Lent Course 2 Praying in the name of Jesus – The Jesus Prayer. Jesus and Healing

A Lent course – for St John the Evangelist, Roslyn
Praying in the Name of Jesus
‘The Jesus Prayer’
2. Jesus and healing. Sin and Salvation.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.
This Jesus is
“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.”

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’
Acts of the Apostles Chapter 4 vs 8-12

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me”
First – a song 

(‘Lord, I want to be a Christian’ The Proclaimers)
And so we are working from the assumption that we want to be Christians from our hearts – although with St Theresa we may well acknowledge that that desire is at best a weakly flickering candle, if not a barely smouldering wick. Whilst the Spirit may be (barely) willing, the flesh is weak. Whilst our desire might be to Love, the words of St Paul resonate “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” Romans 7:18-19
Perhaps we might cavil at the word ‘evil’. After all we live in a society which locates ‘Evil’ out there. The ancient practise of scapegoating is alive and well. Societies need ‘Evil’ people in order to locate ‘Evil’ anywhere but where it resides, in us all. [A good scriptural example of this is The Gerasene demoniac. He is possessed by a Legion of demons, but when he is healed, Jesus the healer is driven from their society . . . or Jesus the scapegoat?]
We also spoke last week of Resonance. Of how God’s intention for all Creation, renewed in Jesus Christ is that it Resonates with his Life and his Love. That in and through our lives, He is perfectly revealed and made known within His Creation.
In that we recognise our predicament, we recognise that we are ‘out of tune’, ‘off key’, and we do not recognise the language of the song, as we did not to one degree or other resonate with Kate Rusby’s song. Yet, we often pray as if ‘we knew what was what’.
Here in New Zealand when someone asks how we are, we tell them ‘We are good!’ Recently I was speaking with someone who told me that their grandfather, A Christian man with a feel for these things would not take that for an answer, responding “You are not good, you are well!”, but the truth is that we are not even well. Actually if we were well we would be good. So we cry out
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me”
This ancient prayer has its roots in the address of so many of those whom Jesus met – yet one might note that it is never heard on the lips of those who plot his destruction. It is the prayer of those who recognise be it ever so faintly that they are not well and that Jesus the healer is in town.
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.
Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’
At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”?
But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

What do we notice in this passage? What catches our attention?

Some points to consider
o The Crowd – a sign of the evil that seeks to smother Jesus throughout Mark – eg Mark 5:31. The Jesus Prayer is the prayer of the one who wants to be healed – one who may well sense the evil pressing in, and even more, perhaps within.
o Note the order of the healing. Jesus sees deeper. He is aware of our deepest needs in a way we who ‘See’ are not
o The physical healing is a Sign of his authority to forgive sins. The healing which seems to us greater is actually here a Sign. Jesus heals the man physically in order to show that he has authority to make us truly well. The early church over and again refer to Jesus as ‘The physician’, and whilst there are many recorded physical healings, as throughout the gospel account, they are referring to the deeper healing, that from Sin.

But what is the nature of this healing? With the paralytic we are aware of the physical healing, but what is the outcome of the forgiveness of sins?
o Here note the reaction of the scribes ‘Why does this man speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ . . .
 Who can? Who is able to forgive sins? Are the Scribes making a purely ‘religious’ response here? How easy is it to say ‘Your sins are forgiven you’? Rather is there not a terrible affront? Being Unable to forgive sins themselves, they separate themselves from God – ‘only God can forgive sins’
 Jesus answer – ‘that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’
We might tend to think, understandably but erroneously, that Jesus natures, human and divine, are separate. That some things he does out of his divinity, and some he does out of his humanity. So, ‘he heals out of his divinity, but walks and eats and suffers in his humanity’ – but this is because we have lost sight of the nature of our humanity – of who we are. Jesus reveals to us who we are.
o the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. Upon the Cross, God in the human Jesus is forgiving everyone for everything.
o It is natural for the Human who bears the image of God, to forgive sins – it is their true nature. So we pray ‘Our Father . . . forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’ To forgive is Divine and we are Children of God
o The Risen Christ, the first fruits of the new Creation, restores in us the Divine Image, the Divine Life in which we are to participate.
Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

Thus if we say with the Scribes ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone? in a sense we are right, but it is a dangerous half truth. For those who bear the Image of God are vessels of God’s Life. The Scribes question is a revealing of their captivity to Sin which prevents them from ‘Loving everybody from their heart’

And for us who are Christians, it is a denial of our Baptism which makes us Children of God. Having been set free from Sin we choose to allow ourselves once more to be taken captive by it

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me”

In some respects our state is worse than at first. Having been set free we have allowed ourselves to be tangled up in Sin anew.

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

So quickly we jump to make this story something it is not, that is a story about the relative importance of two types of Christian life, the Active and the Contemplative. We are almost asked to decide which we will be, Marthas or Marys. But the meaning of the story does not require such a leap. Mary is paying attention to Jesus, Martha is not. Martha is distracted from Jesus. Martha is upset and worried by many things. We might see her as a figure of one who is tangled up in sin, so much so that she cannot see her own need. Yet notice how Gently Jesus rebukes her

Mary ‘listened to what he was saying’ This event is after the Transfiguration, when the voice comes from heaven ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, Listen to him’

Yes, we should have a childlike relationship with God our Father in prayer, but we can’t remember how to be children, how to be naturally Children of God. As Jesus sees into the deep need of the paralysed man, so Mary sees there is something more important than getting dinner ready. And how often a child seems oblivious to that which the parent thinks is so obvious. Homework to do, and they are captivated by butterflies 🙂

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me”
This week, set aside say five minutes a day – find a quiet place and say the prayer over and again – with attention. Attention to Jesus, Attention to yourself.
Whilst this is a prayer one can pray all the time, if we are going to Resonate, we need to start gently and attentively. A ‘space’ in which to do this is helpful.
It is not recommended to go beyond this for now, especially if we are starting out

Next Week: A more helpful understanding of sin. We do not know what we are doing. The Passions

Recommended Reading : The Jesus Prayer. Frederica Mathewes-Green

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