Last week I started reading through the book of Mark. At this point I've come to where Jesus is traveling around, healing people wherever He goes. But this morning I came across a phrase that made me pause and think. As Jesus was healing a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, "He sighed" before speaking the words that healed (Mark 7:34).
That phrase made me ponder, why would Jesus sigh? Was He frustrated, tired, stressed, bored, sad, lonely, wistful? Those are all the reasons I can come up with why people usually sigh. (And I love that Jesus is so human that He shares these emotions with us.) This question made my mind go back to some verses I had read just moments earlier. In Mark 7:24 it describes Jesus going into a house and wanting not to be found. I think He was sighing because He was exhausted.
Jesus had been traveling from place to place and healing people in droves. The past several chapters are filled with stories of various healings and allusions to healings so numerous that they are not individually accounted for. In chapter 6, He even sends out His disciples in pairs so they can accomplish even more healing and preaching in His name. But when the disciples came back to Him after all their work, He says, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while" (6:31). Jesus recognizes their exhaustion from their work and offers them rest and solitude, peace and quiet, for a time of recovery. And when Jesus, the human, equally exhausted (or probably more so), tries to hide away for some peace and quiet, He "could not be hidden" (7:24).
Jesus was being swarmed and followed by people who came to Him for healing. Jesus began His ministry, way back in chapter 1, with healing. He used healing as a tool to demonstrate His power, to show compassion, and sometimes to call attention to Himself. As silly as that may sound, I think Jesus used healing as a way to get people to notice Him and begin to question who He was and how He came by such power. Jesus often chooses to heal with touch. I believe it's His way of compassionately connecting with those who seek Him. But He demonstrated several times, most recently in chapter 7, verse 29, that all He has to do is speak a word and it is done, even when He is nowhere near the person being healed.
So all of this line of thinking brought me to the ultimate question: if Jesus was sighing because He was tired, because He was being followed by all the needy people who wanted to be healed; if He was capable of healing everyone with only a word (after all, though He is human, He is also God); if He has already received the attention He needs as He pursues His purpose, WHY does He not just speak a word, heal everyone simultaneously, and be done with it? He could, you know.
The only conclusion, is that healing is not ultimately what He came here to do. Forgive me for my amazement at the obvious, but Jesus did not come here with the sole purpose of healing. If He had, He wouldn't have sighed from exhaustion before healing the deaf man. If He had, He would have just spoken and wiped out all sickness with one word. And if He came to just to heal, wouldn't the ultimate manifestation of that be to defeat sickness to the point of defeating death? He could just live among us and continue to wipe out disease with a word and we would never have to die. But healing is not what He came for. In fact, way back in Genesis, just after sin entered the world, God sent Adam (and Eve) out of the Garden of Eden, "lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever." This may come as a shock to us, but God does not want us to live forever! At least, not the way we are right now.
Jesus came with the purpose of healing, not just our bodies, but also our souls. He had a greater purpose than healing the sick. And I wonder how many of those people that He healed missed it. His ultimate purpose was our salvation (the point where we accept His death and resurrection as our sole means of getting right with God) and relationship with us (the point where, after salvation, we enter into that daily walk with Him and follow Him with our lives). Many of us know that (yeah, yeah, yeah...heard it a million times). But how many times, like those people who wore Jesus out seeking healing, do we miss it?
How often do we today seek God for healing, but not salvation or relationship? We pray when we need something: we are sick or a loved one is dying. We pray for physical healing as well as emotional healing and the healing of our fragmented lives: divorce, job loss, illness, stress. We pray when we need healing. I believe that to do so is good and right. God wants to heal, wants us to come to Him (even in His exhaustion, Jesus didn't turn the deaf man away). But to do only that causes us to miss out on His ultimate purpose, a purpose more important than our physical, emotional, mental, or financial well-being.
When we're suffering, it's often hard for us to understand how God can allow it, how He can have any more ultimate purpose for us than our health and well-being. And we should find it comforting that God does have plans to do away with death and suffering forever (Revelation 20:13-14 and 21:1-4). But in the meantime, we would do best to remember that sigh of Jesus, and remember that His ultimate purpose for us is not for healing. He wants us to come to Him for salvation. And then He wants us to come to Him for relationship, daily, minute by minute, reading His word and talking with Him in prayer.
He reminded me of this last week when He called me back into a daily time of reading His word. I had meandered away from the daily habit and found myself stretched and unbalanced, turning to other means for comfort and strength. But He gave me gentle reminders that He wanted to be my only source of comfort and strength. And so I have begun again to read my bible in the mornings as I lay in bed and the summer sun shines through my windows. It is a wonderful way to start my day. Being in His word has refocused my days, re-centered me, and revitalized my prayer life. How I need that daily time with Him! His ultimate purpose is relationship. He lets me know that with a sigh.
By: Megan Lagoy
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