Healing is Good News
There are forty-one distinct instances of healing recorded throughout the four Gospels, not including the summary statements in which Jesus healed many people. It is fair to say that everywhere Jesus traveled, the works of the kingdom were visible. John summarized it best at the close of the seven to the nine-year ministry of Jesus when he wrote,
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20.30-31).
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21.25).
Almost one-fifth of the Gospels’ narrative is devoted to the healing ministry of Jesus along with the discussions that arose because of his healing acts. The abundant attention given by the authors of the Gospels to this ministry is far greater than devoted to any other kind of experience in the ministry of Jesus. While we cannot argue that more means important and less means less important in Scripture, we can note that the authors were very aware of this kind of ministry of Jesus. This awareness may have been because it ran so counter to the Hebrew thought pattern of the Deuteronomic Code that it was just plain good news.
The Second Testament shares some important values and patterns in the healing ministry of Jesus. We can learn from them many things about how the healing ministry occurred. To those, we now briefly turn.
The healing ministry of Jesus began after his baptism by John the Baptist and his anointing by the Holy Spirit (Luke 3.21-22; 4.1-19, John 3.34). Jesus healed everyone who came to him with all kinds of diseases (Mark 7.31-37), demonic influence (Matt. 17.14-21), and even physical death for those that sought out his help (John 11.43-44).
The healing works of Jesus were motivated by compassion for the sick.
- He had compassion for crowds (Matt. 9.36; 14.14).
- He had compassion on two blind beggars (Matt. 20.34).
- He had compassion on the man with leprosy (Mark 1.40-45).
- He was moved by “great faith” (Matthew 8.5-13).
- He supernaturally saw the faith of the men who carried their paralytic friend (Matt. 9.2).
- He was always willing to heal those who came to him with faith, even though the healing may have been for someone else, as did the leper (Matt. 8.1-4);
- the Centurion (for a servant, Matt. 8.5-13); and the Syrophoenician woman (for daughter, Mark 7.24-30).
Other illustrations of faith that moved him were:
- the blind men (Matt. 9.28-31),
- the hemorrhaging woman (Mark 5.24b-34),
- and the father of the demoniac boy (Mark 9.14-29).
Where there was no faith,
- Jesus had difficulty as in his hometown (Luke 4.23-28).
- Jesus healed when he alone believed, but he was limited by an unbelieving atmosphere.
- He could do no mighty works in Nazareth (Mark 6.1-6)
- and he had to take the blind man from Bethsaida out of town to heal him (Mark 8.23).
In his healing ministry, it appears that Jesus was particularly ready to move when the power of the Lord was present to heal (Luke 5.17).
Jesus was grieved when any resistance to heal the needy was visible. We can see his grief in the story of the man with the withered hand who was healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3.1-6) and the woman who had a spirit of infirmity who was also healed on the Sabbath (Luke 13.10-17).
Patterns and Methods
Jesus used many methods and patterns in his healing ministry.
- Often it was touch and speech as with Peter’s mother-in-law (Matt. 8.15) and the leper (Luke 5.12-16).
- It was a commanding prayer with Lazarus (John 11.41-42).
- Other rather short commands came from his lips like “Go” to the Centurion (Matt. 8.5-13); “Rise” to the paralytic (Luke 5.17-26); “Stretch out” to the man with a withered hand (Luke 6.6-10); and “Arise” to the dead son of the widow in Nain (Luke 7.11-17).
- Sometimes it was others who came and touched him as the “many” in Matthew 14.34-36 and the hemorrhaging woman in Luke 8.42b-48).
- He used spit and mud with the deaf and dumb man (Mark 7.33), the blind man (Mark 8.23), and the blind man in John 9.6-7.
- At other times he asked those with whom he was praying to perform an act of faith such as “Stretch out your hand” (Luke 6.6-10), “Go wash” to the blind man (John 9.7) and “Go show yourself to the priest” (Luke 17-11.19).
In large gatherings, Jesus would heal many people one right after the other (Matt. 4.23-25; 14.13-14; 15.30-31). On the other hand, he would not perform a miracle for those who wanted to be entertained or desired to test him, such as the Scribes and the Pharisees (Matt. 12.38-42).
While he often withdrew to a private place to heal, as with the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5.39-43), the blind man from Bethany (Mark 8.23), and Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4.38-39), he most often healed in public. As a note, we in modern America have bought into the idea that all ministry should be done in private inside the “church building or auditorium.” This was not the case with Jesus who took his healing ministry to the streets.
Jesus loved to ask questions while healing, which might indicate that he sometimes had a prophetic insight about the situation he was praying about, while at other times he may not have had such insight. Secondly, the asking of questions caused him to focus exactly on the target. Here are some of the questions that Jesus asked:
- To the Gerasene demoniac, he asked, “What is your name (Mark 5.1-13)?
- To a blind man, he asked, “Do you see anything (Mark 8.22-26)?
- To the father of the demoniac boy, he asked, “How long has he had this (Mark 9.14-29)?
- To Bartimaeus, he asked, “What do you want me to do for you (Mark 10.46-52)?
Asking questions will help anyone who is praying for the healing of another to keep focused on what is being prayed about.
Jesus was positive about the work of physicians and frequently directed the ones he healed to get medical proof (Leper: Matt. 8.1-4; Ten Lepers: Luke 17.14).
We can observe that Jesus had to pray more than once for a needy person to be healed (Blind Man of Bethsaida: Mark 8.22-26; the Gerasene demoniac: Mark 5.8.
Jesus used different methods in dealing with different demonic influences. He ordered the demon of Mark 5.1-13 to provide his name. He required the demons of Luke 4.31-37 and 40-41 to be silent.
We may finally observe that Jesus had strong words for those who labeled healing done in his name as having demonic origin (Mark 3.19b-30).
The authors of the Gospels valued the understanding that God anointed “prayer.” For Jesus, this was a one-time event. For us, we receive this “anointing” to pray and minister over and over again. When Jesu healed, it was out of compassion or anger (anger concerning what had happened to his creation because of the evil one). We should also take note from this quick survey that the models that Jesus used varied, often with the situation at hand. Sadly, we in the “Western church” have often settled on one model, “the healer up front” or “no healer at all.” The good news is that even as you are reading this, God may be calling you to find someone who has a need and pray for their healing.
Community Discussion Questions
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- Why would healing be “good news” to those living with the Deuteronomic Code?
- In what way is your compassion to heal like the compassion of Jesus? In what way is your compassion not like the compassion of Jesus?
- What do the different patterns and models teach you about the ministry of healing?
- When are you going to begin ministering?