Why did Jesus heal?
"And he said to them, ‘Let’s go to the next towns that I may also preach there for this is the reason I came out.’"
"…and having compassion, he stretched out his hand and touched him and he said, ‘I will, be cleansed."’
In reading through the gospels and the life of Christ, it is important to understand why Jesus does what he does. Why does Jesus heal? How is this connected with the gospel proclamation? How are these two things related to us today? We don’t often think clearly about these things and how they are related so that when people talk about the question, ‘What would Jesus do?’ there is a lack of clarity. It is important first to understand what Jesus did, and then it is important to acknowledge that we are to do what he commanded and not just what he did or would do because we are not the Son of God.The ministry of Jesus was a prophetic ministry, and in fact it was the ultimate prophetic ministry. In him, the fullness of God dwelt. There was no need for God’s word to be transmitted to Christ, instead, he was God’s very word and his word was God’s word. It is in Christ that we live and move and have our very being. It was a prophetic ministry to end all prophetic ministries because of his divine nature. Thus it is important to consider Jesus’ ministry in the context of his being the prophet. What is the point of the office of prophet? It is to proclaim God’s word and message to the people of God. So what should we do with things like Elijah healing the widow’s son? We can attribute two things to these signs. The first is that they authenticated Elijah (and others) as a prophet. They also showed God’s compassion. Elijah didn’t heal everyone, but he did heal Naaman and the son of a widow from Zarephath. God had compassion on some who believed. It was selective and not complete. This is characteristic of every Old Testament prophetic ministry. There were many signs that Moses did that proved that he was speaking God’s word like turning his rod into a snake and back again. In reality, all the plagues in Egypt were also prophetic signs proving the word of the Lord before Pharaoh and all Egypt. So as we consider the prophetic ministry of Jesus, the miracles he did share these same characteristics. They prove his prophetic office. Later on in Mark 2.10, he says this explicitly. ‘That you may know that the son of man has authority to forgive sins on the earth…’ Healing the paralytic man proved his unique prophetic office as not only a prophet but the ultimate prophet, the son of man. We see that these healings are also provoked out of God’s compassion: ‘and having compassion…’ God created the world good, but this leprosy and all the other various diseases and demonic possession are a result of the fall. It isn’t the way God crafted the world, and out of compassion Jesus rights the cart at least temporarily. God restores his creation in these acts, but it isn’t a complete restoration. The paralytic died. He still carried his body of death and sin to his grave. In this we see that there is perhaps an even greater point to these healings: they signal the coming work of Jesus Christ. What did he come to do? To restore and renew creation; to bring life to the dead, and in healing the leper and the paralytic, he was anticipating his coming work on the cross, his resurrection, his ascension and his second coming. These healings ultimately look forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ and the resurrection. Jesus used the language of the kingdom of God or heaven to describe the future restoration. So in Jesus’ first coming, one of his goals is to preach the coming kingdom which was intricately connected to his death, burial, and resurrection. This is why he goes from town to town not just healing everybody in sight, but preaching to everybody he could. Thus we can say that we are not called to be Jesus or do exactly what Jesus did. Instead, we are called to bear witness to the message of Jesus and his kingdom. We proclaim Christ and him crucified. To those of us being saved, it is the power of God, but to those who are perishing it is folly. May we be faithful in our witness to the power of the gospel.