As I mentioned, I am taking it upon myself to learn all about the New Testament in 2020, and one of my first projects was to give myself a bird’s eye view of the books. Furthermore, I am determined to bring my kids into my journey through these books in the hopes that they will …
Welcome to the first installment of Sips & Scripts! Once a month, I will take a friend to a coffee shop (thus, Sips) to talk about a part of the Bible that has intersected his/her life in an important way (hence Scripts). I couldn’t be more thrilled about the inaugural installment of Sips and Scripts …
As I work my way through Matthew, a thought crosses my mind: Jesus could have been just a teacher. He could have put all of his earthly energy into speaking the truth about God and training his disciples. He did all of that, of course, but it is important to note just how much time he spent healing— taking illnesses and bearing diseases (Isaiah 53.4, Matthew 8.17, ESV).
Experts cite around 40 distinct examples of Jesus healing in the gospel, but these are simply the instances highlighted in detail. We know there were many more based on the references to Jesus healing multitudes:
So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytic, and he healed them”
Matthew 4.24, ESV
There is a reason I am paying particular attention to the verses on healing; I am in the midst of my own healing journey from a particularly bad spell of anxiety.
I found it odd that I felt a very strong calling from God to start this project, and then 2019—the year I wanted to plan out this blog project—was one of the deepest, muckiest manifestations of anxiety that I have ever experienced. I got very little planning done and spent much of the year in-and-out of doctors’ appointments and meetings with a counselor.
I realize now that God cared less about the branding and graphics for my blog and more about deepening my trust in Him. He wanted me to be humble in my content to include my difficult testimony in hopes of helping others. I’m sifting through my difficult experiences to try and present them in a way that will be helpful to you. When we are deeper into the accounts of the gospel, I’ll have them ready to share.
And so my reading of Matthew occurs through the lens of suffering and the hope of healing. Whether it was with a pen or my forefinger, I pressed into the healing passages, and I noticed something— there was a curious pattern to the healing stories included in Matthew’s account of the gospel: the most remarkable instances of healing are preceded by incredible faith of the afflicted.
The most remarkable instances of healing are preceded by incredible faith of the afflicted.
I began collecting these faith and healing pairings, many of which occur in the 8th and 9th chapters of Matthew:
8.1-3 A leper kneels before Jesus and acknowledges that Jesus has the power to heal him if it is His will: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” Jesus responds, “I will; be clean.”
8.5-13 A centurion (a Roman military officer) came to Jesus asking for healing of his servant. Jesus indicates that he will travel to the servant and heal him, but the centurion believes Jesus’ power to be so strong that Jesus can heal with his words alone, right where he stands: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Jesus is described to have marveled at this faith, and responds, “‘Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith …Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed at that very moment.’”
9.1-8 A group of unnamed people bring Jesus a paralytic on a bed. “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins forgiven.'”
9.18-26 These passages contain two healing miracles that occur in the same story. A ruler came to Jesus and knelt before him and said “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and she will live.” And when Jesus is faced with the girl, he proclaims to everyone that she is sleeping, not dead, and takes her by the hand to help the girl rise up. But, on the journey to the ruler’s house, we find another healing story (perhaps my favorite one). A woman who has had a discharge of blood for twelve years comes up behind Jesus and touches his clothing, saying to herself “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” And Jesus turns, and says to her, “Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.”
These situations are, by logical approach, absolutely helpless: a dead girl, a paralytic, an inexplicable chronic ailment. They are the kind of situations that would have doctors shaking their heads grimly, certain that nothing can be done.
And Jesus is right, these instances of faith are worth marveling at:
A leper believes Jesus can heal him from a disease with no known cure in that day.
A group of unnamed people believes Jesus can heal a man from paralysis.
An officer believes Jesus can heal his servant without even seeing him.
A woman with an unusual, twelve-year chronic ailment believes if she touches Jesus’ garment, her health will be restored.
And a ruler, who kneels for no one, kneels before Jesus in faith that he can revive his dead daughter.
Jesus doesn’t need our faith to perform miracles. So what is he doing here? My best conclusion is that he is rewarding the faithful.
He is rewarding the faithful.
Faith is not easy for those who love predictability. Faith is scary for those who want life to be controllable. But as Matthew is clearly illustrating, if you want the miracle–the impossible healing, you need to have faith in He who can heal.
In Lauren Daigle’s song “I am yours,” she addresses the link between faith and healing:
“and those who will kneel
will walk away healed”
Daigle, Lauren. “I am yours.” How Can It Be. Centricity Music, 2015, track 2.
There were times in 2019 when healing from anxiety felt impossible. I felt I was in a pit of mud getting sucked in deeper and deeper. I would grasp at branches near the mud to try and pull myself out, but to no avail. I exhausted myself in my vain mission to save myself.
And yet, in the middle of my misguided struggle I remember having this quiet feeling of hope–however small and far away it seemed; I knew that He would not allow me to stay in the mud forever.
And it became painfully clear that I could not heal myself no matter how feverishly I tried. But He could. Letting go of controlling the season of anxiety and subsequent healing meant I had to surrender to the pit of mud and trust that He would grab my hand and pull me out.
He did. Well, He is. I still have mud on me. I sometimes find a foot stuck back in that same mud pit. But the sooner I lean into faith and release the control, the sooner I find Him pulling me back onto solid ground.
Charles Spurgeon, in his 1865 sermon on healing, focuses on sickness in the spiritual sense, but much of what he says on that can be applied to bodily and mental illness as well. He outlines what we owe Jesus when we are healed:
‘But what is the Physician’s fee?’ asks one, who has vivid memories of earthly doctors’ bills. The fee—oh, the Physician will have you yourself as His fee! When He heals you of your soul-sickness, He takes you to be His forever, but He wants nothing from you. Only trust Him. Only cry to Him.’
Spurgeon, Charles. “Sickness and Prayer, Healing and Praise.” The Charles Spurgeon Sermon Collection, thekingdomcollective.com
So the catalyst to healing is also the payment for healing: faith and trust in Him.
If you need a prayer for any kind of healing—mind, body, or spirit—please don’t hesitate to email me at thestoneandtheoak@iCloud.com and I will pray to the Great Physician on your behalf.
As Julie Andrews famously sang, “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”
My name is Adelaide. First and foremost, I am a daughter of God. I am a wife to a very strong man, a mom to three boys who could not be more different from each other, and an educator by trade.
But I have a confession. I have been raised in the church and call myself a Christian, but I have not read the bible in its entirety– not even close, really. Sure, I’ve paid attention in church. I’ve slapped my favorite verses on the wall and boy, do they look nice. I’ve even attended bible studies and done most of my homework. But how am I to understand my God or my purpose without reading the one document that will give me the answers I need?
What makes my confession even more shameful? My degrees are in literature and I have spent years in classrooms teaching English at the community college level. I have touted the importance of reading Shakespeare or Toni Morrison in their true forms and not relying of Cliff’s Notes— lest my students lose the magic and art of the language itself. I’ve impressed upon my students the importance of understanding the context of the text when reading the text itself. But when it comes to the doctrine of my faith, I have blatantly disregarded everything I believe about written texts with a passive, lackadaisical approach to consuming its truths. I’ve remained limited in my biblical knowledge, and it is high time I did something about it.
This brings me to my current mission: to read and thoughtfully consider all of the New Testament this year– by the end of November to be exact. I have created a reading plan for myself that breaks the New Testament into eleven very manageable chunks, so that I don’t set myself up with more than I can do in a thoughtful manner. The goal here is not to race through these books, but to sink into their words and let them engulf my heart.
Why the New Testament? Why not begin with the Old Testament?
I’m so glad you’ve decided to ask follow-up questions, hypothetical friend! I have made a couple of “read the bible in a year” attempts starting right at verse one of Genesis, and it didn’t work well for me. First, the style in which I prefer to learn isn’t always linear; I can’t start an essay with the first sentence of the introduction, for instance. I always write the “meat” of the essay first and build around it until my argument takes shape. I usually save the introduction for last. In the same way, I want to get at the “meat” of the bible first (the gospel). I am, in fact, aware that themes and prophecies presented in the Old Testament are important to understanding the New Testament. I intend to arrive at that understanding, but I know I will have the most success if I put the smaller goals before the larger ones. And of course, I plan on enriching my reading with trusted supplementary resources as I make my way through.
Why the Stone and the Oak?
Golly, you ask such good questions. The symbols of the stone and the oak are derived from the book of Joshua (again, in my limited understanding). In chapters 23 and 24, Joshua is imploring the tribes and leaders of Israel to make a decision: serve the Canaanite godsor serve the Lord. This is where we see the famous verse “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24.15, ESV). The people insist that they will put away their false gods and serve only the Lord. Joshua records the agreement in the “Book of the Law of God”(which I understand to be his contribution to the Bible), and then uses a large stone as a witness for this new covenant.
Joshua uses two items of fortitude, a large stone and an oak tree, to commemorate this dedication of heart and obedience. Some translations say it was a terebinth tree, but both represent strength, and so I’m going with the oak (the stone and the terebinth doesn’t trip off the tongue, does it?). I live in a very different time than that of Joshua, and if I could roll an enormous stone in front of a grand oak and proclaim to the masses that I am ready to turn away from my biblical complacency, I would. But what I have as my tool of accountability is this platform right here. You, dear reader, can help keep me accountable for seeing my project through. You will be my stone.
And like the oak– known for its steadfastness and depth of roots–I aim to grow my biblical understanding deeper and sturdier.
What do you hope of the readers who follow along with the stone and oak project?
I mentioned accountability before, and so your presence here is the key to that.
For those of you further along in your understanding of the bible, I would love your encouragement and I will certainly benefit from your wisdom. You can post comments here (or on Instagram @thestoneandtheoak ) and will hold your comments with both hands, full of gratitude for your help.
For those of you in a similar stage of biblical knowledge or even new to the faith, I would love the company. Would you read along with me? Be it a book, a chapter, or just a single verse, I would love to have a companion to read alongside.
For those of you outside of the faith who might happen upon this project: you are welcome and safe here. If you want to know more about what it means to be a follower of Christ, you can start by emailing me at thestoneandtheoak@iCloud.com. I will offer you my testimony and will find some good, local resources for you.
So, it’s early January, and the book of Matthew is on the docket. Let’s get started, shall we?