An essay on the ministry of healing.

By his wounds we are healed – Isaiah 53:5

My father is blind.  He became blind when my son Eli was 9 months old.  I used to pray that the Lord would heal his blindness however after a few weeks I started to pray that he would see Jesus before he saw my son.  I guess in a way I was still praying for dad’s healing but from a different perspective.

Reflecting on healing today leads me to ponder the nature and essence of healing.  I have many questions and I am sure you have many more.  Questions such as, does God play a role in every healing whether physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, or social in nature?  Is the source of healing inside people (such as in their minds), outside people (e.g. God, medicine), between people (as in a therapeutic relationship) or a combination of these?  Are healing ministries of value within the Kingdom of God?  What is the primary purpose of healing?  This reflection has been prompted my appointment to Salvos Counselling.

Many of the traditional ways of understanding healing from a Christian perspective do not easily fit with the real life experiences of those who work within or access Christian healing services[1].  To speak in a meaningful way about a ministry of healing in the 21st century requires us to enter into a dialogue between traditional perspectives and contemporary experiences.

My theological compass always returns to a familiar answer to each and every theological reflection I engage in.  That is, that the place to begin is with Christ and his perfect adequacy.  In Luke chapter 8:43-48 we see Jesus encounter a women that needed healing.  On the surface the woman was suffering from a seemingly incurable and chronic bleeding.  Yet in the climax of the story we hear Jesus speak grace to her saying, “Daughter, your faith has healed you, go in peace” (v48).

What is fascinating about this story is that there are four different Greek words in the narrative to drive home the message that healing is not an end in itself but functions so we can become what God intends us to be.

Firstly, we see Luke use a word to describe the woman who had no medical hope of a cure, being healed (therapeou) from her hemophilia (v43).   As the story develops the author describes how she had been instantly healed (iaomai, v47).  The word is a translation of a Hebrew word rophe[2] and indicates that this woman was being repaired and restored to healthy functioning.woman-with-the-issue-of-blood1

In verse 48 Luke uses a word for healing (sozo) that in this context means to restore to health but in another context can mean to rescue, set free from sin, or bring to salvation so that they can fulfill their purpose.  The final words in verse 48 go in peace (eirene) has the same meaning as shalom in the Hebrew.  It refers to the woman’s general wellbeing, her positive social relations or welfare and capacity to live with integrity.

The rich interpretation of healing described in this passage by Luke depicts the woman who reached out and touched the cloak of Jesus as experiencing the fullness of what it means to be healed from a Christian perspective – she was cured physically, restored into her community, repaired so that she can now serve her God and her community, while being restored into a peaceful and right relationship with herself, God and others.  For me this is an awesome picture of a woman who is healed, made healthy and set apart to fulfill the purpose God has for her life.

This biblical interpretation raises some important questions for our healing ministries in the 21st century.  In particular, what role does a ministry like Salvos Counselling play in the mission of God for the Salvation Army?

It should be noted that healing is always contextual and can be very subjective.  We also give categories to types of diseases that require healing.  These include physical, psychological and spiritual disease.  If there is diversity in disease does this allow for diversity in methods of finding healing, wholeness and holiness?

Have you ever experienced healing?  When, where, why, and how?  “Healing is what people most need; often, but not always, it is what they most want”[3].   If you are a Christian and you lose your partner, your child, your job, your physical or psychological health, your self-esteem, your freedom, your hope or your sense of meaning and purpose, where would you turn?  Would you turn to your local pastor, who may have deep love and understanding for you and your situation but quite often simply doesn’t have the time or ability to address your need?

Alternatively, would you consider a person who has committed themselves to Christ and dedicated their vocational life to helping people heal?  People like those I work alongside at Salvos Counselling every day.

I would suggest that if you have had the personal experience of your pain or distress finding the healing grace and hope of Christ in therapy then you will have an appreciation of the value that Salvos Counselling offers people.  If you have experienced the healing power of God at work through counselling, then you probably have a genuine understanding of the kingdom value it supplies to the faith community.

Is there kingdom value in a woman who finds freedom from the emotional abuse suffered from bullying in the workplace?  Is she not healed for the purpose of serving her Lord in her local faith community? Do you think there is value in a husband discovering psychological freedom after visiting a Christian counselor for his pornography addiction?  Is there not value in a person being restored from the emotional distress in her life that prevents her from serving God and others and fulfilling her purpose in life?


Sadly, healing ministries are often misunderstood and undervalued, because the priority of mission is seen in conversion, membership and public affirmation.  To comprehend the ministry of Salvos Counselling in a meaningful way, we have to reconcile the competing voices of tradition and contemporary experience.  We need to appreciate that all people need healing most of the time and that healing is not an end in itself but functions so we can become what God intends us to be.

[1] Stephen Pattison, The challenge of practical theology: Selected essays.  Jessica Kingsley Publishers.  2007, 125-6.

[2] See Exodus 15:26 where the Lord is described as ‘Jehovah Rophe’ – The Lord who heals.  The idea is that I am the Lord who heals/restores you to what you were meant to be.

[3] Stephen Pattison, The challenge of practical theology. 2007, 130.


I believe we live in an age where unity is needed desperately within our communities…I believe that God is calling us to unity – rallying around our faith statements, cooperating with the Holy Spirit and growing in Christ likeness.

Recently I watched reruns of the September 11 events. I watched from the prospective of the eyewitnesses, the emergency services men and women, the government, the nation and indeed the world. I watched the American people rally around their beliefs, united in their fight against the attack on their values and way of life. Unity was strong from the moment the second plane hit tower one of the iconic world trade centre in New York and the realization that America was under attack from terrorists.
In the 2011 AFL grand final I watched Geelong beat Collingwood. I watched an aging yet highly skilled Geelong Cats topple the once unbeatable younger stronger side in Collingwood. While the Cats were the underdogs against the Pies, they were united in their cause to win a premiership and they played as a team to defeat their enemy.
Unity is essential to any movement. In recent times we have seen the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd removed from the highest office simply because unity did not exist in his team. Influential men and women abused their powerful positions to institute a change in leader because their beliefs were not the same as the Prime Minister.
In the days of Nazi Germany there was not unity around Hitler’s values and beliefs and men and women conspired against him from both within and without his Army. I have heard stories of German soldiers who stopped fighting against the Russians when Hitler’s SS troops arrived to allow the Russian Army to fight their common enemy. Their silent protest highlighted the disunity within Hitler’s Germany.
Unity is the state of being undivided or unbroken. People function better when they have an undivided heart on a matter. Communities are healthier when there is unity among the people and organizations that are unified have the capacity to live up to their potential.
The bible calls believers to aspire to ‘unity of the faith’, embracing the peace and knowledge of God. While this perspective encourages Christians to be of one mind, we should be cautious of a false harmony within the church.
I believe that a healthy faith community centers on faith in Christ and love for both God and each other. A caveat in this simple statement is that ‘keeping the peace’ can be a cover for ‘sweeping dysfunction under the table’. Love is permeated by trust, honesty and a capacity to debate and appreciate differences.
I believe we live in an age where unity is needed desperately within our communities. We need to be reminded that peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of God. I believe that God is calling us to unity – rallying around our faith statements, cooperating with the Holy Spirit and growing in Christ likeness. Everything else I consider a loss compared to knowing Jesus the Christ, who is our ruler and king.

Our World Desperately Needs A Saviour

About eight years ago I went and saw the ‘latest’ Superman movie. There was a scene that just stuck in my mind. In the scene Superman takes Lois Lane up into outer space and looks back down towards the earth. It is a magnificant view and as they are admiring God’s creation Superman turns to Lois Lane and says “People say the world doesn’t need saving, but I listen to people every day and all I hear is the world crying out for a saviour”. This line resonates with me not because I am a Christian but because I am human.

A few weeks later I watched Australia make it to the semi final of the world cup of Soceer. It was a fantastic sporting event in Germany. However in those same towns where football was being watch and celebrated, 1000’s of women and children were used and abused for other people’s pleasure while the world celebrated some of their sporting heroes. Our world is crying out for a savior!

In Guatemala, two women are killed on average every single night and authorities do not seem to care. Could you imagine one of your own children being the victim and not being able to get justice? Our world is desperately in need of a savior!

While we sit watching the 6 o’clock news, hundreds of people will die in the developing world. In Africa and PNG the AIDS virus affects thousands because of the lack of education and adequate medical care. While in our Western culture we are more concerned with the stock market and our economic wellbeing.

Closer to home there are people living in relative poverty, people suffering from mental illness, or living in sub standard accommodation. People are searching for happiness on TV or on the internet. Family values are breaking down and people are searching for solutions in drugs, both legal and illegal. People are discovering that ‘comfort’ and ‘things’ do not bring purpose and satisfaction. People are struggling to discover the meaning of life. Our world is desperately in need of a savior!

If we put our thinking caps on and engaged our creative minds together, we could create a savior. We could invent a super hero. We could give her a superhero name, superhero powers and superhero clothes (I would not vote for underpants on the outside). No matter how much energy we put into creating our superhero, no matter how much money we spent on the latest and greatest technologies and cutting edge philosophies, our superhero could not save the world – not in the way the world needs saving.

In 2004 in the Russian town of Beslam, on the first day of school, more than a 1000 people were taking hostage by terrorists. Three days later more than 300 were dead and 100 of them were children. One year on from that event the Salvation Army in Eastern Europe took some of the surviving parents & children on a camp. They arrived full of grief and feelings of hopelessness. Yet by the end of the ten day camp they were singing. Now their scars will always remain and their loss will never be forgotten, however they had found hope, because they know there is a savior.

In Manly where I work and in other places, homeless youth and adults go for food or a coffee and for a conversation. The want to belong, they desire acceptance and sometimes they get much more. When people respond to the gospel their lives are changed forever. I know people who have found hope and life, I know people who have discovered Jesus.

The savior of the world is Jesus Christ!

[To the Christians:] We are his children, his followers. We are the people who must commit our lives to proclaiming the good news of our savior. This is what I dedicate my life to – the good news, that we have a savior in Jesus Christ. We read in scripture that our creator God did not send his son Jesus to condemn the world but to recreate it. Everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. The world has a savior in Jesus Christ! As his followers we are called to tell people about our savior. That is one of our chief purposes as Christians; this is the mission of The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army has the privilege to participate in God’s salvation story – we have the privilege to participate in our organization, in our communities and in our relationships – to tell people about our savior.

We can tell people about our savior when we do what Jesus encourages us to do in Matthew 25: Feed the hungry, give the thirsty water, invite strangers into our lives, clothe those who need clothes, minister to the sick and visit those who are in prison. We can tell people about our savior when we preach the good news to the poor and speak of release to those who are oppressed. In a world that is desperately crying out for a savior, we can participate in God’s salvation plan.

We can tell people about Jesus because that is what we are called to do. That is what we dedicate our lives to, that is our mission. As Christians we are called by God to be his children, we are humble servants with the privilege of sharing the good news with the lost, of serving those who are most in need, and being stewards of all that God has given us. Mostly we need the commitment to live lives as followers of Jesus Christ in a world that desperately needs a savior.

Life is a marathon – what pushes you makes you stronger.

Running with a sub 3hour marathoner the other night I asked him what he tells himself when it starts to hurt, when the race becomes more about the psyche than the body.  His answer was that everyone has that point in a marathon when you ask yourself “why am I doing this?”.  He said that he tells his athletes to answer that question weeks before so that you don’t waste energy trying to think of an answer when it is really hurting.

That sounds like solid advice and so I ask myself why am I running another marathon?  In 2006 I ran it to see if I could do it, the challenge was in finishing.  The following year I went back and ran to beat my time and the year after that I ran because I could.  My last marathon was in 2008.

The Sydney Marathon 2011 this weekend is about challenging myself.  Why am I running it?  I am running the marathon because there will come a point in the race when I will learn something about myself.   It won’t matter what my finishing time is, nor if I beat my PB, but at some stage I will question why I am doing it at all.

Let’s face it 42.195 km is a long way to drive let alone run.  This race against myself will push me to my physical and mental limits and how I finish will tell me something about my character.  This is why I am running the race.

The same principle applies to my life – for many times I have been told that life is not a sprint but a marathon.  As a Christian man, with a family and a church to nurture I am always conscious that life’s lessons can be learned in all kinds of situations and from all kinds of people.  Just as I have sought advice on marathon training so I seek advice on my walk with Jesus.

It is scripture that reminds me that I am to run with endurance the race that is set before me, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…(Hebrews 12:1-2). 

I do see Jesus in scripture but more often I see Jesus in the people around me.  That is why it is important to surround myself with good people.  From the people around me I learn the importance of being patient, being kind, being  joyful, prayerful and thankful.  I learn to care for others rather than myself and I learn to avoid all kinds of evil (Yes, there are certain things you shouldn’t do, places you should go and people you shouldn’t be with) and most importantly to trust in God.

On Sunday as I approach 35km my body will be fatigued, my mind will be pleading with me to stop and my lungs will be trying to take in more oxygen for the journey.  At this moment I will tell myself to trust the training, my preparation has been done and it is time to finish strongly.  On Sunday I can also tell myself to trust in God, my salvation has been complete and it is time to finish well.  God bless you in life’s marathon.

We were lost but now we are found…

Many years ago The Salvation Army lost its way.  It was before I was a Salvationist so it’s not my fault. 🙂

The early Army was influenced greatly by its founders.  William Booth was a strong and passionate man who had a clear vision from God to save the lost, poor and broken people of the East End of London.  He had the gifts and he used them for God and the rest is history as they say.  The other person who was equally influential in the shape of the Salvation Army was Catherine Booth.  She was the theologian in the family (the smart one!).  Highly influenced by Phoebe Plamer and the holiness movement of the late 19th century I believe Catherine was instrumental in shaping the early Salvationist’s theology.  Our Founder’s contribution to the movement is unmeasurable but it certainly gave birth to a great kingdom building organisation.

In recent times we have tried to rediscover our DNA.  For me the first clear sign post in this journey was when General John Gowans preached ‘save souls, grow saints, serve suffering humanity’.  Another significant event was the blessing of General Linda Bond (then Commissioner of Australia Eastern Territory) and Commissioner James Condon (then Chief Secretary of Australia Eastern Territory).  They began with courage and conviction to name the elephants in the room, so to speak, and address the issues that we faced in our Army.

‘We must recapture what the early Salvationists understood.  They were not at the army to be entertained or to entertain. They were the fighting force.  A Spirit-filled Army of the 21st century that moves forward into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost. Our world needs soldiers; men, women and children who passionately love Jesus, want to live like Him and want to touch people’s lives with his transforming message.  We need people to step up, sign up and show up, no matter what the cost. It means not just believing in 11 Doctrines, but letting those cardinal convictions shape and motivate our lives. It means living counter culturally.  Too much to ask? Not when we check out the Gospels and hear the Lord’s call to radical discipleship. For Salvationists, obedience to that call looks like soldiership and officership. A seniors soldiers’ day of renewal is timely.’                                                                                                                                                           -Linda Bond

Another piece in the process for me was to rediscover our theological roots.  Dr. Alan Harley explained to me that when we speak of a holiness movement it was not Wesleyan Holiness but biblical holiness that we are speaking of.  I combined this important insight with my long held view that we need to communicate the good news of Jesus in relevant ways without watering down the gospel.

To this end I searched to discover holiness.  I knew that I would not discover it in a book rather I would experience it by the grace of God.  When I look in the bible I see holiness ascribed to Yahweh alone and to no human being until the promises that God made to Abraham are fulfilled in Jesus the Christ.  It is by God’s grace that we put our faith in Jesus and it is by God’s grace that we receive the Holy Spirit and can grow in Christ-likeness.

The Army has a bright future full of hope, love and faithfulness in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Growth Areas

I have recently been reading a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.  In the book he relates emotional maturity with spiritual maturity.  This has got me thinking as I reflect on how people grow and how I have grown as a Christian.

The first experience I had when I came to participate in the faith of Jesus was that God loved me.  That he had actually forgiven me for all the mistakes that I had made so far in life and that he was willing to forget all of my wrong doings.  This was unbelievably freeing however the grace that I experienced was not cheap because immediately I became aware that God wanted to change me.  I needed to change my life and I needed God’s help to grow into the person he desired me to be.

I believe that the Holy Spirit led me into relationships with people within a faith community that would help me to grow in Christ and as I reflect back now I can see how I was blessed by these loving relationships.  As I continue my faith journey I can clearly see three growth areas that have seen me develop as a person as I have cooperated with the Spirit of Christ.

  • Spiritual Development                  (grow Christ)
  • Theological Understanding         (know Christ)
  • Ministry & Mission                         (serve Christ)

Let me explain what I mean.  When I first became a Christian my spiritual development was shaped by reading the bible, prayer & meditation, a ‘spiritual buddy’, and hanging out with people from my church.  I grew in theological understanding by sermons that I listened to, books that I read, conventions that I attended and through Salvation Army soldiership ‘classes’ (coffee, conversation & discipleship).  I served within my church by volunteered for ministry, I contributed to the leadership team, and eventually took a role as a ministry assistant.

These days the same principles apply but they look different as I grow in Christ.  For example my spiritual development is still influenced by reading the bible, prayer & meditation, however instead of a ‘spiritual buddy’ I have a spiritual mentor and I have spiritual retreats where I spend time alone with God.  I continue to grow in my theological understanding through academic study, sermons I preach, as well as other people’s sermons that I listen to and books that I read.  I also love to discuss theology with my Christian friends.  In the area of ministry and mission I have grown significantly.  I now take responsibility for a local church and coordinate various ministries both within the Salvation Army and within the community of believers.  Many people help shape and influence me as I grow in this area.

My personal development as I grow, know and serve in Christ is my contribution.  Ultimately I know that what counts is faith expressing itself through love and that my heavenly Father’s desire for all believers is to know him, love him and serve him in the power that is available through the Spirit of Christ.  My prayer is that we may all know the love of God that is found in the faith of Jesus Christ and that we may grow in Christ trusting in his promises.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.                              1 Thessalonians 5:23

ANZAC Day April 25 2011

On ANZAC day I remember those young men who believed in my country and our way of life. A new definition of ‘mateship’ was born with these diggers, a bond built on solidarity and  sacrifice.

These young men were just boys really. For us older guys we remember what it was like to be that young and for the ANZAC’s they never got to experience the life we had the chance to live. They made a sacrifice beyond what any of us will probably ever have to experience and they did it together. The bond will never be broken and we will always remember them.

Lest we forget.

John on sin and salvation

by Gail R. O’day

The Johannine view of sin and salvation can be a difficult one for contemporary Christians to grasp, because the expiatory view of sin and the exclusive linkage of salvation with Jesus death so dominate conversations within the church.  Yet the church loses a powerful witness if it ignores or silences this Johannine voice.  First, the Gospel of John invites Christians to re-evaluate the criteria by which one defines sin and by which people are judged.  The fourth gospel, as dramatised in John 9, reduces sin to its Christological, and hence theological, essence.  Sin is fundamentally about one’s relationship with God, and for the fourth evangelist, the decisive measure of one’s relationship with God is one’s faith in Jesus.  This flies in the face of views that want to define sin in relation to right actions and thereby establish the norms of the judgement.  To the fourth evangelist, these norms were judgement a very lean: Believe in the revelation of God in Jesus.  Judgement is therefore based not on what people do, as the disciples and the Pharisees in John 9 assumed, but on people’s embrace of God in Jesus.  The only way to be excluded from Jesus’ offer of salvation is to turn one’s back on that offer.  This is a radical and liberating notion of sin and salvation, one that not surprisingly makes many people uncomfortable, because it removes the establishment of norms of behaviour from the category of sin stop from the Johannine perspective, it is not the Christian communities responsibility, just as it was not the Pharisees’, to judge anyone’s sin, because the determination of sin rests with God and Jesus, and the individual and is determined by faith, not actions.  The Johannine gospel is thus the most radical example of salvation by grace anywhere in the New Testament.

Second, the Johannine understanding of sin and judgement invites the Christian community to re-examine its understanding of salvation and redemption.  The fourth gospel quite explicitly relocates the offer of salvation to Jesus’ life and moves away from a narrow focus on Jesus’ death.  The gospel is unequivocally clear: Jesus’ incarnation, not the expiation of his death, brings salvation from sin.  This, too, can be this comforting to people who think that an expiatory understanding of salvation is the “only” Christian view.  Yet again, to overlook the Johannine is to miss a powerful witness and re-source for the life of faith.  The Gospel of John invites Christians to recognize the transformative power of the love of God made manifest in the incarnation and to shape their lives accordingly.  This is why Johannine eschatology puts its primary emphasis on Jesus’ coming into the world.  To reject Jesus is to reject the love of God in Jesus and so to pass from the possibility of salvation to judgement (cf.3:16-17).  Therefore the Pharisees’ announcement of their sight, when in fact they have not seen God in Jesus, marks the sin and the “blind” man’s embrace of Jesus as the Son of Man marks his salvation.  Judgement and salvation are not lodged with Jesus’ death; they belong to Jesus’ life.

Gail R. O’day, The Gospel of John, in NIBC, p644-5.

How good is your Good News?

When I was 6 years old I changed schools from a state school to a Catholic primary school.  I remember my classroom well.  Those old wooden school desks, the art hanging from the ceiling by fishing line, books stored against the walls and of course the good old blackboard.

Above the blackboard at St Killian’s PS were the classic letters of the alphabet and above them were the Ten Commandments.  Coming from a state school I had never been introduced to God and this was where I would gain my initial religious education.  In the playground we would have deep theological discussions about original sin – we would discuss the mark on our lung that was washed away after baptism.  I remember reading the commandments one day and deciding that there were probably 3 that didn’t apply to me because I was too young or would never do them and the other 7 I was going to struggle with big time.

I would describe myself as a wilful child, of above average intelligence and lots of energy.  My grandmother – God bless her – described me as “a bugger of a kid” (please understand this word in an Australian context as someone whose behaviour was displeasing in some way).  Being well summed up by Nana you can understand how, given my personality and “issues”, I found it difficult to have a positive relationship with a God of do’s and don’ts, who judges people based on their behaviour.  Not to mention that our Year 2 teacher had photos of hell just to scare us.

So you can see I really struggled to accept this judging/punishing concept of God as my friend -possibly due to the fact that I had a disposition to naughtiness.  Whatever the reasons, I decided at a young age that I would not follow this God and as a result I spent the next 15 or 16 years reaping the consequences of my decision.

I meet Jesus as my personal saviour sometime towards the end of 1995.  When I was 22 I responded to the gospel.  Interestingly I read the gospel in a children’s bible that my Nana had given me many years ago.  As I have just started reading an awesome book by Chick Yuill, Moving in the Right Circles, I have been reflecting back on my encounter with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

See I ‘started from the wrong place’.  I believed God would judge me for my bad behaviour and so I chose to ignore him.  I believed I had to earn God’s favour and since I could not live up to the expectations I believed God desired, I was better off without him.

I love how Chick Yuill describes the impact of the gospel in his book.  He writes:

The gospel is not a call to escape, but a commissioning to a glorious, never-ending adventure in which we have a part to play in God’s great strategy to make all things new.  It’s an adventure that begins the moment we respond to Jesus that continues through this life, and is gloriously fulfilled in the life to come (p17).

I think this is a great way to think about the gospel because the Good News (gospel or God’s story) really is good news!  I also love this passage because I can relate to it:

When you decide to follow him [Jesus], it doesn’t really feel like converting to a new religion.  It’s much more like entering – or maybe, more accurately, like being engulfed by – a whole new reality.  Whenever he appears on the scene, everything changes.  You cross a threshold into a brand-new kind of living (p27).

Wow, brand new living!  There are many people I know who are yet to meet with Jesus.  They may have a distorted image of God as I did, they may have an opinion on religion or church but they have not yet had an encounter with the living God that causes them to enter a restoring/transforming relationship.

Chick Yuill’s book is a book about discipleship.  It is a book written for those who are already Christians and desire to fully embrace what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  But even in the opening gambit the book reminds me of the best ever news:

If being in the company of Jesus is the centre from which we move out in ever-widening circles, then right at the hub is good news, the best news the world can ever hear:  God is love and he reveals himself fully in Jesus. To begin from any other point…is to miss the mark (p29).

I can’t wait to read the rest of this book but in the meantime, how good is your Good News?

I came to Jesus because I was a desperate man.

When my son Eli was three months old he was dedicated in the Glebe Salvation Army hall and afterward he began to vomit.  Now when I say vomit I don’t mean a little spew down the side of his mouth I mean a full on projectile vomit like you see in the movies.  We took him to hospital and they released him saying it was probably a 24 hours virus.  However this would be strange considering he is a breast feed baby.

Four weeks later, one Saturday afternoon, our 16 weeks old son began to projectile vomit again.  We took him to a different hospital that specialised in children and he was admitted to the emergency department.  There he stayed for many hours being prodded and poked as we waited for him to give a urine sample.  After some insistence on our behalf he was admitted over night.

On the Sunday morning a small miracle happened for us.    Eli had a radiograph which required him to swallow barium meal (the consistency of  porridge and concrete) in order to show any abnormalities in the foregut.  To do this Louanne and I had to pin our baby under the large machinery used in radiography while the test was completed.  I will never forget the look on Eli’s face as he looked up at me in distress, asking with his eyes and his screams that we help him escape the deafening machine.  I had been to a funeral of a two year old on Friday and the nasal gastric tube from his nose brought back memories of that day.  As the test was completed a paediatric surgeon who specialised in abdominal problems walked into the room and inspected the results.

With tears running down our faces the doctor explained to us that he need to operate on Eli immediately because Eli had a Malrotation (a twisting of the intestines (or bowel) caused by abnormal development while a fetus is in utero) which was causing an obstruction.   In simple terms his intestine was kinking like a hose and blocking his digestive system.  If this burst then Eli would die.

As we took Eli off for the operation I remember praying asking God to return our son and thanking him for the 16 weeks that we had had the pleasure of loving him.  I wasn’t sure at that stage if he would make it even though the operation was fairly straight forward for the surgeon.

Of course Eli survived and we have been blessed to love him for another nine years or more.  But I have to tell you I had so much compassion for my son at that time and I was desperate to help him.  That is why I relate to the story of the Royal Official and his son in John’s gospel (Chapter 4: 43-54).

The Royal Official came to Jesus because he was a desperate man.  He came to Jesus because he had heard what Jesus had done at the festival – turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana.  He begged Jesus because his son was close to death, “Jesus, can you heal my son”?   Jesus response is typically unusual.  “Unless you people see signs and wonders (miracles) you will not believe.  Go your son will live”.

The Official goes home trusting Jesus word and inquires as to what time his son was healed.  When he discovers that it was at 1pm, the same time he had spoken with Jesus, he believed Jesus promise and his whole household came to faith.

Some interesting facts:

  1. This is the second miracle or sign recorded in John’s gospel.  Both  happened in Cana.
  2. This is the first recording in John’s gospel of Jesus saving a life.
  3. Three times in the story the apostle John records that the son/child shall live.

What can we understand from this?

Firstly why did Jesus say “Unless you people see signs and wonders you will not believe”?  Think back to the wedding in Cana when Jesus response to his mothers request for help.  Jesus replied, “Woman, why do you involve me?  My time has not yet come.”  His response reminds his mother that he is not acting under her authority but under his father in heavens.  In other words his purpose is from a higher authority and had significance beyond the present time.  Likewise here, subtly Jesus implies that he is not meeting human expectations or demands but rather the Father’s will.

Secondly, people come to faith not because of signs & wonders but because they know the source of the miracle.  At the wedding feast in Cana the Chief steward new the wine was good but he did not know the source of the wine.  It was the disciples who knew the source who had faith in Jesus.  The sign revealed Jesus glory, and now this second sign in Cana reveals Jesus ability to give life.

Finally, Jesus says “your son shall live”, which has two meanings: recovery from illness and the gift of life from Jesus.  The fact that John states 3 times that the child/son shall lives points to the central theme of the story.  The focus is on Jesus promise and his gift of life.  In fact the official and his whole family receive the gift of life by faith.  The Royal Official first believed Jesus word and then on returning home he believes Jesus promise. People come to faith not because they see signs and wonders but because they know the source of the sign.

Friends we need to see beyond the miracle itself to the fullness of the miraculous act.  If we just look at the miracle, water into wine, the healing of a son, the feeding of 5000, etc then all we will conclude is this:  Look what Jesus can do!  Give a round of applause for the miracle worker.

However by the faith that the Holy Spirit ignites in us we can see beyond the miracle itself and we will say, look who Jesus is – the giver of abundant life.