The Healings of Jesus

Jesus Series - 4

The Healings of Jesus

(Mark 1:35-2:12)

Health is something we tend to value only when we have lost it. This message, the fourth in a series on ‘The Challenge of Jesus’, preached at a an evening service in St. Albans Presbyterian Church, Palmerston North, New Zealand, on 9 March 1997, looks at the implications of Jesus’ healing ministry.

Healing formed a major part of the public ministry of Jesus. He not only taught, as the Rabbi’s did. As he travelled around he healed the sick and infirm, and set people free from the oppression of evil spirits. His ministry shows a remarkable integration of aspects that are often separated in the helping professsions today. There are a number of principles of healing and lessons about the ministry of healing that we can learn from observing the healing ministry of Jesus.

1. Jesus’ Healings were Based on Prayer (Mark 1:35)

In the midst of a demanding schedule of ministry to pressing crowds Jesus took care to secure quality time, early in the day before he could be interrupted, to be alone with God in prayer. Jesus’ healing ministry began after the Holy Spirit came on him at his baptism (Mark 1:9-10). Prayer was his means of maintaining the continued presence and power of the Spirit, which was the key to the effectiveness of his healing ministry. God is the source of life and of healing: we must stay ‘plugged in’ to bring God’s life and healing to others. The healing ministry is not a matter of techniques, but of listening to God and being filled with his Spirit.

2. Jesus’ Healings were Exercised with Compassion (Mark 1:40-41)

Public healers have sometimes handled people roughly or insensitively, the result of emphasising power rather than love. It is notable that Jesus’ healing ministry was an expression of compassion: the verb ‘filled with compassion’ or ‘moved with pity’ (splangchnistheis, Mark1:41) literally means ‘moved in his guts’, ‘deeply stirred’ - expressing a deep, inner emotion of concern for needy people. Victims of infectious skin diseases in ancient Israel had to keep a distance from society to prevent the spread of contamination (Leviticus 13:45-46), but Jesus allowed this leper to come near to him, and he touched him. Jesus showed compassion equally to friends and individuals (Mark 1:30-31), and to strangers and crowds (Mark 1:32-34).

Among contemporary practitioners of the Christian healing ministry Francis MacNutt most emphasises the importance of love. He says, ‘Jesus cured not just to prove he was God, but because he was God abounding in love and compassion; sinners and sick came flocking to him because he reached out to touch every one of them. . . . It is necessary that the minister be free of the need to prove anything, that he be free of any personal desire for achieving results. . . . I am simply the human channel of God’s love. . . . I have seen extraordinary things happen when a climate of love was present. . . . Time after time we find people healed, not only through direct prayer, but simply because of their love for each other. God seems pleased to work in a climate of love. . . .’ (Healing, [Notre Dame, Ave Maria Press, 1974], pp. 150-57).

3. Jesus’ Healings were Effective through Faith (Mark 2:5)

Faith can be exercised on behalf of someone (‘seeing their faith’, Mark 2:5), as well as by the sick person (Mark 1:40). In the Gospels faith is often synonymous with desperation: the determination to push through to Jesus despite all obstacles. The leper was so desperate he broke social and hygiene rules to get to Jesus (Mark 1:40). The friends of the paralysed man who broke through the flat roof of the house to bring their friend to Jesus were prepared to risk uproar, loss of self-respect, receiving a bill for damage, or being arrested for vandalism (Mark 2:3-4)! Usually only those who want to be healed are healed. A notable exception to this general rule is Kathryn Kuhlman’s story of a deaf sceptic who was miraculously healed in the doorway of the auditorium at one of her healing meetings (God Can Do It Again, [New York, Prentice-Hall, 1969]).

4. Jesus’ Healings were Discerning of Cause (Mark 2:5-12)

For healing to take place the underlying cause, not just the presenting symptoms, must be dealt with. There are many simplistic approaches to healing today, reducing a human being to the status of a purely physical organism (as in much prescription-based medicine) or a purely spiritual entity (as in Christian Science). But a human being is a complex psycho-somatic organism, and the causes of illness are correspondingly complex too.

Some sickness is purely physical (like the fever mentioned in Mark1:30), some is caused by the oppression of evil spirits (Mark 1:32-34), and some is sin-related and has an underlying spiritual cause (as in the case of the paralysed man, Mark 2:5, 10-11). Not all sickness is caused by sin, but Jesus saw that it was in this case. Arthritis is frequently the result of bitterness or unforgiveness; digestive or heart problems are often stress-related; some cancers are caused by traumatic experiences. A striking example is Francis MacNutt’s humorous story of meeting a Latin American general, who was suffering from ulcers because he was living in fear of assassination! (The Power to Heal, [Notre Dame, Ave Maria Press, 1977], pp.170-2).

5. Jesus’ Healings were Verified by Doctors (Mark 1:44)

Some ‘hyper-faith’ healers teach that the sick shouldn’t consult doctors, and should throw away crutches and medicines when prayed for to be healed. Jesus never did this. He sent the leper to the priests, who were the recognised medical authorities in the Jewish society of his day (Leviticus 14:1-32), to have his healing verified (Mark 1:44). Two benefits can come from observing this procedure:

• It helps the sick person know whether and to what extent they have been healed. A doctor can knowledgeably discontinue or adjust medication as appropriate.

• It challenges a sometimes secular medical profession to work cooperatively with Christian healing teams and accept the healing power of God.

An example is the healing of Delores Winder, which took place in the presence of a medical doctor on Kathryn Kuhlman’s team, who recognised that only a miracle could have accounted for the restoration of feeling after two spinal cordotomies - a procedure involving the cutting of the spinal cord to eliminate chronic pain in the terminally ill (see Richard Casdorf, The Miracles, [Plainfield, N.J., Logos, 1976], pp. 147-57).

6. Jesus’ Healings were Glorifying to God (Mark 2:12)

There have been many showmen in the healing ministry who have taken glory for themselves. When Jesus healed the sick people gave the glory to God. In the healing ministry, no less than in other areas of our conduct, charisma must be supported by character, the gifts of the Spirit by the fruit of Spirit.

Rob Yule
9 March 1997

© 1997, St Albans Presbyterian Church, Palmerston North, New Zealand