After leaving the synagogue that day, Jesus went to Simon’s home, where he found Simon’s mother-in-law very sick with a high fever. “Please heal her,” everyone begged. Standing at her bedside, he spoke to the fever, rebuking it, and immediately her temperature returned to normal. She got up at once and prepared a meal for them.
As the sun went down that evening, people throughout the village brought sick family members to Jesus. No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one. …
Early the next morning Jesus went out into the wilderness. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. Luke 4:38-42, NLT
The four New Testament accounts of Jesus’ ministry are in complete agreement on this: Jesus healed. Christ the great teacher cannot be separated from Christ the great healer.
To believe that this is true, you have to believe in a God who is moved by human suffering and is willing to scrub away the grimy realities of daily life with his holiness.
You also have to believe that the immaterial and infinite God can (and does) manipulate the material and finite universe.
Isaiah predicted that Christ would be a healer. “Your God is coming,” he said. “And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will shout and sing!” (Isaiah 35:4-6, NLT).
Throughout Israel’s history, miraculous healing was rare but not unheard of. The prophets Elijah and Elisha had both healed. The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem was known as a place of healing. But by and large, such miracles were rare. Serious illness was often a death sentence.
In that respect, our modern times are not much different. We live longer, we have better knowledge, better technology. But disease is a clever enemy, and sooner or later, it wins.
Which is why the news that Jesus was a healer electrified Israel. His power seemed limitless. No illness seemed too challenging.
“…the touch of his hand healed every one…” No case was too difficult. No one was denied his care.
Why should we believe a single word of it? Because, there are intriguing details that give the story the ring of truth, as though it is the account of witnesses, not something invented by Luke.
When the travelers first arrive at Peter’s house, it is full of anxious people. Simon’s mother-in-law was in dire straits, something we understand even today. An elderly woman with a high fever needs immediate help. The anxiety seems to accurately reflect the danger she was in.
As soon as she is healed, she gets up and serves them. This always strikes me as almost comical. No time to celebrate. No time to rest a bit and catch her breath. But her reaction is perfectly normal: her home is full of guests and her duty is to find them all something to eat and drink. One minute she’s on her death bed, the next she’s Martha Stewart. She did exactly what her culture would have required her to do, and everyone gets out of the way.
Then we see the reaction of the village. News travels fast in small towns. The disciples had barely finished dinner when sick visitors started knocking at the door. Late into the night they were still at it, healing everyone who came by.
Panic sets in the next morning when the healer can’t be found. Jesus had gone off to a quiet place to rest and pray. When the villagers find him, they begged him not to leave.
Why? Because without the healer, life would return to normal. They would once again be at the mercy of every disease that had afflicted them for centuries.
There are real-life details like this in all of the accounts of Jesus’ life, and the miracles are no exception. I believe that Jesus healed. The $64,000 question is: Does Jesus still heal?
The presumption of the New Testament is, yes. James is straightforward about it:
Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well. James 5:14,15, NLT
I have been a witness to 3 dramatic healings in my life. In each of those 3 cases, two involving life-threatening illnesses, there was a sudden medical reversal that could not be explained apart from the miraculous touch of God’s power in response to prayer.
But it would be dishonest of me not to admit that there have been many other cases where the prayers were just as earnest and full of faith, but God did not intervene.
A couple of answers come to mind.
We cannot underestimate the power that skepticism has to undermine faith. Modernism insists there are no miracles. We all have our moments of doubt, but faith requires that we ignore the scoffers and suspend our disbelief.
There is an interesting story in Mark 9:14-29. The disciples were unable to heal a young man. When Jesus arrived, the father wondered if he could do anything.
Jesus’ reply was “What do you mean, if? Anything is possible if you believe.”
Humbled, the father replied, “I do believe. Help me with my doubts.”
Skepticism gets in the way, but God can help us with our skepticism.
The second, and harder, answer is that God is sovereign. Prayer is a request for mercy, and there are times when God says “no.”
No seems cruel and unloving. No just doesn’t make sense. When Jesus walked in Israel, we never once see him saying “no.” The Luke 4 passage says, “He healed every one.”
The only way to reconcile these very different experiences is to say something like this: “For a special season during the ministry of Jesus, God pulled out all of the stops to bring honor and praise to his Son. It was meant as a glimpse of the future time and place where God has promised to eradicate sin and disease.
In the meantime, we live in a world corrupted by sin and disease. Our faith does not hinge on a life free from suffering. In fact, Christ himself suffered, and bled, and died.
I believe that Jesus still heals in response to our prayers. But not always.
My faith does not rest on the outcome, either way. A Christian’s faith ultimately rests on the confidence that God did not abandon Jesus to the grave, but raised him up and seated him in a place of honor in heaven. And from that seat, Jesus intercedes on our behalf with his loving Father.
(Photo credit: Grampian TV)