BRINGING HEAVEN TO EARTH
"He left the meeting place and went to Simon's house. Simon's mother-in-law was running a high fever and they asked Him to do something for her. He stood over her, told the fever to leave -- and it left. Before they knew it she was up getting dinner for them." Luke 4:38-39 (The Message).
Just like that! Luke tells the story in a matter-of-fact way, as though it was an everyday occurrence. Speak to the sickness and it goes! But to the people who observed it, it was riveting.
They were not unfamiliar with miracles. Their Scriptures were dotted with stories of miracles from the time their first forefathers were born; Isaac, conceived by two old people; Rebekah -- barren; Rachel -- barren; Hannah -- barren; and all the miraculous events surrounding their deliverance from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land, to say nothing of the miracles prophets like Elijah and Elisha did.
But that was then and this was now. God hadn't even spoken to them in four hundred years until John. This was different. Jesus just spoke and things happened on a scale they didn't believe possible.
What was happening? First John and then Jesus made an announcement that changed everything. "The kingdom of God is here." What did that mean? Where was the kingdom of God before this? What was the kingdom, anyway? To the Jewish people the kingdom meant the land and people of Israel under their own king and not under the hated Romans.
What did the kingdom mean to Jesus? Jesus had been sent by the Father to represent Him in an enterprise that would take the whole of creation back to His original purpose. For four thousand years God had been preparing the way for His restoration plan, building a nation that would bring forth the Messiah, God in the flesh to show and tell by becoming one of us.
He would show the world what God is really like, repair the damaged relationship with His estranged children by paying their debt for sin, and build a world-wide body of loyal people who would continue what He began, bringing heaven to earth through living like Jesus did. When demons invaded human beings, they had to go because they did not belong in God's kingdom. When fever struck Peter's mother-in-law, it had to go because sickness was not part of the way God did things.
Step-by-step Jesus was introducing His people to what the kingdom of God was all about -- not a geographical and political realm like the land and people of Israel, but an inward change of heart towards God where His rule was restored. Like Jesus, His people would have the power to show the world, through their love and generosity and the miracles Jesus did, that God is good, all the time!
Of course He was operating in a fallen world where sin, pain, suffering and death were all very real. God's kingdom was there, but so was the influence of the demonic realm, manipulating and dominating through deceit. By evicting what was part of the fallen world, Jesus was showing His people what it would be like to live under God's rule and inviting people to return to God's original intention.
He had come to pay the price the whole world owed God because there was no-one else on earth qualified to do so. People would no longer have to hide from God. There was nothing in the way any more. They could return to the Father and become a part of His recovery plan.
It's no wonder that what He said and did shocked them. This was new to them, not anything like the arrogant, harsh and judgmental attitudes of their religious leaders. And they loved Him for it.
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