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2 Things Jesus Never Says to the Suffering

Image: Dmitry Kalinin

Image: Dmitry Kalinin

When I look at Jesus, I am seeing the exact representation of God’s character. Jesus, as Paul says, is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). And Christ himself makes a connection between knowing him and knowing the Father (Jn 14:7).

It’s important for me to understand that not only is Jesus the perfect revelation of what it means to be fully human, his behavior also reveals so much to me about the character and concerns of God. That’s why it’s always interesting to me to think about, not only what Jesus says, but what he doesn’t say.

Scripture records Jesus healing a lot of people. On top of that, Jesus sets many demonically oppressed individuals free. When you stop and contrast the way we interact with afflicted individuals with the way Jesus did, you see some amazing discrepancies.

Here’s two huge things Jesus never says to the suffering:

1. You’re to blame

When I think through the innumerable examples of the sick and demonized Jesus healed, I can not come up with one example where he lays blame at the feet of the afflicted. More often than not, he treats those suffering various maladies as victims.

When Jesus stands up in the synagogue and kicks off his ministry, he does so with the following words from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Lk 4:18–19)

Jesus came to lead a revolt against enemy forces who hold the world hostage. These forces have have subjected all of creation to the slavery of corruption. This corruption runs deep. Some of Jesus’ healings were about bringing order to that corruption, and some (exorcisms) were in direct confrontation with the enemy forces responsible for that corruption.

It does me good to see that Jesus never makes the demonized or afflicted carry the weight of guilt for their condition. He doesn’t accuse them of being punished or disciplined. Rather, he simply confronts their oppressor and sets them free.

2. It’s part of God’s plan

Maybe even more surprising is that Jesus never attributes the suffering of others to the mysterious will of God. As I said in the previous section, Jesus challenges each illness and act of demonic oppression as if their presence is a direct affront to God’s will. There is no moment where Jesus looks to the distressed and indicates that they suffer as part of God’s greater plan.

When Peter sums up Jesus ministry, he says this, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. . .” (Acts 10:38) And John sums up the works of Jesus as being “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” Oppression and sickness were always treated as malevolent manifestations of a demonic kingdom.

The significance of what Christ didn’t say about the healings he performed is staggering. And although he ultimately destroyed the works of Satan on the cross, we still live in occupied territory. We are still routing the enemy, and dealing with a creation that is under slavery to corruption.

As we partner with Christ in redeeming all of creation to himself, our prayer matters. We are at work confronting the enemy in his strongholds, where he is at work killing, stealing, and destroying (Jn 10:10). We cannot afford to be attributing the oppression of the enemy to the mysterious work of the Lord.

In Luke Jesus says sums up his confrontation with evil this way, “When a strong manfully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder (Lk 11:21–22).”

The strong man is Satan, and creation is the house he’s guarding. Jesus came, confronted him throughout his ministry, and overpowered him at the cross. But we are still at work because the enemy is at work with great wrath because he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:12).

Let’s attribute his nefarious work to the right source, and continue to confront him. Soon . . . soon we will be dividing up the spoils of victory.

Image: Dmitry Kalinin

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Barnabas Holleran #

    So encouraging, especially that second point. While the fact that we’re being attacked by a demonic kingdom is less than comforting, it IS comforting to be able to attribute hardship to an enemy, rather than to the one who rules over us.

    July 30, 2013
  2. Well said, and true. Re: your post about meeting Ghandi in heaven may indeed be possible. He may have met Jesus on his death bed.

    August 1, 2013
  3. Just found your blog and have been blessed by your insightful & challenging posts, brother! I would have to disagree with this particular one though. Not every form of suffering is demonic. Not everything is due to sin or a fallen world. Some suffering really is part of His plan. It’s all about His glory. Just thinking of the blind man in John 9 or Joseph’s story. What do we do with “God meant it for good?” Or the God who brings calamity in Isaiah 45:7, or Exodus 4:11 where God tells Moses “Who makes man mute, deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I the LORD?” If God tells us to attribute some instances of suffering to Him, I think we need to expand our view of His sovereignty to include those times. As a dad who lost a child (who was born with multiple disabilities), I’ve found that trusting God’s character and knowing His ways are higher than mine has brought our family peace.

    August 8, 2013
  4. Scott #

    Yes he freaking d

    August 10, 2013
    • Thanks for going back and amending this comment by the way.

      August 10, 2013
  5. Scott Sotomayor #

    Yes he does! When he the Pharisees ask who sinned that the man was born blind, his parents or himself. Jesus replied “this happened so that the power of God can be seen in him” John 9:3. So he basically says this is to further the kingdom of heaven. That this man was born into a life of trials for his own good.

    August 10, 2013
    • Check your Greek in John 9:3. The verse should not be interpreted as suggesting that God’s will is behind this man’s blindness. The original verse does not say that “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed.” The Greek simply has hina with the aorist subjunctive passive of phaneroo (“to manifest”) and can readily be translated as, “But let the works of God be manifested.”

      August 10, 2013
  6. Thanks for the article. I was a cancer patient the first time at 33, with two small children (6 months and 2.5 years old). Now at 54 I have no colon and am on disability. It is wonderful to see somebody “get it”. Comfort does not come from cliche, “proper”, or “spritual” catch phrases or attitudes. True comfort comes from people willing to listen and help carry the load without blame or cliche.

    Many thanks.

    August 11, 2013

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