One of the most appealing things about Christ, no matter whom or what one considers Him to be, was His ability to heal people of afflictions that even the latest in modern medical science can’t cure. A man born blind will stay that way throughout his life. A woman born with autism will remain handicapped. I could go on and on but the fact is there was never a physical defect or neurological condition Jesus couldn’t repair. That astounding ability alone sets Him apart from every human being who’s ever trod terra firma. And few will deem His miraculous healings fictional because they’re so thoroughly documented in the Gospel accounts. To dismiss them is to dismiss the entire New Testament narrative as a made-up fantasy and that opinion is ridiculous in and of itself. Therefore examining Christ as the supernatural physician He was is advantageous for any of His followers who desire to gain a fuller grasp of His divine personality. Fredrick Buechner said, “Ever since the time of Jesus, healing has been part of the Christian tradition. In this century, it has usually been associated with religious quackery or the lunatic fringe; but as the psychosomatic dimension of disease has come to be taken more and more seriously by medical science, it has regained some of its former respectability. How nice for God to have this support at last!” (I love that author’s wry wit.)
Since healing was obviously of great importance to Jesus and something He didn’t shy away from doing we must assume it was yet another integral reason for His leaving heaven to come here. To consider His ability to heal nothing more than an unavoidable-but-useful bonus talent stemming from His actually being God is to downplay its crucial function in the grand design of His earthly mission. James S. Stewart wrote, “The healing miracles were no mere incidental works of pity, but the fruit of Jesus’ strong conviction that He’d come into the world to redeem our human personality in all its aspects, physical as well as spiritual, and to offer unto God His Father whole men.” That makes perfect sense to Christians because Christ taught us our souls and our bodies are indivisibly entwined down here and that both exert a substantial effect on the other. Therefore it’s not surprising to read when Jesus sent His disciples out to spread the Good News in area villages He told them, “Heal the sick in that town and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come upon you!’” (Luke 10:9). Thus we can’t summarily dismiss any healing episode we feel we should move into the “strange incident” bin because we think it might be too far-fetched for the average non-believer to accept. Supernatural, impossible-to-explain healings were part of what confirms to us that Christ was, indeed, Emmanuel; the regal name translated means “God with us.” Otherwise we’re presenting Him as a wise, charismatic teacher/philosopher only. Stewart wrote, “…Eliminate the supernatural from your thoughts of Jesus and you may still have something that you find valuable left; you have certainly not the Christ of the Gospels left, but a different being altogether.” Jesus is the “real deal” in every way and we should present Him accordingly to those who don’t know Him. Why hide the liberating truth?
So we know for certain Christ healed people. What does that tell us about Him? The country He was brought up in had a plethora of serious spiritual issues that needed addressing so what motivated Jesus to take the time to make sick folks well? Some will surmise His healings were intended to not only attract attention but to bolster His Godly status while lending credibility to His message. Others say since skeptics will trust only what they can see, hear and/or touch, healing miracles were necessary for providing verifiable proof of His holiness. Yet those theories fail to hold water. The Gospels poke big holes in them. The Scriptures tell us our Savior was in no way a self-aggrandizing publicity glutton; that He repeatedly requested the recipients of His healing keep their miracle discreet. Now, anyone aiming to become a celebrity would do the opposite. This indicates the whole concept of adding to His flock via marvelous, inexplicable feats was not a central part of Christ’s plan. If it was, He would’ve taken the devil up on his tempting offer to let invisible angels catch Him in midair after He took a swan-dive off the temple roof! Jesus knew better.
Philip Yancey commented, “Yes, Jesus performed miracles – around three dozen, depending on how you count them – but the Gospels actually downplay them. Often Jesus asked those who’d seen a miracle not to tell anyone else. Some miracles, such as the Transfiguration or the raising of a twelve-year-old girl, He let only His closest disciples watch, with strict orders to keep things quiet. Though He never denied someone who asked for physical healing, He always turned down requests for a demonstration to amaze the crowds and impress important people. Jesus recognized early on that the excitement generated by miracles did not readily convert into life-changing faith.” Another angle to ponder is this: if Jesus was just a clever, persuasive, mind-over-matter guru with a God complex, wouldn’t He have made sure His power to heal remained exclusively His own? On the contrary, He deliberately bestowed that powerful talent upon His disciples and they, to a great extent, were able to wield its extraordinary power themselves on many occasions.
Christ intuitively knew all too well that, in general, miraculous acts rarely instill long-lasting belief. The “What have you done for me lately?” mindset was as prevalent then as it is now. In His parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus our Master said, “…If they do not respond to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31) and it’s hard to miss the irony in His statement. Few are those who permanently surrender their heart to Jesus solely because they’ve witnessed something they can’t explain. Most who decide to dedicate their lives to living for Christ do so due to the leading of the Holy Spirit to discover the truth. It’s only then Jesus’ miraculous powers become downright logical. So spotlight-hogging as His motivation gets tossed out the window. Then what we’re left with is our Lord’s undeniable compassion for those who suffer. He wasn’t “showing off” when He dared to touch the lepers’ oozing sores. Probably lots of folks got so freaked out by His doing things like that they vowed to have nothing further to do with Him. We must conclude Jesus couldn’t help Himself; that His overwhelming love for the oppressed always took precedence over whatever the public’s biased perceptions of His actions would be. “Compassion” is actually a compound of two Latin words meaning “suffering with.” That’s what Christ does for us all. He suffers with the cancer patient. He suffers with the abused wife. He suffers with the anxiety-ridden, grieving father. He suffers with the disaster victim. And He bore all our pain, all our disappointments, all our heartaches upon the cross where He suffered the intense agony of them all. As the Bible says, “In this way what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet was fulfilled: ‘He took our weaknesses and carried our diseases’” (Matthew 8:17).
Jesus had another motive for healing. To Him disease was an unwelcome intruder into what God had intended to be a beautiful paradise. Like the scourge of sin, it was never the Father’s will that diseases would even exist. But because of the iniquity of Adam & Eve it’d become a horrendous, widespread reality and Christ was determined to eradicate it wherever He came across the devastating consequences of its presence. Our Savior didn’t patronize those who were tormented by it, either. He never intimated the Heavenly Father wanted them to suffer nor did He say they’d brought their illness upon themselves. He also never sighed, “Well, that’s just the way it goes.” Not on your life. Christ was the sworn enemy of disease, ready to do all He could to fight it tooth and nail. When the opportunity presented itself He used healing to dispel any notions that the Prince of this World, Satan, was invincible. In those days the popular consensus was that all afflictions were caused by the devil, including, of course, terrifying cases of demonic possession. So whenever Jesus or one of His followers healed someone who’d been written off as “incurable” it demonstrated in spectacular fashion that Satan’s kingdom was starting to tear apart at the seams. There was a “new sheriff in town”, so to speak. Christ said, “…If I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you” (Luke 11:20). When His 70 evangelists returned with tales of spectacular healings our Lord rejoiced and mocked His adversary, exclaiming, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven!” (Luke 10:18) and there was nothing Ol’ Scratch could do about it.
So now we know why our Savior healed. It’s time to investigate how He was able to. No magic was involved. Nothing hidden up His sleeve. Thus it makes sense to deduce His being sinless and morally perfect had everything to do with it. Any man or woman on the street can tell you what’s possible for a regular person to accomplish and what’s not. But Jesus was no regular person. He may’ve looked regular but that’s where any similarity ended. He was God incarnate and sin couldn’t impose any limitations on Him. He was absolute purity in a realm utterly void of purity and the uniqueness of that situation afforded Him the power to do anything He desired to do. In 21st century terms, Christ was the “X Factor” this world had never known so it should come as no surprise He could instantly “heal the unhealable.” That’s why, to those who’d gotten to know Him intimately, belief in His Resurrection wasn’t too tall a hurdle to clear. They’d seen disease and even death submit to His authority so His walking out of the tomb was actually par for the course. “…God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24). Simply put, there’s never been anyone like Jesus.
We should also never overlook the power unleashed by the dynamic strength of our Redeemer’s faith in His Father. It was solid, unassailable. One time the disciples were befuddled by their failure to exorcise a particularly stubborn demon while their Master drove the vile imp out with a single command. “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why couldn’t we cast it out?’ He told them, ‘It was because of your little faith’” (Matthew 17:19-20). They’d been bold, alright, but in the back of their minds they’d harbored just enough doubt to prevent them from being successful. With Christ, however, there was no lack of confidence and the demon knew he had to vamoose. Jesus told us “…If you have faith and do not doubt …even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, you will receive” (Matthew 21:21-22). Our Lord definitely “walked the walk”, showing us what unrestrained faith is and what it can do.
But one may ask, “How then were the followers of Christ able to heal the sick at all?” Easy. It was because they had unwavering faith in Jesus and, through Him, in the Heavenly Father. By the same token, the unbelief exhibited by groups of people who refused to accept Christ as the promised Messiah kept them from receiving His miracle healings. In Nazareth our Lord was thwarted from doing much good. The crowd grumbled, “’Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary? …Where did he get all this?’ And so they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own house.’ And he did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:55-58). Yancey wrote, “Jesus never met a disease He couldn’t cure, a birth defect He couldn’t reverse, a demon He couldn’t exorcise. But He did meet skeptics He couldn’t convince and sinners He couldn’t convert.”
One of the keys to a person’s getting healed of various hurts, hang-ups and habits by way of Celebrate Recovery is the level of belief they have in Christ’s ability. The ministry’s leaders try to encourage all potential overcomers by exposing them to CR’s helpful lessons and true-to-life, heartfelt testimonies delivered by other recoverees while their sponsors will constantly fertilize their mustard seed-sized faith that Jesus can do what nothing and no one else has been able to do – heal them. Our Lord was always on the lookout for folks who had the courage to trust in Him. When a centurion of the Roman army sent for Christ to come and heal his ailing slave (a risky career move, no doubt) our Savior went. Declaring he wasn’t worthy to have Jesus enter his house, the centurion requested only that Christ “say the word” and then his servant would be good as new. “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him. He turned and said to the crowd that followed him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith!’” (Luke 7:9).
The bottom line is this: In Christ the omnipotent power of God was literally present here on our planet. Jesus has no human equivalent in all of history because He came from heaven. “The one who comes from above is superior to all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is superior to all” (John 3:31). Jesus came from above. That’s a fact. Else He would’ve never been able to heal a single individual, much less hundreds. All Christians must embrace that fundamental truth as tightly as we can if we’re to make a difference in this mixed-up, fallen world. Yancey said, “To put it mildly, God is no more satisfied with this earth than we are; Jesus’ miracles offer a hint of what God intends to do about it.” Stewart summed it up succinctly. He wrote, “The story of Jesus, who went about continually doing good to men, is the story of immeasurable energy in contact with measurable need. Here the eternal love of heaven was meeting the transient tragedies of earth. Nothing else could have happened on that battlefield but what did happen: need and tragedy had to own themselves defeated, and love and life were victors. For the work of Jesus was the work of the everlasting God.”