On Healing and Missing the Point

In Sunday school I am teaching on Matthew 8 through 10 which record much of the healing ministry of Jesus. The question arose, “Should we be following the example of Jesus in healing and does the commissioning of the disciples to heal, cast out evil spirits, raise the dead, and cast out evil spirits apply to us today?” When someone said, “Yes, we should be doing the same works Jesus and his disciples did,” the discussion, as it often does, veered into gentle ad hominem attacks that ignore the real question. This happens a lot.

Someone will usually say, “I don’t need to see miracles to believe in Jesus! His Holy Word is good enough for me!” The implication is that those who think healing should still be part of the ministry of Church are so weak in their faith that they need to see miracles to avoid falling away. It ignores the possibility that they are motivated by a desire to be faithful to God’s Word, by a compassionate desire to end the suffering of the afflicted, and by a passion to see the name of Jesus lifted high.

Another will say, “I think it is important for us to be thankful for all the other wonderful blessings of God—like spiritual healing, salvation, and sweet communion with Him.” Perfectly true and perfectly missing the point. The subtle implication is that asking for the Body of Christ to have the healing hands of Christ is somehow a failure to be grateful. A lost and starving man stumbling into town from the desert can be ecstatically grateful for the sandwich and yet still ask for water. When one of our kids is walking with Lord, it is not ingratitude to pray passionately for the others. We can multitask.

And always someone will remind us, “It is God that heals, not us. All the glory must go to God.” Again perfectly true and completely missing the point.  In Matthew 10:1 Jesus commanded his twelve disciples to go out and heal the sick? Would they have been more spiritual if they had said, “No. Only God can heal. If we heal the sick, someone might mistakenly glorify us instead of you. How do we know it is God’s will to heal? What about God’s timing?” However, the gift of healing is given to the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12) so that we might continue the ministry of Jesus. God has ordained that his ministry flow through His people, the Church. Yes, God should receive all the glory, all the time, but in Scripture he still used people. We can’t get off the hook regarding healing by professing a fear stealing glory from God. Sitting on our healing hands is more likely to rob God of the glory He deserves.

Another person will chime in with a timely exhortation to love people and to value the fruit of the Spirit as much as the power of the Spirit. Yes. Yes, and Yes. But the subtle implication is that we have failed to value both gifts and the fruit of God’s Spirit. Clearly God desires us to have both. And honestly, I fail to see how loving someone and seeking their healing are incompatible. I can’t imagine one of my sons being sick and being content to love him without seeking his healing. Jesus healed because he loved. We should too.

All of these subtle attacks have something in common; they assume the issue of healing is about us. But it’s not. It isn’t about our need to see signs, a failure of gratitude, a desire for glory, or failure to value the fruit of the Spirit. It’s about the glory of God, the faithfulness of the Church to do Christ’s works, and suffering of the afflicted.

To all questions raised I answer, “Yes! Certainly. Of course. Right.” But now can we get back to the real question? Please? How are we going to obey Jesus command, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give?” Did only the twelve receive?  What about the 70 mentioned in Luke? Does this commission apply to us? What about the miracles of Stephen and Philip who weren’t apostles? What does it mean to be faithful to God’s Word and to faithfully manifest the full ministry of Jesus?

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About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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