Christianity 201

August 3, 2013

Two Things Jesus Never Says to the Suffering

This appeared last month at Reason for Change, the blog of Jayson Bradley; click through to read at source and check out other material there:

When I look at Jesus, I am seeing the exact representation of God’s character. Jesus, as Paul says, is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). And Christ himself makes a connection between knowing him and knowing the Father (Jn 14:7).

It’s important for me to understand that not only is Jesus the perfect revelation of what it means to be fully human, his behavior also reveals so much to me about the character and concerns of God. That’s why it’s always interesting to me to think about, not only what Jesus says, but what he doesn’t say.

Scripture records Jesus healing a lot of people. On top of that, Jesus sets many demonically oppressed individuals free. When you stop and contrast the way we interact with afflicted individuals with the way Jesus did, you see some amazing discrepancies.

Here’s two huge things Jesus never says to the suffering:

1. You’re to blame

When I think through the innumerable examples of the sick and demonized Jesus healed, I can not come up with one example where he lays blame at the feet of the afflicted. More often than not, he treats those suffering various maladies as victims.

When Jesus stands up in the synagogue and kicks off his ministry, he does so with the following words from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Lk 4:18–19)

Jesus came to lead a revolt against enemy forces who hold the world hostage. These forces have have subjected all of creation to the slavery of corruption. This corruption runs deep. Some of Jesus’ healings were about bringing order to that corruption, and some (exorcisms) were in direct confrontation with the enemy forces responsible for that corruption.

It does me good to see that Jesus never makes the demonized or afflicted carry the weight of guilt for their condition. He doesn’t accuse them of being punished or disciplined. Rather, he simply confronts their oppressor and sets them free.

2. It’s part of God’s plan

Maybe even more surprising is that Jesus never attributes the suffering of others to the mysterious will of God. As I said in the previous section, Jesus challenges each illness and act of demonic oppression as if their presence is a direct affront to God’s will. There is no moment where Jesus looks to the distressed and indicates that they suffer as part of God’s greater plan.

When Peter sums up Jesus ministry, he says this, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. . .” (Acts 10:38) And John sums up the works of Jesus as being “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” Oppression and sickness were always treated as malevolent manifestations of a demonic kingdom.

The significance of what Christ didn’t say about the healings he performed is staggering. And although he ultimately destroyed the works of Satan on the cross, we still live in occupied territory. We are still routing the enemy, and dealing with a creation that is under slavery to corruption.

As we partner with Christ in redeeming all of creation to himself, our prayer matters. We are at work confronting the enemy in his strongholds, where he is at work killing, stealing, and destroying (Jn 10:10). We cannot afford to be attributing the oppression of the enemy to the mysterious work of the Lord.

In Luke Jesus says sums up his confrontation with evil this way, “When a strong manfully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder (Lk 11:21–22).”

The strong man is Satan, and creation is the house he’s guarding. Jesus came, confronted him throughout his ministry, and overpowered him at the cross. But we are still at work because the enemy is at work with great wrath because he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:12).

Let’s attribute his nefarious work to the right source, and continue to confront him. Soon . . . soon we will be dividing up the spoils of victory.