To Heal or Not to Heal

We have heard again today how the Lord healed a man that was a deaf-mute. Someone, presumably the friends of the deaf-mute, brought the man to Jesus and pleaded with the Lord to lay His hands on the deaf-mute and heal him. One wonders where the faith of the Gentile centurion is who didn’t need Jesus to do anything, but only speak the word to heal his servant. So we see that the faith of these friends isn’t as strong or as faithful as the centurion’s since they thought Jesus needed to touch the deaf-mute in order to heal him. But this is a comfort to know that the Lord hears and answers the prayers of even those that are weak in faith. For it is not the strength of faith that matters but the presence of faith. Like a grain of salt contains all the properties of all the salt in the whole world, so a grain of faith contains all the properties of all the faith in the world.

Also, we don’t even know if the deaf-mute believed that Jesus could heal him. Like the paralytic whose friends brought him to Jesus in their faith, this deaf-mute was brought to Jesus by the faith of others. That’s a powerful word concerning faith. Your unbelieving friends and neighbors are blessed and receive the mercy of God by your faith. Not as though you are a wizard wielding magic spells, but because your faith is that the Lord heals the sick and raises the dead. Why wouldn’t you then pray to the Lord for your friend’s health and well-being? In fact, not praying for the health and well-being of your friends and neighbors is tantamount to unbelief. Not praying is unbelief.

But here we get into some deep water. We want to pray for the healing of others, but we’re afraid that we’ll be disappointed. We’re afraid that the Lord won’t heal them or fix their marriage or get them a job or do whatever it is we’re praying for. We’re afraid our sick or troubled friend or relative will be hardened against the Lord who could have healed them or solved their problems, but chose not to. What if the Lord had said to the friends of this deaf-mute, or to the friends of the paralytic, “No, I’m not going to heal your friend”? Or what if He’d said nothing at all, just walked away as though He hadn’t heard their prayer? How would that help the poor sick man’s faith? How would that bode for the faith of your friends and family, to receive no answer to our prayers? So we often opt out of prayer, or at best we say them silently and in private with more of an air of emotional desire than with the confidence of dear children asking their dear father.

Moreover, we are disillusioned by the fact that these people – the friends of the deaf-mute and of the paralytic – knew where Jesus was and could take their friends to see Him. We seem to have no such benefit. In fact, we are mostly raised with the idea that Jesus is in our hearts and with us wherever we go, which leads to the conclusion that Jesus goes with us. And if He’s with us and our prayers still seem to go unheard and unanswered, then this whole business of prayer and God answering prayers seems rather shaky and ill-suited to win converts and bring glory to the name of Christ.

We seem sort of left with two options: either prayers are really nothing more than Christian wishes and emotional outbursts; or, Jesus no longer heals the sick. Both of these conclusions are less than desirable, and we chaff against them, but we don’t know how to deal with them or answer them.

But if we would stop talking so much and listen to the Lord, we’d hear the answer and we would be profoundly confident in the Lord. This is what I mean. If we would stop talking so much about what Jesus can do or doesn’t do or might do or could do, and actually listen to what He has done, our confidence would not be in seemingly answered or unanswered prayer but our confidence would be in Jesus who is risen from the dead.

The Lord commanded this once-upon-a-time deaf-mute and those who brought him to say nothing of the healing to anyone. Don’t go share the good news, the Lord commands. Why? Because it’s only good news for the deaf-mute. It’s not good news for all deaf-mutes, except that it might get their hopes up. But then, Jesus didn’t heal all the deaf-mutes in the whole world, but only this one and perhaps a few others. And He doesn’t heal many now. So don’t put your confidence in the Jesus that can heal deaf-mutes or can remit cancer or can stave off Alzheimer’s or that can multiply bread and fish, and so forth. Of course He can do these things; He proved that time and again. But He just as often tells the recipients of His miracles to say nothing to anyone but to go home, or to go offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, which is what you are doing here today. In fact, the only time the Lord tells someone to go and proclaim what He had done was the man from whom He cast out demons. That’s rather profound. The only person the Lord gives permission to go spread the good news was to a man who’d been possessed by and freed of demons. He tells this man to go and share with everyone what the Lord had done because that’s what the Lord comes to do: to cast out demons and unclean spirits and to establish and advance the kingdom of God by the Holy Spirit. The Lord has power over unclean spirits and drives them out and away from us.

Healings point to the resurrection, which is the restoration of all flesh when the elect of God will be free of all effects of sin and death. Our healing will come when we are raised from the dead. If you are healed today of your sickness or disease or deformity, give thanks to God in Christ, but don’t put your hope on it. Don’t pretend to honor Christ by talking about what He’s capable of doing or not doing, honor Him by listening to His Word and holding fast to the promise of eternal life. For our freedom from demons and unclean spirits comes now when the Holy Spirit makes us His dwelling place. Sicknesses come and go, and we may be healed of one today only to suffer another tomorrow. But the casting out of demons and the removal of unclean spirits happens now and continues for those that continue in the faith of Christ and His Church.

So don’t go talking about what Jesus can or might do or could do in regard to sicknesses of the body as if that’s the chief thing. Of course He can remedy them, and in His flesh He has remedied them. Rather, go and tell everyone that the Lord has given you His Holy Spirit, having driven out of you the unclean spirits that would have been your doom and destruction. Now you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life who brings you to faith in Jesus who is raised from the dead. By the Holy Spirit you believe that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By the Holy Spirit you call God “Father”, praying in the Spirit of Jesus who has been given to you by the will of God who gives His Spirit to those that ask and grants them remission of sins and eternal life in Jesus.

For your end, O Christian, is not simply the restoration of the flesh in this life, but the goal to which you press is eternal life and the restoration of the flesh and the adoption as sons in the life to come.

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