Thursday, 27 February 2014

When perfection comes...

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. Isaiah 35:5-6

There is no such thing in this world as a perfectly healthy person. Even the super-fit, the person who runs a marathon every day before breakfast and cheerfully claims to be "as fit as a fiddle" - "never had a day's illness in my life!" - will in fact have some little niggle somewhere. And at some point in our lives sickness or frailty will take their toll. Paul, ever the realist, says bluntly that "outwardly we are wasting away" (2 Corinthians 4). And he should know; he never made any secret of his own aches and pains.

And so it's very natural for us to think "Wouldn't it be wonderful if every trace of physical or mental illness were banished! Wouldn't it be great to be part of a world where perfection really was the order of the day!" And perhaps we then sigh: "Dream on!"

But this is in fact the prospect the Bible holds out for us. Our perfect God is intent on making a perfect new creation in which we will live with perfect new bodies and minds. The Bible begins in perfection - Adam and Eve in the Garden - and it ends in perfection - the New Jerusalem "coming down out of heaven as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband," where (just take this in!) there will be "no more death or mourning or crying or pain" (Revelation 21).

Do you believe in these prophecies - really believe? If you do, it makes a massive difference even in the here and now. It fills our hearts with hope, and gives us a whole new perspective on life. That's why I love these joy-filled words of Isaiah. They simply explode with energy, vitality, exhilaration. They provide wonderful food for the imagination. You see that man hobbling painfully around on his zimmer frame? - well, picture him jumping up and down like a five-year-old! You see that woman groping her way up the street with her white stick? - well, can you see her gazing in wonder at that flower-bed?

But why should we believe these things? What can we say to the person who tells us it's all just wishful thinking?

Well, you don't have to read far in the Gospels to see how Isaiah's prophecies did actually come true during the three short years of Jesus' earthly ministry. When Jesus opened blind eyes (Mark 8:22-26), enabled the lame to walk (Mark 2:1-12), opened the ears of the deaf and the mute (Mark 7:31-37), why did he do these wonderful things? Daft question! you might say – he did it because he cared, because he was full of compassion. And you would of course be absolutely right. 

But there was even more to it than that. He was making a deliberate, conscious statement. He was saying to the people around - people who would have known their Old Testaments well - "You remember Isaiah 35? You remember what the prophet saw? You thought it was going to come true at the end of time, didn't you? Well, just take a look at this! It's happening now, right under your very noses!"

Those stories aren't just fairy-tales. However sceptical you may be, there has to be some solid truth behind them. So why need we doubt that the prophecies which began to find their fulfilment during Jesus' time on earth will one day come to full and total fulfilment? Didn't Jesus teach us to pray that God's perfect kingdom would come "on earth as in heaven"? (Is this, incidentally, why so many Christians seem to get drawn to be nurses or doctors?)

The Old Testament prophecies found partial fulfilment during Jesus' earthly life. And they will find full completion when the end comes. Oh yes! If your trust is in Jesus there will one day be (don’t laugh!) a perfect you. And our business, as followers of Jesus, is to live this earthly life as joyful fore-runners of that perfection which is still to come - healed, and still to be healed; saved, and still to be saved.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the healing I received when I came to Christ, and thank you for the perfect healing to which I can look forward in your heavenly kingdom. Help me, as long as I am on this earth, to be an agent of healing to those I meet. Amen.

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