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The Saviour’s Powerful Hand

Category Articles
Date March 23, 2010

When the Lord Jesus was in this world, he went about doing good. In particular, he healed large numbers of people who were suffering from every kind of illness and disability. Even when ‘great multitudes followed him’, ‘he healed them all‘ (Matt. 12:15). Reports of these miracles spread everywhere and, as Jairus watched his 12-year-old daughter becoming seriously weaker, these reports must have spurred him to go to ask Jesus to heal his daughter. Even although she was at the point of death, he left her to make his request to Jesus: ‘Come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live’ (Matt. 9:18). Jairus did not question Jesus’ willingness to go with him; he believed that Jesus was able to restore her to health. He was not discouraged by the message telling him that his daughter had now died. Nor did the unbelieving question: ‘Why troublest thou the Master any further?’ distract him from his purpose. And his faith was vindicated; the Saviour went to the room where the girl’s dead body lay and brought her back to life.

Jesus’ miracles of healing represent his power to heal the diseases of the soul. By nature we are spiritually blind; our souls cannot see spiritual truth and we are completely unable to look by faith to Jesus Christ. But, working through the Holy Spirit, the Saviour is able take away our blindness and to give us spiritual eyesight so that we may look to him by faith and discern the spiritual truths revealed in the Word of God. This corresponds to Jesus healing people like Bartimaeus and making their sightless eyes able to see.

Again, by nature we are spiritually lame; indeed the legs of our souls suffer, metaphorically speaking, from a total paralysis. We are unable to come to Christ; we cannot walk in the paths of righteousness. But the Saviour is able to give power to the legs of our souls, so that we may obey his call and come to him, and begin to walk in the paths of new obedience. Thus Jesus healed those who, in varying degrees, suffered from problems with their legs – including the paralysed man who had to be let down through the roof into the room where Jesus was.

But death is an even grimmer picture of what is wrong with the human soul while still in a state of nature. When we see Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter to life, we are shown his power to give spiritual life to sinners who are dead in trespasses and sins. As Jesus began, at the well at Sychar, to speak to the woman of Samaria, we see him preparing to give spiritual life to someone who completely lacked that life. Though she did not send for Jesus to lay his hand upon her so that she might live – a fact which highlights her spiritual death – he came unasked. In speaking to her, it was as if he laid his hand on her soul and given her spiritual life. As he revealed himself to her, the Holy Spirit regenerated her soul and she believed. At once she thought of the people of her city and their need of spiritual life. She went to them and, in effect, told them: Come to the Man who told me all things that ever I did; he can lay his hand on you and you will live.

The Lord Jesus is no longer in this world. But from his throne of glory, he is still able to lay his merciful hand on sinners and give them spiritual life. He has done so on many occasions. We might think of the boy Timothy growing up in biblical times. His godly mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois, were teaching him from the Scriptures and, without a doubt, praying for him in faith. One cannot say what words they actually used but the substance of them was a plea that the Lord Jesus would come and lay his hand in saving mercy on young Timothy so that he might have spiritual life.

We might feel it was easy for these women to pray for Timothy – especially when, with hindsight, we can see the evidence of his spiritual life recorded in the pages of the New Testament. But think of Paul and Silas praying in the inner prison in Philippi. The opinion they had formed of the jailer – who had ‘made their feet fast in the stocks’ – was possibly that here was a hard man who would be impervious to anything they could say to him. Yet, while we do not know the content of the prayers they offered up to God at midnight, they may well have included a petition – indeed there may have been many such petitions – that the Saviour would come to the prison and lay his hand on the hard-hearted jailer and give him spiritual life. This is what did happen; there was a series of events in providence which led up to the jailer asking, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ And Christ gave the Holy Spirit to bring the jailer’s soul alive and enable him to obey the call: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 16:31).

There may be those reading these words who are under some concern for their soul and particularly conscious of their inability to look to Christ, because they are spiritually dead. Surely it is altogether appropriate for them to pray that he would come and lay his hand on them so that they may live. Remember the Saviour’s willingness to come with Jairus. Remember how he encouraged Jairus when news came to him that his daughter had actually died; he said, ‘Be not afraid, only believe’ (Mark 5:36).

In an age of rampant ungodliness, there are many fathers with sad hearts, thinking of their daughters, and their sons, who have forsaken the religion they were brought up to respect. They no longer read their Bibles; they do not pray; they do not keep the Sabbath; they do not think of attending public worship; they are involved in many sinful practices. They give every indication of spiritual death. Let these fathers remember the example of Jairus and go to Jesus; let them plead that he would come and lay his hand on their daughter (or their son) so that they might live, believe the gospel and spend the rest of their lives in the fear of God. The example of Jairus is, of course, as relevant to mothers as to fathers. It should also be an encouragement to those who are concerned about the spiritual state of a husband or a wife, a brother or a sister, a father or a mother, a friend or a neighbour. The Lord Jesus can come to them, wherever they are, whatever their present state of soul, and give them spiritual life.

Nothing is too hard for him. Just as in the prison in Philippi, he can order the events of providence to bring daughters or sons or anyone else to ask serious questions about the salvation of their soul. Those who had a godly upbringing have great advantages, however far they may have wandered since then and however determined they may now be to follow a very different kind of lifestyle. They still have, somewhere in their memories, some of the passages of Scripture they learned when they were young, some of the ideas that were set before them at home and in church about sin and salvation, about heaven and hell. And when the Saviour lays his hand on them, he can use such long-forgotten truths to teach them the danger of the road that they are travelling on. It will be the beginning of a process which will result in the new birth, a life of godliness – and even of spiritual usefulness. Parents and others, who are perhaps struggling to implant scriptural truths in the hearts of children, should feel encouraged by the words: ‘Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days’ (Eccles. 11:1).

The Saviour can act everywhere. There may be many beyond our direct influence – national leaders, for instance – about whom we feel particular concern. But they are not beyond the reach of Christ’s all-powerful hand. However ungodly they may be and however determined to follow an atheistic agenda, Christ can reach them and the Holy Spirit can awaken spiritual life in them. God’s people, in the face of almost-universal spiritual death, may take encouragement from the Scriptures generally, and from the example of Jairus’ faith in particular, to pray that the glorified Saviour in heaven would lay his powerful hand on spiritually-dead sinners everywhere, so that they may live. We should acknowledge: ‘Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power . . . and there is nothing too hard for thee’ (Jer. 32:17).

Kenneth D. Macleod is pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church in Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris. He is the editor of The Free Presbyterian Magazine, from the March 2010 issue of which the above editorial has been taken with permission.

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