A few days ago, cancer took my brother’s life. Even though the insidious disease resisted treatment every step of the way, he managed to hold it at bay for over thirteen long years. Meanwhile, he was able to see his two children into their teen years and to establish a life legacy that those of us who knew him will carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Roger is ninth of my parents ten children that I am oldest of. A simple man by choice, he was devoted to his family and successful in his work. Accomplished in golf, the game was not so much a platform for his golfing skills and intense competitiveness as just another avenue through which he touched others with his character, wit, warmth and genuineness. Family, golf, character and a great sense of humor are four common descriptors expressed about Roger.
Although Roger was raised in a church-going home, faith is not a descriptor readily used for him. Catholic-schooled through high school, he faithfully attended Sunday and holy day services his entire life and raised his children in the Catholic tradition. Otherwise, faith was a private matter for him. On one occasion that I asked him if his faith provided strength during his illness, he said he found strength in his family and their love for him.
I pray he also received faith from his family along with their love and support. The gospels offer some precedent in many instances of people bringing others to Jesus for healing. On two instances, Jesus acknowledged the faith of the bringer(s) in the healing of the brought – 1) the centurion requesting healing for his servant (Luke 7: 1-10) and 2) the friends who lowered the paralyzed man to Jesus through a hole they dug in the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching (Mark 2: 1-5).
If anyone could be healed through the faith of others, Roger would surely qualify. Many intercessory pray-ers lifted Roger up to the Lord during the years he battled cancer.
Healing was a big drawing card for Jesus’ earthly ministry but when Jesus began to focus on the necessity for the Messiah to suffer, die and be raised for the redemption of all people, his popularity waned and the crowds thinned. As if to show how healing rarely gives rise to faith.As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. (Luke 11:29)
Healing demonstrated Jesus’ power to heal but the cross is where Jesus’ greatest demonstration of power occurred – where he laid down his life for his friends to rise again in three days and break the stranglehold of sin that is the cause for all that we suffer – sickness, pain, despair, trial and death. All dispelled by the cross.For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)
At some point last week, Roger realized his body wouldn’t survive cancer. While his body waned, his faith would not. Rather, it would be freed to kick into higher gear to finally deliver true healing – the permanent, eternal kind not the temporary, mortal variety.
Jesus’s sacrifice for us required much on his part but what he requires of us is very small, just a tiny bit of faith…. as little as a mustard seed…He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17:6, NIV)
Faith as meager as mere crumbs of food that fall from someone else’s table….He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15:26-27, NIV)
Jesus healed but that wasn’t why he came. He came to redeem. Jesus ministry was never about healing. It was always about the cross.
Roger’s own strength and the strength of medicine and even the strength of his family’s love was insufficient to heal him in the end. But maybe their faith did. If he leaned just a little on faith in Christ that he gleaned from the faithful to who love him, both his healing and his redemption is assured.If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.(Romans 10:9).
That is my prayer for Roger – that as his others loves slipped away, he leaned just a little into the enormous, redeeming, healing, delivering love of Jesus’ cross. Then Jesus would do the rest.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelations 21:4)