Isaiah 61, Jesus and Healing

The gospels claim that Jesus was a healer of all kinds of diseases. Jesus is constantly called upon to heal, and on several occasions he takes the initiative to heal.  His ministry of healing was not at all like modern faith healers – in fact, in several cases the individual healed does not express faith in Jesus (Mark 2:1-12, the paralytic, Mark 7:24-30, the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman). In Luke 22:51 we might even say that the person healed was decidedly anti-Jesus since he was one of the servants of the priests who were arresting Jesus.

Christ and the, Paolo Cagliari 1571 Centurion

Healing was an expected part of the Messiah’s coming.  Isaiah 61:1-4 says that the age of the Messiah will bring physical healing and liberation from oppression.  This text is spoken by an individual who is anointed by the Lord (a messiah) for the purpose of preaching the good news of the end of the exile.  Notice Isa 61:3 describes the reverse Zion’s mourning and 61:4 describes the rebuilding of the ancient ruins.  It is this passage that Jesus quotes in Luke 4 as being fulfilled in his ministry.  After he announces that he is the fulfillment of Isa 61, he begins healing many (Luke 4:31-37, a demon; 4:38, Peter’s mother-in-law, 4:39-40, many diseases and demons). Similarly, in Matthew 11 Jesus answers John’s disciples by alluding to the Hebrew Bible.

Why would healing be a part of the messianic age? The coming age is a time of the New Covenant, when Israel and Judah will no longer be under the curse of the Law, but under the blessing of the New Covenant.  The First Covenant promised a physical curse for breaking the law, but a physical blessing for keeping the Law. The New Covenant will enable the people to keep the covenant, therefore the coming age will be a time when the curse is reversed and people are physically blessed with real health.  In the coming age, God will deal with sin, even destroying Death (Isa 25:6-8). God’s representative, the messiah, will initiate that period of health and prosperity.

Mark 2 is a most remarkable healing because it seems designed to reverse contemporary assumptions about disease and sin.  If a person had a disease or other serious physical problem, it might very well be an indication of sin (as in Job, for example).  When the paralytic was lowered through the roof, Jesus does not heal him, but rather forgives his sin.  This provokes a response from the teachers of the Law, since only God can forgive sin.   Perhaps they thought that if Jesus really could forgive sin, he would have healed the man.  Jesus goes out of his way to point out that he has authority to forgive sin (a divine prerogative) and heals the man to show that his sins have in fact been forgiven.

How are Jesus’ healing ministry related to us today? We are really back to the “already / not yet” of the Kingdom. Jesus dealt with the problem of sin on the cross, but the Kingdom is not yet fully consummated.  The future, fully realized Kingdom will be a time when the curse of sin is reversed.  Today we have the spiritual blessing of the New Covenant, but not necessarily all of the physical blessings.

Two implications follow from this.  First, the Church is not under the curse of the Law – physical illness should never be seen as a direct punishment from God because of your sin (or your parent’s sin). It might be, since sin is usually “punished” by the natural results of that sin.  But you cannot say your illness is a result of the curses of the Law.

Second, you cannot say your good health is a result of your positive spiritual life. Again, it might be (guilty conscience could cause an ulcer), but there is not contract with God that guarantees you health if you are living out your Christian life properly.

I realize this runs counter to popular teaching from evangelists about healing, but these teachers seriously misunderstand Jesus’s miracles when they tell people their illness is a result of sin or their success is a result of spiritual maturity.


11 thoughts on “Isaiah 61, Jesus and Healing

  1. I really don’t like when people say that when they are not sick it’s because they are doing things right and “living their Christian life properly”. I feel again like people are making Jesus to be something that he’s really not and thinking things that they want to think. I belive we can get sick and have that trust that God will heal us if He wants to and if it’s His plan. Sometimes, we aren’t supposed to get healthy and that’s all in God’s plan for our lives’. I also believe that He can use this healing as a way to teach us something and have faith in Him. Blomberg states “Jesus indicates that the faith of those seeking the miracles is an operative principle in helping to produce what they desire. Thus a miracle can be designed to produce or strengthen faith or ir can be worked in response to faith.” (Page 314).

    Mark 5:34, 36 state “He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering…Ignoring what they said, “Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid, just believe”.

    • I agree with Melissa with the last paragraph of this post. It can be easy to blame our worldly sicknesses and injuries as a result of sin, I think when people do that we blame sin in general for our problems. It can also be easy to think that because we have a healthy spiritual life that our outer self is portrayed as beautiful and healthy. When it comes down to it, our outer self is a way that people recognize and judge people, based solely on appearances. It doesn’t surprise me that people would base each others spiritual standing on this, but in reality, we all sin, every day. We all should have injuries and look unhealthy on the outside, but because of our grace from God we have the opportunity to be beautiful inside, and that is all that matters. It sounds super cliche but I truly believe that especially in this context.

  2. I definitely see the possibility of guilty conscience causing a health problem such as an ulcer as the one of the only ways that we can say we are being punished because of our sin. The problem lies in this statement when a person gets an ulcer worrying about something trivial.
    When P. Longs talked about “Today we have the spiritual blessing of the New Covenant, but not necessarily all of the physical blessings” how does a Dispensationalist understand miracles that seem to happen today such as the healings as Blomburg points out. On page 311 Blomburg makes the statement that many doctors in their time in health service have seen miracles happen to their patients after the patients have been prayed for. I believe healing though prayer happens, but I don’t believe in Televangelist healing miracles on the stage. Do stereotypical healing televangelists only do healings? Do they do other kinds of miracles? Do they include other things like picking up snakes? In the book “The Year of Living Biblically” the author A.J. Jacobs talks about some churches that still practice picking up snakes. If I remember right some of these snake picker uppers get seriously hurt sometimes. What should we take from all of this?

  3. Jon asks a very good question and the answer is a loaded one and therefore very tricky. I agree that televangelists are questionable at best, in fact, I really dislike them and find their theology heretical. I immediately think of Joel Oosten’s and other Health and Wealth philosophers approach to the Bible. It is God will for me to prosper? Hardly the case! Jesus even says that if we are to follow Him, we are to take up our cross and follow him, the cross being an image of death, suffering and pain well known to the 1st century Jews. Melissa is right to say that it might be Christ’s intent for us to suffer for his Glory and we, as His followers, should rejoice when we face trials of many kinds because the testing of our faith will develop perseverance (James 1)!

    As far as Healings and their implications today goes, I see the world as it is, broken and in need of fixing. I have experienced first hand miraculous healings of which only could come from God. However, because we live in a fallen world, brokenness persists. Indeed we live in a already/not yet Kingdom but to say that healings do not happen anymore today is arrogant at best. We should live our lives in total submission to Christ, having faith in His teachings and gifts. If and when we are witness to a healing, we should not be surprised but rather rejoice and marvel at God’s power over sin!

  4. I think P-Long brings up some good points here. Like Melissa, I am slightly annoyed at the people who claim they live a good life and do all the right things and as a result they are healthy. Likewise, some people think they are living a life of sin and as a result they are struck with illness. Job was a very godly man. He lived everyday to go out of his way to please God and Satan, out of jealously, tests Job with God’s permission. Job lost literally everything and was also struck with a terrible disease that caused him a great deal of pain. God allowed all this to happen to Job knowing that he was a faithful servant and would not turn his back to God. My point is God allows suffering as a test of our faith. As hard as ti is we have to trust that God has a plan for everything he does.

    As far as healing is concerned, I believe God gave people the ability to heal at one point in the bible but right now.. no. All the time I hear about televangelist healing and how they healed a cripple on stage. Jesus definitely had the ability to heal. That was part of his ministry and he also saw the need. In Mark 1:40-45 Jesus has compassion on a man with leprosy and he then heals him and the man went out and spread the good news. I believe the healing is done only through prayer and fully trusting in God’s sovereign will

  5. Hmm… I think we all need to realize that the televangelists people are the EXTREME of this view. Plong, I do like and agree to your conclusions that “first, the Church is not under the curse of the Law – physical illness should never be seen as a direct punishment from God because of your sin (or your parent’s sin). It might be, since sin is usually “punished” by the natural results of that sin. But you cannot say your illness is a result of the curses of the Law. Second, you cannot say your good health is a result of your positive spiritual life. Again, it might be (guilty conscience could cause an ulcer), but there is not contract with God that guarantees you health if you are living out your Christian life properly.” I think you hit the nail right on the head that because of this already not yet kingdom, we realize that we have received access to all of God’s spiritual blessings [heirs to the throne, same power that rose from the dead lives in us, not a spirit of fear and weakness but of power and strength, etc…] but haven’t yet received all of the physical promises of the kingdom [new resurrected bodies, no more pain or tears]. Even within this already/not yet theology, I believe that people still experience healing today [the means are “debatable”, in that any one can deny or affirm someone’s healing, but you can’t deny that it DOESN’T happen – to do so would be foolish]. When someone questions why God isn’t healing them [cancer, disease, physical pain], it should always start or go back to this timeless truth that in this kingdom, “physical illness should never be seen as a direct punishment from God because of your sin (or your parent’s sin)” – plong. Could this be that in part of our hope in Jesus Christ, this long awaited healing is something we’re longing for until He returns?

    • Jesus’ healing ministry seems to be a many sided coin. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I do know that there are many different views one can take on the matter, and it seems like I agree a little bit with every one. The main tension I feel with Jesus’ healing is what we’re supposed to do with the knowledge of this part of his ministry, something God undeniably wanted us to have know a lot about. When considering fulfillment of prophecy and the expectation of the messiah during Jesus’ day, miraculous healings makes perfect sense. Their messiah would be one of restoration, and what better way to realize this than healing folks? Miraculous healings were almost always paired with truths about God, as they should’ve been, for the “Jews demand miraculous signs.” Knowing this, how should we view the faith these people had in Jesus’ healing, resulting in the restoration of their bodies, and how should it shape the kind of faith we have, in a world where we know our bodies will be conquered? Since we are not the Jews of Israel, and should not require signs, should our faith in God never be connected to health, but only to his will?”

      I’ve heard the question “If he can [heal], why doesn’t he?” With the cross, he has conquered death, the ultimate healing. Knowing this, I believe the healing ministry of Jesus can be an amazing blessing for today’s Christian, especially in the light of sickness and incurable disease. If God was a God of miraculous healing 2,000 years ago, then he is today – he doesn’t change. When one has faith that He is fully capable of healing anything, and that even death will be conquered in the life of every believer, they can be fully assured that whether or not he chooses to heal them in this life, it is completely in his will.

    • “this long awaited healing is something we’re longing for until He returns?” sure, I think this is a good way to look at healing in the present era. There is healing, despite my extreme skepticism of healers. God can and does heal, but the coming age is always described as a time without physical pain and sickness. I wonder if this is ultimately a function of the curses and blessings — since the kingdom is a time of ultimate blessing, there will be little (or no) illness.

  6. I will echo some of the other comments, in the fact that it really bothers me when I hear Christians talking about people’s physical problems being some sort of punishment for their sin. Of course, as P Long mentioned there are natural consequences and physical dangers to a lot of sin, but that does not mean that those who are struggling and suffering are under the curse of the law. Job was a righteous man and yet he suffered horrible boils all over his body. Also, I feel that God allows physical struggles to grow and shape us as people and as a means to bring us to himself.

  7. I agree with your point about miracles and health and strength and things like that. I’ve heard many people, many Christian people say things like that when someone is sick or something bad happens that that person might be living a good life or something like that but I honestly dont think its true, to a certain extent i agree that when you do good then good will happen to you but for someone to say that someone is going through something because they aren’t living right makes no sense to me. My mother has so many health conditions and she is the purest woman I’ve ever met in my life. She cant control it, it doesn’t mean she’s not living her life right it’s just certain things are out of her control and it’s just the way it is, it isn’t God punishing her for something. She has problems that she was just simply born with and have had all of her life. So i understand where people are coming from when they say things are happening or going a certain way because of this or that but I don’t think they truly understand what they are saying or what they are trying to say.

  8. Jesus’ healing were truly an amazing thing. He was able to heal those people thanks to God’s power. While many might think that these healings were done to show that Jesus was the messiah or God flashing his mighty power, they were really showing the return of the kingdom and that illness was not a forbidden curse by God. By healing the sick, it was shown that God did not damn them and was always with them. God did not make people sick often. In fact, most illnesses are not manufactured, they are brought through other means, such as: animals, insects or genetics. Bad things happen to good people. Illness is not someones fault and they should not be punished because of it, our immune systems are imperfect. No, this does not mean God is imperfect, it simply points out that illness is not God shunning us. God loves us more than we could ever know. While this was not known in the past, it still is no excuse to treat people poorly. God rarely uses his power to punish, he loves and cares for us all deeply and if those miracles of healings do not show that, then nothing else will.

Leave a Reply