In our last and first N.T. Healing blog article we tried to establish how important it is for believers to understand that when Jesus lived and ministered on the earth for those 33 or so years, He chose to deny Himself the right to live and minister as God, instead choosing as a man to rely 24/7 on God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He therefore is our example, forerunner, elder brother, model, etc., for all of life. Every account of His every moment on earth therefore is extremely relevant to our learning how to live and minister as He did.
In this article, I want to explore the extent or breadth of Jesus’s healing ministry. Eventually we will take a close look at some of the individual healings Jesus did so we can learn better to minister like He did. But today I want you to see how pervasive and extensive His healing ministry was. Was it something He just did occasionally when it served His purposes? Or was it something He did as a way of life and ministry? Was it an integral part of His ministry? And if so what implications does that have (if any) for us today?
The first mention of Jesus’s healing ministry is found in Matthew 4:23-25, where Matthew declared, “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.” Comment: First we are told in this passage that Jesus healed any and every condition He ever encountered. Then we get a feel for the numbers of people “large crowds” He was encountering early on.
Luke’s first mention of multitudes being healed is found in Luke 4:40, 41, “While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.” (cf. Matthew 8: 14-16 & Mark 1:32-34). Comment: Somehow these folks found out about Jesus being at Simon Peter’s house. And they apparently came in droves (“all those who had any who were sick….” ) and Jesus healed every one. Since they started entering the house where He was staying at about sunset it appears He ministered through the night because vs. 42 says, “When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place….” Mark in his parallel account noted “And the whole city had gathered at the door.” (Mark 1:33) Hard to rush that and be done by 8:00 p.m.!
Please note this three fold pattern of Jesus’s ministry, “…teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness”. Note also if you will His commitment to go to every city and village is seen again in Matthew 9:35, “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing….” Comment: This is almost identical to the summary statement in Matthew 4:23. Matthew really wants us to know this is His pattern. I find it interesting that Matthew follows this verse by emphasizing the role Jesus’s compassion played in all of this, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36). And then when He tells His disciples, “….The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”(Matt. 9:37, 38) Is He not today looking for laborers or workers who will follow His three fold pattern of ministry? Is He not today looking for those whose hearts are filled with His compassion for the misery that sickness and disease brings to people and families?
In Matthew 12:15 we are told very simply, “But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all,”. (cf. Mark 3:10,11) Are you getting the picture that every person that comes to Jesus for healing gets healed by Him? But what if they were rebellious? What if they had no desire to truly follow Jesus? What if they were murderers or adulterers or thieves or….? None of these issues seemed to be an issue with Him when it came to whether to heal someone or not.
Matthew tells us, “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14) Comment: This happened right after Jesus had heard about His cousin John the Baptist’s senseless beheading. Vs. 13 tells us upon hearing this horrible news He withdrew in a boat to a secluded place, but “….when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.” So we have a “large crowd” from multiple cities, and Jesus though grieved at John’s murder, drew upon His Father’s compassion and healed every sick person. Amazing!
Just after Jesus calmed the storm in the boat with His disciples, Matthew tells us, “When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.” (Matthew 14:34-36). Comment: The word or news that Jesus had entered one’s region repeatedly spread like wildfire. And as soon as people heard, they apparently dropped whatever they were doing and traveled to find Him. Sicknesses and diseases were evidently quite common then and understandably so since sin in all its forms was also quite pervasive. Please note that Jesus came to earth when the spiritual state of Israel and surrounding nations was at a very low point. I’m not saying all of these sicknesses and diseases were a result of sin, though in a sense sin in general is the root of all sickness and disease. Then you have the role Satan and his demon hordes play….(see Luke 4:41 for an example of this). Very possible medical solutions for serious illnesses were minimal. Very possible some did not have the financial resources for such.
That incident preceded the feeding of the 5,000 men plus women and children. Now Matthew informs us of what preceded the feeding of the 4,000, “Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the mountain, He was sitting there. And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. So the crowds marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.” (Matthew 15:29-31) Comment: Again we are talking crowds of people, and He apparently healed all of them who were sick. And great glory came to God as a result.
Our final passage as far as Jesus is concerned is Matthew 19:1,2, “When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.” Comment: Large crowds followed Jesus pretty much everywhere He went and this time like the others, He chose to heal all who were sick or diseased, etc.
How many people did Jesus heal? There is really no way of knowing, especially since we know from John 20:30 and John 21:25 that Jesus did far more than was recorded in the four gospels. Is it safe to say thousands? But more significant than the numbers is how quick He was to act when there were sick, diseased, demonized, injured people in His presence. And how effective He was no matter how long term or complicated or entrenched the problem was.
The apostle John said one of the reasons Jesus came was “….to destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8). It is a stretch to say or believe the devil is behind every sickness or disease. But this I know, he is quick to pounce on people who get sick or diseased with all kinds of fear, depression, hopelessness, etc. Jesus lives and loves to undo His evil works.
So the million dollar question is: How did Jesus expect His followers to carry out this ministry of healing the sick and diseased and demonized?
Great question! That’s what I hope to explore next time.
Father, we praise You for Your great compassion for all the people You created. Jesus what a joy to watch You in action! Thank You for Your commitment to help Your disciples to become fishers of men and effective workers in the harvest, and for the role healing the sick plays in all of that. Please continue to reveal Your will and Your way to us in this regard. And please heal Danny’s hearing and his cancer for Your glory in Jesus’s name. Amen!