• johned@aibi.ph

Jesus and Healing

by John Edmiston

The healing ministry of Jesus is one of the most acknowledged and most controversial parts of His redemptive work. There are those who see healing as being "in the cross" and thus automatically and instantly available to the believer. Others see physical healing as outside of redemption which they confine to dealing with sin. Both views are, to my mind, a little less than fully biblical. Jesus did indeed bear our illnesses - but not first of all on the cross, but during His earthly ministry to the sick. Matthew clearly sees the fulfillment of the prophecy being while Jesus was alive and ministering!

(Matthew 8:16-17 NKJV) When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, {17} that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses."

However that fact that Jesus has ceased His earthly ministry does not mean that He has ceased His healing ministry because healing is part of the nature and goodness of God and that does not change. The ministry of healing is as unchanged as Christ Himself.

(Hebrews 13:8 NKJV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The healing ministry of Jesus can be broken into two parts:

1) That which He did before the cross and which He taught His disciples to do (Matthew 10:8, Luke 10:1,9, Acts 5:16) and which we can participate in by faith today (John 14:12, James 5:13-15)

2) That which He did in the cross itself. This is a unique and completed work and we simply proclaim its benefits. This is the healing of our spirits from sin , death and going astray. (1 Peter 2:24,25).

I will deal with the second part in a later part of this series on redemption. For now I will concentrate on physical healing, exorcism and raising the dead as typified by Jesus earthly ministry before the Cross and which He continues today through His servants. (Acts 4:22 , 30, 5:16, James 5:13-15)

Physical healing

Even among unbelievers there is a general perception of Jesus as a healer of the sick. It is closely entwined with who He is and how He acts towards needy people. People see Jesus as someone who is supposed to meet their deepest needs including the need for physical healing. When people see healing take place in Jesus' name it strengthens their faith in His nature and in the gospels thus enabling many to believe for salvation.

Healing the sick and preaching were often associated in Jesus' ministry. But to confine healing to something that validates the gospel is to miss Christ's compassion for the sick and to turn healing into little more than an attention- gaining religious publicity stunt. Jesus was genuinely moved out of compassion for the sick. For Him healing was an essential part of His ministry to hurting people and not merely an "opener" before the message.

Jesus associated healing with the Presence of His Kingdom (Luke 10;9). The Kingdom has not yet arrived and still needs to be proclaimed with power and authority. Jesus through His body the Church needs to confront evil in all its forms - physical, emotional, spiritual and systemic.. Thus we can expect His healing ministry to be manifested today to some degree in the redemption of our physical bodies from the effects of evil. This will be finally accomplished at the resurrection but is accomplished in part and as a foretaste through His healing ministry today.

So we see that Jesus is still the same yesterday, today and forever and is still healing the sick. Each day thousands of people around the world experience healing in answer to prayer. Sure not all are healed, sure a lot more should/could be healed, but the Church is reawakening to the Presence of Jesus in our midst as our healing Redeemer. The following six points provide a brief theological tour of the reasons underlying Jesus' healing ministry. I am sure you can diligently search the Scriptures to find even more!

As the incarnation of God. One of the names of God is YHWH Rapha "The Lord Your Healer". Our God has always been a healing God and this is His nature. Therefore Jesus as incarnate deity represented this by healing the sick..(Exodus 15:26 NKJV) and said, "If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.

As an intercessor against evil and bearer of sin. Jesus confronted all forms of evil and lifted it off people. (This is perhaps a more literal translation of nasa to bear). As the confronter and demolisher of evil He took on sickness and the toll it takes on suffering humanity.(1 John 3:8 NKJV) He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.[See also Matt 8:16,17, Isaiah 53:4,5]

As One who did "the Father's will" and only did what He saw the Father doing He enacted God's "Father-heart" toward His Creation. If as human fathers we want our children well how much more does God want His images healed - both physically and spiritually?

(John 5:19-21 NKJV) Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. {20} "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. {21} "For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.[See also Luke 11:10-13]

Note: These verses tell us that all His works flowed from an intimate relationship of obedience to the Father so that Jesus knew His actual will in all things. This was not some quick presumption of what His will "should be" (like we tend to do) and knowing the Fathers will from an intimate relationship with Him is perhaps one of the keys to healing people today.

Out of mercy - God's relenting in judgment on sinners - and consequent bestowing of blessing. The blind men cried "Have mercy on us Son of David.." and were healed. Many of Jesus' miracles flowed from His compassion for hurting humanity.As a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and His nature as the Messiah. For instance in Malachi it says: Malachi 4:2 NKJV) But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.

As a demonstration of the Spirit's power and the Presence of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 10:9 NKJV) "And heal the sick there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'

Exorcism: (Matthew 12:22-29 NKJV) Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. {23} And all the multitudes were amazed and said, "Could this be the Son of David?" {24} Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons." {25} But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. {26} "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? {27} "And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. {28} "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. {29} "Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

There is increasing recognition today of an evil spiritual kingdom arrayed against the Kingdom of God. Movies such as "The Exorcist" and "The Omen" and sensationalized reports of exorcisms gone wrong have done little to help the Church. They have instead created a paralyzing fear of tackling the demonic realm. Yet for Jesus His authority over the demonic realm was undisputed and absolute. He cast out demons with a word (Matthew 8:16, Mark 1:27) and relieved the symptoms of their possession (Luke 13:11-13). He also passed this authority to the Twelve and later to the 70.

(Luke 10:17-22 NKJV) Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." {18} And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. {19} "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. {20} "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." {21} In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. {22} "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."

This is a great perspective statement. It puts authority over spirits in the second rank of blessings behind those associated with salvation(v. 20). Yet it clearly states that even "babes" - the ordinary Christians who are neither "wise" or "prudent"(v. 21) can operate in spiritual power and authority providing they operate within the scope of Jesus's redeeming Name.(v. 17-19) . Demons do not respect knowledge. They only respect authority and power. God gives His authority and power to all who believe and operate in his name. The humblest believer can be endowed with great authority from God. The apostles were certainly "unschooled" miracle workers. (Acts 4:13,14)

The power to deal with the demonic comes from God through faith in the name of Jesus and is part of His works that He trained His Church to do (Matt 10:8). The Presence of the Kingdom demands the absence of the demonic and evicting evil powers is a battle of heavenly proportions that the Church is called to wage.

(2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV) For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. {4} For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, {5} casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

(Ephesians 6:10-12 NKJV) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. {11} Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. {12} For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

We cannot wage this battle in our own strength but only with weapons that are given to us from God and with His delegated power and authority.. We only have a right to this authority because of what Jesus did on the cross in "spoiling" , capturing and defeating and "looting" the "principalities and powers.."

(Colossians 2:15 NKJV) {15} Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.(the cross) The Christian is by definition "in Christ" and participates in this victory of his Master just as a mere private participates in the victory of a General. When one wartime commander defeats another even a private in the winning army has authority over a general in the losing army. Christ has won the battle for us and God has given us authority to defeat evil. (Luke 10:19, Romans 16:20). Demons are afraid of 1)The blood of Jesus Christ 2)The bold testimony of Christians 3) The authority of Christ and His saints. (Revelation 2:11, Ephesians 1:20, 2;6).When Christians resist evil even Satan himself is forced to flee. (James 4:7)

How can we tell if a demon is involved? In brief demonic activity most frequently stems from the person's or their immediate families involvement in occult activity, destructive addictions or promiscuity/pornography. These are very strong life-controlling things that affect our spirits directly. When illness results from such a lifestyle and proves largely untreatable (some alleviation may be experienced but never freedom) then pray and ask God if evil spirits could be involved in the person's subjugation.

There were two main groups of symptoms of demon activity that were alleviated when Jesus cast out evil spirits - 1) Chronic untreatable illness 2) Mental instability , inner torment and derangement. On liberation from demonic activity epileptics were healed (Mark 9:17-27), infirm cripples straightened up,(Luke 13:11-13) blind and mute people received speech and sight (Matt 9:32-34) and people were relieved from inner torment (Luke 6:18, 8:29-35). This is not to say that all chronic illness or mental instability is due to demonic activity but merely that when it is due to evil spirits that we have the authority in Christ Jesus to alleviate the distress. I can recommend Ed Murphy's "Handbook of Spiritual Warfare" for a balanced and thorough treatment of this topic.

Raising The Dead

One of the most obvious effects of Jesus redeeming us is that we will all one day be raised from the dead.

(1 Corinthians 15:51-55 NKJV) Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; {52} in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. {53} For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. {54} So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." {55} "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"

Jesus is "the resurrection and the life"(John 11:25,26). He is able to impart life to our mortal bodies through the power of the indwelling Spirit (Romans 8:11). The final wonder-filled resurrection to glory is pre-figured in gospel events such as the raising of Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:1-45).

However, raising the dead in the here and now as a result of the faith-filled prayers of the saints is in the category of "great wonders". Raising the dead was a rare event even in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles and only occurred a handful of times. It is never implied that all who die should be raised to life. It always seems an extraordinary mercy of God toward some person "deserving" of that mercy because of great need or a life of good works. While the New Testament amplifies at length on the healing ministry of the church and the gift of healing and commands the elders to pray for healing there is only one recorded injunction to "raise the dead" - that given to the twelve by Jesus when sending them out into ministry (Matthew 10:8).

Thus the New Testament raises the possibility of believers being able to do this work of Jesus but seems , frustratingly, to leave it there. There have been various reports of the dead being raised even today however they are nowhere near as common as that of healings or exorcisms. Those raisings from the dead that have occurred in modern times seem to have mainly been in conditions of exceptional revival. I think this is generally its proper context.

Despite all this caution we should remember that Jesus is the Lord of Life - in all its forms (not just spiritual life) and that He can raise the dead and give people a second chance at life. After all "nothing is impossible with God"(Luke 1:37). The possibility of the dead being raised in answer to prayer exists because Jesus has chosen to confront and defeat Death "the last enemy"(1 Cor 15:26). While Death will be the last enemy to be defeated some victories are possible here and now though most will undoubtedly wait until the resurrection of the dead when Christ returns.

Summary and Conclusion

Jesus' redemption of mankind has opened up possibilities for the believer in healing the sick, raising the dead and in casting out demons. Two of these - healing and exorcism seem to have been commonplace in the early church while raising the dead seems to be much rarer. Jesus confronted evil in all its forms and has borne not just our spiritual afflictions such as sin and judgment but our physical illnesses and emotional griefs. He began to bear these latter things during His earthly ministry (Matt 8:16,17) and culminated this lifting of burdens on the Cross. Since then He has continued to heal the sick through the ministry of His body the Church.

Where to from here? There is not sufficient space for me to fully outline a balanced and compassionate and Biblical theology of healing. That would take a book. What I can recommend is starting with a concordance or computer Bible program go through and study every biblical reference to healing, exorcism and raising the dead. Test your theories against the biblical data and pray, pray, pray for the sick. They need your prayers and Christ's help.

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.