Two meditations on the cross 

Isaiah 53:1-5 (KJV)

Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Meditation One 

Note: The first meditation is written as if Christ is speaking. Its first known use was by Lactantius in an Easter service during the Diocletian persecution. Some scholars claim it is the work of a desert monk, others a 2nd century prophetic voice, most retain Lactantius as the author. Debates over its authorship pales in comparison to its power and ability to transport the reader to the foot of the cross and reflection on Christ’ substitutionary work. 

“Does it please you to go through all of My pain and to experience grief with Me? 

Then consider the plots against Me and the irreverent price of My innocent blood. Consider the disciple’s pretended kisses, the crowd’s insults and abuse, and, even more, the mocking blows and accusing tongues. 

Imagine the false witness, Pilate’s cursed judgment, the immense cross pressed on My shoulders and tired back, and My painful steps to a dreadful death. 

Study Me from head to foot. I am deserted and lifted high up above My beloved mother. See My hair clotted with blood, and My head encircled with cruel thorns. For a stream of blood is pouring down like rain on all sides of My Divine face. Observe My sunken, sightless eyes and My beaten cheeks. See My parched tongue that was poisoned with gall. My face is pale with death.

Look at My hands that have been pierced with nails and My drawn-out arms. See the great wound in My side and the blood streaming from it. Imagine My pierced feet and blood-stained limbs. Then bow, and with weeping adore the wood of the cross. With a humble face, stoop to the earth that is wet with innocent blood. Sprinkle it with tears, and carry Me and My encouragement in your devoted heart.” [1] 

Meditation Two

Note: The second meditation is by St. Ambrose, a church father who is very well known. St. Ambrose writes on the mystery of the cross and how the cross changes everything. He reminds us that because of the cross, we are servants of the Lord and no longer slaves to the sin. 

“Oh the divine mystery of that cross! Weakness hangs on it, power is freed by it, evil is nailed to it, and triumphal trophies are raised toward it. 

One saint said: “Pierce my flesh with nails for fear of Thee.” He doesn’t mean nails of iron, but of fear and faith. For the chains of righteousness are stronger than those of punishment. Peter’s faith bound him when he followed the Lord as far as the high priest’s hall. No person had bound him and punishment didn’t free him since his faith bound him. Again, when Peter was bound by the Jews, prayer freed him. Punishment didn’t hold him because he hadn’t turned from Christ.

Do you also crucify sin so that you can die to sin? Those who die to sin live to God. Do you live for Him who didn’t even spare His own Son so that He could crucify our sins in His body? For Christ died for us that we could live in His revived body. Therefore, our guilt and not our life died in Him who, it is said, “bare our sins in His own body on the tree; that being set free from our sins we might live in righteousness, by the wound of whose stripes we are healed.” [2]



(1) Lactantius, Poem on the passion of the Lord

(2) Ambrose, Of the Holy Spirit 1.9

Bio - Lactantius

Lactantius (c. 240-. 320). Lactantius's writings have such a style and grace about them that he has been called the Christian Cicero. Lactantius lived thought intense persecution. He converted to Christianity, just before the publication of Diocletian's first "Edict against the Christians”, which began the Diocletian persecution. He subsequently lived in poverty according to Saint Jerome and eked out a living by writing until Constantine ended the persecution of Christians. Late in life was hired by Emperor Constantine to teach his son Crispus. Lactantius's writings defend the Christian faith and refute prevailing heresies. 

Bio - Ambrose

Ambrose (c. 339-397). Ambrose was the first Latin church father born into a Christian family. He devoted himself to studying the law and was rewarded by being appointed governor of the northern section of Italy in 370. Four years later, the people of Milan appointed him as bishop of their city. Ambrose faced down emperors while teaching the truths of Jesus on a weekly basis to the people. He did much to advance congregational singing, and composed an influential book on Christian ethics. Most notably Ambrose was instrumental in discipling a young Augustine. Without Ambrose we would not have Augustine.

Holy Monday

The Cleansing of the Temple: Matt 21:12-13 

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Isaiah 42:1-4 (CEV) 

Here is my servant! I have made him strong. He is my chosen one; I am pleased with him. I have given him my Spirit, and he will bring justice to the nations. He won’t shout or yell or call out in the streets. He won’t break off a bent reed or put out a dying flame, but he will make sure that justice is done. He won’t quit or give up until he brings justice everywhere on earth, and people in foreign nations long for his teaching.

Holy Tuesday

The Fig Tree: Matt 21:19-22 

Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

NOTE: The cursing of the fig tree happened on the road between Bethany and Jerusalem, with Bethany at a significantly lower elevation than Jerusalem. The only mountain visible from this road is the temple mount. When Jesus said, “this mountain” he likely meant the temple. The implication is, faith in Jesus will supplant the religion of works practiced at the temple. The gospel writer is making it clear that the cursing of the tree was symbolic of what God was about to do to the corrupt religious institution that the Temple had become. Furthermore, the temple had become a symbol of the works-based religion of the leaders that walked within its courts. 

The Temple Debates: Matthew 21:23-23:39, (excerpt from 21:23-27):

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24-25, (excerpt from 25:1-13):

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.


Consider Isaiah's picture of Jesus' relationship to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit's empowerment resting on the Messiah. Let the description of Isaiah color the story, to see beyond the material and recognize Christ was given all he needed to accomplish his task. Behind all the activity of Holy Week, Christ spoke by the Spirit, prayed by the Spirit and confronted injustice by the power of the Spirit.  

Isaiah 11:1-5 (NIV) 

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him 

The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, 

The Spirit of counsel and of might, 

The Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD

— and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

Spy Wednesday

NOTE: The major event of Holy Wednesday is Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. Although the betrayal doesn’t take place for another day, our knowledge of the impending act colors our reading of the Last Supper story, which we’ll encounter tomorrow. On this day, the die was cast and the pieces set in motion to bring about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. We all know the hurt of betrayal, so does our Savior. Here is a short but critical moment from Wednesday of Holy Week:

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus: Matthew 26:14-16 (GNT)

Then one of the twelve disciples—the one named Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What will you give me if I betray Jesus to you?” They counted out thirty silver coins and gave them to him. From then on Judas was looking for a good chance to hand Jesus over to them.

Maundy Thursday

John 13:12-16 (ESV) 

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

NOTE: Thursday of Holy Week is also known as Maundy Thursday. This day witnessed several key events in the Easter story. The events of this day, particularly the Last Supper, continue to be remembered. Let’s take a look at these events as the Bible describes.

Preparing the Upper Room: Matthew 26:17-19 (NIV)

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

The Last Supper: Matthew 26:20-35. (excerpt from Matthew 26:26-29 (NRSV):

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Jesus Prays: Matthew 26:36-46 (ESV)

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples,

“Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them,

“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Holy Week among most modern evangelicals is little more than just another work week. Things don't get “alive and hopping” until Sunday or sometimes Friday night. Historically, the church has celebrated the whole week as set apart, ”Holy”, with practices and vespers organized by the church. In the next few blogs, we will look at Holy Week as outlined by the gospels; all to help prepare our hearts as we enter into one of the most sacred celebrations of the Christian faith. Below will be Scripture from the gospels arranged in chronological order with context notes to aid in understanding and devotional reflections to encourage application.


Sunday: Triumphal entry

A Dramatic Reading of Mk 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 

Jesus: “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 

Bystanders: “What are you doing, untying that colt?”  They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.  Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 

People (shouting):  “Hosanna!”

     “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

     “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

     “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

NOTE: What happened and what Jesus taught during the time he was in the temple courts in Mark 11:11, before going back to Bethany, is recorded for us in John 12. 

A Dramatic Reading of Jn 12:20-33 

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, 

Greek Pilgrims (to Philip): “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 

Jesus (to Philip and Andrew): “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

[Suddenly] a voice came from heaven

The Father: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”   

The crowd of people surrounding Jesus were confused.

Some in the Crowd: “It sounded like thunder.”

Others: “An angel has spoken to him.” 

Jesus: “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 

                 Now is the judgment of this world; 

                      Now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 

              When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”

He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.…

                    [End of Reading]


In His triumphal entry, Jesus enters Jerusalem as Israel’s prophet, priest, and king. Mark makes clear, all three aspects of the messianic office are alluded to in the passage. 

Jesus’ descriptions of where they will find the colt He is to ride and how they shall get it has the feel of  knowledge. Some kind of spiritual knowledge he ought not have known. The peculiar accuracy seems like something lifted right from a story of the Old Testament prophets. Mark is making sure we see Jesus in his prophetic office. Mark notes the donkey had never been ridden. This obscure fact is not without significance since in Numbers 28-29, Deuteronomy 15, and Deuteronomy 26, any animal used in the offering of sacrifice should be "unblemished" and thus set apart for ceremonial (non-ordinary) usage. The donkey had never been used, and so it could be used for a priestly service. Mark is making sure we see Jesus in his priestly office.

Mark also notes the crowd’s response. Jesus rides into Jerusalem to the sound of praise as if He were a conquering king. Cloaks and palm branches are spread out before Him as one would for a king. A prophecy from Zech 9:9 ties Him riding a donkey to the kingly office. Mark is making sure we see Jesus as king. 

Jesus enters Jerusalem in a way that radically redefines the people’s expectation. After all, donkeys are not warhorses; you don’t seek a cavalry galloping into battle on donkeys. In this triumphal entry, Jesus makes it clear He does not intend to conquer and rule in a worldly way. On His cross, the very means and meaning of power, glory, and even victory, will be subverted and supplanted. He will accomplish the mission given Him by the Father, but it will come in a vastly different way than anyone expected. 

Reflect on Philippians 2:5-8 (CSB) in Light of the Triumphal Entry 

Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead, he emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when He had come as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. 

NOTE: Consider the triumphal entry as a journey down into humility and service. For Jesus’ victory is upside down to the ways of the world. His triumph comes through suffering, His power though obedience, His victory through love. 

After reading the stories coming out of china I questioned my own experience. Why is it so easy for people in China to pray for others? Whereas, here in the West, we don't have people seeking out a christian to pray for healing. In the West, many dismiss the idea, most are just indifferent, in any case it is a very different response. In China, religious concern over matters of health and physical well-being is fueled by two factors: culture and economics. The two factors reveal how God has providentially set up China to be open to prayers for divine healing. 

1. Socioeconomic level

At the socioeconomic level, there is a lack of medical care for the majority of the people. Chronic illness is the number one cause of impoverishment in China. [1] Contrary to the political promises of the CCPD, 75 years of socialism has only produced a scandalous insufficiency of medical care for a majority of the population.

“Medical care has long benefited a privileged elite only…Medical care in China is not free, and often doctors must be bribed to gain their full attention. Health insurance systems are nonexistent in rural areas, and large segments of China's peasant population can simply not afford to seek sound treatment in the cities, while the cheaper doctors at the village and township levels are usually poorly trained.” [2] 

The lack of medical care has led to a desperation among many for healing. Such a need is often an open door to receive prayer. 

2. Religious/cultural level 

Chinese people have always put a strong focus on health, diet, and spiritual and physical energies as understood by Daoism. Daoism is a truly indigenous Chinese religion and it has a lot to say about the topic. Daoist alchemy forms the basis for much of the Chinese view of health. In Daoism, physical well-being is seen as an outward sign of the believer's harmony with the Dao, whereas illness is understood as a symptom of religious imperfection. It developed theories about the connection between sin and sickness, meditation and healing. Spiritual purification is obtained through prayer and meditation.  The practicer of the Dao was viewed as going to the root of sickness as it enabled them to appease the evil spirits or correct any imbalance responsible for maladies. [3]  Daoism’s answers to human problems of sickness are intriguing half-truths which, from a Christian perspective, make for whole lies. Yet, its larger influence allows for an openness to healing prayers by the general population.   

Unlike the materialistic Western mindset, the Chinese mindset, influenced by Daoist thinking, holds as plausible the idea that physical problems can have spiritual solutions. Ideas such as: evil spirits can afflict the body, or, prayer can bring real, measurable healing. These ideas are seen as suspect or outright ridiculed in the Western medical establishment. Yet in China, these ideas, as they are understood on a cultural and popular level, make for an openness to alternative means of healing. Thus, people are open to the possibility of prayer for divine healing and even deliverance as a means of healing. Due to this openness, Christian believers do not shy away from telling unbelievers (often neighbors and friends) who are ill they should believe in Jesus for their recovery. This is not to say that signs and wonders are not needed in the West. That is most definitely not the case. It is to point out that we have particular hurdles to overcome that are not present in China. 

The Chinese context is one of a need for healing and an openness when it comes to divine healing. The numerous reports of divine healings, especially in the rural areas, often open the way for outsiders to ask for prayer. The result is that unbelievers who do not find a cure within the established medical system often seek out Christians and ask them for prayer so that they can be healed. This has led to a rather forthright approach on the side of Christians. Oblau quotes Zhang Guangming, a peasant evangelist in Yunnan Province. Zhang explains the way he prepares unbelievers for prayer. He often begins by telling non-Christians who request his prayer for healing: “I will gladly pray for you to my God. But if you don't recover, you must not blame me. And if you recover, you should not thank me but give thanks to my God.” [4]. Oblau goes on to explain how God has used this man to lead whole villages to the Lord. The pattern outlined by the evangelist is indicative of the method used by many believes in China. 

Healing is considered a sign of the kingdom. Jesus taught his disciples that when someone is healed to tell them the kingdom has come near (Luke 10:9). So, when people are healed, we know that the kingdom has come in power. To use a modern metaphor, “signs of the kingdom” are the purest form of gorilla marketing. [5] Guerrilla marketing is a marketing tactic in which a company uses surprising and/or unconventional interactions in order to promote something. It often relies on small scale, personal interaction to get the word out in a particular location rather than through sensational ads or celebrity endorsements in a widespread “blitzkrieg” media campaign.  While the gospel is no product but rather the power of God unto salvation, and the kingdom is no gimmick, but God’s rule and reign made evident on the earth, we can see parallels between the way God moves in power and this marketing concept. A local church is nothing more than a small band of believers taking hold of the responsibility for getting the word out in a particular location who use surprising and unconventional interactions that involve the kingdom coming in power.  It is also important to note that when power is experienced in a smaller context, through personal interaction, it is more easily pastored but can also be highly leveraged for the kingdom. 


[1] Katrin Fiedler, “The Growth of the Protestant Church in Rural China,”  China Study Journal  (Spring– Summer 2008): 49

[2] Gotthard Oblau,  “Divine Healing and the Growth of Practical Christianity in China,” in Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, Edt. Candy Gunther Brown (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011) 

[3] M. Kobayashi, “The Celestial Masters under the Eastern Jin and Liu-Song Dynasties,”  Taoist Resources  3.2 (May 1992): 17–46.  

[4] Gotthard Oblau,  “Divine Healing and the Growth of Practical Christianity in China,” in Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, Edt. Candy Gunther Brown (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011) 312

[5] The term is a bit dated but still common among the marketing chads and bros.


Divine healing can also be understood biblically in a holistic sense. Some point to how the Greek word for save means wholeness. Others highlight the full scope of the meta-narrative to support the view. A holistic view affirms that God’s healing power is understood to extend to the transformation of individuals and communities. The belief that the gospel brings wholeness, which extends into healing in all its aspects, has been a transformative concept for the church in China. Such an inclusive concept of health existents God’s power into all aspects of the community. Where ordinary christians, in ordinary ways are used to bring extraordinary healing and flourishing to people and communities. This is the way.

A real world examples of this can be seen all over China. The below narrative of God’s grassroots transformation of a community is taken from Oblau’s field notes, recorded in Fujian Province (May 1997):  

Xiyang, an extremely poor village in the coastal mountains of Fujian Province. Church history in Xiyang village covers scarcely 30 years. It originated through three experiences, one of sudden death and two of apparently divine healing. A young girl from Xiyang had been sold by her parents into marriage to a man from another province. When she arrived at her in-laws', her fiancé had suddenly died. But instead of blaming her for bringing bad luck, which would have been expected, the grieving parents received her in generous hospitality. They turned out to be Christians, and under their influence the young woman from Xiyang became a Christian herself. After some time, she moved home to Xiyang, where she openly confessed her faith but managed to win over only a few elderly women, until one day a nine-year-old boy fell into the village pond and almost drowned. He was pulled out of the water unconscious and carried home. Since the village had no real road connection and the next clinic was very far, his parents and their neighbors resigned themselves to his fate. The Christian believers, however, came and sat at the boy's bedside, asking God for the boy's life, until many hours later he awoke and recovered quickly and fully. As a result, many young people and entire families joined the Christian group.


Later, a young woman called You Muhua married into Xiyang. She was a recent Christian convert. Prayers in her aunt's house church had reputedly cured her from chronic fatigue and turned her into a fervent Christian. Her personal healing testimony plus her record of nine years of schooling gave her sufficient credentials to be put in charge of preaching and pastoring in the emerging house church.  Meanwhile, the social situation of the area was unhealthy and disheartening. Some young men had been sentenced to death and executed for crimes, including piracy. Poverty and destitution had led them to seek their fortune by robbing and sometimes murdering people down the coast. You's husband, too, had been involved in criminal activities. The young Christian woman, however, managed to win him over, and told all who were willing to hear that the Lord Jesus wanted people to repent from their wrongdoings and in turn would provide for their sustenance. Xiyang's new converts developed an active social life. A visitation team looked regularly after all Christian families and cared for the sick, a production team organized assistance during times of sowing and harvesting for families with insufficient labor power, a know-how team of several young people was sent to the county town to attend courses in mushroom growing and the tending of orange trees. They shared their newly acquired knowledge with Christians and non-Christians alike, and the entire village population benefited from the Christian presence in numerous ways. When the Christian congregation had outgrown You's family courtyard, the local Communist cadres provided a piece of land for a special price and helped to build a church. They had become sympathetic to Christianity as they observed how it brought social and economic development and drastically lowered the crime rate. A simple brick structure was erected. As people leave the building now, they pass underneath an inscription above the door which reads “Peace to those who go out.” [1] 

[1] Gotthard Oblau,  “Divine Healing and the Growth of Practical Christianity in China,” in Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, Edt. Candy Gunther Brown (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011) 324-325

In China, the following testimonies are typical of the part healing prayers play in evangelism. Below are several testimonies from Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, Oxford University Press, 2011. Each of these testimonies have been peer reviewed and verified for publications.

A common testimony 1 

I used to be a party member . . .  . So of course I was an atheist, I didn't believe in anything. But then my daughter contracted some kind of heart disease . . .  . We were so poor; we didn't have much money for expensive treatments. At that time, someone introduced the Gospel to me. I started to pray and became a believer . . .  . My daughter also believed. After ten days, she could leave the hospital because she was much better. After that, my whole family became Christian.  . . .  And the really miraculous thing is: Since then, none of us has ever been back to the hospital ever. We didn't have to spend one penny on health care!   [1]

A common testimony 2

My neighbor fell seriously ill. She was hospitalized, but the doctors couldn't help her…. She tried what she could to regain her health. Finally she said, “I will try and become a Christian now, then the other Christians will come to pray for me. Perhaps that will help.” The woman was indeed healed!    [2]      

Testimony of a peasant woman from Li Shuying

(In this testimony, the distinction between the spirits of Daoism and the Jesus of Christianity is clearly seen. Especially note how the peasant women is awed by Jesus’ graciousness. She emphasizes that Jesus does not demand money or sacrifices, but simply responds to prayers and hymn singing.)

About ten years ago, I suffered from serious anemia. I fainted frequently; but in order to earn a living, I had to sell fruit every day on the streets. One day, I overheard someone say that I was possessed by six demons. I was very frightened and asked the help of a sorceress. I spent a lot of money with her, but my health was not a bit improved. Another day, while selling fruit, I heard some strangers reciting unfamiliar words which I later learned were the Ten Commandments. These people claimed that Jesus was the greatest god and could heal the most stubborn illness. I hurried home to tell my husband what I had heard on the street, adding that I was determined to seek this greatest god. My husband, however, mistook the word Jesus for Zushi [founder of Daoism], because the two sound familiar in Hakka. But I knew it could not be Zushi, for I remember clearly that this god, Jesus, did not take chickens or ducklings as offerings.  Then, months later, I came across a preacher named Jiang Yunying and I inquired about Jesus. She first taught me to sing a hymn of praise. I was so anxious to seek God, I memorized the whole hymn and it has stayed in my heart: “Opening the door we see the blue sky. Do not worry about firewood, or about money. Do not worry about rice, or about clothing. For all these are in the hands of the Lord.”  . . .  Every Sunday I asked my husband to take me [to church] to Huacheng by bicycle, a journey of 17 miles one way. It was through [the preacher's] influence that I learned to be an honest person. Like all hawkers, I too often gained extra advantage at the expense of the customer. To be a Christian means that I must never cheat again. In practical terms, I lost money in my business. This antagonized even my own mother, but I cared little about the derision and taunting of others. On the contrary, I felt enthusiastic and shared with them what I learned from the church.  Now, my anemia is gone, my whole family, including my mother, are Christians, and my business is good. With all these blessings, how could I ever forget to thank the Lord?   [3]       

Testimony of a professor turned preacher 

A retired physics professor turned preacher in Jiujiang (Jiangxi Province) relayed to the interviewers an account of how he came to believe in divine healing. 

While traveling to villages around his city, he was approached by a farmer who had a tumor the size of a soccer ball on his leg. This farmer had been to a hospital and was informed that his condition was too serious to be remedied by any other (Western or traditional) cure than an operation. Like most farmers in China, however, he lacked health insurance, and the necessary operation would have cost more than he earned in a year. He thus had few options besides asking prayer for healing. As a scientist who had worked in an ideological environment of enlightened materialism and as a church worker trained in “western” theology, the preacher was skeptical about divine healing. However, due to the farmer's urging and out of love for this poor, stricken man, the preacher gave in and said a prayer, since he could not help him financially. When he visited the village again a few weeks later, the farmer came running toward him, greeted him enthusiastically, then pulled up one trouser leg to show him that the tumor had all but disappeared.   [4]    

Testimony from a female leader in Shaanxi Province  

The healing of my daughter was just the beginning of my faith. But there is a lot of faith healing around here. In most cases, people first start asking about Christ when they are sick. They don't have any other way to go. To believe in Christ is their last resort, when nothing else is possible. When they have received Christ, they also realize the need for change and repentance. Of course, those who are ill and experience other obstacles on their life roads need to believe in Christ, but those who don't have these obstacles need to believe even more . . .  . Because we don't just believe in Jesus for reasons of our flesh, our body. We need the salvation of our souls. Faith is not just for now, it is also for the future . . .  . So, if you are healed, you should believe, but if you are not healed, you should also believe. Because faith is not only for our life on earth.  [5]

China church DNA: Prayer, Care and Love 

The connection between religious conversion and healing from an illness may not always be as simple as the testimonies suggest. As Oblau has pointed out, healing prayer is practiced in a natural way by everyone. Thus, it is not an isolated ritual abstracted from the context of community but an integral part of life in community. It is one aspect of the loving, comforting, and supportive attention shown to the hurting by the church. 

So it is not just a spectacular healing that brings Chinese people to the faith but also the care for one another observed by outsiders. Oblau notes that in his own experience, many attest to seeing the apparent commitment and care with which the church representatives keep visiting their members in the hospital. Such observations produce appreciation often leading to curiosity. Further, in China, family is important. The virtues of loyalty and love within the family are common. Yet rarely, if ever, does it extend out beyond the bounds of blood. What makes Christianity so attractive in China is the expansion of traditional family values to the extended family of the church. That people help each other though they are not blood relatives causes astonishment and admiration from outsiders. Even when prayers do not seem to bring immediate healing, those receiving prayer are often observed to experience a betterment of life. A spectacular recovery often gets people’s attention, but it is the care and familial bond among the faithful that makes Christianity attractive. 

Oblau points to a holistic view of healing as a central of the Chinese church's view of divine healing. It is never about a Holy Spirit whammy. Where everything is made right in a moment, almost magically, like the end of a Disney movie. God never works that way for we are all works in process. Pastors should also not work that way. It takes more than an a hand on your forehead with a strong shazam to bring wholeness. It takes community, not celebrity, to make people whole. This consumeristic, prepackaged, Amazon-shipped, view of healing that claims instantaneous cures without personal engagement and community involvement is a doctrinal virus in need of eradication. Divine healing can happen in a moment. The dead are raised. The lame walk. God moves in power and the sick are made whole. But that is not the end of the story, only the beginning, the start of a path to wholeness if one is willing to walk it. 

The Chinese church understands that the gospel brings wholeness. The healing found in Christianity extends to all aspects of life; relational, physical, spiritual, emotional. Yet, this process happens as prayer, care, and the love of Christ are practiced in community. In this way, God’s healing power is experienced as love and care are actualized in terms of social support, nurturing human relationships, and improved living conditions. In this sense, healing is a process of unfolding wholeness. So in reality, a personally experienced health crisis, help received, and betterment felt (with or without full healing) becomes the starting point for the majority of converts in China’s churches.  


In the next blog, we will look deeper into the Chinese church's holistic view of healing. Also see our playlist on healing  found on Remnant’s  Youtube page



[1] Währisch-Oblau, interview, Shaanxi Province (1997).       

[2] Währisch-Oblau, interview, Zhejiang Province (1991). These events took place during the Cultural Revolution, when all religious activities were officially banned.   

[3] Areopagus: Magazine of the Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre  (Advent 1993): 28.    

[4] Währisch-Oblau, field notes (Feb. 1993). 

[5] Währisch-Oblau, field notes, Shaanxi Province (1997).

Normalizing healing is an aim here at Remnant. By this, we mean normalizing the practice of praying for healing, believing that God will meet His people if we seek, knock, and ask. It means believing God continues to bring His “kingdom in power.” We believe Jesus commissioned His church to proclaim the gospel. If we ask that proclamation can be accompanied with signs following (Mark 16:19-20; Heb 2:3-4; Acts 4:29-30). 

Where do we begin? What model do we hold out as faithful to the mission? I believe all would agree, the need of every community of faith, no matter the context, is a growing trust in God’s Word and a deepening life of prayer. The testimony of the Chinese church is a good example to hold out to us all. Oblau describes the Chinese church’s commitment to living out the Word (He also delivers a funny quips): 

“Chinese Christians tend to read the Bible literally and prescriptively. For them, there is no historical-critical or theological gap between the text and their present-day reality. They are definitely not cessationists. Biblical healing stories go hand-in-hand with reports circulated in villages today.”[1]

He quotes a church elder in eastern China, explaining why they believe in praying for healing:  

In Christ, our Lord, we can see God's love. His love is the same yesterday, today and certainly in the future, too. Because His love does not change, we who believe and follow Him can do what the Lord has allowed us to do: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. When the Lord Jesus Christ lived on earth almost 2000 years ago, He helped a lot of sick and wretched people. Our church today is in no other situation at all! There are still many suffering and miserable people in our midst. [2]

The elder outlines a problem and a solution that has not changed in 2000 years.. The problem is the world is full of hurting people. The solution is Jesus. It is a s simple as it is profound. Let’s look a little deeper at these ideas. 

First, the Chinese church sees the world as a mass of hurting humanity because of the fall. In the fall, the world became a collection of dehumanizing powers. Sin brought death and the consequences of death brought corruption, and sickness. The West gets this backwards, the Chinese church does not. We, in the West, define what is normal by what is natural. Our experience of the world shapes what we think is normal. We often see miracles and healing as the disruption of the natural order. As if we live in the natural order of things. When God does something supernatural — we often interpret it as unnatural. Yet miracles, and especially healing, are not interruptions of the natural order; they are the restoration of the Creator’s natural order.  We think sickness, disease, and death are natural. They are not. They are unnatural. Those unnatural things broke into God’s good world that he made and corrupted it, bringing a dehumanizing influence into a good world. 

Second, The gospel message that Jesus has done it all and is doing all to save humanity, and this includes restoration of health that can be experienced in this life. Physical healing is understood as a foretaste of the bodily resurrection to come. Believers have no need to postpone all hope to a heavenly existence but expects resurrection power to become effective at any place and moment, in the here and now. On a grassroots level, Chinese Christians take initiative and mobilize people to pray for healing and wholeness of anyone willing to receive it. For they believe, as C.S. Lewis described, that the effects of the cross and resurrection meant, “Death itself would start working backwards.”[3]

Seeing Restoration in a Dehumanizing World. 

The Chinese approach to healing is simple and direct. It is rooted in a commitment to the Bible; its story as their story and its God as their God. It also centers on the needs of hurting people and the God that can meet that need in practical ways. In light of their understanding of sickness, testimonies of divine healing are stories of protest. They tell of people who do not resign themselves to the vicious circle of illness, pain, and sickness. The message for those hurting is one of hope. It is a message, where sickness is not absolute and help is only a prayer away. Yet such prayers are not seen as instantaneous escapism through mystical means but a progressive restoration one prayer at a time. Knowing, just as Lewis, that God never wastes our pain but from conversion to consumption is in a process of making us whole. And even if the healing is slow, we confess with Lewis, “Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” [4]

These stories are underdog stories. Stories of death running in reverse. Stories of Heaven working backwards to bring an outpost of restoration in this mass of human suffering. So, our brothers and sisters in the East, pray against the status quo of sickness and suffering, knowing God is moving against the flow of sin and sickness in this world. So many in the West get it backwards. We consider the simple to be foolish. Yet, with God all things are possible and God uses the foolish things to confound the wise, as Währisch-Oblau observes:  

“Simple, poor, uneducated people gain access to the power of God through their prayers. In so doing, these people show themselves to be more powerful than those who are usually invested with power: more powerful than doctors with their university degrees, and more powerful than party officials who have not succeeded in providing a functional health care system.” [5] 

In the next few blogs, we will look at some testimonies of healing in China and what we can learn from them. Also see our playlist on healing  found on Remnant’s  Youtube page



[1] Gotthard Oblau,  “Divine Healing and the Growth of Practical Christianity in China,” in Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, Edt. Candy Gunther Brown (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011) 324.

[2] Währisch-Oblau, field notes (May 1995).      

[3] C.S. Lewis, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” (New York: HarpersCollins, reprint, 2002) 171.

[4] C.S. Lewis, “The Great Divorce,” (New York: HarpersCollins, 1946), 69.

[5] Währisch-Oblau, “God Can Make Us Healthy,” 98.




In Chapter 15 of “Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing” put out by Oxford University Press, in 2011, Gotthard Oblau writes on his research into the role divine healing had in the rapid growth of Christianity in China. 

From 1985 to 1997, Oblau was employed by a state-approved Chinese medical agency, the Amity Foundation. His job gave him a chance to travel the country far and wide, affording him the opportunity to gather stories and testimonies of divine healing in China. 

At the time he was in China, Christian believers accounted for 3–5 percent of the overall population. Yet Protestant communities were growing like someone put fertilizer in their shoes. The growth was so rapid that the majority of all Protestants were first-generation Christians. 

The question for many was, why were so many Chinese people deciding to become Christians? The answer among academics was that it was the result of the moral and ethical fruits of Christian religion. Yet, on a grassroots level, the answer was radically different. After reviewing his research, Oblau concludes:

Divine healing, understood as both the restoration of physical bodies and in a more holistic sense as the transformation of individuals and communities, may be the single most important factor explaining the extraordinary growth of Christianity in China. [1]

Oblau recorded many stories about healing experiences, and prayers for the sick. His observations were not isolated but were collaborated by other international observers and many Chinese colleagues. Some of the conclusions made in his chapter: 

    • Divine healing in China is in a context of poor medical care and Daoist-inspired preoccupation with health. 
    • Divine healing in China is seen as holistic transformation and not just healing of the body. 
    • Divine healing in China is often an entry point into Christian faith   

Two key theological factors related to divine healing in China: 

    1. Everybody does it! Prayers for divine healing are a universal practice among Christians in China. The practice of divine healing prayers is not exclusive to one group or denomination. It cuts across the urban-rural divide as well as denominational lines. Testimonies about divine healing experiences are a regular and widespread phenomenon among Protestant Christians in China. In China, it permeates protestant Christianity as a whole, registered and unregistered congregations, in rural and urban communities.

The universal practice of divine healing across denominational lines has led many to point to the influence of the Pentecostal movement. While it may be fair to claim that China's Christianity as a whole does carry a pentecostal flavor, this flavor can’t be attributed to some doctrinal distinctive, but to the fact that committed and ardent passion for God looks the same no matter the creed or confession.

2. The democratization of prayer for divine healing. In China, the practice of divine healing prayers has been democratized. The Chinese understanding of the classic Protestant principle of the priesthood of all believers includes the practice of healing prayers. Any Christian can say a simple prayer for somebody else's recovery, while the actual miracle is expected from God's supernatural power. The faith needed is considered implicit in the act of praying to the Christian God. Thus, faith is defined as going to the only one who can actually help. 

Prayer for divine healing as a function of the priesthood of all believers has support in scripture. The command for such a practice is located in the commissioning of the 72 disciples. In Luke 9:1-2, Jesus commissions the twelve apostles and “sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Then again in Luke 10, Jesus sends out a larger group to do mission work. Luke writes, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few…. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.’” . Among the instructions he gives to them, Jesus states, “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”(Luke 10:9). 

It seems clear in Luke, that not only are the twelve apostles commanded to heal the sick, but a similar command was also given to the seventy-two “ordinary” disciples as they were sent out. The command in Luke 10 is often taken to be a universal command and in harmony with the great commission. This commission is applies to all believers as part of their priestly service before the Lord. Further, it is commonly held that every believer has  priestly access to God in prayer.  Any christian may come before the Father as a holy priest of God, and make a request, be heard, and stand in hopeful expectation of receiving an answer. 

So, as stated above, among Christians in China there appears to be a common conviction that any single believer can pray for the sick and expect healing. Countless testimonies like the one below reflect this fact: 

“When my son started to get worse, I became more and more desperate...  but there was an old woman in the hospital who believed in Jesus. Pretty soon she kept coming and praying with me for the child. And then he started to get better.”  [2]

As international observer Claudia Währisch-Oblau concludes:  

It cannot be stressed enough that prayers for the sick in China take place “democratically,” i.e., without any one person specifically assigned to this role and with virtually no fixed ritual applied. Illiterate peasant women as well as university professors and pastors ordained decades ago, as well as newly converted Christians, all pray for those who are sick, without any sense that a special gift or training is needed for this. This is possible because of the extreme simplicity of procedures: There is rarely any laying on of hands, no anointing with oil, no ecstatic prayers, no falling and “resting in the Spirit,” no holy water, no specific place or situation for healing prayers. [3] 

They just pray and leave the rest to God. Thus, the practice of healing prayer is low key (as the kids say). 

The Historical and Social Shape of the Practice

The Chinese practice of divine healing prayers is drastically different from the expression in the West. The best way to observe the difference is by looking at what is absent from the Chinese church’s practice when compared to the church in the West. Below is a list of practices Oblau found to be absent from the church’s expression in China:  

    • A christian needing a spiritual gift of healing to operate in divine healing is downplayed. 
    • No particular healing ministries are relied upon as necessary.
    • Healing crusades are unheard of and utterly unfathomable in a Chinese context. 
    • Special church services for the sick are extremely rare. 

Given the “everyone participates” attitude, any sensational showmanship like we see in the West was unloaded for a more stripped down version. In the East, prayers for the sick are conducted with little fanfare and “spectacle”.  

The low-key approach to divine healing does have sociological origins and is not an indictment of the cultural practices in the West. The development of this low-key approach can be traced back to two factors within the social development of the Church in China. 

    1. A persecuted church produces a striped down liturgy.

The simplicity corresponds with the style of worship and liturgy. An average worship service involves hymn singing, praying, Bible reading, and some sharing of religious encouragement. Often all performed by leaders with rudimentary religious training. The liturgy developed during times of intense religious persecution. Times when church buildings were closed and pastors sent away for manual labor, often never to be seen again.

2. Continuing outside pressure reinforces simplicity of practice.

Legal and political pressure played a role in shaping the simplicity of the practice. The way they practice healing prayers may be seen as an act of self-protection. The communist government is firmly atheist, as their governing documents reflect. China’s constitution states that, “no person is permitted to use religion to conduct counterrevolutionary activities or activities which disrupt social order [or] harm people's health.” The last clause is problematic for many influential party members, and political leaders count the practice of “exorcising spirits to cure illnesses” among the “feudal superstitious activities” that are incompatible with the progress of socialism as well as China's modernization. [4]    

A Community of Prayer 

If everyone can pray for healing and prayers are practiced in a “low key” way, then what does it look like in the life of the community? The answer is surprisingly simple. The universal, democratized practice of divine healing looks like a community of faith that cares. Oblau gives us a description of love actualized within the church: 

Prayers for the sick, present or absent, are also common in midweek Christian meetings and in prayer and Bible groups, whether they convene in churches or in private homes. Church members pay visits to fellow believers who are sick at home or in the hospital. Many congregations organize rosters of people responsible for such visits. It is clear that Christians in China who fall ill will seldom have to suffer in isolation but will become the center of loving attention from their congregation. [5]

The love for those inside the church is not self-contained, turning back on itself but overflows and extends outward in prayers to those not of the flock. 

Healing prayers for non-Christians are not uncommon either. Individual Christians may pray for sick family members, neighbors, colleagues, or people who share their hospital ward. In praying for those unfamiliar with Christianity, Chinese Christians commonly disavow their own gifting and emphasize God's agency in healing. [6]

In the next few blogs, we will look at the theology of healing in China and what we can learn from them. Also see our playlist on healing  found on Remnant's  Youtube page.




[1] Gotthard Oblau,  “Divine Healing and the Growth of Practical Christianity in China, in Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing”, Edt. Candy Gunther Brown (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011) 325.

[2]  Claudia Währisch-Oblau, interview, Zhejiang Province (Apr. 1991).        

[3] Claudia Währisch-Oblau, “God Can Make Us Healthy Through and Through: On Prayers for the Sick and the Interpretation of Healing Experiences in Christian Churches in China and African Immigrant Congregations in Germany,”  International Review of Mission: Journal of the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism of the World Council of Churches  [Geneva] 90.356–357 (Jan.–Apr. 2001): 89.     

[4]  Article 36, qtd. in  Donald MacInnis, “Religion in China Today: Policy and Practice”  (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1989), 35, 404. 

[5] Gotthard Oblau, “Divine Healing and the Growth of Practical Christianity in China, in Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing”, Edt. Candy Gunther Brown (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011) 312.

[6] Gotthard Oblau,  “Divine Healing and the Growth of Practical Christianity in China, in Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing”, Edt. Candy Gunther Brown (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011) 312.



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