Who Is Jesus? The Great Physician
[Note: These lessons are still being developed for the internet.
In This Series
Who Is Jesus? | About Messianic Prophecy |
Son of God
The LORD |
Son of Man | The Word | Light of the World
Savior of the World | High Priest | The Great Physician | Other Names of Christ
If you encounter any problems or broken links, please excuse and come back later.]
In This Lesson
Jesus, the Historical "Physician" | Fifty-one Recorded Healings | Jesus, Our Divine Physician
Jesus Knew His Patients' True Needs | Healing and Salvation | He Touched Me! | Faith's Role in Healing
Jesus Heals the Sin-sick Soul | The Disease Called "Sin" | Continuation of His Work | Why Are Some Poeple Not Healed?
Let Christ Have the Final Word | Our Response to Others' Sins | Sickness Is Not the Result of Personal Sin | Conclusion
Jesus, the Historical "Physician"
"A good physician treats the disease.
A great physician treats the patient who has the disease."
Dr. William Osler (1849-1919)
[Canadian physician and a founding professor of Johns Hopkins Hospital]
The above quote, although expressed by a secular physician, is an excellent summation of Jesus' healing ministry. He wasn't so concerned with healing obvious physical ailments as He was about healing individuals' souls.
Contrary to popular thought, there are no Scriptural references to Jesus as "the Great Physician". In fact, He only very loosely referred to Himself as a "physician" twice:
- When the religious leaders criticized Him for including tax collectors and "sinners" among His followers, He answered in reference to spiritual healing.
"When Jesus heard, He said to them, 'They who are strong have no need of a physician, but the ones who have illness. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'" (Mark 2:17)
- When He gave His first message in Nazareth where "He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58) He prophesied about their rejection and refusal to believe.
"And He said to them, 'You will surely say this proverb to Me, "Physician, heal yourself. Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in your native-place."'" (Luke 4:23)
With so little direct references to Jesus as a physician let alone the "Great Physician" one might question why this warrants anything more than a footnote in one of the other lessons. Good question. Pastor Gary Wiens of the International House of Prayer Northwest offers the following answer:
"Nearly one-fifth of the Gospel accounts is devoted to Jesus' healing ministry and the discussion occasioned by it. Out of 3,779 verses in the four Gospels, 727 relate specifically to the healing of physical and mental illness and the resurrection of the dead. Except for a discussion of miracles in general, the attention devoted to the healing ministry of Jesus is far greater than that devoted to any one kind of experience." (emphasis added)
[Gary Wiens, THE HEALING MINISTRY OF JESUS, International House of Prayer Northwest]
I couldn't find out who coined the title "Great Physician" for Jesus, but the above statistics lead me to conclude that it is well deserved.
Fifty-one Recorded Healings
There are approximately 51 total healing events mentioned in the Gospel records. I say "approximately" because some events are open to interpretation and debate about their coincidence to other events.
Following are lists of the «30 individual healings that can be isolated and confirmed as separate incidents and 20 recorded incidents of multiple healings in various settings.
Leper in Galilee
Roman Centurion for Paralyzed
Demoniac in Synagogue
Paralytic at Capernaum
Man with Withered Hand
Widow's Dead Son
Demoniac(s) at a Tomb
Woman with Issue of Blood
Deaf and Mute Man
Blind Man at Bethsaida
2 Blind Men at Capernaum
Mary Magdalene and/or
Other Women Healed of
Evil Spirits and Infirmities
Mute Demoniac in Galilee
Blind, Deaf Demoniac in Galilee
A Few Sick Persons Healed
Gentile Woman's Demoniac Daughter
Blind Man on the Road
2 Blind Men
Woman with Spirit of Infirmity
Man with Dropsy
Nobleman for Sick Son
Crippled Man at Pool of
Man Born Blind
Lazarus in the Tomb
First Ministry in Galilee
Healings "at Evening"
Later Healings in Galilee
Returning to Galilee from Judea
Land of Gennesaret
Mountain Near Sea of Galilee
Great Multitudes in Judea
At the Temple
At Jesus' Death on The Cross
Miracles too Numerous to Record
Given that these incidents make up about 20% of the entire Gospel record, it's obvious that the Holy Spirit who inspired these accounts to be documented (cf.2 Timothy 3:16) wants us to understand the significance of this part of Jesus' earthly ministry.
Jesus, Our Divine Physician
Jesus' role as "physician" and healer was so widespread in the Gospel records and so essential to His mission as Savior of the world that we cannot dare not try to separate the two. Both define who He was then and who He is today. We cannot fully understand Him apart from His healing miracles.
It's amazing, really, how the people of that day were instinctively drawn to Jesus as a "physician". Certainly, He deserves the title "Great Physician"! In fact, you can hardly find one chapter in the Gospel records that doesn't have a story about Him healing or delivering someone. He gave remarkable attention to healing. He was a physician, a healer, whose time was consumed by encounters with people who were sick, blind, lame, deaf, leprous, paralyzed, demon-possessed, or mentally ill. Every one of the Gospels portrays Jesus in this way (see Miracles of Jesus).
We know from Mark 5:26 that there were medical doctors in Israel at the time. In fact, Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles was himself a physician. But Jesus' healing ministry was unlike anything they could do. It was obvious to the people that Jesus' healing power came from a divine source.
Jesus Didn't Heal Everyone
Many are surprised to learn that Jesus did not heal everyone in the areas where He ministered. It's commonly believed that Jesus healed everyone everywhere He went. But, the Gospel records do not support that premise.
What we do know from the four Gospels is that Jesus had the ability to heal any time, any place. He even had the ability, or power, to heal without being actively or consciously involved at the time (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:24-34; Luke 8:43-48).
So, why didn't He heal everyone? Simple. Not everyone came to Him for healing. According to the Gospels, Jesus healed all who came or were brought to Him.
"And moving from there Jesus came beside the Sea of Galilee. And He went up into a mountain and sat there. And great crowds came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others. And they cast them down at Jesus' feet. And He healed them, so much so that the crowd wondered when they saw the dumb speak, the maimed sound, the lame walk, and the blind see. And they glorified the God of Israel." (Matthew 15:29-31)
"And crossing over, they came into the land of Gennesaret and drew to the shore. And when they had come out of the boat, at once knowing Him, they ran all around that neighborhood, and began to carry on cots those who were sick, wherever they heard He was. And wherever He entered, into villages or cities or country, they laid the sick in the streets and begged Him if only they might touch but the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made whole." (Mark 6:53-56)
On occasion though not often, as far as we know He didn't wait for someone to be brought to Him but felt drawn to seek them out. As with the others, He also healed those to whom the Spirit drew Him, such as the lame man by the Pool of Bethesda.
"And a certain man was there [by the Pool of Bethesda], who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying, and knowing that he had spent much time, He said to him, 'Do you desire to be made whole?' The infirmed man answered Him, 'Sir, when the water is troubled, I have no one to put me into the pool. But while I am coming, another steps down before me.' Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk.' And immediately the man was made whole and took up his bed and walked." (John 5:5-9a)
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Jesus Knew His Patients' True Needs
"It is much more important to know
what sort of a patient has a disease
than what sort of disease a patient has."
Dr. William Osler (1849-1919)
[Canadian physician and a founding professor of Johns Hopkins Hospital]
Jesus was a master of diagnosis. He never hesitated or became confused by His patients' problems. He never struggled with that gray line that often baffles physicians today between physical illness and psychological impairment. Jesus Christ immediately grasped the condition of the whole person, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.
In the Gospel by his name, the Greek physician Luke distinguishes between Jesus healing those with physical diseases and delivering those afflicted by demons.
"Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, 'You are the Son of God!' But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ." (Luke 4:40-41)
In verse 39 of the same chapter, it appears that Peter's mother-in-law was suffering some sort of spiritual attack as well as physical, because Jesus spoke to the illness and rebuked the fever.
"And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them."
Note that this is the only recorded time when Jesus spoke to an illness. Thus, we should not assume, as so many do today, that all illness is related to the demonic.
Jesus also knew when a person's physical condition was not the result of some sort of spiritual problem. In the book of John, Jesus' disciples assumed a man's blindness was the result of sin; but Jesus said it had nothing to do with sin but was a simple physical condition and one through which God would be glorified.
"As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.'" (John 9:1-3)
Mental Disorders Are Not Necessarily Demonic Possession
Here is yet another area in which there is much speculation in the Church leading to errant beliefs and practices. Although Jesus did rebuke demons in some people, the Bible does not make the claim that all mental disorders are a result of demonic possession. Thus, neither should we make such a claim.
1"They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.
2And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.
3He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain,
4for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.
5Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
6And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him.
7And crying out with a loud voice, he said, 'What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.'
8For he was saying to him, 'Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!' . . .
13...and the unclean spirits came out. . . .
14...and people came to see what it was that had happened.
15And they came to Jesus and saw his right mind, and they were afraid." (Mark 5:1-15)
Jesus also did not incriminate any guilt to the man for his present plight, but felt only compassion and a desire to see the man freed. In like manner, we should not burden sufferers of mental oppressions with yet another label that often leads to greater depression. Even the mere suggestion of demonic possession causes many to believe they have failed God, to doubt their salvation, and/or to feel ostracized by the Church.
I believe the main point of these accounts of deliverance is not to lay blame or even to judge between a true psychological or mental illness and some sort of demonic influence. Rather, I maintain it's about the natural expression of relief and pure joy at being cured of such a calamity, regardless of its source.
This man demonstrated afterward what should be the desire of all sinners freed from sin. May we all aspire, as this man did, to honor Jesus and to invite the world to participate in the same salvation, and to join us in honoring the Son of God!
"Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul." (Psalm 66:16)
"Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?'" (John 4:28-29)
We must remember, our 'job' is to bring the oppressed and lost to the Savior; but it's His 'job' to diagnose the condition and deal with it.
Healing and Salvation
Healing and salvation went hand-in-hand in Jesus' ministry. In fact, the word "salvation" in the Bible includes health for the body as well as deliverance and safety for the soul. (see Who Is Jesus: Savior of the World)
The news about Him spread through the whole country of Syria, so that people brought to Him all those who were sick with all kinds of diseases and afflicted with all sorts of troubles. Paralytics, epileptics, people with demons, lepers, the blind, deaf and mute Jesus healed them all.
"And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them." (Matthew 4:23-24)
"This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 'He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.'" (Matthew 8:17)
Our divine Physician came to bring health to the whole person body, mind, emotions, and spirit. He wants us to enjoy life in all its fullness.
"I have come so that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10b)
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He Touched Me!
One aspect of Jesus' healing ministry that almost goes unnoticed in the Gospels is that He touched people. This physical contact with sick and dead bodies cut through the religious and social barriers of isolation and was a sign, not only of Jesus' compassion, empathy, and emotional connection with suffering people, but also of His absolute authority over the Law. When a leper approached Jesus asking to be healed, Jesus first touched him.
40"And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, 'If you will, you can make me clean.'
41Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, 'I will; be clean.'
42And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
43And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once,
44and said to him, 'See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.'
45But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter." (Mark 1:40-45 emphasis added)
"He stretched out his hand and touched him..."! That sentence strikes me to my core! What an extraordinary act of outrageous compassion! What Jesus did in touching that man was an action that made Him spiritually impure under Levitical Law. But Jesus didn't come to enforce the Law (of which, as the Word of God, He was the divine Author); He came to demonstrate the abounding love of the Father. Jesus tore down the walls of alienation and centuries of prejudice by the simple, but powerful, gesture of reaching out and touching a person who had probably not felt the touch of another human for decades. That touch probably meant as much, if not more, to the man as his physical healing did!
Over and over again in the Gospels, we see Jesus deliberately touching sick and disabled people.
"And He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them." (Matthew 8:15)
"So Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him." (Matthew 20:34)
"And He took him aside from the crowd and put His fingers into his ears. And He spat and touched his tongue." (Mark 7:33)
"But Jesus answered, 'No more of this!' And he touched the man's ear and healed him." (Luke 22:51)
Faith's Role in Healing
Sometimes Jesus also commended people for their faith not in their own healing power, but in God's healing power and their determination to access it. Mark 5:25-34 tells us:
25"And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years,
26and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.
27She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.
28For she said, 'If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.'
29And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
30And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, 'Who touched my garments?'
31And his disciples said to him, 'You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, "Who touched me?"'
32And he looked around to see who had done it.
33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.
34And he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.'"
It's important to note here that this woman did not heal herself by her positive thinking or positive affirmations or whatever else some might want to attribute her healing to. The healing power originated with Christ and flowed through Him to her as God's loving response to her faith.
This is one area in which I feel that the Church, in general, has erred greatly and actually may have disrupted what God wanted to do in certain ones. While faith played an important role in the woman's healing, there is no indication that Christ would not have healed her if her faith had faltered. We should not read such into the narrative nor should we burden those who aren't healed with an attack on their faith.
Healings Were Evidence of His Claim as Messiah
There is yet another mystery that faith sometimes plays in our healing or that actually might prevent our healing. Let's look at one instance.
53"And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there,
54and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, 'Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
55Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
56And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?'
57And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.'
58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief." (Matthew 13:53-58)
We should not suppose by this narrative that Jesus' ability to heal was in any way limited by the people's unbelief. Rather, it's about God's willingness to heal. It does not say Jesus "could not do many mighty works there," but that He "did not."
The purpose of Jesus' healing ministry was to validate His mission and His divinity. He came to heal our greatest infirmity sin not just the symptoms of it. In the incident cited above, the people were already so prejudiced against Him that they would not have been able to judge the evidence and be convinced. Instead of God receiving glory from the miracles, they likely would have charged Him with sorcery or of being under the influence of the demonic, as they did in Mark 3:22 and John 10:20.
Thus, it would have been of no use to work miracles there, as it would not have proved to them that He was from God. Note, however, that the Scripture says, "He did not do many mighty works," meaning He did do some healing work among them, just not as much as He would have loved to do for them.
What we can discern from this is that people's unbelief may prevent the willingness of the Holy Spirit from blessing, but not His ability to do so. God desires faith "...without faith it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6) But He does not need it in order to do that which He desires to do for us.
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Jesus Heals the Sin-sick Soul
As we've already discussed, everyone who came to Jesus (or was brought by their friends) was healed. No one left disappointed. There was another person, though, who didn't seek out the Lord and wasn't brought by his friends, but instead Jesus went to where he was.
That was the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda, which we briefly reviewed earlier. That man did not go to Christ for healing. In fact, the account of his interrogation after being healed tells us he didn't even knew who Jesus was.
"...and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, 'It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.' But he replied, 'The man who made me well said to me, "Pick up your mat and walk."' So they asked him, 'Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?' The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there." (John 5:10-13)
What can we learn from this account? Let's review. The man had never heard of Jesus . . . was not seeking the Messiah . . . and had no faith in Jesus' abiliy to heal him. And yet, Jesus went to where he was, selected him from among all the other sick and handicapped people, and healed him. Thirty-eight years of illness, bitterness, loneliness, frustration, and dashed hopes all gone in an instant! Because of the man's faith? No. Simply because Jesus sought him!
There's an indication, too, that his condition was possibly linked with mistakes or sins of previous years.
"Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, 'See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.'" (John 5:14)
That does not mean, however, that those who are sick are guilty of some unconfessed sin. That may have been the case in this man's situation, but not in all whom the Lord Jesus healed during His earthly ministry. The point of the story is not to lay blame or guilt, but to point us to the Great Physician, the Messiah! Only Jesus knows what caused this man's paralysis. It is not for us to judge or read into the record what is not there.
The story of the healed paralytic is a beautiful picture of what God can do and has done for all of us! Before we repented and received Christ as Savior and Lord, we were also in a hopeless, sin-sick condition. Some of us were bitter and disappointed with life. Some were spiritually and emotionally crippled. Many of us were struggling under a heavy load of guilt guilt from deliberate acts of sin or from things left undone until too late.
Like the healed paralytic, many of us were not even seeking God, and we were totally unaware that He was seeking us. But the Lord found us in our helpless and hopeless state. The Great Physician selected us and gave us the strength to "pick up our beds and walk".
The healing of the lame man in the above story is one of the "sign" miracles of the Gospel of John. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle John chose to record only seven miracles of Jesus in his Gospel, the reason for which he tells us near the end of the book: "...that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God..." (John 20:31)
We see that John had a two-fold purpose in choosing each of the seven miracles he wrote in his Gospel:
- One was to show that Jesus of Nazareth was definitely the promised Jewish Messiah, the Son of God.
- The other was to show us that Jesus Christ is the only One who can cure the disease of sin in each of us.
Many people today as then want the healings Christ offers, but they don't want to acknowledge Him as the Messiah, as God's Son, as God Incarnate because that involves a potentially life-changing decision.
But the fact is that Jesus' healings supported His claim of being the promised Messiah. When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus whether he was "the one who was to come."
"...and he answered them, 'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.'" (Luke 7:22-23)
When we think of Jesus as the "Great Physician", it's readily apparent that the label suits Him because of the many physical and mental disorders He healed during His earthly ministry. We need to remember, though, that not all of the healings or other miracles are recorded in the Gospel records.
"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)
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The Disease Called "Sin"
Of course, the most serious disease of all is the disease called "sin". After all, it was for this disease that the Messiah came for us.
There are times when a general practitioner [doctor] is all we need; however, there are other times when a specialist may be required for a more serious disease or illness. In combatting the desperate condition of humankind's sin, we needed a Specialist, and there is no one else to whom we can go to save us!
We can best understand how effective Jesus is when we consider how despicable, wretched, and helpless we are against the sin that's inherent in every human.
- Sin originates in the heart [the soul].
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man." (Matthew 15:19-20)
- Sin is universal in its scope.
"as it is written: "There is none righteous, no not one;" (Romans 3:10)
"for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
Jesus Christ is the only Person who was never tainted by sin. Without a human father, He was not born in sin as the rest of us are. And Scripture asserts that He never sinned during His time on earth.
"...who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
- Like so many physical diseases, sin is also contagious.
"Do not be deceived; evil companionships corrupt good habits." (1 Corinthians 15:33)
- Sin has a deceitful nature.
Sinful acts often have a way of appearing good and acceptable when, in reality, they are evil and sinful.
"But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." (Hebrews 3:13)
- Sin is deadly!
Like the deadliest, most malicious cancer, the eventual consequence of sin is death to all those afflicted with this terrible disease.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
"Death" in the first part of that verse refers to spiritual death and is in contrast to the expression "eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord" in the second part. All of us will die physically, whether by illness, accident, or some other cause. Our Great Physician may not intervene in these incidents, although sometimes He does. The individual who dies with the disease called "sin", however, is forever separated from God in eternal damnation. But, when we come to Him with repentant and submitted hearts, He can and does heal our sin-sick souls and save us eternally.
Jesus' Credentials as the "Great Physician"
As discussed in the previous lesson, we all can readily see the awful nature of the disease called sin. Therefore, we need a Specialist who can effectively, efficiently, and eternally cure this most disgusting sickness. Jesus Christ, our Great Physician, possesses all the qualifications of such a One to whom the sin-sick world can turn for healing.
- God the Father endorsed Jesus at His baptism and again during His transfiguration on Mount Tabor.
"And lo, a voice from Heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:17)
"While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them. And behold a voice out of the cloud which said, 'This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear Him.'" (Matthew 17:5)
- The moral excellence of Jesus' earthly life, the lessons He taught, the healing miracles He performed, His authority over nature, and His victory over death all testify to His ability to effectively deal with sin.
"And there came up a great storm in the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves: but he was sleeping. And they came to him, and, awaking him, said, 'Help, Lord; destruction is near.' And he said to them, 'Why are you full of fear, O you of little faith?' Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm." (Matthew 8:24-26)
"Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, 'You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?'" (Matthew 16:8-10 cf. Matthew 14:17-20; 15:35-37)
"After they had gone three or four miles they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near to the boat; and they had great fear. But he said to them, 'It is I, have no fear.' Then they readily took him into the boat: and straight away the boat was at the land to which they were going." (John 6:19-21)
"But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." (Matthew 17:27)
"...he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. 'Go,' he told him, 'wash in the Pool of Siloam' (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing." (John 9:6-7)
"...who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 1:4)
- Jesus possessed genuine love and empathy for human suffering. He heard mankind's cries of distress and He came. He suffered with and for mankind.
"But seeing the crowds, He was moved with compassion on them, because they were tired and scattered like sheep having no shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)
"And Jesus went out and saw a great crowd, and He was moved with compassion toward them. And He healed their sick." (Matthew 14:14)
"In those days, the crowd being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and said to them, 'I have compassion on the crowd because they have now been with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint in the way. For many of them come from afar.'" (Mark 8:1-3)
- His death by crucifixion was an expression of His matchless love!
"Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was on Him; and with His stripes we ourselves are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5)
"He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that dying to sins, we might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)
- Our Great Physician was sinless. Unlike human physicians who often contract diseases and die, Jesus never knew sin or sickness in His life. The writer of Hebrews spoke of this fact when he wrote that Jesus was tempted in all points like we are "yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21 emphasis added)
"And you know that He was revealed that He might take away our sins, and in Him is no sin." (1 John 3:5 emphasis added)
- Our Great Physician is the only remedy for sin, regardless of how dark and sinister that sin might be.
"'Come now, and let us reason together,' says Jehovah; 'though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.'" (Isaiah 1:18)
The Apostle Paul declared that the Gospel the "Good News" of healing and forgiveness through Christ is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16b) The remedy is of proven worth. By it, millions have been saved from sin and death.
Truly, Jesus of Nazareth has proven in every respect to be the Great Physician who came and touched and conquered every malady common to humankind, including the most insidious one sin!
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Continuation of His Work
Jesus sent His followers out to heal the sick in His name. What He did in person when He was here on earth as a man, He does now through the Holy Spirit in answer to prayer.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)
"'And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.' And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs." (Mark 16:17,18,20)
"Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven." (James 5:14-15)
Why Are Some Poeple Not Healed?
We all know one of the essential elements of Jesus' ministry on earth was His ministry of healing. No one who came to Jesus for healing left disappointed. He healed all who came. He also said we would do greater works than He did.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)
Nevertheless, there are many people, even committed Christians, who continue to suffer with sickness, pain, disabilities, and injustices.
- Samuel Rutherford, a saintly Scottish Presbyterian theologian of the 17th century, wrote from his prison cell: "Lord cut, Lord carve, Lord mould, Lord do anything that may perfect thy Father's image in us, and make us meet for glory".
- George Matheson, the blind Church of Scotland minister, wrote: "Oh love that will not let me go / I rest my weary soul in Thee / I give You back this life I owe / And in Your ocean depths, its flow / May richer, fuller be", a hymn that has been a rich blessing to multitudes.
- John Milton, the English poet who wrote "Paradise Lost", wrote of his "soul more bent to serve therewith my Maker" after becoming totally blind at the age of 44.
- Beethoven, a devout believer, stricken with deafness as a child, went on to write music of unsurpassed genius.
- Rembrandt, broken in health, painted glorious themes from the Bible as a testimony to his living faith.
- Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, had to endure 20 years of pain, yet from her bed wrote books full of delight in her Savior and Lord.
- Fanny Crosby, blind from the age of 6, wrote more than 8,000 poems and hymns to her Savior.
The list of devout Christian men and women who have faithfully served the Lord in pain and affliction is lengthy. And let us not forget the Apostles and first Christians themselves who suffered pain and indignities we can't begin to imagine at the hands of the Romans.
What Are We Doing Wrong?
Why weren't these committed saints healed of their afflictions or delivered from their persecutors? Did they commit some horrible sin that caused God to punish them? Sadly, this is the response of many people in the Church today. They think if you're sick, then you either don't have enough faith or you must have done something wrong. How do these views line up with Scripture?
First, let's look at the New Testament saints. Interestingly, those from whom we receive our instruction on how to live Godly Christ-honoring lives did not necessarily live disease-free lives. For example:
- The Apostle Paul wrote about an affliction that he didn't define but that caused him to cry out to God for healing several times.
"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
- The young minister and Paul's protégé, Timothy, had a stomach problem and was often sick.
Paul wrote to him: "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." (1 Timothy 5:23)
- A young man named Trophimus was too sick to continue ministering with Paul (cf.2 Timothy 4:20).
- And Epaphroditus, who was ministering with Paul, became so ill that he almost died (cf.Philippians 2:25-27).
It's important to remember that our lives are at all times in God's hands. Nothing comes to us or against us apart from His perfect or permissive will either for us or for someone else who may be impacted by our lives.
So, stripping away all the theological intricacies, the simple answer to why some people suffer is that God, for reasons we may never know, has allowed it. But if He is truly Lord and Savior of our lives, then we can say, like the Apostle Paul, "I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9) This has been the experience of countless Christians in all ages.
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Jesus Is Still the Great Physician
Although the examples above may seem to contradict it, Christ is still our Great Physician. Before we attempt to reconcile infirmed bodies with the truth of Jesus' power to heal us, let's take a journey through God's Word and remind ourselves of our position in Christ.
When We Became Christians...
- We were born again from above.
"Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.'" (John 3:5)
- We each became a new kind of person.
"...he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature..." (2 Peter 1:4)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- Each of our bodies is now the temple of the Holy Spirit.
"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)<
- We now see God's hand in everything.
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
- We know the joy of sins forgiven.
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace." (Ephesians 1:7).
- Our eternal future is safe in His hands.
"'For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. . . . Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.'" (Matthew 6:34)
- All of this gives us wholeness, emotional and spiritual health, and peace of mind.
"For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)
- We walk in the light of His love.
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
Benefits of Walking in the Light
Daily walking "in the light" enables you to receive boundless stores of health from God. Your vitality, delight in His creation, and joy in living all come from Him, the "giver of every perfect gift" (cf.James 1:17).
Jesus told His followers: "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
If you claim that verse, does that mean the enemy cannot or will not attack you? Well, Jesus made that promise just days before being brutally tortured and impaled on a cross or crucifixion stake. So much for "overcoming the world" . . . !
Let's look at some other promises from God's Word to better understand Jesus' words above:
Why Am I Being Attacked?
If the One inside me [Jesus] is greater than the one in the world [Satan], and if God promises that the enemy's weapons won't prosper against me, then why am I being attacked and why am I suffering?
These promises from God do not mean the enemy cannot or will not attack you. If they attacked Jesus, the prophets and priests, the apostles, and the saints who have gone before us . . . then they will attack you, too! Don't misunderstand God's promises by taking them out-of-context, in this case, the context of God's whole Word.
How do the enemy's weapons "prosper" against us? The enemy's weapons may hit us, but the only way they can "prosper" is when we allow them to defeat our faith, to cause us to doubt God's faithfulness and goodness, to make us stop running the race. They "prosper" whenever we surrender to a spirit of fear or anger or bitterness or despair.
- The Apostle John tells us: "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world our faith." (1 John 5:4 emphasis added)
- When you praise God in spite of the troubles coming against you whether physical, financial, or emotional you are proving conclusively to the enemy, and to a watching world, that "he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world"!
- When you remain unshakeable in your commitment to God and to the Body of Christ, you are a living testimony to the truth that no weapon formed against you shall prosper"!
- When you continue to trust and wait upon the Lord for your sustenance, strength, and encouragement, you are proclaiming for all the world to witness that: "they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31 emphasis added)
Oxymorons in the Bible
An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which contradictory terms are linked together. The Bible contains many oxymorons, especially from the teachings of Jesus. For instance.
- "whoever would be great must be the servant" (Matthew 20:26);
- "the greatest must be the least" (Luke 9:48);
- "to live, you must die" (Matthew 16:24-25);
- "the first shall be last and the last shall be first" (Mark 10:31);
- "the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men" (1 Corinthians 1:25);
- "when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).
There is another oxymoron among people of faith that is often overlooked that is, that there is healing for us in and in spite of our suffering. When this comes, it is our faith that heals us. Our faith may not produce physical healing or remove whatever hardship we're going through, but it prevents us from falling into bitterness and despair. Thus, the enemy's weapons do not "prosper" against us.
As the psalmist cried out:
"Passing through the valley of weeping, they will make it a fountain; the early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, appearing in Zion before God. O Jehovah, the God of Hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah." (Psalm 84:6-8)
Instead of dwelling miserably on his sufferings, the man who loves God turns the vale of weeping into a vale of praise. And so he is healed maybe not physically, but certainly spiritually and often emotionally.
"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation." (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
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Let Christ Have the Final Word
Let's look again to the Lord's work and words as He walked in this sin-sick world among the beaten, bruised, broken, and bewildered sheep in need of a Shepherd . . . a Savior . . . and a Healer.
Jesus' Primary Mission
The Jews thought the Messiah would come as a conquering hero, ready to liberate them from Roman oppression and immediately set up His kingdom. That was their agenda, not His.
16"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.
17And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 'The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 'to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.'
20And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
21And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'" (Luke 4:16-21 via Isaiah 61:1)
In reading those words from Isaiah, Jesus Christ announced to the world the scope of His mission. It was not a physical mission, but a spiritual one. His mission was then, and is today...
- to liberate those who have been taken captive by Satan;
- to recover the sight of those blinded by sin; and
- to set at liberty those who are oppressed by fear.
Christ's life, teachings, death, and bodily resurrection would send people of all classes, nationalities, and backgrounds crusading against social injustice all over the world. And through these redeemed men and women, Jesus has brought freedom and liberty to a world enslaved by sin and false religious doctrines.
Yes, His mission also included meeting the physical needs of others. He gave sight to the physically blind, strength to crippled bodies, life to those who had died. But those miracles were intended to validate His mission and claims of divinity. He never intended for us to think of Him only as a teacher of morality, healer of broken bodies, or founder of a new religion.
As our Great Physician, His primary mission was to bring healing to our souls and to enable us to see God's true nature and abounding love for us.
Jesus' Approach to Suffering
There was an amazing range and variety to the multitudes of sick people healed by Jesus. And as mentioned previously in this lesson, there is no evidence that He ever turned anyone away. He never said, "I'm sorry, but I cannot do anything for you, because God wants you to suffer."
"And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them." (Matthew 4:23-24)
His approach to suffering was that it is an alien thing that has invaded this world and should be banished. Period. He was never indifferent to the agony and despair of these poor people.
"When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick." (Matthew 14:14)
He Gives Confidence for the Future
Sometimes we fail. We fail each other, we fail Christ, and we fail ourselves. Sometimes we do our best, but others accuse or reject us unfairly. But, Christ doesn't beat us up when we fail or when others reject us. Instead, He stoops down to lift us up and to encourage us.
The Gospel of John, chapter 9 tells us about a man who'd been blind from birth. After Jesus healed him, the Pharisees questioned him about his healing because it had taken place on the Sabbath. When the man refused to renounce Christ even though he didn't know who He was at the time the Pharisees sent for his parents and questioned them.
"'Is this your son?' they asked. 'Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?' 'We know he is our son,' the parents answered, 'and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.' (John 9:20-21)
His parents said that because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already decided that anyone who acknowledged Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. That's why his parents said, "Ask him. He is of age."
When the Pharisees questioned the man again, all he could say was that he once was blind and now he could see and he didn't know the person who healed him, but he would not say what they wanted that Jesus was a sinner. They hurled insults at him and threw him out of the synagogue.
To be cast out of the synagogue was the ultimate tragedy for a Jew. If the excommunication was for life, the person was publicly cursed, declared to be evil, openly detested, and threatened with divine punishment. He was cut off from God and from man.
But, Jesus would have the final word in this man's life!
"Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and finding him, He said to him, 'Do you believe on the Son of God?' And he answered and said, 'Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him?' And Jesus said to him, 'You have both seen Him, and it is He who is speaking with you.' And he said, 'Lord, I believe.' And he worshiped Him." (John 9:35-37)
Most likely, this young man who stood up so bravely to the Pharisees when they insisted he denounce the Healer as a sinner was in a state of shock and disbelief. How could he go from being blind one minute, to suddenly having his sight restored, then to being cast out of the synagogue for doing nothing wrong all in a matter of hours?
This was the state of the young man when Jesus sought him out. The Healer who had given him physical sight now came alongside him to heal his bruised spirit and to give him confidence for the future. The young man could now add one more scenario to the day's calendar meeting God face-to-face!
As our Great Physician and the High Priest who ever lives to intercede for us, Jesus is always willing to come alongside to lift us up, encourage us, and heal our bruised spirits. Sometimes we don't even have to ask!
He Does Not Condemn
You know the story. Jesus was teaching in the Temple and the Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Him who'd been caught in the act of adultery. [Interestingly, they didn't bring the man, who also would have been condemned to death by stoning. Since they didn't bring the man, this would suggest that they set the woman up to be "caught" so they could bring her to Jesus to try to trip Him up.]
"...they said to Him, 'Teacher, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such should be stoned. You, then, what do you say?' They said this, tempting Him so that they might have reason to accuse Him. But bending down, Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger, not appearing to hear. But as they continued to ask Him, He lifted Himself up and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.'" (John 8:4-7)
Jesus' ministry of healing always included the mind and spirit as well as the body. This woman was exposed to public disgrace, hatred, and disgust. She must have felt humiliated to the lowest possible depth. And yet, Jesus the Holy One of Israel and the only One who had a right to judge her or execute her for her sin treated her with respect and dignity.
"And bending back up, and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, 'Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Did not one give judgment against you?' And she said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin no more.'" (John 8:10-11)
He spoke so tenderly and lovingly to her heart that she must have caught a glimpse of the kind of woman God wanted and intended her to be.
Make no mistake, Jesus' words, "Neither do I condemn you," did not excuse her sin. Rather, His words and compassion gave her the hope and determination she needed to "go and sin no more."
As we seek to carry on Christ's ministry of healing and the Gospel message of salvation, do our words and actions speak life and hope to a lost and dying world? Or, do others only see us pointing accusing fingers at their sin?
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Our Response to Others' Sins
Another story we all know well is the one we call the "story of the prodigal son" (cf.Luke 15:11-32).
The younger son demanded his inheritance from his father and then went away and wasted it on wild and loose living. He then gpt a job slopping hogs, a pretty disgusting job for a Jew since pork was forbidden to them. After some time, he decided to go back and ask his father for a job as a "hired" servant.
But, as he was on his way, his father saw him and ran to him. In other words, his father was watching for him and hoping his wayward son would return!
You know the rest of the story: The father ordered the servants to bring a robe and a ring to reinstate his authority in the family and shoes to receive him back as a son, not a servant. He also threw a big party for the prodigal.
Later, the eldest son who had stayed with the father and obediently done everything the father ever asked him to do became incensed that his father would welcome the other son home with such fanfare while he (the oldest) felt that all his service had been for naught. In fact, the elder son was so angry that he couldn't even acknowledge that the other was his own brother, calling him "this son of yours"!
And the father replied: "Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."
Now let's stop for a moment and discuss the lesson Jesus wants us to learn from the story.
Obviously, the father represents God and the younger son represents sinners. However, we often neglect to question or ponder the older son's place in this story. The older son represents religious people, specifically the Scribes and Pharisees Jesus was frequently admonishing at that time. The story is meant to tell us something about God's heart.
But it also tells us something about the hearts of the religious leaders and perhaps about our own hearts. It tells us that the hearts of those who think they're in right standing with God, often are the furthest away from Him. It tells us we can be doing all the "right" things and still be out of fellowship . . . out of communion . . . out-of-step with Father's heart.
Bear One Another's Burdens
When we learn of a sister or brother being caught in sin, what is our first reaction? Do we shake our heads in disgust and think they deserve whatever harm comes to them? Or, if a brother is struggling spiritually, do we immediately launch into preacher mode and list 12 Scriptures for him to read?
As Christians, we are called upon to have the same compassion as Christ had. And we are called to serve and help others in their afflictions, to bear one another's burdens.
"And Jesus said to him, 'You go, and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:37)
"Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'" (Mark 10:42-45)
That was Jesus' response to John and his brother, James, who had asked Jesus to appoint them positions of authority when He established His kingdom. In asking Jesus to do that, they revealed their pride and their lust for pre-eminence.
Pride is a disease of the spirit just as deadly as any disease of the body.
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)
Over the years, the Church has watered down that verse by changing it to a more palatable, "Pride goes before the fall." But Scripture is clear. Pride brings destruction!
Jesus not only taught that humility is the essential badge of the Christian, He also said this is the way He Himself would be compelled to take. If the King of Glory humbled Himself, who are we to think that we should not do the same?
The Apostle Paul cautioned us to be careful not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
"Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12)
"Bearing one another's burdens" is not about finger-pointing, turning away in disgust, or being proud that we have never fallen to such depths. It's about restoring . . . lifting up . . . encouraging. Here's what the Bible instructs concerning our response to one another's sin:
"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself." (Galatians 6:1-3)
The original Greek word used for "restore" in that verse is the same word used by a physician to set a broken bone. Can you imagine going to the doctor with a broken arm and he scolds you or beats on your arm to teach you not to do that again? How absurd!
But how often do we do that to someone in need of spiritual repair? Shame on us! Instead, let us treat one another with the same care and concern the physician gives to setting a broken bone.
Sickness Is Not the Result of Personal Sin
As we learned in the lesson "Who Is Jesus? Savior of the World", all disease/sickness is the result of sin in the world. However, to say that a person's suffering is the result of their personal sin is an insult to the Son of God who "bore our griefs and carried our sorrows" on the cross of Calvary! That's saying that Jesus' suffering was not sufficient, not quite enough to cover everyone!
Remember, God told Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7, "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." This is important for us to remember when brothers and sisters are suffering. Too often, the Church has been quick to label and slow to aid.
In the Gospel records, we see many accounts of Jesus healing without condemnation, without mentioning sin, without anything but compassion and tenderness.
"And passing by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, 'Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'Neither has this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be revealed in him.'" (John 9:1-3)
"And behold, a man having a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbaths? This so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, 'What man among you will be, who will have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbaths, will he not lay hold on it and lift it out? How much better is a man then than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days.' Then He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and it was restored whole like the other." (Matthew 12:10-13)
Why Do Some Teach that Sickness is a Result of Personal Sin?
Some believe suffering is a result of personal sin because of two accounts of healings in which Jesus mentioned their sin. Of the ±31 individual healings and another 20-some accounts of Him healing many people at once, only two mention sin. That's less than four percent!
- One is the story of the paralytic whose friends lowered him through a hole in the roof and Jesus told the man, "Your sins are forgiven."
Why did He say that to the young paralytic? We can only speculate.
Maybe he had a guilty conscience about something and feared he was so great a sinner that Christ would not care about him. However, Jesus assured him that his offences were pardoned in order to lay aside his fears so he could receive his healing.
Or, based on what Jesus told the onlookers "...so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority upon earth to forgive sins." (Mark 2:10) maybe Jesus felt that He had to give a practical demonstration of His authority to forgive sins. Without a miracle, the Jews would not have believed it. But in proof of it, He worked a miracle so that no one could doubt that He had the power.
- The other is the account of Jesus healing the cripped man by the pool of Bethesda, after which He said, "Sin no more lest a worse thing come to you."
Again, we can only speculate as to why Jesus warned him that something worse might happen if he were to sin again.
By Jesus' instruction, it was implied that this man's illness was caused by sin in his youth perhaps a vice, perhaps an accident as a result of a disobedient act. We don't know. Jesus knew. And out of His heart of love for the man, He took occasion to caution him not to repeat it.
Jesus wasn't condemning the man for his previous sin. Just as a physician might warn a patient to not repeat some activity that proved harmful to his health, so Jesus pointed out to the man that he was blessed to have been healed ("See, you are well again" in v. 14). Jesus was counseling him to be appropriately thankful by not repeating whatever he'd done before.
Every malady this world faces today whether sickness, war, environmental disasters, famine, crime, poverty, homelessness, and so on is a consequence of sin.
Thus, both the sufferings resulting from sin and the precious experience of sweet release and spiritual healing should lead each of us to abhor and forsake sin in our own lives. Then, as Ephesians 6:13 admonishes, "having done all . . . stand." When difficulties come and they will don't accuse yourself . . . don't accuse others . . . and don't let others accuse you.
Apparently, Jesus knew what the paralyzed man in Mark 2:2-11 needed more than anything else. He needed to know his sins were forgiven. Why? Who knows? Jesus knew! As our Creator, He knows us and instantly understands our needs even better than we do. He made us and can easily repair any part body and soul that is not functioning properly.
How many in our hospitals today would be instantly cured if they knew the Savior came, not to condemn, but to take away their sin, guilt, and shame? And how often do we obscure that message of hope and healing by criticizing, accusing, maligning, and degrading those who need the Savior and Great Physician?
Jesus never taught that sickness is the result of personal sin and the Bible does not teach that sickness is the result of personal sin. Therefore, we must be careful not to insinuate that flawed doctrine into Scripture nor permit it to infiltrate our churches.
As the Body of Christ (cf.1 Corinthians 12:27), we are the Great Physician's hands. We are called to serve, to help, to lift up, to comfort, to encourage, and to heal. We are not called to judge that which only the Lord knows.
Really, if you think about it, regardless of when we came to Christ or how long we've been walking with Him, we all came helplessly, hopelessly lost. We all came wounded with the sickness of sin on us and in us. None of us were immune! Thus, we are uniquely qualified to be the Great Physician's "wounded healers" . . . not prosecuting attorneys or judges...
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