The Healing Ministry of Jesus
Jesus the Healer
Here are 12 principles that reveal the nature of healing in the ministry of Jesus and the importance he placed on it.
1. Jesus healed hundreds, if not thousands, of people. See especially Mt. 4:23-24. Some have argued that Jesus healed only a "few dozen" (Philip Yancey), whereas the gospels indicate that he healed multitudes. Healing was a common feature of his earthly ministry. Healing was not a secondary or subsidiary activity for him.
2. Aside from the raising of Lazarus from the dead, there is not a single instance in the gospels where Jesus directly prays for the healing of the sick. Whereas prayer certainly occurs before ministering to the sick, the sick themselves are never prayed for. Rather, the dead are commanded to rise (Mk. 5:41-42; Lk. 7:14-15; Jn. 11:43-44), the lame are commanded to get up (Jn. 5:8-9; Mk. 2:11), the man with the shriveled hand is commanded to stretch it out (Mt. 12:9-13), the ears of the deaf mute are commanded to be opened (Mk. 7:31-35), the leper is commanded to be cleansed (Mt. 8:1-3), and before healing the crippled woman Jesus announces to her, "woman, you are set free from your infirmity" (Lk. 13:10-16).
3. No one Jesus touched was left unhealed. No one who touched Jesus desiring healing was unhealed (Mt. 14:34-36). According to Mt. 8:16, he "healed all who were ill." What does this tell us about God's "heart" or "will" for healing? Read Ps. 103:3-5.
4. Jesus never inflicted anyone with a disease or ever suggested that sickness was a blessing from God for obedient people. Healing and health are always portrayed in Scripture as the blessing of God, not disease and decay. In fact, Jesus "rebuked" illness (Lk. 4:39). Jesus always viewed illness as an enemy. Jesus nowhere told his followers to expect sickness or disease as part of their calling in life and ministry. Jesus never suggested that sickness was "a cross to bear." He promised persecution, slander, and eventual martyrdom for his followers, but never disease and sickness. Whereas all sickness is suffering, not all suffering is sickness.
There is no beatitude which says, "Blessed are the sick." They may be, but not because they're sick. Cf. Acts 10:38 and note the connection between "doing good" and "healing". Therefore, disease is an evil to resist. Remember: sickness or disease in and of itself does not glorify God. What glorifies God is our unwavering faith and loyalty and love for God in spite of sickness and disease.
Don't resign yourself to sickness. Don't acquiesce to it. Don't yield to it, unless God makes it clear, as he did to Paul in 2 Cor. 12, that this is his will for you at this time. I once heard Jack Taylor say: "Always assume it is God's will to heal unless shown otherwise by divine revelation or death!"
5. Jesus portrayed healing not simply as a sign that the kingdom was coming but as an essential element in the kingdom. In other words, the kingdom of God, in part, consists of deliverance from demonic spirits and healing from physical disease (Lk. 9:2; 10:8-9). Healing was neither a gimmick to gather crowds nor a confirmation that the kingdom was present. Healing is the presence of the kingdom!
6. Jesus self-consciously healed people by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14-21; Mt. 12:22-28). The earthly ministry of Jesus, primarily his miracles and healings, were the result not so much of his divine nature but rather the power of the Holy Spirit working through him. And let us never forget that the Holy Spirit in Jesus is the Holy Spirit in us!
7. Most often his healings were instantaneous, but on at least one occasion it was partial and gradual (Mk. 8:22-26).
8. Jesus' healings were subject to two factors: (1) the presence or absence of faith (Mk. 6:5-6; Mt. 13:53-58), and (2) the purpose of his heavenly Father (John 5:19). As for faith, if you struggle to believe, let others exercise faith on your behalf (see Mark 2).
9. Jesus interpreted many physical afflictions as the work of Satan (Lk. 13:10-17; Acts 10:38; Mt. 4:24 [he "heals" a demoniac]; 8:16-17; 17:18; Mk. 9:14-29 [esp. v. 25]; Lk. 9:42). Deliverance is thus often a prelude to and necessary part of physical healing.
10. Jesus identified some sickness as unrelated to personal sin (Jn. 9:1ff.) and at other times as directly caused by sin (Mk. 9:18; Jn. 5:14). Cf. James 5:16.
11. Jesus regularly healed the sick by the laying on of hands (Lk. 4:40). Sadly, many evangelicals lack appreciation for this dimension of healing ministry because they denigrate the body and fail to grasp its importance in God's redemptive purposes.
(a) Hand of God in Scripture (an anthropomorphism) = 1) God's sovereign purpose, plan, will. 2) God's sovereign power, strength in carrying out that purpose. 3) God's sovereign protection in delivering and blessing and saving his people. See Ex. 7:4; Joshua 4:23-24; Neh. 1:10; Isa. 48:12-13; Acts 4:28,30.
With Jesus, what was only a figure of speech became literal fact. With Jesus, what was only a theological metaphor became material reality. God, who is spirit, now really does have a hand, two in fact!
(b) Laying on of hands in healing ministry of Jesus - Mt. 8:15; 9:25; 9:29; 19:13-15; perhaps a dozen other examples.
Read Mt. 20:29-34, esp. v. 34 - Modern cynics about healing say: when Jesus healed it was always to confirm his deity/messiahship; the laying on of hands is weird and occultic; healing is only psychosomatic; nobody ever comes to faith in Jesus because of a miracle. Contrast with v. 34 - 1) compassion; 2) touched; 3) regained sight; 4) they followed Him!
(c) Laying on of hands in early church - Acts 3:7; 5:12 (NIV omits "hands"); 6:6; 8:17-19; 9:10-17; 9:41; 11:30; 13:1-3; 14:3 (NIV omits "hands"); 19:11; 28:7-8.
(d) Significance: Representation (scapegoat), Unification (identify with someone), Authorization, Impartation, Restoration, Love (communicates caring in a way words can't).
(e) Why do some object: 1) ignorance of Bible; 2) it violates "personal space" (cf. people in elevator!); 3) people come from families that didn't hug, kiss, touch, show affection (it carries over into church life); 4) fear of sexual implications; 5) fear of "magic" or "occultic" associations.
12. Virtually all Jesus' healings were motivated by compassion. See Mt. 14:14; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 9:22; Lk. 7:13-15. That compassion and not fame was his motivation is evident from his instructions in Mk. 5:43 that no one be told what had happened. In other words, he didn't do it to draw attention to himself, but because he cared deeply for the grief of the family.
Two concluding observations:
First, we must leave room for mystery in God's ways. Some things will always remain unexplained. Why God does or does not choose to heal is ultimately subject to his wisdom and sovereign purposes. Why God chooses to heal in part or in whole, now or later, this person but not that one, is often beyond our capacity to understand. Resist the tendency to replace divine mystery with human formulas.
Second, we must be willing to bear the stigma of perceived failure. If you are unwilling to do so, you can stay safe and sophisticated, and you will eventually stop praying for the sick altogether. If there are 100 people who are sick and need prayer, I'm willing to live with 99 who remain in their affliction for the sake of the 1 who is healed. Why? Because I'm confident that as I remain obedient to God it will someday be 2 and 98, then 3 and 97, then 4 and 96, etc.
"But Sam, if I pray for the sick, will they be healed?" That is quite beside the point! The point is this: will you obey God and His Word, will you love those who are hurting, will you extend compassion to the broken? Your responsibility is to pray. Whether or not they are healed is God's business. God says: 'If you won't take the credit when they are healed, I'll take responsibility when they aren't.'