Bulletin Articles

Bulletin Articles

“"He Healed Them"”

Categories: Iron sharpens iron

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22.1-5)

It is often noticed that the Gospel written by Luke, whom Paul called “the beloved physician” (Co 4.14), is focused on Jesus’ work of healing.  But while this is certainly true, considering the author’s technical knowledge and vocabulary, it’s not apparent from a surface-level look at the Gospels, because the number of healings recorded by Luke is in the same range as Matthew and Mark (while John’s focus is elsewhere).  It’s not that the claims about Luke are false; rather, the story of Jesus’ ministry on earth is so tightly tied to his healing, that it’s tough to tell the story without it!

As is the case with speaking in tongues, handling venomous snakes, or receiving new revelations from the Spirit of God, there are still some today who claim to possess healing power through Jesus.  And, as is the case with those other so-called “charismatic” gifts, it is extremely difficult to prove a blanket, sweeping negative, and it’s presumptuous and dangerous to tell God what he can and can’t do; but at least we can say that God gave advance notice that this sort of gift is not forever:

As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13.8-10)

Additionally, while there are two recorded instances of God very clearly dispensing such gifts through the direct outpouring of his Spirit (Ac 2 & 10), in other cases this had to be passed on by the Apostles (see Ac 6.6ff, 8.14-18, 19.6; also Ro 1.11).  A couple of oddities appear, such as Timothy (1Ti 4.14) and Paul (Ac 9.17); taken alone, one could easily understand these to support the ongoing prevalence of miraculous spiritual gifts.  On the other hand, they’re also consistent with the interpretation we’ve already been building—that God chose a limited number of instances to directly bequeath these gifts—on his Apostles and the very first Gentiles to come to Christ—and otherwise, they were only passed on by the Apostles (most of whom were on the council of elders at Jerusalem for a time).

And yet, while these gifts in general, and healing in particular, dried up with the deaths of the Apostles and the fulfillment of their purpose in validating the message in the church’s infancy, there is still an obvious need for healing, today!  And, as so often happens, the physical is designed to teach us about spiritual things.  Jesus’ most common miracle was to heal.  On occasion he fed people despite having no obvious source for food; a few times he provided financial assistance to his disciples; countless times he demonstrated a supernatural knowledge of people’s hearts and thoughts; he showed his power over various simple aspects of the physical world.  But even this considerable list is absolutely dwarfed by the number of people whose ailments he healed.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. (Matthew 4.23-24)

Even people in perfect health can appreciate what Jesus was doing.  We all have loved ones, and as time progresses and they age, we see their strength decline and come to realize that they are vulnerable and will one day succumb to one physical ailment or another, and die.  More than that, even the most self-centered person in the world has to eventually face his own mortality and recognize that he will die.  Even when we reconcile ourselves to this fact, death is still an ugly, evil thing.

But the physical isn’t the whole story.  Deep down, whether we’ll admit it or not, each one of us knows there’s something wrong with him.  None of us has maintained perfect spiritual health through a full life in this world of sin, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro 3.23).  We know we were made for a purpose, and we know that we’ve disappointed our maker, damaged our own souls through rebellion against him, and rendered ourselves unfit for anything but destruction.

Yet, Jesus still offers healing.  We pray for physical healing routinely, in faith that he hears, cares, and will grant us what we need—even if it’s not what we want.  But more importantly, the soul of each person needs to be healed—to be made whole.  The vision of heaven given to John includes an image of the tree of life, whose leaves are “for the healing of the nations.”  Take the leap of faith, into a watery grave of cleansing, rejuvenation, and healing.  Your physical body will one day die; but Jesus promises to heal your soul, rescue you from death, and give you an eternal home with him.

Jeremy Nettles