Many believe, today, that Jesus healed and performed miracles only to demonstrate He was the Christ, but we read of miraculous healings all through the Old Testament. The Israelites, on their trek out of Egyptian slavery, came to Marah. The water was too bitter to drink. Of course the people griped and blamed Moses. Moses cried out to God, who performed a miracle, making the waters sweet. Then God said: "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Eternal thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Eternal that healeth thee" (Exodus 15:26).
'The God that heals'
Those last five words are translated from the Hebrew name Yahweh-Rapha, one of God's names meaning the "healing God" or the "God that heals." In Exodus 23:25, God is quoted speaking to the children of Israel: "... I will take sickness away from the midst of thee." Again, in Deuteronomy 7:15: "And the Eternal will take away from thee all sickness... " In Deuteronomy 32:29, God is quoted: "... I heal... " David prayed: "O Eternal my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me" (Psalms 30:2). Psalm 41:4: "... Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul..." In Psalm 6:2, David prayed: "Have mercy upon me, O Eternal; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me..." Psalm 103:3:" Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases." Is it God's will to heal? some ask. Or others say, "I know He could heal me, IF it's His will." Is it His will to forgive? Then, He says, it is also His will to HEAL — all our diseases. Psalm 107:17-20: "Fools because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat [food]; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the Eternal in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. "He [sendeth] his word, and [healeth] them, and [delivereth] them from their destructions." (The original Hebrew signifies the present tense.) This is a case of one who has been very foolish, and brought the sickness upon himself. But, on repentance, God forgives and has mercy and heals.
Specific case history
God had said to ancient Israel, "I am Yahweh-Rapha" — that is, "I am the Eternal that heals you," or, "I am your healing God," or, "I am your God-healer." He also said in the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Healing is the forgiveness of physical sin. None but God can forgive sin. None but God heals! God is a jealous God. He is not going to allow anyone else to heal. Medicines and drugs do not, cannot HEAL! Notice, now, the case of King Asa of Judah. He turned to the king of Syria for help, and paid him money to become an ally. God had said He would fight their battles for them. This hiring of allies God calls harlotry, in which the harlot pays instead of being paid. But King Asa forsook God — like a wife forsaking her husband and hiring lovers — and this, after having previously relied on God for victories! God sent a prophet to remind Asa of what he was doing. But Asa in hot anger had the prophet imprisoned. Later Asa was stricken with a serious disease. Notice II Chronicles 16:12-13: "And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Eternal, but to the physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign." God wants His people to rely on Him, to TRUST Him. He wants to do things for us that we cannot do for ourselves. He wants us to learn the lesson of faith! Now notice another case history, recorded in II Kings, first chapter. King Ahaziah, king of Israel at Samaria, son of the evil Ahab, "fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease. "But the angel of the Eternal said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? Now therefore thus saith the Eternal, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die" (verses 2-4). Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, was the patron deity of medicine — the medicine god of Ekron. The manner in which people inquired of this god was through the medical doctors. Is it because some of us do not know and rely on the true God that we rely instead on medical doctors? God has said, "I am the God that heals you." But now one other case history from the Old Testament. It's the example of King Hezekiah. It is recorded in II Kings, the 20th chapter, the first seven verses. "In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Eternal, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Eternal, saying, I beseech thee, O Eternal, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore." He put his heart into his prayer. He OBEYED God. He had a right ATTITUDE. He did not now turn to seek human help, but trusted God alone. Continuing the passage in verse 5: "... Thus saith the Eternal, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Eternal. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years... "
New Testament teaching
Earlier we saw that proclaiming the ANNOUNCEMENT of the Kingdom of God and healing went hand in hand in Jesus' ministry. One passage in Matthew summarizes it: "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people" (Matthew 4:23). Jesus' ministry began in Galilee, not in Jerusalem. Matthew's account shows that the so-called "Sermon on the Mount" (actually a teaching to His disciples) followed (chapters 5 through 7). Beginning in chapter 8: "When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean" (verses 1-2). Here again comes the answer to the frequently expressed doubt, "Well, I know God could heal me, if it's His will — but how can we know His will?" Here is the answer: "And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed" (verse 3).
Gentiles not excluded
Continuing in verse 5: "And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum [where He lived (Matthew 4:13), apparently in His own house], there came unto him a centurion [Gentile captain over 100 Roman soldiers] beseeching him and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. "And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. "When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel... And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour" (Matthew 8:5-13).
How God heals
Next we need to UNDERSTAND how God heals. And we need to see, further, how both the Gospel and healing tie together. Both operate on the same principle — one being spiritual, the other physical. God is the CREATOR. But also He is the Great Designer, Educator and Lawgiver. Whatever God does He does with purpose and with order, according to the principles of His law. There can be no law without a penalty for its transgression. And God never compromises with His laws or their penalties. Once a law is transgressed a penalty is incurred. Once a penalty is incurred it must be paid. God never suspends the penalty. The biblical definition of SIN is the transgression of LAW (I John 3:4). In the spiritual sense, in connection with the Gospel, the basic law of the Kingdom of God is the spiritual law (Romans 7:14) set in inexorable, relentless motion — the law of LOVE, the "GIVE" way of life — the principle of the Ten Commandments. The penalty for transgression is DEATH (Romans 6:23) — eternal death, the absence of eternal life. All have sinned. And sin sets up an impassable barrier between the sinner and God. The penalty — death — must be paid! God will not compromise a thousandth of an inch on that! Then how do we get FREE from that penalty? How may we avoid paying it? By the fact that Christ paid it for us. Christ never committed sin. He never brought that penalty on Himself. But, being the actual Maker of all mankind (Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:13-16), His life was greater than the sum total of ALL other human lives. And when He died on the cross, He took our penalty on Himself. He paid the death penalty for all mankind — conditioned on our repentance and faith. He paid the penalty FOR US, in our stead. We may be healed by the same principle. God made man of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). We are composed of matter. He designed our bodies so that they function according to definite physical laws. In the human body are a number of systems, for example, the digestive system, the respiratory system, the circulatory system, the nervous system, the reproductive system, etc. Each functions separately, yet all work in perfect harmony with each other. They function according to definite physical LAWS. Those laws, when transgressed, exact a PENALTY. When a person is sick or has contracted a disease, he is simply paying the PENALTY of transgressed physical law in his body. One may not himself have broken a physical law. It could have been an accident. It could have been from a contagious disease contracted without his knowledge. In the case of Job (Job 2:6-7), Satan was the cause of Job's ailments for a special purpose, by God's permission. Nevertheless, sickness and disease are the penalty being paid for broken physical law. God, the great Lawgiver, demands that the penalty must be paid! God never compromises that principle! No HEALING without the penalty having been PAID!
Jesus paid the penalty
So now let's continue in the eighth chapter of Matthew: "When the even was come [sunset, ending that Sabbath day], they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils [demons]: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:16-17). Jesus paid the penalty in our stead. Like the forgiveness of spiritual sin, God has paid the penalty for us by sending His Son Jesus to suffer the penalty in our stead. The penalty for physical transgression is physical punishment — sickness or disease, physical impairment, pain and suffering or physical death. Healing does not mean that God suspends the penalty so that no penalty is paid. Instead, Jesus has already paid it for us. Therefore God may legally remove the penalty from the human sufferer. But it is nonetheless a MIRACLE! The scripture above quoted says Jesus Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses — but NOT ON THE CROSS. They scourged Jesus, beat Him, breaking open the flesh of His body, before taking Him to Golgotha to be nailed to the cross.
Matthew 27:24-26: "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude... Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified." Mark 15:15: "And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified." John 19:1: "Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him." This was prior to turning Jesus over to be crucified, which is not recorded until verse 16 of the same chapter: "Then delivered he [Pilate] him [Jesus] therefore unto them to be crucified." I think it vitally important that we realize, at this point, two things: 1) What a TREMENDOUS price God Himself, through Christ, paid in order that He might perform for us this MIRACLE OF HEALING. This shows God's will. He is so willing, indeed so anxious, to relieve us from the pain, suffering or affliction that He gave His only begotten Son — the One who is our very Maker to be beaten, to suffer in our stead, so that, without violating any principle of His LAW, we may be healed. The Eternal is merciful and gracious... For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him... Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Eternal pitieth them that fear him" (Psalm 103:8-13). We need to realize God's LOVE and compassion. Healing must not be taken for granted or treated cheaply. THINK of Him who is the Maker of all mankind — One so GREAT — submitting Himself to be beaten as no man ever was, so that He might perform this MIRACLE for us! 2) How IMPORTANT it is to God NEVER to compromise with His law. We might reason that it would be easier for God, in each case of healing, to simply prevent the penalty from taking effect. But that would VIOLATE HIS LAW! That is what Satan is trying to do — make God's laws inoperable; abolish the penalty; deal with the EFFECT, ignoring the CAUSE. Medical "science" operates primarily on that method — trying, with medicines, to prevent God's law from exacting its penalty. That theory says, in effect, we can transgress God's law and then prevent God's law from exacting its penalty. The theory is: The sufferer has in his body one poison, so we add another poison in the form of medicine. And one poison plus one more poison equals NO poison! God has gone to great lengths a) to bestow upon us His love and mercy, and b) to be consistent with His law. God's arithmetic is: One poison minus that one poison equals NO poison. Now notice just how severely Jesus was beaten. In Isaiah 52 and 53 it was foretold. Speaking of Christ in Isaiah 12: "As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle [margin, "startle"] many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider" (verses 14-15). In the Revised Standard Version this passage reads: "As many were astonished at him — his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men — so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand." Notice the tenses. Many were (when He was beaten with stripes) astonished — His body beaten and marred more than any man. So shall (at His coming in supreme POWER and GLORY) many nations be startled at Him. Then, in Isaiah 53 (RSV): "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief... Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities [transgression of the law]; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray [HOW?]; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Eternal has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (verses 3-6). This is affirmed in the New Testament: "Who did no sin... by whose stripes ye were healed" (I Peter 2:22, 24).
At the Passover service
There is a very clear teaching in regard to Christ having paid the physical penalty, as well as the spiritual penalty of death, in connection with Passover service instruction. It is in the apostle Paul's instruction to the Corinthians: "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you. That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: This is [represents] my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me [a memorial]. "After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come [the annual memorial of His death, on the actual anniversary of His crucifixion]. "Wherefore," the instruction continues, "whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily [that is, in an unworthy manner] shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep [that is, are dead]" (I Corinthians 11:23-30). The Revised Standard Version translates that last sentence: "That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died" — not realizing Jesus Himself paid the penalty for physical transgression of the laws of the human body, by allowing His body to be broken open by many stripes, and not relying on the living Christ for their HEALING! Is it His WILL to heal us? This passage, especially as emphasized in the RSV, says we shall be judged if we NEGLECT (see Hebrews 2:3) so great a price paid so that we might be kept WELL!
Forgiveness of physical sin
Now back to Matthew's account of Jesus' ministry. We had last covered the eighth chapter and 17th verse. We come now to the ninth chapter. Jesus came again to His own city, where He then resided — Capernaum. "And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed..." Notice Mark's account of the same incident: "And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house" (Mark 2:1). I pause here for a slight digression. Today many represent Jesus as a vagabond — a hippie with long hair and no place to live, having to sleep outdoors. In I Corinthians 11:14, it is plainly stated it is a shame for a man to have long hair. Jesus was no hippie. And the evidence is clear that Jesus had a home. In Matthew 4 we have seen that Jesus, leaving Nazareth, came and dwelt in Capernaum. That assuredly implies a "dwelling place." He dwelt in a house. In Matthew 9:1, Capernaum is called "his own city," a term certainly implying His place of residence. In Mark 2:1, quoted above, Jesus returned to Capernaum. His own city, where He dwelt, and it was noised around that He was "in the house," certainly implying His own house. If He had entered the house of any other person, it would have named the person into whose house He came. Now to continue, this time in Luke's account of this same incident, because Luke gives more details: "And... as he was teaching... men brought in a bed a man which was taken with palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him [Jesus]. "And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the house top, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him. Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. "And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? "But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. "And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things today" (Luke 5:17-26). This incident, reported in all three books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, confirms, in the words of Jesus Christ Himself, that physical healing is indeed "the forgiveness of sin." Sin is defined (I John 3:4) as "the transgression of LAW," as correctly translated. Physical sin is the transgression of physical law operating in the human body. To pay this penalty in our stead, Jesus was scourged, chastised, beaten with stripes. On the other hand, spiritual sin, which imposes the penalty of the second death — eternal death — is transgression of the spiritual law (Romans 7:13-14), the law summed up by the Ten Commandments. Jesus paid the penalty for both. Doctors, medicines, and drugs can no more forgive physical sins than spiritual sins. They CANNOT HEAL!