February 23 - March 1
The Great Controversy and the Miracles of Jesus
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Matt. 8:5-13; 12:22-32; Mark 5:25-34; John 5:1-18; John 11:1-45.
MEMORY TEXT: "'I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die' "(John 11:25, NRSV).
KEY QUESTIONS: What do Jesus' miracles portray about Him? How did they advance the cause of salvation, and how did they confront Satan's position in the great controversy?
MIRACLES WITH MEANING. A miracle is an occurrence we cannot understand because of the limitations inherent in human knowledge. They are things that happen outside the known bounds of science and natural law; they can't be explained by common physical phenomena. That's why, in fact, they're called miracles.
The Bible records about thirty-five miracles that Jesus performed while in the flesh. Each one served a specific purpose, and all of them together advanced His mission of defeating Satan, death, and sin. These miracles also show how closely the conflict between good and evil is fought in the lives of individuals.
This week we will study five miracles that focus on how Jesus brought healing, life, and truth to those who so desperately needed them. In addition to illustrating Jesus' power and authority, the miracles also testify to His mission as the One sent by the Father to save humankind from the consequences of sin, something far beyond our capacityeven in the age of the Internet, space shuttles, and limb transplantsto do for ourselves. Good news, indeed!
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 2.)
Sunday February 24
Explain the significance of the question Jesus asked the invalid lying by the pool (John 5:6).
T his man's biography is brief. Because of a 38-year illness, he had lost everything, including hope, family, and friends. He was a victim of greedwhen the waters of the pool stirred, others who believed that healing could be found in the waters pushed him out of their way. He, like all of us, was suffering the consequences of sin, both his own sin and the sins of others, though at that point in his life and experience, it hardly mattered whose.
What four results did this miracle produce, and how do they shed light on the great controversy?
John 5:14 _________________________________________________________________________
John 5:15 _________________________________________________________________________
John 5:16, 18 ______________________________________________________________________
John 5:17 __________________________________________________________________
In this account, Satan's ongoing war against God's law is seen, but from a different perspective. Satan would have us believe that it is harsh, unfair, and impossible to keep; thus he does everything he can to place it in a bad light, even using the supposed defenders of the law to do his work. That's what happened here. It was over the lawthe Sabbath (of all things!)that Jesus faced attacks by those who claimed that He was violating the law. How ironic that Jesus, the Lawgiver Himself, would be accused of breaking the law, especially by those who saw themselves in the role of defending the law. The irony should not be lost.
|What's so sad about this story is how Satan was able to manipulate the leaders, using their own supposed adherence to the law to blind them to the deeper issue, which was Jesus. In other words, ignoring the miracle that had just happened, they attacked the Lord because He, supposedly, violated the law. What lessons are here for those of us who see ourselves as defenders of the law (and the Sabbath!)?|
Discord among humans was one of the first effects of the great controversy on this earth. When Cain killed Abel, Satan rejoiced that he had succeeded in this work of disunity. Jesus' mission, therefore, included not only physical healing but spiritual healing that would bring people together and facilitate the spreading of the gospel.
In this context, the centurion's request was most unusual for two reasons. First of all, as a career military officer, the centurion was responsible for 100 Roman soldiers; and the Hebrews despised the Romans for their oppression over them. Second, the centurion sought help for his slave. Both Greeks and Romans considered slaves to be less than human (the Roman author Cato counseled people to throw out old, sick slaves along with useless agricultural implements).
Satan revels in such attitudes, for not only do they represent his character (as opposed to Christ's); they prevent the spread of the gospel. But the centurion stands in direct contrast to Satan and in harmony with the gospel's initiative to break down the barriers that divide humanity.
What caused Jesus to commend the centurion, and why? Matt. 8:8-10.
How interesting that a Roman, a Gentile, showed such faith in Christ. No wonder Jesus replied: "And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:11).
This centurion, born in heathenism, educated in the idolatry of imperial Rome, trained as a soldier, seemingly cut off from spiritual life by his education and surroundingsand still further shut out by the bigotry of those who viewed themselves as the exclusive heirs of salvationhe nevertheless responded in faith to Christ in ways that those who should have didn't. What a rebuke to those who claimed to be God's faithful servants.
|A young man, having read some Adventist literature, was so excited about what he read that he rushed to an Adventist church at his first opportunity. Sadly, the church he entered was cold and dead, and in the lobby afterward he even heard some people talking in a way that cast doubt upon our message. In what ways does this story here parallel the story of the centurion?|
The New Testament recognizes the reality of demon possession, but many people today attribute its symptoms solely to physical or psychological deficiencies.
Describe the reaction of the general public and the Pharisees to the healing of the demoniac. Matt. 12:22-24. Why did each group react the way it did? How did Jesus answer the charge that He cast out the devil under the direction of Beelzebub? Vss. 24-32.
Part of Jesus' answer includes a parable in verse 29, which shows the foolishness of the religious leaders' reaction and sheds a great deal of light on the great controversy. This parable "reinforces the truth stated in v. 28 that the 'kingdom of God' is come and that the kingdom of Satan is being invaded." The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 395.
Read Matthew 12:29. What was Jesus saying with these words? How can we apply His warning here in our own lives as we need to protect our own "homes" from the enemy?
In this chapter, Jesus places before us a non-negotiable choice. Choosing Christ results in being gathered into the kingdom; choosing Beelzebub results in being scattered under judgment. We all take sides in the great controversy; by not taking sides, by claiming to be neutral, we, automatically, by default, wind up on Satan's side. That's just the nature of reality.
Jesus also adds one more element here: the unpardonable sin (vs. 32). This sin occurs when we persistently reject Christ and deliberately choose options contrary to the principles of His kingdom, when we no longer view sin for what it is, when we mistake darkness for light, when Satan's lies become to us the truth, and when our hearts are so hardened they no longer recognize the need for forgiveness. Thus, when someone fears that he or she has committed the unpardonable sin, in what ways does that fear show that this person, in fact, hasn't committed it?
|Read Matthew 12:30. Those are very strong words. They leave no middle ground. Look at your own life. You can't be in the middle (it doesn't exist). Ask yourself: Which direction am I gathering in?|
For twelve years, Satan held this woman captive to an incurable hemorrhage that weakened her, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. Because this condition rendered her unclean (Lev. 15:25-27), she could not meet with family and friends for worship and fellowship. Having tried everything, having spent all, having lost all hope, she heard that Jesus was coming to town. Might He be able to help her?
What types of things do you think she heard about Jesus? (Matt. 8:5-9, 13; Mark 1:29-34, 40-45; 2:1-12.)
Was Jesus her last resort or her first bright hope? Explain your answer.
Before Jesus healed this woman, He had performed at least sixteen miracles on all sorts of people. Is it possible that some of them told her about what He had done for them? Spreading the good news about Jesus is one of the first steps we must take in defeating Satan.
But hearing about Jesus is not enough. Hearing must lead to faith, and faith must lead to action. None of the people whom Jesus healed hoped to live a normal, joyful life until he or she came to Him, and in this woman's case, not only until she came but until she touched.
We cannot be victorious in the great controversy until we "touch" Jesus. The type of faith that saves is not an intellectual approval or acceptance of truth but a faith that makes Him our personal Savior. As it was with the woman, so it must be with us. "Genuine faith is life. A living faith means an increase of vigor, a confiding trust, by which the soul becomes a conquering power."The Desire of Ages, p. 347.
Faith must have power to "arrest" God, to "stop" Him on Main Street. "Who touched Me?" asked Jesus. The question is not one of rebuke but of recognition that in this battle-scarred world where Satan claims victory, faith can reach out and touch God.
|However much comfort we can draw from Jesus' miracles of healing, no doubt one question often remains. As far as the Gospel records go, Jesus healed everyone who came to Him. Today, however, we all know that though we pray to Jesus for healing, it doesn't always come. Does that mean He cares any less? If not, how do we understand the difference between what happened in the Gospels and what happens today?|
As their brother grew seriously ill, Mary and Martha turned to Jesus for help. No doubt they, too, had heard of Jesus' many miracles; perhaps they had even seen some. In addition, verse 3 suggests that Jesus and Lazarus had a special friendship. The word here translated love means "admiration," "respect," and "esteem."
If Jesus' relationship with Lazarus was so special, why did He delay going to his house? Vss. 14, 25.
"He tarried, that by raising Lazarus from the dead He might give to His stubborn, unbelieving people another evidence that He was indeed 'the resurrection, and the life.' He was loath to give up all hope of the people, the poor, wandering sheep of the house of Israel."The Desire of Ages, p. 529. Also, had "Christ been in the sickroom, Lazarus would not have died; for Satan would have had no power over him. Death could not have aimed his dart at Lazarus in the presence of the Life-giver. Therefore Christ remained away. He suffered the enemy to exercise his power, that He might drive him back, a conquered foe."Page 528.
Raising Lazarus was the one miracle above all the others that established Christ as the Truth over and against Satan's opposing claims.
Satan's extremes. Satan attempts to work both ends against the middle, at least regarding the question of death, a question that, to some degree, everyone thinks about.
For many modern, secular minds, death is the end of everything human: We just stop functioning, our body decays, and we go back to the emptiness out of which we first arose. There's nothing else for us, so we might as well enjoy our time here the best we can.
In contrast, many others believe that there's something inherently eternal that naturally exists within us and that even if we "die," that is, our bodies decay, this eternal element goes on living, so that in the end we really don't die. Thus, whatever we do here, eternal life awaits us.
If people believe one way or the other, they really don't need Jesus, do they? On one hand, they die and everything's forever over, whether they believe in Him or not; on the other, they go on living anyway, Jesus or no Jesus in their lives. Lies can be multifaceted (coming in all different forms, shapes, and colors), in contrast to truth, which doesn't come in so many options.
|How does what Jesus said and did in the story of Lazarus help debunk both of these demonic lies about death?|
FURTHER STUDY: This week we studied five of Jesus' miracles to see what we could learn about the great controversy. What else do the following miracles teach us about the great controversy: (1) Matt. 14:22-33; (2) Mark 1:21-28?
"The demoniac, in place of prayer, could utter only the words of Satan; yet the heart's unspoken appeal was heard. No cry from a soul in need, though it fail of utterance in words, will be unheeded. Those who will consent to enter into covenant relation with the God of heaven are not left to the power of Satan or to the infirmity of their own nature. [Isa. 27:5 quoted.] The spirits of darkness will battle for the soul once under their dominion, but angels of God will contend for that soul with prevailing power. The Lord says, . . . 'The prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.' Isa. 49:24, 25."The Desire of Ages, pp. 258, 259.
The following provide more material on the miracles we studied this week: The Desire of Ages, "Bethesda and the Sanhedrin," pp. 201-213; "At Capernaum," pp. 252-261; "The Centurion," pp. 315-320.
SUMMARY: Jesus' miracles brought healing to the sick, freedom to the captives of sin, rebuke to the demons, sight to the blind, acceptance to the rejected, life to the dead, and above all, forgiveness to those who needed it. The miracles also carried the hope that the God who walked amid humanity would win the great controversy, that the One who said "I am the resurrection and the life" would have the last word against sin and death.
Hatuna and Gogi, refugees from the country of Georgia, moved to the village of Zaoksky, Russia, near the Adventist Theological Seminary. The young father was not well, and the family learned that he had cancer.
While buying bread in the market, Hatuna met two Georgian girls who were studying at the seminary. As they talked the students learned about the family's desperate needs. Gogi could not work, and the family had no money.
The students shared the family's situation with their Sabbath School class, who began visiting Gogi in the hospital.
Masha and her husband, Sasha, members of the class, love people and quickly took this family under their wings. One day Masha planned to visit the family, but the important errand slipped her mind during her busy day. All day she knew she must do something important, but she could not remember what it was. Then late at night as she was preparing for bed, she remembered that she had not visited this family. When she told her husband, he asked, "Do you want to go now?" Masha quickly gathered some food and wrote a note. If the family was already asleep, she would put the note and food on the windowsill, where they could find it the next morning.
When Masha and Sasha arrived at the house, all the lights were on. Masha knew something was wrong. When they knocked, Hatuna opened the door. Her face was wet with tears, and Masha could hear loud cries. Gogi was in terrible pain.
Masha and Sasha offered to pray for Gogi. As they ended their prayer, Gogi's pain subsided. The couple stayed to read the Bible with them and encourage them. When they left, Gogi's pain was gone.
Gogi and Hatuna began attending Sabbath School, and in time they were baptized. Gogi wanted to return to Georgia to die, but the family had no money to travel. The Sabbath School members, none of whom had more than bare essentials themselves, pooled their money and bought them tickets to Georgia. Before they left, Gogi and Hatuna promised to keep in touch.
When the couple arrived in Georgia, Gogi was weak, but felt no pain. A doctor examined him and could find no cancer. It has been five years since Gogi and Hatuna left Zaoksky, and Gogi remains alive and well. The family remains faithful to their Lord and shares the miracle of his healing with those they meet.
Maria Salnikova is the dean of women at Zaoksky Theological Seminary in Russia.
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