Why was Jesus so touched by those in the multitude who needed healing? His time spent in healing seems to be far greater than His time preaching. The stories of His miraculous healing rival stories of the people He converted. Is the body greater than the spirit?
When you stop and realize that sickness is often a metaphor for sin, it helps bring this disparity into focus. When Jesus saw the sick and suffering, He also saw the evidence of sin’s working on our planet. It was only through Satan’s leadership that so many people were suffering physically, let alone mentally and spiritually. Jesus couldn’t help but be moved with compassion for the sick who often, through no fault of their own, were experiencing such miserable, painful lives.
This week we will seek to understand
- the scope of suffering,
- why some are healed and some are not, and
- why healing ministries are so important to our discipleship.
Memory Text: “Large crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel” Matthew 15:30, 31 NIV
Notice what the people did, following these healing sessions. It says they were amazed and one would think they would be praising Jesus. But it says they praised the God of Israel. Evidently, the crowd “got it”! They recognized in this itinerant preacher One who was sent from God. And their praise was well-placed.
Sunday: The Healing Messiah
Matthew 8:17 says, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, He Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”
The prophecy referred to is Isaiah 53:4: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…”
Our lesson pointed out (and I verified it in Strong’s) that the word “griefs” in this verse can be translated “sicknesses” or “diseases”. So Jesus not only took away their sins, but their diseases as well.
This is what makes Jesus’ healing so unique. Other pagan deities were considered healing gods. But none of them suffered in the place of their worshipers like Jesus did. He suffered AND died as our Substitute. No wonder Jesus needed to spend so much time in prayer with His Father after ministering to the multitudes. He truly empathized with those who needed His healing touch. He was suffering right along with them.
This kind of substitutionary love on the part of Jesus was the attraction that brought the crowds to see and hear Him, and is what is still bringing disciples to Him today. He not only takes away our suffering, but He suffers with us.
Here are some reasons the crowds stayed close to Jesus:
- They were attracted through the power that came from His love and character.
- They admired His easily understood preaching.
- They became disciples because of how He treated the poor.
- They followed Him because He had touched and healed their broken lives.
Discussion Questions: In light of the story of Job, why should we be non-judgmental when it comes to reasons for sickness and disease? Did Job need answers from his friends or would he rather have had tangible comfort? What kind of comfort does Jesus provide?
How do you give comfort to others, even when we can’t provide all the reasons for pain and suffering? What kind of support can we give when tragedy strikes someone we know?
Monday: Healing the Body
Often when Jesus healed someone, He forgave their sins as well. It seems as if Jesus’ healing was a package deal. Healing of the body affected one’s spirituality. Forgiving their sins led to the absence of their sickness. And giving them a sound mind (as with the demoniacs) also improved their physical appearance and made them willing followers of Jesus.
This type of healing sounds like a holistic approach, which modern medical science has only recently been taking more seriously. Looking at the whole person, and not just the parts that appear to need fixing, is finally being recognized as part of medical practice.
Ancient Greek philosophy has had a great influence on the practice of medicine and on our concept of soul and body. Plato and Aristotle separated the spiritual (soul) and the physical (body) and believed that human souls were immortal. Bodies, being temporal, were less valuable than the soul which goes on forever.
I Corinthians 15:51-53 says, “Behold I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed…at the last trump [which describes His Second Coming in I Thessalonians 4:16]…and this mortal must put on immortality”.
Jesus clearly described death as a sleep state. Of Jairus’ daughter He said, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” And of Lazarus He said, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
Discussion Questions: Read the story in Mark 2:1-12 of the man healed of palsy, who was carried by his four friends into the presence of Jesus by cutting a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus was staying. Why did Jesus first forgive the crippled man’s sins, and why was it important for them to be forgiven at all?
How is our view of discipleship changed by hearing this story? How can we be like the four friends who went to such lengths to bring someone to Jesus?
Tuesday: Healing the Mind and Body
The ultimate goal of healing was not just restoring of the physical body, or the mental capacities, or even one’s own forgiveness and freedom from guilt. The end result was to create disciples. And this is what happened to those whose lives Jesus touched during His public ministry. They were the founding pioneers of the New Testament Christian church, sharing their stories of deliverance with the world.
God has shown us how to take care of our bodies with adequate rest, proper diet, exercise, fresh air and sunshine, plenty of water, temperate living, and trust in God. But He also gives us counsel on how to guard our mental health:
- Don’t make making money and having wealth your priority in life. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19, 20
- Don’t worry about “things”, God will take care of you. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat?…But seek ye first the kingdom of God…” Matthew 6:31-33
- Give God your burdens. “Casting all your care upon him: for he careth for you.” I Peter 5:7
- Think on good and holy things. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true… whatsoever things are pure…think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
- Try to please God and He will provide all you need. ” And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” I John 3:22
All of these measures are designed by God to equip us for service and a deeper walk with Him.
Discussion Questions: Although not everyone is totally healed of their health problems, explain how the principles in the Bible can make our lives more bearable.
Why is trusting God so important to having more commitment and experiencing full discipleship? The disciple Thomas didn’t seem to have this trust at first. Describe how this may have affected his discipleship.
Wednesday: The Resurrection and the Life
The story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus back to life (John 11:37-44) is perhaps the most miraculous healing of all in the Gospels. But Jesus performed this miracle for two others: the only son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and for Jairus’ daughter (Mark 21-43).
These three resurrections should give us faith that even though our prayers for healing are not answered in this life, God is powerful enough to resurrect our loved ones and give them eternal life at His Coming (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Discussion Question: Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” Why is this promise of eternal life so important to us when sickness comes, especially to the families involved? What hope would there be without it?
Thursday: Christ’s Healing Legacy
Disciples during the first century continued to see miracles of healing and resurrection that were helpful for the growth of the church:
- Peter and John healing the lame man at the temple gate–Acts 3:1-19
- Peter raising Dorcas to life–Acts 9:36-42
- Paul raising Eutychus, the boy who fell out of a window–Acts 20:7-10
“And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people…And believers were increasingly added to the Lord,…Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” Acts 5:12-16
Jesus Himself predicted this would happen. Several times in the Gospel of John He promised that “greater things than these” would be seen by the disciples. See John 1:50, 5:20, and 14:12.
Discussion Questions: Will there come another time when miraculous signs and wonders will be seen and performed by God’s church? Read Acts 1:1-21 (Peter’s sermon, quoting Joel about a time when God will pour out His Spirit on God’s people in the end times).
Since the gift of healing is mentioned in Paul’s list of spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12, why is it important that we not lose sight of our call to minister to the sick and encourage them to be disciples?
Summary: Having a correct understanding of the relationship between health and spirituality should encourage us, as a church, to continue our mission of establishing hospitals, medical clinics, and medical schools. But it should also inspire us as individuals to do all we can for those affected by physical disabilities or chronic and terminal conditions. Jesus’ compassion for the multitudes must become our motivation for active ministry in visiting and helping the sick and disabled, who may be living right next door.
Challenge: There are many ways we can disciple the sick. Choose one or more of these ways that are new to you this week:
- visit someone you know in the hospital, and remember to pray for them before you leave
- call an elderly homebound person and have a leisurely chat
- bring a meal, or loaf of bread, to a neighbor struggling with health issues and offer to help them or their caregiver with any of their needs
- support a church hospital financially, through regular monthly giving or a trust fund
- donate your time as a hospital volunteer
- offer to deliver meals to seniors in your community on a regular basis
- make sure your church is handicapped accessible and encourage those with disabilities to actively participate in the church program
- make sure you are following a good program for maintaining your own health so you can serve others better and longer
Next week: Discipling the Ordinary