The love of Jesus is shown to us in many ways in the Gospels but perhaps it is seen most often in the way Jesus brought healing and forgiveness to the needy. We see in many ways that Jesus was full of compassion and concerned for the needs of others. This, however, is not confined to the Gospels as we see the healing ministry of Jesus is continued in the early Church as is recorded in the Book of Acts. In this article, I will look briefly at how Jesus heals and forgives and try to demonstrate the need for a compassionate healing ministry in the Church today.
The first passage I want to look at is Mark 2:1-12,
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mk 2:1–12).
The scene that is set for this time of ministry shows that Jesus was in demand as a teacher and that a great number had come to hear him. The house was full and there was no way that the paralysed man could gain entry, fortunately, his friends were resourceful and decide to gain entry via the roof. The crowd below must have been shocked when the roof and ceiling started to be removed, some must have to get out of the way of falling debris. The result of this was to make room for the paralysed man to be lowered through the hole in the roof.
We need to realise that the paralysed man was expecting to be healed and he would have been surprised when Jesus pronounced forgiveness for sins. But Jesus knew the greatest needed of this man was to know forgiveness and in his wisdom, he knew that in this case the need for forgiveness needed to come before the healing. It is quite clear from other accounts that sometimes the healing preceded the forgiveness, Jesus did not use a technique but rather he ministered to individuals in ways that he knew was appropriate for them. In this Jesus is an example to us of the continued need to be sensitive as we minister to others, like Jesus we need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus soon knows what the religious leaders are thinking and shows them that they are not right in the way they are thinking, he does not enter into an argument with them but rather demonstrates his authority by healing the paralysed man. The religious leaders may not have been happy that day but the crowd were amazed and praised God for what had happened. Healing is always a gift of God and therefore must always be responded to with an attitude of praise.
I want to look at a similar passage from the Book of Acts which also shows that the risen Lord Jesus continues to heal, so I want to turn to Acts 3.
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’
24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” (Ac 3:1–4:1)
This passage demonstrates once again the healing power of the Lord Jesus but what is intriguing here is that the healing, in this case, precedes the proclamation of the Gospel. Peter and John minister to the man and give him much more than he expected, he was seeking alms so that he could eek out a living, they gave him through Jesus full healing. It is only after this that we hear them proclaiming the gospel, what is amazing to us is that Peter tells the crowd that they should not be surprised by this. He does this as he leads into his presentation of the gospel in a way that rebukes sin and encourages faith and repentance. Peter plainly presents the problem of human sin and its consequences to his audience but he does so in such a way as to draw them to Christ. We know from Acts 4 that despite the arrest of Peter and John a great number of people became Christians through this presentation of the gospel. Sometimes in our attempt to make the gospel attractive to the unbeliever we gloss over the problem of sin, this, in fact, can distract from the gospel message because it does not engage with the real problems of a broken and fallen world. The good news can only be proclaimed against the backdrop of knowing what the problem is. Peter presents the gospel in this way because he wants to show how great the grace of God is, he sees clearly what Christ did for our sake and he wants to present that to his audience if we want to portray the grace of God in all its glory we need to follow Peter’s example.
Jesus in both of these situations is the one who brings healing and forgiveness, we need to grasp the fact that sometimes he brings his healing first and at other times forgiveness first. One can say with certainty that all who repent and believe will receive forgiveness. We cannot promise physical healing to everyone this is an area where we have to rest in God’s sovereign goodness, sometimes he does heal today and sometimes he does not. But we should not make this last comment an excuse for not praying for those who need healing. We need to continue to pray for our friends who need the healing touch of Jesus looking to the Lord to bless them and encourage them. We must never leave them feeling as though it is because of some fault in them that they have not been healed.
We need to be those who practise a compassionate healing ministry, reaching out with the love of Christ to those who need healing prayer. We also need to be those who proclaim the grace of God as shown in his act of forgiveness. We need to show others that the God of grace desires to forgive them and restore them to fellowship with him. Even though we will never fully understand God’s sovereign hand in healing, we are still called to be faithful in prayer for the sick of body and spirit. We need to be agents of God’s grace being a means of blessing and encouragement to all those who are in need.