Mark, the Messiah and Miracles
It’s been a month of great surprises. We’ve eagerly anticipated the start of a new series of Sunday evening sermons on the Gospel of Mark – ‘What if God was one of Us?’ – for quite a while now (see my introduction to the series on this website). Reading this stunning Gospel has excited me greatly and given me a huge ‘faith’ lift. We meet Jesus again for the very first time, as Mark writes to ensure that Jesus walks off the printed page and straight into the 21st century. Mark’s theology of Christ’s miracles is that they (1) can create openness to true faith (2) don’t always result in saving faith (3) are hindered by lack of faith (4) can strengthen a believer’s faith (5) are only a part of Jesus’ total ministry and (6) can often confirm our message to others. Among other things, these truths have led to the experience of three remarkable miracle healings among us this month.
In late April, a new baby daughter called Ruth was born to one of our young couples – Ezekiel and Sydillia. She was named after Ruth, my wife, so naturally we were thrilled with her arrival. But news soon broke while we were on holiday that serious problems had developed. Baby Ruth had severe liver damage leading to kidney problems, serious infection, a suspected brain tumor, possible liver cancer, severe dehydration, coma-threatening low blood-sugar levels, and possibly blindness. Medics on the Intensive Care ward were trying to keep her alive until a liver transplant became available. Many babies don’t last that long and the chances for Ruth’s survival were slim.
Upon our return my wife and I were keen to minister God’s help. We raced to the hospital. Baby Ruth was like a limp rag doll – weak, non-responsive, helpless and seriously ill with her liver INR levels at an alarming 4.9 (the norm is 0.8 to 1.2). Her parents were distressed, but trusting God. I gently took their child from them and held her close, feeling the stress of this sore trial along with them. But the Lord had earlier said quietly to my spirit as I approached the Intensive Care ward, ‘It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these my little ones should perish.’ Faith comes by hearing!
The Holy Spirit’s gift of ‘miracle faith’ had entered my heart. You just ‘know in your knower’ that God will do something great, no need to work something up. The laying on of hands with prayer was the turning point. From that moment on Ruth’s INR levels fell incrementally every day for three weeks until they returned to normal, confounding consultants, nurses and doctors who were all genuinely amazed. They had not seen this before. Daily tests showed the complete recovery of her brain, eyes, blood sugar levels, liver, appetite and strength. God had healed her and the Doctors sent Ruth home and were delighted to declare this to be a ‘miracle’, without any prompting from us.
Then, the next Sunday evening our second sermon from Mark highlighted Christ’s kingdom work, especially in terms of his authority to preach, heal and deliver the demonically oppressed. With faith rising again, I called any sick people present to come forward for healing prayer. Two men in their twenties responded. Ben had continuous pain in both ankles due to chronic arthritis from early childhood. Pete had a sporting injury to his left knee with severe pain and ‘clicking’ that hadn’t let up for 4 weeks and made sleeping, walking and normal movement agonizing. So again, we laid hands on them both and ministered healing in Jesus’ name. Within minutes both men began to feel a tingling sensation in those damaged areas, then a new ease of movement, and finally freedom from pain and injury. Both were stunned and amazed. The next day, Pete was racing up five floors of stairs at his workplace after a great night of pain free sleep. Ben is also still enjoying his surprise reversal of the irreversible, in the easing of pain in his ankles and feet. God is so good!
Does Jesus really do healing miracles today? In the last 27 years since I started believing for this to happen, I’ve seen so many I can no longer doubt that he does. But then, Mark records Jesus’ final words to his people everywhere, promising them repeated and varied supernatural confirmations of his powerful presence and the truth of His Gospel as we preach and believe it: ‘And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons…they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well.” (Mk. 16:17-18). So there you have it. If we go forth with Christ’s saving word, he promises to regularly back it up with his stunning wonders. Our preaching series in Mark is sure to be regularly interrupted with many divine surprises. Let’s be prepared to welcome them!