Two posts ago we looked at how pervasive and extensive Jesus’s healing ministry was in His short time on earth. Everywhere He went He healed the sick, and most of the time He healed everyone He encountered who was sick or diseased.
The question I want to try to answer in this post is, what did He expect of His disciples and His future disciples (like us)?
To answer that question we should probably begin with His instructions to the twelve disciples as He sent them out. What did He command them to do in terms of healing the sick? Let’s listen in, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them…as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons…..” Matthew 10:5-8 Comment: So this was Peter, James, John and the rest of the original 12 disciples. Okay Randy but that is His original 12 disciples later called apostles, whom He gave unusual authority to….
Alright then let’s look at His sending out of the 70 disciples that Luke tells us about, “Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city….Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Luke 10:1, 8, 9 Comment: Note in both of these passages how closely tied or connected healing the sick is with the kingdom of God. It appears that one of the primary ways the kingdom or rule and reign and presence of Christ is manifested (at least then) was healing the sick, or power to heal the sick. Only Luke (of the four gospel writers) speaks of the 70 being sent out, and they were not referred to as apostles. We would be wise to note as well His way of having His disciples minister in teams when possible.
Finally as far as the gospels go, I would simply note that in Mark 16 Jesus is found in one of His final post resurrection appearances with His disciples and as part of His instructions to them, He wants them to know what will be true of those who have truly believed in Him. One of the things He says that should characterize their lives is, “…they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:18 I realize this passage from vs. 9-20 is not found in the earlier manuscripts, though most Bible translators include it in their translations. Even if we cross this passage out, when we look at Jesus’s post resurrection instructions (often called the Great Commission) in Matthew 28 we find that Jesus commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20). Now based on Jesus’s commands to the 12 and then to the 70 to heal the sick, wouldn’t you say one of the things we should be teaching new believers is to heal the sick? Wouldn’t this come under the banner of “all that I commanded you;” ?
So that brings us to the book of Acts usually referred to by Bible Translators as “The Acts of the Apostles”, which I suppose it mostly is, but it is bigger and wider than that. Satan the great deceiver would love for we average believers to write off much of what happens in the book of Acts because it was carried out by “apostles”. The Holy Spirit would love for we average believers to get inspired by reading this wonderful book and long for all of its power and purity in our communities of faith. He will also help us see all of the “acts” carried out by non apostles if we look closely.
While the original 12 disciples/apostles accompanied Jesus in much of His ministry those last three years plus and thus saw Him heal many people, it doesn’t appear that they were hands on participants as much as observers. They also most likely had a significant need to be cleansed and purified from all of their exposure pre-Jesus to empty Judaism or the religion of the Pharisees. So Acts 1:3 tell us that Jesus after His resurrection and before His ascension appeared to them repeatedly over a period of forty days to speak to them about and train them in the “….things concerning the kingdom of God.”
They then waited upon God in an “upper room” for the promised empowerment or baptism of the Holy Spirit for about 10 days – along with 109 or so other disciples (Acts 1:12-15). Acts 2:1-14 introduces us to the fulfillment of that promise that drew quite a crowd of mystified curious people, who became the audience of Peter’s first spontaneous evangelistic sermon. Gloriously about three thousand folks responded and were baptized (2:41).
In Acts chapter 3 Peter and John are headed to the temple for “the hour of prayer” and they encounter a lame beggar who asked for alms and received instead the healing power of God (vs. 1-10). This miracle drew another crowd which led to another sermon, which led to many more being saved (Acts 4:4). Miracles do not save the lost. But they often get their attention so that they can be introduced to the Savior who saves the lost. This is especially true when the person healed is known by many as this temple beggar and lame man of 40 years was. I love how Peter was so quick to give all the glory to Christ for this man’s healing (4:10).
Persecution is ramping up because the Jews were losing their control of the masses and because Satan hates Christ’s church. After Peter and John were arrested, threatened and then released (4:1-21), they gathered with fellow apostles and disciples there in Jerusalem and reported what happened to them by the Jewish rulers, elders and scribes. Then they all turned to the Lord in prayer and note what they asked for (after a time of praise), “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” Comment: Jesus, the Savior of the world and the Head of the Church has never stopped healing. It is what He does. He is just looking for congregations of disciples who will believe Him for it and who are willing to be His instruments for it.
The early church experienced lots of persecution, but that was not their only problem or enemy. There were also enemies from within and one of those was fake believers or posers or possibly deeply compromised believers. The Holy Spirit gave Peter revelation about two of those named Ananias and Sapphira and he then announced God’s judgment on them. God was moving mightily in and through this rapidly growing church in Jerusalem and He was not going to allow it to be corrupted by liars in their midst. This resulted in even more power, purity and impact in their community as can be seen in chapter 5 vs. 11-16. And one of the effects of this church’s purity and power was more and more people were being healed. Vs. 16 gives us the sense that multitudes were being healed and I doubt very seriously that all of this was happening merely through Peter.
One of the reasons for the increasing power and purity in the early church was because the leaders of that church refused to be distracted from the priority of prayer and the word (see Acts 6:4). One of the ways they avoided distraction was by appointing godly servants who would gladly take care of meeting needs that the apostles cared about, but could not be distracted with. These servants were not apostles. They had no title that we know of. But what is crucial to note about the two that are most talked about in the book of Acts (Stephen and Phillip) is how they ministered much like Jesus did – specifically in healing the sick. Now with Stephen whose life was cut short by martyrdom as is seen in chapter 7, we are not specifically told that he healed the sick. Here is what we are told, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.” (vs. 8). What leads me to believe that included healing was what is said about Phillip in chapter 8, “The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Phillip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed.” (vs. 6,7). Most of the wonders and signs that Jesus and the apostles did were healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead. Exceptions with Jesus were turning water into wine and multiplying food for the crowds.
More healings are reported in the book of Acts, but I wanted you to see with Stephen and Phillip they were not just performed by apostles. Jesus has always cared for the sick and diseased and injured. Jesus has always intended for His church to be His instrument to heal such people through. He has not changed. But we His people/His body has ebbed and flowed throughout the centuries.
Anne and I both grew up in congregations and in the early years of our married life were a part of congregations that did not believe Jesus still wants to heal the sick through His people/the church. Because of all of those years of not seeing people healed; not hearing that Jesus still wants to heal through His church; and hearing teachings that He no longer heals through His church (now that the original apostles have died off and we have the Bible), we have not found the path to being used by Him to heal the sick a smooth path. We have had to be cleansed of false teaching, unbelief, fear of failure, lack of compassion, lack of boldness, and who knows what else. And that process is continuing and will continue until He returns. I say this to say if you come from a similar background, be encouraged! Jesus is an amazing Savior and Discipler, and He will finish what He has begun in you.
I hope to write another blog article on healing in the next week, but it is very possible I will not get it done before we leave for TN. God has made it possible for us to enjoy some vacation near where my brothers live. I am going to try hard not to work while there, though we are looking forward to opportunities to lay hands on and pray for my older brother Danny (along with others) while there. Your prayers for him are so greatly appreciated.
May the Lord continue to give you His heart for the sick and may He increase your anointing to heal the sick for His glory in Jesus’s name. Amen!