St. Mark records the story of the time when Jesus went to Peter and Andrew’s house and found Peter’s mother‑in‑law in bed with a fever. Jesus immediately decides to cure her. He grasps her hand, and she is cured. He doesn’t chant any magic formulas. He doesn’t perform any showboating, forehead slapping antics. He doesn’t have to raise His voice and scream. Jesus took her by the hand, lifted her up, the fever left her and she got back about her life.
Sort of, I guess. Because the next thing we hear is how the entire population of the town was at the door of the house, bringing folks who were sick or possessed by demons–and expecting something to happen! People know what works and they show up in droves. So, after dinner, instead of having coffee and watching football, Jesus was expected to cure all the sick and demonized neighbors who were camping out on the front lawn. Of course, He responds in His characteristic way–and this is a hugely important point!
Jesus heals the sick, not simply as a way of establishing His credentials as Messiah, not just as a way of validating His teaching, but simply because this is what God does! Author Ken Blue writes: “The more secure we are in the belief that God’s will is our health and that he personally works for it, the more freely we receive his healing and the more eagerly we work for it in others. Openly receiving healing for ourselves and confidently praying for others rests ultimately in our understanding of who God is. A theology of healing only arises when God is viewed as one who is concerned about sickness and willing to do something about it.”
Now, as Jesus teaches about His Kingdom, there’s a future aspect to it which will only be fulfilled with a decisive event at the end of the age when He returns with power and great glory. History is moving towards this climax. In all, there are over 300 references in the New Testament to the second coming of Jesus. On the other hand, there is also a present aspect to the Kingdom. Jesus told the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is among you.” (Lk 17:20-21). In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2 and asserted, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” and then He went on to demonstrate this present reality of the Kingdom by all He did during the next three years of His ministry. So, then, the Kingdom is both “now and not yet.” We currently live between the times, where the old age goes on, but the powers of the new age have erupted into this age.
Jesus preached the kingdom of God. He also demonstrated its breaking into history by healing the sick, raising the dead and driving out demons. Jesus gives us glimpses of what God's love looks like when it manifests in human lives. John Wimber said: “Healing is Jesus meeting us at our point of need.” Jesus gives this whole group of extremely needy folks outside on the front lawn a foretaste of what it will be like when His Kingdom comes in its fullness and He invites them to receive it now and become witnesses of its presence. That's the evangelistic task! Offering healing prayer is a great way to invite people to meet Jesus, who is full of compassion and mercy, flowing from His concern for the poor, the downtrodden, and oppressed, those held in bondage, the sick, the hungry, etc. These are the very same people Jesus has left His bride, the Church, to reach out to while He is away.
And the good news is that everyone is authorized to do this! St. Matthew tells us that “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” (Mt 4:23). He then gives some of the teaching and preaching of Jesus in Matthew 5–7 (the Sermon on the Mount), then nine miracles (mainly of healing) and he concludes with an almost exact repetition of Matthew 4:23: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease and sickness.” (Mt 9:35). This is a literary device known as an inclusio, which was used to indicate the beginning and end of a section.
Having shown what Jesus Himself did, Matthew tells us that Jesus then sent the twelve out to do the same. He told them to go out and preach the same message: “The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons . . .” (Mt 10:8). But it wasn't only the twelve to whom He gave this commission. There was also a further group of seventy-two whom He appointed. He told them to go out and “heal the sick . . . and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you’” (Lk 10:9). "They returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” (v. 17).
Finally, Jesus commissions all His disciples to do the same. He told them to “go and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Mt 28:18-20). He didn't say, “Everything except, of course, the healing bit." And in the ending of St. Mark’s gospel, Jesus said, ‘“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation . . . and these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons . . . they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” Jesus says, “These signs will accompany those who believe”– meaning those “who believe in Jesus,” which means all Christians, that includes YOU!
Jesus is our all and all. In Him we live and move and have our being. And as His people, we want to become more and more like Him. We want our minds stayed on Him. We want our souls filled with His Spirit. We want our hearts overflowing with His love and compassion. Because Jesus is a deliverer and He has given us His authority, we want to be used by Him to deliver. Because He is a healer, we want to be used by Him to heal. Because He is the bread of life and living water, we want to feed the hungry, and quench the thirst of a dry, disillusioned world.
That’s why it's crucial for us to re-consider the church's healing ministy. To be an effective body of believers we must become agents of healing. We can introduce people to Jesus by reaching out to them with a healing touch. We can allow Him to reach others with healing hands He has given us. Your hands are anointed hands that can set captives free. Your hands will clothe the naked. Your hands will heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons. Your hands will give God glory and praise and celebration and adoration. He calls us to put logic and reason aside at times and let Him intervene in a way that is illogical and unreasonable. Amazing and wonderful things can (and do!) suddenly break forth.
Although we're separated by 2,000 years, with Jesus, time and space don't really matter. He is present with us just as He was in St. Peter’s mother-in-law’s home that day. He wants to take your hand, and smile into your eyes, to look into your soul and let you know His love and His healing. And your life can be changed and you can then give it away to someone else in need. Let Him take you by the hand and raise you up.