by Martin G. Collins
November 17, 2006
In the world today, physical healing is looked upon with at least some skepticism, if not outright doubt. Much of this skepticism results from the many charlatans who play on the misery of the infirm, often performing their spectacles on stage and on television for the entertainment of thousands. What a contrast to Jesus' humble, circumspect miracles of healing! His miracles reflect His character, naturally expressing His love and sympathy for suffering mankind.
It is obvious that dramatic miracles of healing are not occurring today with the frequency and power that they did when the church was new, when there were immediate, complete, and permanent healings. There is no historical record over the intervening two millennia that such healings were a consistent feature in the church, and in fact, except for the healing of Eutychus in Acts 20:9-12 and Publius in Acts 28:8, very few miraculous healings are mentioned after the first several years of the church.
The Bible contains a few other aspects of miracles of divine healing. For instance, the prophet, apostle, or evangelist would take no payment for healing. Most importantly, he would always use his gift to glorify God and not himself. He directed all credit and thanks for healing to God.
1. Do true miracles ever fail? What should accompany them?
Comment: Christ's healing acts were never tentative, nor was He ever unsure of His abilities. The Gospels contain no record of failure or relapse in anyone He healed. The excellence and permanence of Christ's miracles of healing prove Him to be God in the flesh. One group of His miracles shows His control over nature; another group, His power over physical and mental diseases; and yet another group, His ability to command the spirit world. His miracles were accompanied with prayer and with the giving of thanks (John 6:11; 11:41). Jesus did not depend on His own power, but that of His almighty Father in heaven (John 5:19, 30; 14:10).
2. Did Christ heal everyone who was sick?
Comment: Clearly, Christ did not heal every person who was sick. While He did not refuse to heal anyone who sought His aid, many were not healed. In John 5:3-9, He passed by a great multitude and selected only one for healing. Through sometimes painful experience, we know that healing is not always the divine will. Some He heals, while others are ordained to suffer. While we pray for the sick and desire their restoration to health, we must be subject to God's holy will and purpose. Whatever God decides is best for a sick person is, in the end, the result of the excellence of His wisdom. He promises that the suffering that even members of His church must experience cannot compare with the glory we will receive (Romans 8:18).
3. How did Jesus heal?
Comment: During His ministry, Jesus was not limited just to physical or to spiritual healing. Sometimes He laid His hands on the sick, while at other times, He healed without any contact. Some reached out to touch Him or His clothes and were healed. Once, He used His spittle to heal. In short, He followed no set method or ritual. Because of His close relationship with the Father, His word and will were sufficient. In several places, miracles are represented as having been performed, not so much by Christ, as by the Father (Matthew 9:8; 15:31; Luke 7:16; 17:15; 18:43).
4. What were the purposes of Christ's miracles of healing?
Comment: Jesus revealed that His actions were guided by a desire and zeal to glorify God. In so doing, He was likewise glorified as the Son of God. Relief of the afflicted was secondary (John 11:4). Jesus' miracles had two essential purposes. First, they revealed the sovereignty, power, and glory of God and of His Son. Second, they revealed mankind's desperate need. His healings expose the devastation caused by sin, as well as God's power and will to repair such sin-wrought desolation and wretchedness.
5. Did human faith make an impact on Christ's miracles?
Comment: While Jesus placed limited value on the faith produced by witnessing His miracles (John 4:48), nevertheless, human faith played a role in His effectiveness. Strong faith was rewarded with healing (Matthew 8:5-13; Mark 5:25-34; 7:24-30; 10:46-52), while, in contrast, unbelief caused Christ to refrain from manifesting His miraculous power (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5-6).
Christ possessed a deep sympathy for those afflicted with bodily and mental diseases: "He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:17). The Gospels say many times that He was "moved with compassion" (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27, 33; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 5:19; 6:34; 8:2; Luke 7:13). His healings contained no ulterior motive; His merciful works arose from His loving, giving character, which harmonized with His life and teachings. Despite this, His healings did not always lead to repentance; miracles do not guarantee conviction of sin.
We do not know exactly how many miracles Jesus performed. Most of them are referred to collectively, and they far exceed the number of healings recorded in detail. Whatever the number, He brought relief and mercy to many during His ministry. His far greater work, however, is the spiritual mercy and redemption He brought with His great sacrifice and His present work of salvation as our High Priest.