in effect, that it has infected and affected our emotional, our physical, our spiritual well-being. This is a godly man who is doing a godly thing and he’s not healed by God. Do you understand that? But it doesn’t mean he’s any less godly.
In addition, Paul has this to say in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul’s talking about himself. Here’s a guy who prayed, and God answered, and healed people, and he can’t heal himself. “A thorn was given me in the flesh.” Theologians have debated this for 2,000 years. Nobody knows exactly what this is. Some sort of physical pain, malady, injury, illness, something of that sort or kind.
“A messenger of Satan to harass me.” This is an ungodly suffering. He’s being attacked. He’s not done anything wrong. Satan is opposing him. Just like Satan opposed Job and just like Satan opposed Jesus, here Satan is opposing Paul through his physical body.
“To keep me from becoming conceited.” God’s using it. I want you to see this, that even when you’re hurting and suffering, it may even be evil, it may be Satan attacking you, but God can use it to grow you, and to keep you humble, and to make you more like Jesus.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this.” Did he pray about it? Yeah. Did he pray loud? Yeah. Did he pray earnestly? Yeah. “Pleaded with the Lord” is an extended period of time, very honestly crying out, talking to the Lord. “It hurts. I’m suffering. It’s difficult. It’s Satan. I don’t like it. This is wrong. I don’t deserve it. I love you. I’m trying to serve you. Why is it like this? Why does it feel like this? Why does it hurt so much? Why does it not go away? Why don’t you just take it away?” That’s pleading with the Lord. You ever done that? He said, “Three times I got there.” This is where you’ve prayed about it and then you’ve reached a point where your praying has turned into pleading. This is like begging. “Please God, no more. Please God, make it stop. Please God, take it away. Please God, I can’t endure anymore.” That’s pleading.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’“ “You will get through this, but not by your own wisdom, not by your own power, not by your fortitude. You’re going to have to lean into my empowering grace. You’re going to need me in a way that you’ve not needed me. You’re going to need me in a way that many people don’t need me. And you’re going to see that my grace is sufficient for you. I’m going to walk with you through this. And you are very weak, but I am very powerful and my power can work more heartily through your weakness than your strength, because when you’re strong, sometimes you get in my way.”
Did Paul want to be healed, yes or no? Yeah. Did Paul ask to be healed? Yes. Was Paul used of God in the healing of other people? Yes. Did Paul get healed? No, no, no. I tell you this not to discourage you. I want you to have hope, but I also want you to see that Jesus cannot be controlled or manipulated, that there’s nothing I can teach you that would cause you to have the spiritual authority to control him, okay? And sometimes, again, like I said, people who are hurting, people who are suffering, people who are dying or love people who are hurting, suffering, and dying, they get desperate. This is when, because of fatigue, or suffering, or emotional weakness, or mental anguish, we can open ourselves up to really bad teaching.
Bad teaching would say, “God doesn’t heal anymore.” That’s bad teaching. Or, “God has to heal, and here’s what you need to do to get him to heal.” That’s bad teaching. Good teaching is, “I’m going to ask him, and I’m going to keep asking him, and I might even plead with him a few times, and I’m going to accept his answer for me or for them. But I’m certainly going to let my requests be known to God.” If he heals you, worship him. If he doesn’t heal you, worship him because his grace is sufficient for you.
A prayer for healing
I’m just going to—let me just pray right now. Father God, I pray for those who are hearing this. God, there are people who are hearing this that woke up today with chronic pain in their body. There are people who are hearing this and they are taking supplements and medication to try and correct injury, or illness, or sickness in their body. God, there are people who can’t be with us today because they are bedridden. There are people, Lord God, who went in for their chemotherapy treatments this week. Lord God, there are people here who know and love people who are hurting and suffering. Lord God, as we hear of you healing, so many of us see the face of someone that we love, and we’re asking, Lord Jesus, could it be them? Could you please, right now, touch them? Could you heal them? Could you make them whole and bring them back to fullness of life? Lord Jesus, we want to pray and plead as people who have hope, but we don’t want to pretend that we can manipulate or control you. And Lord God, I pray for us that we would believe and experience the truth that your grace is sufficient for us and that your power is made perfect in our weakness. Lord Jesus, when we see sickness and when we see death, it just causes us to long for the coming of the kingdom when these things are no more and they’re gone. Until then, Lord, let us walk by faith, even if we’re limping, even if we’re rolling in a wheelchair, even if we’re being pushed along in a hospital bed to the kingdom. Lord God, sin has infected and affected everyone and everything. Lord Jesus, we thank you that you deal with our sin problem, and that you heal our soul, and that you heal our body, and that you heal our emotions. So, Lord Jesus, as I continue to teach, please send the Holy Spirit to help us to learn how to think biblically so that we can hope eternally in Jesus’ good name, amen.
Power over sickness and death
Jesus can heal. Jesus can raise the dead
And then we see another miraculous, supernatural invasion of the kingdom of God, and that is that Jesus raises the dead. We read of this in Acts 9:36-43. “Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha.” Anybody here named Tabitha? It’s a nice name. Anybody know anybody named Tabitha? It’s a nice name. “Which, translated, means Dorcas.” You probably don’t go by that. You probably go with Tabitha. “Yeah, I’m gonna go with Tabitha.”
Here’s what we know about Tabitha. And you ladies, I want you to see this. I want you to see that God here takes a woman and puts her front and center as an example of exceeding godliness, okay? He lifts her up as a wonderful woman of God. “She was full of good works”— this means she helps people, she loves people, she serves people—”and acts of charity.” She’s very generous. She may have even been a wealthy woman. We don’t hear anything about her husband. She may have been single or a widow.
“In those days she became”—what? “Ill.” So she had a battle with some sort of ailment or illness, and eventually she lost. It says that she died. “When they had washed her—” prepared her for burial— “they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, ‘Please come to us without delay.’“
“Pastor Peter, she’s died. We need you to come, and pray, and be with us.”
“So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping,” mourning, lamenting. When’s the last time you went to a funeral? Just emotionally, do you remember what that was like? People are awkward. They don’t know what to say, they don’t know what to do. Some people are crying, some people are trying not to cry, some people are out of control, some people just want to leave because they’re emotionally unsure how to respond. It’s like that.
“The widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics “and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down—” really pastoral here— “and prayed; and turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive.”
Can you imagine that? You show up for the funeral, and the guy comes out and is like, “The funeral’s going to be short and Tabitha would like the cookies.” Wow, that’s amazing. “And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many”—what? “Believed in the Lord.” God does the supernatural to encourage the saints but also to evangelize the non-Christians to consider Jesus.
“And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.” That wasn’t a really respected profession, but here’s an honored man and he serves Peter.
Well, here’s what we know about this woman. She’s godly, full of good works. Ladies, it’s a great thing to aspire to be full of good works. She’s also very generous. She’s given gifts, even gifts she’s made with her own hands. Any of you ladies have a friend like that? You can’t go see that friend without walking away with a gift. They’re a giver. And a lot of what they give—maybe some of you have friends like this—whatever they give you, it’s something they made. You know, “Here’s food I cooked,” or “here’s a photo I took,” or “here’s a painting I made,” or “here’s a craft that I created, and I made it for you.” It shows that real, considerate, hand touch—right? This is that kind of wonderful woman. She doesn’t just give things, she gives things that are very personal, very intimate, that she made just for you out of love in her heart. Do you know anybody like that? All right, she’s a godly woman, she’s a generous woman. As a result, she’s very loved. She’s very loved. And when she dies, the widows that she has loved, and served, and been generous toward—these are older women who have lost their husbands, and as a result, maybe they’re in a difficult position financially. She’s helped them, she’s supported them, she’s loved them, she’s encouraged them, and so they are mourning the loss of this wonderful woman. Man, even as I think about it, there’s one woman in particular that I know who’s like this, one of the most godly, generous women I’ve ever known.
Hope doesn’t end when life ends
So this group comes together to mourn the loss of their friend because she’s battled an illness for awhile. Do you know somebody like that, they’ve battled an illness for awhile? It’s a roller coaster, isn’t it? Hey, we got good news. We got bad news. We got more good news. We got more bad news. And then you see them take a turn. You’re like, “No, it’s downhill now. It’s bad news, and bad news, and bad news, and bad news.” And then she died.
I want you to see that hope doesn’t end when life does, okay? Hope doesn’t end when life does.
They take her body, prepare it, but what’s interesting is they put it in the upper room. It’s almost as if, just in case. This kind of thing happens in the Old Testament as well with prophets like Elijah, and things like this happen. So maybe these godly gals know the Bible and say, “He did it before, he could do it again. Let’s not put her in the ground yet. Let’s just wait and see.”
Then the call is made for Peter, and here’s a pastoral call. I’ll tell you, as a pastor, these are sacred moments that it’s a great honor to be invited into. They’re also very difficult. I can still remember one of the first hospital visits I got called on as a young pastor. It was a wonderful, sweet couple. They’d gotten married. She went to work, he went to work. They were hoping to have kids and start their family soon. Newly married, kind of in that real joyful, blissful season. She got home from work first, he came home from work, and she was lying dead in the living room. Young, just gone. No time to prepare, no category for this, no preparation at all. She was essentially not having vital signs, they rushed her to the hospital, they put her on a ventilator. They were trying to resuscitate her, and I remember just sitting, literally on the floor in the hospital for almost the entire night, just praying that God would heal her, bring her back, that he would do the supernatural and it never happened. I remember with this man, we were praying together, 893 00:53:06,433 —> 00:53:08,433 and I remember just giving him a hug. We were both crying in the hospital and I was like, “I am so sorry.” And he said, “I think it’s time. We have to unplug. She’s not responding. She’s gone.”
When you’re invited into these sacred moments in people’s lives where they’re saying, “We’re hurting because someone we love has died,” and you’re invited in as a pastor, it’s a great honor. It’s also incredibly difficult because everyone’s processing, and responding, and feeling in different ways. Pastor Peter’s invited into that.
I love how Luke tells the story. It says that he clears the room, right, partially because there are a lot of emotions, and it’s hard to get any clarity. Then I love the fact that it says that he knelt down and he prayed. In the Bible, friends, you can pray standing up. A lot of times in the Bible people pray standing up. Sometimes they pray lying in their bed, so the psalmist will talk about praying to the Lord while lying on your bed. You can pray to God sitting down. But sometimes, when we kneel, our body is really saying a lot. We’re saying a lot physically. This is a theological statement, right? This is what happens when someone surrenders, and that’s a good posture to be in in the presence of God.
So Pastor Peter, even though he’s a great man and a great leader, he has great humility. He kneels down, and he prays for Tabitha, and he prays that God would bring her back from the dead. Then he commands, with the authority of Jesus, that her life would be restored, and it is. I love the way that Luke tells the story, because then it says that he gave her his hand. Don’t you love that? Can you see an older woman, perhaps, who’s been sick, and ill, and dying, and she’s in her bed? Have you been there when your grandma died? All right, Peter takes her hand and he helps her out of bed. She’s alive.
It says that people heard about this and they became Christians. Again, you see that her body was healed, and a lot of people hear about Jesus, and then their soul is healed and their sins are forgiven There are two miracles that happen here.
How many of you have prayed a prayer like this and the answer was later? Because any time you pray this prayer for a Christian— God answers prayer yes, no, and later— but if you pray this prayer for a Christian, “God, bring them back from the dead,” the answer is always yes or later, it’s never no. But how many of you have prayed this prayer and the answer was later, someday, in the kingdom, at the resurrection of the dead?
First time I ever prayed this prayer, I was 10. I’ve told you about him—my Grandpa George died. I remember praying, “Jesus, bring him back so we can eat tomato soup and watch wrestling.” I mean, that was literally kind of how I prayed. I loved my grandpa. I missed my grandpa. I remember praying that prayer as a little boy. “Jesus?” I didn’t know a lot of Bible and I wasn’t a Christian yet, but I grew up in a home that went to church on occasion. And I was like, “Jesus, I know you can bring people back. Bring him back.” Now I understand the answer was later.
In this instance, the answer was today. Today. And the reason that Jesus brings Tabitha back from the dead is to show everybody else what the future holds. As they see Tabitha come back from death, they know that if their hope, and faith, and trust is in Jesus, one day, like Tabitha, they’re going to rise from the dead.
Let me theologically clarify this for you if I can. She was revived, not resurrected. Revive meaning she was dead, brought back to life, and she’d live for awhile, but eventually she’d die again, and then she’d be resurrected eternally, never to die again. So, she was revived to show that God can conquer death. But ultimately, there was a greater rising that was awaiting her, and that was the resurrection from death in the presence of Jesus.
Are you a Christian? Okay, if you’re not a Christian, you may not be thinking about this, but I want you to be thinking about this. What happens when you die? I was talking to someone who’s not a Christian recently and he said, “I don’t need to be a Christian. My life’s going fine. It’s working.” It might until you die, and then it doesn’t work at all. And I’m not even sure it’s working, but according to whatever you think working is, maybe it’s working according to your understanding of working. What happens when you die? What happens when you die?
Some of you have opinions, but really all they are are hopes. They’re not assurances. Only Jesus has gone through death and back with a resurrection to tell us that he awaits us on the other side and that the only way to pass through death into eternal life is with him.
So if you’re here, I don’t want this to be just for you, you know, an emotional examination of death and sickness, but also a consideration of Jesus, the one who conquers sin, and as a result, has victory over sickness and death.
All of this is a foreshadowing, it’s a foretaste of the kingdom of God. And what you need to know is that Jesus is a King, and he’s seated on a throne right now, and he’s ruling and reigning over a kingdom that never ends. We’re on our way to the kingdom, and some of us are limping, and some of us are walking, and some of us are running, and some of us are wheeling ourselves there in a hospital, and hobbling along on crutches. We’re not—we’re citizens of the kingdom, but we’re not home yet. We haven’t gotten home yet. We’re pilgrims, we’re aliens, we’re sojourners. We’re on our way, but we’re not there yet. And so the theologians will talk about the fact that we’re already citizens of the kingdom, but we’re not yet there. And occasionally, the kingdom invades this world and it shows up in supernatural, miraculous, inexplicable ways. And the reason that God does that is he drops glimpses, and hints, and vignettes, and foreshadowing’s, and sneak previews of the kingdom. “Oh, that’s what it’s going to be like. Oh, that’s what it’s going to be like. Oh, that’s what it’s going to be like when the world comes to an end, and the resurrection of the dead happens, and God’s people are in God’s presence forever.”
So our hope is not just that something better awaits us on the other side. My fear is that many of you might have the same prevailing myth that the culture does, and that is, “Oh, they died and went to a better place.” It’s not that easy. Just because you die doesn’t mean you go to a better place. Jesus talks of hell more than anyone in the whole Bible, and Jesus alone is the way into God’s kingdom.
I want to share with you two things about Jesus’ kingdom, and really, that’s what we’re seeing here with the healing of this man and the raising of this woman. Jesus is the King of the kingdom. In John 11:25, “Jesus said to her”—this is Martha, another woman— “I am the”—what? “I am the resurrection and the life.” You say, “What happens after death?” If you know Jesus, he’s the resurrection and the life. “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”
Here’s what Jesus says. “You’re going to die. Sin causes death. You’re a sinner, you’re going to die.”
What happens then? If you believe in Jesus, even though you die physically, you will not die spiritually. Even though you die temporarily, you do not die eternally. If you believe in Jesus, he is your life. He’s your eternal life and he is your resurrection. Just as Jesus rose from death, conquering sin, overtaking sickness, triumphing over death, so he’s your resurrection. He goes before you and you trail behind him. You see that?
So when Tabitha is raised out of her death, it is showing that she belongs to Jesus and this is what happens to those who die believing in Jesus, that death does not have a victory over them because Jesus has already forgiven them.
I really need you to believe this. Some of you are young and you don’t think about death, and sometimes death comes very quickly and suddenly. If you don’t understand what happens when you die and you don’t know how to die rightly and to die well, you’ll either die with no assurance of what happens to you or you’ll live in absolute panic, and terror, and fear of death.
Let me tell you, friends, the worst thing is not dying. The worst thing is dying without believing in Jesus. Because if you believe in Jesus, even though you die, he says you’ll live and you’ll enter into God’s kingdom.
The end of all suffering
I need you to know that there’s a day of resurrection coming. And oftentimes we don’t think about this, but Jesus’ resurrection was the first resurrection, and your resurrection if you belong to Jesus, it’s in the future. We read of this in the last book of the Bible, one of the last chapters in the Bible, Revelation 21:4, and I love this.
“He will wipe away”—what? “Every tear from their eyes.” How many of you, this life has included some tears? Physical pain, spiritual pain, emotional pain, you’ve shed some tears.
Tears are what happen as we hobble toward the kingdom, and once we get to the king, it says that he wipes every tear from our eyes.
One of the most precious, sacred moments that I am given in my life is to wipe the tears from my wife’s eyes and my kids’ eyes, right? When my kids are hurt, they run. “Dad I got hurt,” and they’re crying. “Okay, let me wipe your tears.” I just—I always think of this verse. Jesus is going to do this for all of his people with nail-scarred hands. I mean, can you see that? The Bible says that if you die in faith, you’ll see Jesus face to face.
I can’t even imagine that. And that there might be tears in your eyes as you look back on life, and sin, and sickness, and death. And then you see Jesus’ nail-scarred hands, and he puts them on your face, and he wipes the tears from your eyes. And you never, never shed another tear because sin will be gone, and as a result sickness will be gone, and as a result death will be gone, and all of God’s enemies will be gone, and the enemies of all of God’s people will be gone, and you won’t need to wipe any more tears from your eyes. And the last time that tears are ever in your eyes, they will be forever removed by Jesus wiping away your tears. That’s the kingdom of God.
“And death shall be”—what? “No more.” Can you even fathom a world like that? No death, no sickness because there’s no sin. You need to know that something has gone terribly, frightfully, fatally wrong in the world. People aren’t supposed to get sick, people aren’t supposed to die. That’s not the way that the world was when God concluded it and declared it to be very good. Something has gone very wrong.
There’s a day when death is no more. Parents, can you even imagine that day when you’re in the kingdom and you don’t worry about the people that you love and the children that you have getting sick, or getting hurt, or getting sinned against, or getting victimized, or getting killed, or getting injured, or nothing. All of those fears, all of those anxieties, all of those considerations gone, gone in the kingdom.
“Neither shall there be mourning.” There’ll be nothing to complain about, nothing to cry about. “Nor crying, nor pain.” Can you imagine that? No pain. How many of you, it’s been a long time since you had a day free of pain? Free of pain. Some of you have chronic pain. No more, gone. “For the former things have passed away.” Sin, and the world as we know it, and the curse, and all of its effects, gone forever.
All of this kingdom truth is illustrated in these two miracles. God can heal and God can rise from death, amen? What I need this to be for you is an anchor for your soul and a hope for your future. I need you to think biblically, I need you to think theologically, I need you to think practically. I need you to understand that when you’re suffering, you worship a God who has suffered. When you’re dying, I need you to know that you’ve worshiped a God who died and he awaits you on the other side. Any pastor that doesn’t prepare you for the day of your death has not really done a good job in preparing you for anything.
I want you to spend some time, even this week, thinking, praying, considering, studying the kingdom of God and what it will be like, because what that will do, that will give you hope to continue marching forward to the presence of Jesus.
For the Christian, this life is as bad as it gets. For the non-Christian, this life is as good as it gets. That’s why I want you to know Jesus, and if you don’t, I want you to come to know him today.
I had this opportunity— about 18 months ago, Grace’s dad died. He was in his mid-80s, he was a pastor for many years, and as he was getting older he started having various medical, health, illness, problems, and issues. We could see that his life energy was winding down and he was having a lot of complexity physically. He was very good to my kids. He loved them. He was a good grandpa. They have tons of good memories with him and I rejoice that he invested that time. Well, it came time to where he was on his deathbed, and everyone was pretty sure that he was near the end.
So we were out of town and made the trip. He happened to be out of town on vacation when he got sick, so we had to get to him in the middle of the winter about 18 months ago. I remember it was an opportunity for me to process with the kids, our five kids. They’re like, “Okay, what’s happening? Is Grandpa going to die? If he dies, what happens?” For some reason, it really awakened a curiosity in my 8-year-old son, Gideon. All of the sudden, Gideon had all these questions about the resurrection, and the kingdom of God. He had all of these questions and he was asking them. You could tell his little mind was going because just during the course of the day or driving in the car, he’d be like, “I’ve got another question.”
“Okay, little buddy,” and he’d ask his question.
Grandpa died, we were all at his deathbed, and got to pray over him, and sing, and worship Jesus, and then we had the funeral and I had the honor of preaching. And following that, Gideon has had so many questions in the last 18 months. He actually asked one last week. I’m driving him to a little league game and he says, “Dad?”
I said, “Yeah, little buddy?” He’s in the back seat.
“What do you think Grandpa’s doing today?”
I was like, “I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s awesome.” You know, whatever it is, it’s good. Like, a bad day in heaven’s still a really good day, you know? I said, “I don’t know, little buddy. What do you think?”
He said, “I wonder if he’s riding his bike. He was too sick in the last years to ride his bike. I wonder if he’s riding his bike today,” because Grandpa liked to ride his bike, but as his health wore down, he couldn’t ride his bike anymore. So, Gideon’s thinking about this all the time. It was fairly recently, there was a high school student that tutors the little kids, helps the younger grades in the classroom, and her grandpa died. Gideon found out, and he found her. She told me the story. She said, “He sat me down and talked to me about the kingdom of God, and what it’s like on the other side, and how my grandpa loved Jesus and so he’s with Jesus. And Gideon explained how his grandpa died and my grandpa died, and maybe they’re hanging out and maybe they’re friends now.” Right? And she said, “Then Gideon laid hands and prayed over me because I was sad that I lost my grandpa, and he explained to me how he had lost his grandpa, but knowing that his grandpa’s with Jesus, it’s more like he just moved somewhere. And one day, Gideon was going to see his grandpa again and I’d see my grandpa too.”
I’m thinking, it’s amazing how, even at eight years of age, the kingdom of God gives perspective and hope that no one and nothing else gives, amen? I want that for you. I want that for you.
I wonder if right now my grandpa George, and Gideon’s grandpa Gib, and this gal’s grandpa, I wonder if they’re having a little grandpa day in heaven, you know?
If you are sick, be praying for healing. If someone is sick, be praying for their healing. If someone dies, it’s okay to pray for their resurrection, and the answer might be today or it might be on that day. And I can’t wait. I think about this every time we take Communion and I see all of God’s people get out of their seats and come forward to partake of Communion, that there’s going to be a day when we all get out of our graves and we go to see Jesus face to face together. That’s the hope of the believer.
An eternal life begins the moment you meet Jesus, and it continues forever, even through the grave.
So at this point, we’re going to respond to Jesus. We’re going to collect our tithes and offerings. We’re going to prepare our hearts for Communion, thinking about, “Yeah, one day, as I get out of my seat, I’m going to get out of my grave. And as I’m going to partake and remember the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, one day I will see the resurrected body of Jesus face to face.”
Then we’re going to sing and we’re going to celebrate because our hope is beyond the grave and our hope is in Christ.
Questions for community groups
1.Do you know anyone that God has healed?
For the community groups this week—and if you’re not in one, we’d love to connect you to one. Just a couple things I want you to be discussing this week. Do you know anyone that God has healed? Part of my story is that God healed my mom, and that was the beginning of really my family turning to Jesus. My mom got saved, and she started praying for me, and my siblings, and my dad, and over time, Jesus answered those prayers. It was really a supernatural healing in my mom’s life that really kick-started a bit of a little revival in our family.
2. Who is sick that you can be praying for?
Number two, who is sick that you can be praying for, in the group or people that are connected to those in the group?
3. How does an understanding of the resurrection and the kingdom of God change your view of death?
Number three, how does an understanding of the resurrection and the kingdom of God change your view of death? How does it emotionally help you to process sometimes the hardest and worst moments of life?
4. What questions do you have about what the kingdom of God will be like?
Number four, what questions do you have about what the kingdom of God will be like?
My little buddy Gideon, he’s like, “How old will we be?”
“I don’t know, buddy. That’s a good question.”
And he said, “I thought you would know.”
“Sorry,” you know, like, “there are some questions, little buddy, that I’m still looking forward to because I don’t know all the answers yet, but I know it’s going to be awesome.”
He asked recently, he’s like, “Can we go swimming in heaven?”
I was like, “I’m pretty sure you can. “It’s not a sin. Yeah, I think you can.”
“Can we play ball?”
“Yeah, I think you can play ball.”
“Will Jesus play ball?”
“I’m—okay. If we’re picking teams, I’d pick him first. I’m sure he’d be good.”
You know, so just start to think about what does it look like in the kingdom of God.
And Father God, thank you for an opportunity as always to teach the Bible at Mars Hill Church. And Lord God, that the kingdom is something that we get glimpses of, and hints of, and intimations toward, and hopes regarding, but the Bible says that we see in part. But in that day, the day that we see Jesus face to face, we’ll know as we’re fully known. Lord God, I thank you so much for the forgiveness of sin and the healing of the whole person. Those who are mentally and emotionally not well, there will be full healing for them. For those who are physically not well, there will be full healing for them. For those who are spiritually not well, there will be full healing for them. Lord Jesus, we thank you that we have these in-breakings of the kingdom where we see that you forgive sin, where we see that you heal bodies, where we see that you raise the dead. Lord Jesus, thank you that, as a result, we have hope and assurance that whatever awaits us on the other side ultimately, it will be glorious because it will be entirely ruled over by you. I pray for my friends and I pray for our church, Lord God, that we would be people who live in light of the kingdom and the face of Jesus in whose name we pray, amen.