Box 14-080 THE HEALING MINISTRY OF JESUS
Jun 19 1956
THE SHEER BULK OF MIRACLES OF HEALING IN THE GOSPEL NARRATIVE1
Now, in order that we may be able to estimate the relative importance of physical and mental healing in the earthly ministry of our Lord, let us run rapidly through one of the Gospels, the Gospel according to St.Luke, and notice how large a portion of the whole narrative is taken up with records of healing. When we do so, we find that the sheer bulk of it is most impressive.
In doing so, it will help us in our estimate if, with a colored pencil, we draw a line down the margin of our New Testament, marking the narrative of healing, and put a capital H at the top of the page, with a plus sign (+) to mark cases of multiple healing, and a capital A to indicate those which throw a light on Jesus' attitude to diseases and healing.
When we do so, we find that chapter three records the baptism of Jesus by John, and that in chapter four His ministry opens. That fourth chapter, which is really the first chapter of our Lord's actual ministry, also relates the commencement of His work of healing the minds and the bodies of men and women, as well as their spirits. You find in chapter four, verse thirty-three, what is apparently a case of epilepsy, which may be regarded as a disease of both mind and body, a terrible affliction.
This is followed by His healing the mother of Peter's wife of fever -- "a great fever." And you will note that it was not until after the fever left her that she arose. If any one urges you to show your faith by getting up, contrary to your doctor's orders, while your temperature is still above normal, just turn to this verse and let it guide you. Then in verse forty, notice that "all that had sick with various disease brought them unto Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them, and healed them." No statement could be more comprehensive than that. And the next verse informs us that some of these were mental cases.
The very next chapter (v.) narrates more cures. Verse 12f tells of the healing of a man full of leprosy.
Verse 15 tells that "great multitude came together to hear and to be healed. And in verse 17 we learn that they came out of every town of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem; and "the power of the Lord was present to heal."
Then follows the case of a man with palsy carried on a bed by four others.
Next chapter (vi) relates the cure of the man with a withered hand. And the same chapter tells of a great multitude that came to be healed, including insane, and "they were healed" (verse 18); "healed them all" (verse 19).
In the next chapter (vii) the Centurion's servant was healed without Jesus coming near him. The same chapter tells of the raising from the dead of the son of the widow of Nain. And it also relates that "He cured many of their infirmities, and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many blind He gave sight."
The next chapter (viii) contains that interesting reference to the company of women who travelled with Jesus and provided for His needs, and it states that they were "women which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities."
The same chapter (viii) tells of the healing of a violent demonic, and of the woman who had suffered from an issue of blood for 12 years, and also of the raising from the dead of the little daughter of Jairus.
In the very next chapter (ix) Jesus gives authority to the Twelve Apostle to cure the insane and the diseased. And verse 6 tells that they went through the towns "healing everywhere." And in verse 11 it is related himself "healed them that had need of healing."
Still in the same chapter (ix) is the story of the healing of the epileptic boy, provoking the tremendously significant rebuke of Jesus, "O faithless and perverse generation…" of which I shall speak later.
Again in the next chapter (x) His sending out the Seventy also, with authority to "heal the sick" (verse 9), and verse 17 tells how they "returned again with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name," implying that they had worked other miracles of healing also.
Two chapters (xi and xii) contain only teaching. They are the first since chapter iii. which do not mention miracles of healing. In the next chapter (xiii) the marvellous record of healing is resumed. In verse 11 comes the woman "which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together and could in no wise lift up herself." And Jesus "laid His hands on her: and immediately she was made straight." Notice here also the significant words in which Jesus explains her plight. This woman "who Satan hath bound, these eighteen years." He does not say, "Who God hath, in His mercy, afflicted for her highest good." He does not say, "Whom God hath punished for her sins."
The next chapter (xiv) opens with the account of the healing of a man who had dropsy.
Chapter xiv contains that matches trilogy of parables of grace -- the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son -- a treasure more precious even than the hope-arousing records of healing; for they tell of the eternal paradise of health and happiness and love, assured to all who will respond to the passionate yearnings of a heavenly Father's heart toward His wayward children.
Chapter xvi follows with an awesomely solemn warning on the responsibilities involved in our privileges.
And Chapter xvii concludes the amazing and extensive record of our Lord's deeds of physical and mental healing, with an account of the healing of ten lepers.
Truly He came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly.
Now we have noticed that these records of cures are composed of two elements: (1) individual cases of healing, and (2) multiple healings, which taken together indicate that Jesus in the course of His ministry must have brought relief and health not merely to a favoured few, but to a great number of sick, diseased and maimed people, including lepers and paralytics, lame, blind, deaf and dumb. You will notice that this list includes not merely nervous troubles, which might have been expected to yield to treatment by mental suggestion, but organic disease such as leprosy, which was generally regarded as incurable, and physical deformities in mature persons for which no merely human methods could accomplish anything.
Nor do we find any record of failure to relieve any form of physical ailment. Instead we are told again and again that "He healed them all --every one."
Can we believe that so extensive a feature of His ministry, to which such striking prominence is given in the Gospel records, was intended to be merely incidental and temporary, and to have no part in the age-long ministry of the Son of God, of which the years of His flesh were only the commencement?
It may be argued that it is unethical when we have violated our physical natures and so developed some ailment, to expect it to be right by a prayer. But is it any more ethical to have it corrected by a pill or the surgeon's scalpel?
The permanent value of medical science seems to me to be teaching people how to live, both individually and as communities, so as to eliminate the causes of sickness and diseases. In fact, the chief function of the physician should be to justify his appropriation of the title "Doctor" by living up to its original meaning, "teacher." And I cannot believe that the hideous butchery of the thoraco-plastic operation, in which parts of ribs are removed, is the last word in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.
If we believe in evolution, can we honestly consider the use of drugs and the knife an advance on Jesus' spiritual way of healing?
1 The material for this manuscript came in part from Calvin's sermons at the Mountain Sanatorium; However, only selections from manuscript are available on this site. The full manuscript can be located in the archives at Whitehern.
For title page and table of contents for full manuscript, see Box 14-078.
For the introduction, see Box 14-079.
For a selection from chapter II, see Box 14-081.