Why Did Jesus Heal the Sick?5
There are so many fascinating, intriguing, and appealing things about Jesus that one hardly knows where to begin. But let me try.
When I peruse the gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, several things virtually leap off the page. For example, I try to envision what it would have been like to sit under the teaching of Jesus. How would I have responded? My sincere hope is that I would have responded the way the multitude did after Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount: “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt. 7:28-29).
Not long after they marveled at his authority as a teacher, the disciples found themselves on the Sea of Galilee, in the midst of a raging storm. Jesus powerfully rebukes the wind and the waves and reduces the sea to a placid and peaceful calm. Perhaps, then, it is this display of power that impresses you most. Those in the boat with him certainly took notice: “And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” (Matt. 8:27).
If the Pharisees were stunned by anything in the ministry of Jesus it was his knowledge, his insight into their hearts and motivation. You may remember the incident where Jesus healed the paralytic and forgave him his sins. The religious leaders were wondering quietly, in their hearts, how he could do this since only God can forgive sins. “And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, ‘Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk?’” (Mark 2:8-9).
We could go on seemingly forever highlighting the unique characteristics of our Savior: his patience with his followers, in spite of their ignorance and some of the incredibly dumb things they (Peter!) said; his perseverance or endurance when opposed; his overflowing joy, etc.
But there is one thing that has always stood out to me about Jesus: his compassion. And when I take note of the numerous times his compassion is mentioned, it almost always occurs in the context of his healing the people or ministering to their needs. Time and time again, we read something like: “And moved by compassion” . . . Jesus healed their sick or touched a leper or responded in some manner so desperately needed by those who were with him.
When a man virtually eaten up with leprosy approached him, and said: “If you will, you can make me clean,” Jesus, “moved with pity [or compassion], stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean” (Mark 1:40-42).
According to Mark 9:22, it was to Christ’s compassion that the father of a demonized boy appealed, hoping that he might be delivered. And it was because of his deep and unfathomable compassion that Jesus proceeded to set free that little boy.
Luke 7 records for us yet another instance. Jesus approached the city of Nain and came across a funeral procession. The only son of a widow had died and was about to be buried. “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’” (Luke 7:13). Jesus then addressed himself to the dead boy: “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Luke 7:14). And he sat up and began to speak, all because of the compassion of our Lord.
When Jesus set his eyes on the 4,000 who had nothing to eat, Matthew tells us that “Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way’” (Matt. 15:32). We all know what happened next. He multiplied seven loaves of bread and a few fish into enough food to satisfy them all.
In the incident where Jesus encountered the crowd of 5,000, once again “he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matt. 14:14).
Two blind men were sitting beside the road when they heard that Jesus was passing by. They cried out for mercy, and mercy they received. But why? “And Jesus in pity [compassion] touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him” (Matt. 20:29-34).
Again and again, we read that “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them” and fed them and healed them and set them free from demonic oppression (Matt. 9:35-38).
Yes, Jesus performed healing miracles and multiplied food for the crowd in order to glorify God and to confirm his messianic identity and to make clear that the kingdom of God was now present. But above all else, the singular motivation in his heart that prompted him to heal the sick and to minister to their needs was his compassion.
Simply put, he healed people because he loved them. He cared deeply for them. When they hurt, he hurt. When they grieved, his heart was moved with pity and concern. It simply wasn’t in the character of Christ to remain indifferent in the presence of human suffering.
Is Jesus less compassionate or less loving today than he was in the first century? Surely not. So, if you are hurting or in need of healing or lack guidance and are tormented by the enemy, come to Christ! Come to the one in whom heartfelt compassion finds its consummate expression.
“O Savior, we are blind and dumb,
To thee for sight and speech we come;
Touch thou our eyes with truth’s bright rays,
Teach thou our lips to sing thy praise.
Help us to feel our mournful night,
And seek, through all things, for thy light,
Till the glad sentence we receive,
‘Be it to you as you believe.’
Then swift the dumb to thee we’ll bring,
Till all thy grace shall see, and sing.”
George Lansing Taylor