By J. Lee Grady
In the days of Jesus, rabbis observed a myriad of extra rules that were not in Scripture. Their legalistic code focused on what they could and could not touch. These guys invented the original version of the holier-than-thou religion. They stayed away from women, children, dead bodies, lepers, beggars, sinners, blood, shellfish, pigs and—especially—people of other ethnic backgrounds. They didn’t want “unclean” gentiles to corrupt them.
The Pharisees, especially, were obsessed with hygiene. They had a rule for everything from how to wash dishes to how to stay ceremonially clean after walking in the streets. That’s why they got upset when they saw that Jesus’ disciples didn’t follow the standard Jewish hand-washing ritual.
They asked Jesus: “‘Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?'” You can almost hear their smug, nasal tone. Jesus’ reply was blunt. He called His inquisitors hypocrites; then He chastised them for “‘teaching as doctrines the precepts of men'” (Mark 7:5-7, NASB).
After Jesus rebuked their hypocrisy He immediately left His sanitary Jewish environment and went north, to the gentile city of Tyre. There He healed a Syrophoenician woman’s daughter. (Any other rabbi would have avoided her like the plague.) Then He traveled to the Decapolis region and healed a deaf and dumb villager. Some scholars say this poor guy was a gentile, too.
Jesus broke every religious rule in the Pharisees’ hand-washing manual when He performed this miracle. The Bible says He put His fingers in the man’s ears, spit on His hands and touched the man’s tongue with His own saliva (see Mark 7:33). Eeuuww! Jesus was not concerned about germs or spiritual defilement, and I doubt He used hand-sanitizer after the man was healed.
Jesus was making a point. He didn’t come to earth to spend His time washing his hands inside a synagogue. His message was not about what not to eat or who to avoid. He came to touch dirty people. He came to cleanse lepers, heal bleeding women, hold children, eat with tax collectors and forgive prostitutes. He even visited a cemetery so He could cast devils out of a lunatic! That’s our Jesus.
Too often we fall under the influence of the “religious sanitation police.” Before you know it, we too are sequestered inside our holy walls, compulsively washing our hands and obsessing over who wore what and who went where. Legalism is a tool of the devil, but it masks itself as a Christian virtue. Ultimately it has no power over sin and it eventually causes spiritual sterility.
I believe the American church today must confront the spirit of the Pharisees head-on. Religious systems despise healing, and they certainly don’t endorse touching the addicted, the diseased, the demonized or the dying. Many sectors of the church have rejected God’s healing power altogether, and they certainly don’t encourage Christians to touch the pain of our generation.
They think holiness is about isolation. On the contrary, true holiness invades sickness, sin and shame—and overcomes it.
We are on the verge of a holiness invasion today. My friend Matt Sorger, a young healing evangelist based in New York, has recently seen a surge in miraculous healings in his meetings in the United States. He wrote recently:
“As the weight of His glory has filled entire rooms, His healing grace and presence has been sweeping over the people—healing them right in their seats! We worship until His glory comes and then He does the rest. There is a new realm of corporate healing glory being released. We call out a sickness by the Holy Spirit and it gets healed. It’s just that easy. It’s not hard in the glory!”
Matt also adds that humility is important as we enter this season of healing. “It is very important to stay humble and pure in heart and to always give the glory and honor to God and not place the focus on ourselves. This will be vital to maintaining the purity and integrity of God’s move.”
This movement of healing is not about one evangelist or one particular revival phenomenon. God wants a holy breakout. He intends for all believers to lay hands on the sick and to restore the broken. The same Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus to cleanse lepers has empowered us with a healing touch. Please don’t sit on your hands during this crucial hour.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.
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