Not Medical SchoolBy Nathan Mates
At Minichurch last week, an interesting point was brought up: how many different ways are there in the Bible for healing to take place? Just looking at Jesus's ministries should point out that Jesus never seemed to graduate from Harvard Medical School, but he almost never healed two people the same way. Thus, anyone wanting to cram for medical school probably shouldn't try and duplicate the miracles of healing that took place. If Jesus merely washed wounds, bandaged them, and told the hurt one to get some sleep, nobody would see anything "unusual" in that. But, in the apparent strangeness of healing, we see that God sometimes chooses the truly unconventional methods of healing in order that we have to say "That was God's work."
So, here is an incomplete list of healings from the Bible, somewhat categorized by methods God used, and also some commentary on them:
Healings by sacrifice and prayer:
"Then Abimelech brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, "My land is before you; live wherever you like." To Sarah he said, "I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated." Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls so they could have children again, for the LORD had closed up every womb in Abimelech's household because of Abraham's wife Sarah." [Genesis 21:14-18]
When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam--leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; and he said to Moses, "Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother's womb with its flesh half eaten away." So Moses cried out to the LORD, "O God, please heal her!" The LORD replied to Moses, "If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back." So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back. [Numbers 12:10-15]
So the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the LORD. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the LORD and keep them. The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them. [Isaiah 19:21-22]
Healing at a distance:
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering." Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him." The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour. [Matthew 8:5-13]
In the above, one of Jesus's possible motives was the speech he got to make, pointing out the lack of faith in the Israelites. Jesus had healed many Israelites so far, but none had come to him with such dedication on behalf of others. Even after this, no Israelite tried to do the same thing. And also, this was a Roman (the hated overlords of the land) showing leadership in the way Jesus preferred: by serving those under him. Compare that attitude to that of the Pharisees, who tried to boss everyone else around, and only were condemned.
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. [Matthew 15:21-28]
Once again, apparent healing at a distance, and after a non-Israelite demonstrated greater faith than the Israelites. As a side note, the bread above is God's word, and the dogs are the non-Israelites. The woman was humble and acknowledged she didn't deserve anything more than crumbs of God's word, but that was sufficient for her. And, that was more than the Pharisees back in Israel who turned their noses up at God's multi-course banquet meal.
Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they [The Pharisees] asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. [Matthew 12:9-13]
Once again, healing from a distance with no touch mentioned by Jesus. This was another opportunity for Jesus to prove a point against the Pharisees: to them, they took the 4th Commandment ["Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." - Exodus 20:8] to extremes by considering any work a violation of that. But, Jesus saw mercy and grace as things of higher priority than the commandments, and yet did no "work" in telling the injured man to move his own arm. Of course Jesus did the work of the healing, and the Pharisees recognized that, but they couldn't stand being wrong.
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see." "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. [Mark 10:46-52]
No touch apparently required, Jesus's verbal command was sufficient here.
Healings by touch:
When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed. [Matthew 14:34-36]
Jesus's cloak wasn't necessarily any different from any other cloak of the time, but just the closeness to his holiness invested it with healing powers. It is a testament to the message of God that Jesus's cloaks weren't sought after as healing relics and worshiped in the early Church-- the people correctly realized that it was Jesus who did the work, and the relic was useless without Jesus.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. [Mark 1:40-42]
According to the Mosaic law, anyone who touched someone with leprosy was considered unclean, and needed to wash and present himself before the temple before being declared clean. [Leviticus 5:2 and 13:45-46] Jesus was willing to break this cleanliness law in order to heal, and Jesus didn't follow proper procedures after that.
So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" "You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?'" But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." [Mark 5:24-34]
While this appears to be a healing by touch like above, Jesus had more work to do beyond the physical healing of this woman. Certain bleeding made a woman ceremonially unclean under the Mosaic law [Leviticus 15:25-33], and in a pressing crowd like above, she'd make anyone she touched unclean before the Law, even Jesus. After suffering for twelve years and having to live as an outcast, she most likely had psychological problems as well, as well as the need to be declared clean before others. Jesus refused to stop at an anonymous healing of this woman's body, he made her spirit whole as well.
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. [Mark 1:29-31]
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. [Mark 6:1-6]
Once again, the physical touch of Jesus heals others.
And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him. [Luke 22:50-51]
Hours before his crucifixion, this is most likely Jesus's last healing and/or miracle before his death. This is the servant of the High Priest that was conspiring to have Jesus killed, and yet Jesus had mercy on him.
Healings by prayer:
There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephphatha!" (which means, "Be opened!"). At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. [Mark 7:32-25]
Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?" "From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again." The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer." [Mark 9:21-29; see also 9:14-20]
In the second example here, Jesus, revealed something about this aspect of healing and/or spiritual warfare-- prayer is needed at times.
Healings with a point not obviously visible:
They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?" He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around." Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. [Mark 8:22-25]
Some might just take it as a message that not every healing is fully successful the first time, but Jesus could have gotten it right the first time had he chosen. Thus, I believe there's more than is immediately visible. After some analysis of the previous two chapters of Mark, this two-stage healing of the blind man seems to be more of a lesson for disciples. Look at the geography of their travels, especially mentions of Bethsaida-- they were going in circles until the disciples "got it." The 'Radiant Glory' approach on the way in the first time didn't get through their heads, as with a number of other issues; it took a second pass for the disciples to realize that Jesus was the Christ.
More normal healings:
In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, "This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover." Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, "Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: "Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, 'This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.'" Then Isaiah said, "Prepare a poultice of figs." They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered. [2 Kings 20:1-7]
Raisings from the dead:
While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any more?" Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe." He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. [Mark 5:35-43]
In this first resurrection from the dead, Jesus's touch and verbal command raised the dead-- and yet cared for the physical well-being of the girl afterwards.
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." [John 11:41-44]
Unlike the resurrection of the little girl above, Jesus didn't need to touch Lazarus here, but prayer for others around him to hear were the method he used.
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "He's alive!" Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. [Acts 20:7-12]
Showing that resurrections from the dead are not necessarily limited to Jesus (see also 1 Kings 18:17-24). Note that not a word of Paul's preaching is recorded here, only that its length caused parts of the audience to fall asleep. [I guess this is also comfort to pastors everywhere that people falling asleep happens even to the best pastors.] Even so, this death was correctable by Paul.
There's many more instances of healings in the Bible; this writing would be several times longer if all were detailed. However, it should be obvious that God doesn't fall into rituals and prescribed patterns for healing, but he uses whatever means he chooses. Healing is an official gift of the Holy Spirit, as Paul notes: "To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit," [1 Corinthians 12:8-9]
With so many ways of healing, it is unfortunately possible to get stuck in a rut practicing any single one or two-- the prayer church, the laying on of hands, the spit on their eyes church. God's behind all of them, and we need to be open to his working in any way He chooses to work, and not the way we choose God to work.
James also gives practical advice for getting healing: "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." [James 5:14-16]
This is not to say that every sickness or problem is the result of sin-- see John 9 for Jesus's words to the contrary. However, all physical ailments will be permanently eliminated in the resurrection body that believers get. Thus, any ailments can and will be permanently cured by God if the person is saved-- and that's a greater good than earthly healing.