Miracles and Reactions

Title: Miracles and Reactions

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pk2YCmg9u9iA_9vNVUqL86syb-ed2IxXBefpFBniDid2h9zn2guVygn-HQ1Z6q4DYbT2b40qDcyLldq4bhFYSAg/2-1-09miraclesandreactions.mp3%5D

Text: Matthew 9:27-34

Date: February 1st, 2009

Jesus came preaching and teaching and healing before he went to the cross to carry out his most important accomplishment – our salvation, by dying in our place and providing the way for our forgiveness and eternal life. Thankfully, we have a record of his ministry so we can see him teaching, we can see him healing, and we can see him accomplishing our salvation on the cross and in the resurrection. But today, I’d like to focus on the healing ministry of Jesus because it shows important points that we sometimes forgot or overlook about the ministry of Jesus. Matthew 9:27-34, “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith will it be done to you’; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’ But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region. While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.’” The first thing we see is that sometimes God conditions a miracle on our faith. The blind men were asked if they believed and they affirmed that they did. And Jesus healed them. The second thing we see is that sometimes God doesn’t condition a miracle on our faith. The demon-possessed man was not in a place to exercise a sound mind or free will in decision-making – that was his problem, the demon was now in possession or control of his life, but Jesus healed him anyway. The third thing we see is that sometimes no kind of miracle will convince a person to believe. The Jewish establishment, like Pharisees, scribes, teachers, Sadducees, priests, etc. wouldn’t believe no matter what miracles Jesus performed. In fact, they attributed the miracles of Jesus to the devil. Nothing would convince them that the Jesus was from God. So when Jesus performed miracles many kinds of things happened in the hearts and minds of the people, but their reactions were not all the same. It’s like what happens when the sun shines down on the earth. It causes different reactions depending on what objects it strikes. If the sun shines on wax it will melt the wax. If the sun shines on clay it will harden the clay. If the sun shines on butter it will soften the butter. If the sun shines on mud it will harden the mud. What is the difference? The sun is the same, but the different substances react differently to the sun. That’s the way it is with people. When God acts in one person’s life they respond in faith, but when God acts in another person’s life they respond in unbelief. It all comes down to what’s in a person’s heart. Let’s look at this passage further to see what it might teach us about faith and miracles.

First, sometimes God conditions a miracle on our faith. Matthew 9:27-31, “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, ‘Have mercy on us, son of David!’ When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and asked them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’ But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.” Here we see the power of positive faith in action. These men believed in Jesus. It doesn’t say how they got such a strong faith in Jesus, but they probably heard about the many miracles that Jesus was performing and these reports gave them hope to believe for a miracle for themselves. In this case Jesus used their positive faith to heal them. He built on the faith they already had and then added his own supernatural power to it to finish the miraculous healing in their lives. He definitely conditioned the healing miracle in this instance upon their already existing faith. And that is how God will work in our lives often today also. God will use what faith we already have and build upon it to accomplish supernatural things in our lives. For example, when we pray God often uses a mixture of our faith – whatever level we have – and his own supernatural power and will to get things done in our lives. If we don’t pray, if we don’t exercise enough faith to do even that, often nothing will happen in our lives. But when we demonstrate enough faith in God to pray for something, then God adds to our own efforts to produce something in our lives. He builds about our own faith, he adds his own effort to our so that we work together with God as we go forward in life. If we don’t exercise enough faith on our own, such as praying or standing on his promises found in the Bible, then nothing may happen. But when we do exercise our faith – as little or a lot, depending on our own level of faith – then he works with what we offer him and adds to it and produces something miraculous in our lives. Most recently, I’ve seen that happen in my own life in respect to finances. For many people today including myself, paying the monthly bills is a struggle because of the economy and the rising price of things today. That means that more and more people are being forced to trust and pray to God for enough money each month to make ends meet. What usually happens is that I run short of enough money to pay all my bills so I go to prayer asking God to make up the difference – and he usually does! But not until after struggling in prayer, asking for his divine assistance. God takes my faith and efforts and adds to them his own supernatural power and resources and helps me do what I couldn’t have done on my own. But I have to have enough faith to pray and believe that praying to God will help. My faith then grows strong when I see God help me so that I pray next time with even more confidence. That’s how we grow in faith and how God builds maturity in us. So God often conditions his supernatural activity in our lives on our faith. But there’s more.

Second, sometimes God doesn’t condition a miracle on our faith. Matthew 9:32-33, “While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has even been seen in Israel.’” Now in this case, it look like Jesus didn’t condition his healing on the person’s own faith, but rather took charge and healed him without or despite the man’s faith condition. It says that the man was brought to Jesus rather than he himself bringing himself to Jesus, so maybe it was his friends or family members who believe rather than he himself. We get the picture of some people bringing a demon-possessed man who was completely “out-of-it” to Jesus for healing. We get the picture that the man was nearly unconscious or at least not in his right mind or acting crazy or out of his mind. We’ve all seen these movies of people who are possessed of demons and they seem to be out of their minds. Sometimes people appear to not even know who they are, or they even display a different personality, as if they were another person. That makes perfect sense because after all, to be possessed by a demon is to be possessed by another spirit, to be controlled by another personality, to not be yourself but rather under the influence of another. In such a condition it can hardly be expected that the person himself could be responsible enough to exercise enough faith to be healed. Although I will add here that my research and experience with demon-possessed persons leads me to believe that no matter how possessed a person is of another spirit, in order to be cured or rid of the foreign personality, somewhere, someplace within the possessed person he or she has to want to be rid of it. If not, they won’t ever be healed, normally. But let’s assume that this poor fellow possessed of demons at this point was beyond making rational decisions for himself, beyond exercising free choice or even faith. So how could he be healed? Jesus directly intervened in his life and did all the work activity directly himself. If God sees that we are needing something even if we don’t have enough faith to ask him for it he may go ahead and give it to us anyway with or without our faith included. Now I am so glad that God does intervene on my own behalf when I am too weak or unable to believe or trust in him. Aren’t you glad that everything God does on your behalf in life doesn’t have to be conditioned by your very own faith? Sometimes we get ourselves into situations that require God to help us and there isn’t a whole lot of what we have to contribute to the solution. In other words, normally God works in our lives by adding to the faith we already have and accomplishing things through a combination of our best efforts and God added power, but sometimes, or maybe a lot more times than we like to admit, God directly intervenes without any reference to our faith at all. Thank God he acts unilaterally – or in other words, on his own without waiting for me! Faith is great, when you have it. But it’s great to know God doesn’t always condition things upon it. He intervenes directly! But there’s more.

Third, sometimes no kind of miracles will convince a person to believe. Matthew 9:34, “But the Pharisees said, ‘It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.’” Here we see how the illustration about the sun shining on some substances will harden rather than soften. The Son, the Son of God Jesus, was shining, was working miracles among the people, some according to their faith and some without reference to their faith but simply by the power of God. For most people who witnessed the miracles of Jesus; it was a faith builder, they walked away glorifying God. That’s an example of the sun shining on something that softens it. Most of the witnesses of the miracles of Jesus had their hearts softened to the things of God; they believed more strongly in God. But for some, like these Pharisees, it worked the very opposite. When they saw the miracles of Jesus their hearts became even harder and they were reinforced in their unbelief. They are like the mud that the sun hardens. We see that same thing happening today as well. I don’t know about you but I rejoice when I hear of or witness a supernatural miracle of God in the life of someone. But there are some people who hate to even hear of such things. There are some people who immediately dismiss such claims as lies, fakes, false reports, etc. For example, many scientists will automatically dismiss all reports of miracles as do to ignorance of the laws of science. They say, “If only these people knew science, they would know why so-and-so was healed or why such-and-such an unusual thing happened. It can all be explained naturally.” And so their hearts are hardened instead of softened towards God. We live in an increasingly secular and skeptical culture today. If you tune in the television and happen to stumble upon a religious documentary, chances are it will be coming from an unbelieving and skeptical angle. We’ve just finished the Christmas season and we’re now heading into the Easter season and you can bet there will be a whole slew of television documentaries on the resurrection of Jesus and the faith of Christianity. And 99% of these shows will probably come from an unbelieving perspective, especially in respect to the resurrection of Christ. It happens every year. Their goal will be to try to explain the resurrection of Jesus through natural not supernatural means. For example, there was one professor in England who tried to explain the resurrection as really resuscitation of the body of Jesus. He explains that on the cross Jesus was given a drug that made him look dead, like a voodoo trance might make a man look dead. Then, he was taken down off the cross and put in the tomb. In the night he woke up from his drug-induced state and escaped. My question is, what about the spear in his side while on the cross and also the Roman soldiers pronouncement that he was dead? If he had no pulse and was bleeding from his side when he was taken down from the cross, that’s a pretty good indication of his death. But the point is, some people simply won’t believe because their hearts are hard. Nothing will convince them. How is your heart towards God this morning? Is it soft and open to the things of God? Or is it hard and closed off from God? Probably, it’s a combination of both, sometimes faith and sometimes doubt. Let’s pray that God would completely soften our hearts towards him so that there would never be any doubt or resistance to his will in our lives. Let’s pray that our hearts would always respond in faith to God and never in doubt or disobedience to him.

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