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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

May 19, 2017

A new heart

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

In December of this year it will have been 50 years since the first successful heart transplant. Christiaan Barnard, a South African surgeon, made history on December 3, 1967 when he replaced the failing heart of a 53 year old grocer with the heart of a 25 year old woman who had died in an automobile accident.

Today each year some 5000 people receive a new heart via a transplant. The methods and medication used today are advanced from Dr. Barnards first transplant, but some basic things have not changed. A diagnosis has to be made, determining the terminally ill condition of a defective heart. A surgeon with special ability performs the transplant, and there must be a donor heart. A donor heart is only available if the donor has died.

The 50th anniversary of the first successful heart transplant will likely be celebrated this year in the medical world, but it wasn't the first successful heart transplant in human history. There is another physician, the Great Physician of the universe, who has been performing heart transplants for centuries, even millennia. King David knew how capable this Great Physician was: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).

"I am the Lord who heals you," God told the Israelites (Exodus 15:26), and He has not changed today for those who are truly called. God has made His diagnosis of the human heart known, and the diagnosis is quite clear: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind" (Jeremiah 17:9-10). And the Great Physician has offered us a heart transplant: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).

And whose heart do we receive? It is the heart of our Savior Jesus Christ. He promised His disciples to be with them: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18). But to be able to come to them via the holy spirit, Jesus had to die. Without His death it would not be possible for Him to come to us dwell within us (verse 23). Jesus lives in us if we have surrendered our life to God in baptism and received the holy spirit via the laying on of hands. The apostle Paul knew this: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

When a person receives a new heart via a transplant, there is the possibility that the donor heart will be rejected. The recipient must be checked regularly for the rest of his life to determine whether or not rejection has started. And those who receive a new heart from the Great Physician have to check themselves for the rest of their life, too, to see if their new heart is functioning properly. "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?" (2 Corinthians 13:5).

December 3, 1967 will long be remembered in the medical world as the date of the first successful heart transplant. Do you still know what the date of your heart transplant was? What was it like for you on that day? It was the day you were baptized after having accepted the diagnosis of the Great Physician.

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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