“I do believe that some people will be healed immediately – even today – for the glory of God and as an overflow of his compassion upon the needs of people. God hasn’t changed. He still sees and he still cares. But I also believe that waiting is sanctifying and showing.”
I spent the better part of this summer studying and podcasting my way through the Gospel of Mark. It was an interesting experience. When you only permit yourself 15 minutes a chapter, a lot gets left on the cutting room floor. One of the things I felt like I didn’t have time chase down was the whole issue of healing.
There is a lot of healing in the Gospel of Mark. In fact, there is a lot more than there ought to be.
Very early on in Mark’s Gospel Jesus makes it clear that he has no intention of functioning as a travelling healer. In Mark 1 a large crowd has gathered as the news spread throughout the region that Jesus had healed Peter’s mother in law. Jesus went off to pray. The disciples come looking for him and they tell him about the huge line up of people waiting to be healed by Jesus. He says to them: “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:38 ESV).
Jesus says, “I’ve thought about it; I’ve prayed about and I’ve decided not to heal those people who are waiting for me down the hill. That’s not why I came out. I came to preach.”
I came to preach!
Jesus came to speak about the ultimate issue. The ultimate issue was mankind’s alienation from God because of human sin. That was the main thing – that was the mission – and Jesus was resolved to keep his eye on that ball.
Which of course, leads to the question:
Why Does He Continue To Heal?
I think there are two answers to that question. The first answer, I think is the simplest: He is compassionate.
Praise the Lord! Jesus allows himself to be interrupted by human need! He is responsive! Every once in a while – no matter the plan – he calls an audible at the line of scrimmage because he sees something and he wants to respond.
I’m sure I don’t know precisely how it is that a God who knows everything, always and entirely, can also be personally impacted by human suffering. I just know that I see it in the text. I see it in the person of Christ.
I see him interrupted by the woman with the issue of blood.
I see him fascinated and delighted by the Syro-Phoenician woman.
I see his march towards Jerusalem interrupted by the cries of blind Bartimaeus.
Healing was not the plan, but pity, apparently, is essential to the character of Jesus! Thanks be to God!
The second reason that Jesus continues to heal, even though it isn’t the mission, I think is this: He is communicating.
Many scholars make this point, few more succinctly than Dennis Nineham, who writes:
there is more in miracles than their outward appearance; they are, to use the fourth Evangelist’s word, ‘signs’ of the power of God. According to Mark the miracles like the parables are understandable and ought to be understood.
Miracles are like parables. They contain a much deeper meaning for all those who are willing to lean in.
Jesus heals because healings preach.
They say something – loudly – to people who are hard of hearing. They saw that God sees and God cares. They say that people are sick and broken and in bondage and they need a Savior. They say that Jesus has power over everything we fear including disease, the devil and even death itself.
Healing is a sermon to a sick and dying world.