Jesus, the Healer
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
True to his Holy Name, 'Jesus', which the angel told Mary and Joseph that they shall give the child, "for he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:20; Lk 1:31), Jesus began his three year ministry with healings and deliverances. That is what the name Jesus signified in Hebrew - Saviour, Healer, Deliverer, as the angel explained, when he announced to the shepherds 'Good News of Great Joy to All People' (Lk 2:10,21).
For after receiving both the mandate from his Father and the power of the Spirit at the River Jordan, he returned to Nazareth and on the Sabbath proclaimed in the synagogue a passage from Isaiah's prophecy as his manifesto: "The Spirit of the Lord has come upon me, he has anointed me to proclaim Good News to the poor; he has sent me to announce deliverance to the captives, to give sight to the blind, to set at liberty all who are oppressed, to declare, 'This is the year the Lord has chosen'" (Lk 4:16-21). From then onwards the twin ministry of Jesus was that of preaching and teaching and of healing and deliverance.
His Ministry of Healing
Jesus exercised his healing ministry towards all who needed it, at all places and at all times. He healed everyone, everywhere, everytime. He went round the whole of Galilee, through all the towns and villages, teaching in the synagogues and even in houses and in open spaces as well as curing whatever illness or infirmity there was among the people. Sufferers from all kinds of terrible diseases, racked with pain, the epileptic or paralysed, and those possessed by demons, were all brought to him, (in fact the whole town would gather around the door of the house where he was staying), and he cured them all (Mt 4:23,24; 9:35; Mk 1:33; Lk 5:15). Even when he went up to the hills, crowds flocked to him, bringing with them the lame, blind, dumb and crippled, and many other sufferers; they threw them down at his feet, and he healed them. Great was the amazement of the people when they saw the lame walking, the blind seeing, the dumb speaking, the crippled strong; and they gave praise to God (Mt: 15:30,31). Even in the very temple blind and lame people came to him, and he healed them (Mt 21:14).
The Secret of his Healing Power
"Where did Jesus get the power to heal?" (Mt 13:54). "It was God who had given Jesus the power to heal" (Lk 5:17). Peter would later confirm in his preaching to Cornelius how God anointed Jesus with the power of the Holy Spirit, and that is why he went everywhere doing good and healing everyone who was under the power of the devil, because God was with him (Acts 10:38). When the father of the boy, from whom the disciples in Jesus' absence couldn't force out the demon, begged of Jesus, if he at least could, to deliver his son, Jesus replied that he (Jesus) had the power and could do so, but asked did he (the father) have the faith that would release that power? (Mk 9:22-24). Jesus would later tell the Apostles, "You must wait until you receive power from heaven", and "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and give you power" (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8).
However it requires prayer to exercise this charism, as we see in the life and ministry of Jesus. After Jesus and the disciples had gone back home and were alone, they asked him, "Why couldn't we force out that demon?" Jesus answered, "Only prayer can force out that kind of demon" (Mk 9:28-29). Many have testified that the more they pray and fast the greater is the fruit of their healing ministry.
Why did Jesus heal?
What motivated Jesus to heal? On one occasion Jesus had planned to go to a lonely place where he could be alone. But the crowds found out and followed him. Seeing them his heart was filled with compassion and he healed everyone who was sick (Mt 14:13-14). When he saw the funeral bier of the only son of the widow of Nain, he was moved to pity (Lk 7:13). When the leper begged Jesus, "You have the power to make me well, if only you want to," Jesus felt sorry for him, touched me and said, "Of course I want. Go, you are now well" (Mk 1:40-41). When he was shown where Lazarus was buried, he wept, and the people said, "See how much he loved Lazarus" (Jn 11:34-36). For him the Gerasene demoniac was more precious than 2000 swine (Mk 5:11-13). He insisted on staying with Zacchaeus in spite of criticism, for he had come to look for and to save people who were lost (Lk 19 1-10). He healed the ear of Malchus, even though he had come to have him arrested (Lk 22:51). His family thought he was crazy; his enemies accused him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, but that did not stop him from reaching out to the sick and afflicted (Mk 3:21; Lk 11:15).
The goal of Jesus' ministry however was to bring a wholeness to the broken. When he was accused of receiving sinners and even eating with them, he replied, "I did not come to invite good people to be my followers, but sinners" (Mk 2:17). "Come to me," he said, "all you who are burdened and broken hearted and I will refresh you" (Mt 11:28). I feel that every story of healing in the Gospels was not just that of physical healing, which is the least part of the healing ministry, which in its turn is just one part of the full Gospel, but rather of total or inner healing, so that Paul could make it his prayer, "May the God of peace (total healing) make you holy, healthy and without fault in spirit, mind and body, when our Lord Jesus comes (1 Thess 5:23,24). But he had also come to destroy the works of Satan. When the Pharisees challenged his healing on the Sabbath the woman who was completely bent over, he retorted, "Must not this daughter of Israel, whom Satan has kept bound for 18 years, be set free?" (Lk 13:16). When they were against him healing a sick man on the Sabbath, Jesus replied that they themselves would not have any qualms of conscience in pulling out their son or even their ox fallen into a well on the Sabbath (Lk 14:3-5). He was working against the kingdom of Satan even on the Sabbath, by giving life and doing good, because His Father too was always working the same way (Jn 5:17).
At the same time he had come to establish God's reign on earth. "If I use God's power to cast out demons, it proves that God's kingdom has already come to you" (Lk 11:20). He directed his disciples to say to the sick whom they were healing, "God's kingdom is here" (Lk 10:9). When John the Baptist's disciples were sent to find out whether Jesus was really the Messiah, he told them, "Go and tell John what you have heard and seen. The blind can now see and the lame can walk. Lepers are being healed and the deaf can hear. The dead are raised to life and the poor are hearing the good news" (Mt 11:4-5).
How did Jesus heal?
He healed both across distance without the person being present (Jn 4:48-53) and also by applying mud and spit to the eyes of the blind man (Jn 9:6). But generally he communicated his healing power and love by his words and through his hands. The people brought to him many that were possessed with devils and he cast them out by the power of his word (Mt 8:16). "With authority he commands even the evil spirits and they obey him," people said in amazement (Mk 1:27). However he healed also by the touch of his love. All brought their friends who were suffering from one disease or another to him; and he laid his hands on them one by one and cured them (Lk 4:40). Jairus too begged him to lay his hands on his dying daughter to save her (Mk 5:23).
Our hands are God's precious gifts to us to lift them up in praise of him and to stretch them out in love for men. This is because through the laying on of hands we express our solidarity and identify ourselves with the sick, taking upon ourselves their burdens and giving them our peace. That is why Jesus is not to be looked upon as a faith healer or miracle worker. He healed us through his personal relationship with us by taking on himself our sufferings and pain, our sins and our punishment (Is 53:4,5). For us Christians, healing is not something we now get but - someone we already have.
The only response that Jesus wanted to his word and his touch was faith. "Do you believe I can make you well," Jesus asked the two blind men. When they answered in the affirmative, Jesus said, "Because of your faith, you will be healed"( Mt 9:27-31). When the centurion came up to ask him to cure his servant, lying paralysed and racked with pain at home, Jesus said, "I will come and cure him." But the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not good enough for you to come into my house. Just give the order, and my servant will get well." When Jesus heard this he was so surprised that he turned and said to the crowd following him, "I tell you that in all of Israel I've never found anyone with this much faith." Then Jesus said to the officer, "You may go home now. Your faith has made it happen." Right then his servant was healed (Mt 8:5-10,13; Lk 7:2-10; Jn:4:47). It is the words of this gentile that the Church puts on our lips when we receive Communion. Jesus praised the faith and humour of the Canaanite woman, who would not take no for an answer, and delivered her daughter (Mt 15:21-28). By contrast Jesus could do no mighty work in Nazareth his own home town because of their unbelief, and he was equally astonished at the lack of faith of his own townsmen (Mk 6:5).
Just as Jesus touched people with love to heal them, people on their part sought to touch Jesus with faith to be healed, for power came forth from him and healed them all (Lk 6:19 ). He even had to tell his disciples to get a boat ready to keep him from being crushed by the crowds who were pressing forward to touch him (Mk 3:10). But all those who were sick begged him just to let them touch his clothes, and everyone who did was healed (Mt 14:36). The woman with the haemorrhage too had faith enough to believe that if she would but touch the fringe of Jesus' garment she would be healed. As soon as she touched it the bleeding stopped, and she knew she was healed. Simultaneously Jesus felt power go out from him and he praised her for such a manifestation of her faith, "Your great faith has made you well" (Lk 8:43-47; Mk 5:25-34).
Jesus also looked upon gratitude for the healing received as an expression of faith. While the 10 lepers, whom Jesus had instructed to go and show themselves to the priests, were on their way, they were healed. Only one of them, and he a Samaritan, discovering that he was cured, came back, shouting praises to God. He threw himself down at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. Jesus asked, "Weren't ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Why was this foreigner the only one who came back to thank God?" Then Jesus told the man, "You may get up and go. Your faith has made you well" (Lk:17:11-19).
However praise and thanksgiving for healings not yet received is a still greater expression of faith. That is why Jesus said that when we pray we must believe that we have already received, even when we don't see the healings taking place as yet, and then we will receive (Mk 10:24). In its turn gratitude for the healings received would express itself in various ways as extensions of faith. Peter's mother-in-law rose and served a meal (Mk 1:31), Bartimaeus followed Jesus as his disciple, the possessed Gerasene went back to witness in his own hometown (Mk 10:52; 5:20), the paralytic was told to sin no more (Jn 5:14).
His Healing Ministry continues in the Church
Finally, Jesus did not keep this power to himself but gave it to his disciples then and to his Church now. Even during his life time he called together his twelve apostles and gave them authority and power over all demons and diseases (Lk 9:1,2; Mt:10:1,5,7; Mk 3:15), and since they received without paying, they should give without being paid (Mt 10:8). So they set out and went from village to village, telling the good news and healing people everywhere (Lk 9:6). After his resurrection he confirmed this commission, "Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world. - Everyone who believes me will do wonderful things. By using my name they will cast out demons … They will also heal sick people by laying their hands on them" (Mk 16:15-18).
The Lord has indeed enjoined us to lay our hands on the sick and to pray in faith, as James advises us, leaving the results to the Lord who always answers our prayers and heals not necessarily in the way we want but always in the way he knows we need. Even though as yet the documents of the Church don't mention signs and wonders as a means of evangelization, in and through the Charismatic Renewal there is a great spate of healing centres, healing retreats, 'healing Masses' and healing services, with incredible results in a way that has never happened before.
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Copyright © Fr. Rufus Pereira. All rights reserved.