The Significance of Healing Miracles

Mark Strauss says Jesus’ miracles were not “showy demonstrations of power or even proof of his identity. They are manifestations of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God, a foretaste and preview of the restoration of creation promised by God” (Four Portraits, 466). I agree Jesus did not do miracles simply to draw a crowd or entertain people. While Strauss is correct the miracles are indications the Kingdom of God is present in the ministry of Jesus, in most cases Jesus did a miracle in order to reveal something about himself as the Messiah. This is slightly different than “proof of identity” since none are strictly speaking proof Jesus is the Messiah or his ministry is an in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. They are hints toward the truth for those who “have eyes to see” (Matt 13:14-15).

Healing_paralyzed_man

The healing in Mark 2 is an example of a miracle as self-revelation. Jesus heals a crippled man, but the reason he does so is to reveal something about who he is to both the outsiders (Pharisees and scribes) but also to the insiders (his disciples who already believe) and the larger crowd who are in-between these two extremes. The challenge of this miracle is: “Who is this man, Jesus?”

Jesus returns to Capernaum and attracts a very large crowd at Peter’s home. A paralytic is brought to Jesus by some friends to be healed. Since they cannot enter the home because of the crowd, the men go onto the roof and break a hole large enough to lower the man on a pallet into room where Jesus was. The roof of a typical home at the time of Jesus was a sun dried mud thatch, so the very “to dig” is quite appropriate.

There was a relationship between sins and birth defects in the minds of the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus may be attacking this misconception of sin by forgiving the sin without healing the man. In the ancient world, an extreme illness or birth defects was considered to be the result of sin, either on the part of the sick person or on the part of the person’s parents or grandparents. (The disciples ask about a blind man in John 9:1-2.) Not only do all the people observing this believe this to be true, but the man himself probably believed that his sickness was the result of sin.

Forgiveness of sin and healing typically go together in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Period Judaism. In 2 Chron 7:14, God forgives the sins of Israel and “heals their land.” Similarly, Psalm 103:3 connects forgiveness with the healing of disease, and in Isaiah 19:22 the Lord responds to Israel, hears their pleas and heals the nation.

It is most startling to notice that Jesus claims to forgive sin by his own authority. This is the action of Jesus that elicits the strong reaction from the religious leaders that are observing Jesus’ actions. He did not say, for example, “in the name of God your sins are forgiven,” but rather simply, “your sins are forgiven.” Jesus himself is forgiving the sins as if he were the one offended by them.

Jesus says to the teachers of the law: Which is easier, to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ or ‘rise and walk’?” It is just as easy to say one as the other. Jesus point is that saying is the easy part, doing is the difficult part. Jesus says that he will not only forgive the man’s sins, but he will heal him, so that the teachers of the Law might know that he has the authority to do those things. There is a significant bit of theology packed into this statement. Authority is power, ability, and permission to do something.

Jesus healed in order to signal the beginning of the messianic age and to prove to the Jewish leadership that he was the Messiah. That Jesus calls himself the Son of Man in this section important since it is likely an allusion to Daniel 7, where “someone like a son of man” is given authority to rule. In a sense, Jesus is drawing together three lines of evidence for his divinity. He forgives sin, he is about to heal a lame man, and he claims to be the Messianic Son of Man.

If we were to examine all of the healing miracles in the Gospels, we might find they all are some sort of self-revelation by Jesus. Other than general statements that Jesus healed many people, are there any healing stories that do not reveal something about Jesus’ nature and/or the nature of the Kingdom of God?

What other healing-miracles in the Gospels reveal something about who Jesus is?

 

11 thoughts on “The Significance of Healing Miracles

  1. “It is most startling to notice that Jesus claims to forge sin by his own authority.” (6th paragraph)

    Startling, indeed. This makes Jesus the author of sin. 🙂

    Thanks for your posts!

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  2. This post reminded me a lot of our class reading this week in Strauss’ Book, Four Portraits. Several of Jesus’ healing miracles pointed out that He was the initiation of the kingdom. The kingdom of God is the proclamation of all things new (Revelation 21:5). When Jesus healed the sick, the lame, and the dead, He is not tainted by their ailments; rather, He restores them and makes them new (Mark 1:41; 5:41; 5:27, and Luke 7:14). “In each case, Jesus was not rendered unclean; rather he ‘cleansed’ or healed the person. The kingdom of God is not defiled by the world but brings transformation to it” (Strauss, 463). Jesus’ healing miracles reveal the fact that Jesus was the initiation of the kingdom and that He makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

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  3. All of Jesus’ healing miracles portray his divinity in the flesh. In Mark 8:22, Jesus healed a blind man with his saliva. by using His saliva, Jesus was showing his power on earth. He performed miracles because people needed a reason to believe in Christianity since it was so new. Saliva has never been considered to be something off high significance, so by healing a man with his spit, Jesus presents his divinity. Also, in Mark 1:23-28, Jesus casts out a demon by simply demanding, “Come out of him!” The fact that Jesus performed miracles so easily, represents his sovereign power even when he was in the flesh. I don’t think that Jesus performed miracles just to have crowds watch, but I think that when there were spectators, they saw the power of God through Christ’s miracles because of the ease he had.

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  4. In John 9 Jesus heals a blind man who had been blind for his whole life. In John 11 Jesus goes to the tomb of Lazarus, who had been dead over three days, and calls him to come alive. In Matthew 9, Jesus heals a crippled man, and he forgives the man’s sin. In Mark 7 Jesus heals a man who was deaf and mute. In Matthew 8 Jesus heals a man with leprosy. Jesus did all of these miracles out of himself, and he did them as a proclamation that he was the messiah. “They (the miracles) are hints toward the truth for those who “have eyes to see” (Matt 13:14-15)” (P. Long). Jesus affirms his claim as the messiah to John the baptist’s disciples. Luke 7:22  “So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Strauss explains on 462, “Jesus is here alluding to passage from Isaiah (35:5-6) which predict God’s final salvation-the messianic age…”. All of Jesus’ miracles can be pointed to a prophecy of the Old Testament. They are all a fulfillment of words God spoke to men years and years before Jesus was on earth. Jesus reveals that he is the fulfillment of all OT prophesies of the messiah.

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  5. Every miracle that Jesus has performed has been about bringing the kingdom of God back into order. Jesus can only do for us what we think He can do for us. For example, the bleeding woman. She had so much faith in Jesus that she knew that just one touch of His garment would heal her. Jesus told her, “Your faith has healed you.” Without faith and believing we live a narrow, limited life. “You become what you believe” that statement is so true. If we believe that Jesus can still today, heal disease, sickness, and broken hearts and restore then we can believe the impossible. Also, not only does Jesus have the power to do this, but so do we. The same power that conquered the grave lives inside of us, we have power over the grave through Jesus Christ. Since nothing is impossible for God, so nothing is impossible for us. Just as Jesus was unlimited, so are we unlimited. We are everything that God is. Just as He is in heaven, so are we upon this earth.

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  6. The healing miracles say a lot about Jesus. The very fact that Jesus was willing to heal people who he didn’t know, people who weren’t worthy, shows who he was. Jesus brought the message of loving your neighbors and praying for your enemies. To send this message fully, Jesus would have had to “live out” his message. He showed this love with how he lived, and his healing miracles were a significant part of showing that, as well as showing that he was in fact the Messiah. To look more specifically, the story in Luke 8 where the woman was healed just by touching Jesus shows that that is who Jesus was-someone who heals every wound, physically and spiritually. In many of these miracles, we notice that Jesus connects people’s healings to their faith. If you have faith, Jesus will set you free.

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  7. Jesus did indeed mean to declare the kingdom by His miracles. He also worked them to show people who He was. All things He did were in line with His purpose on earth (John 9:14). Nothing was unintentional or just because, as we so often do things. When he healed people it was not to promote Himself as others who practiced magic in that day may have tried to accomplish by working miracles. But it was to promote His message and prove that He was telling the truth (Strauss 459). When Jesus did deeds, people repented and glorified God (John 11:4). He proclaimed woes to those who did not believe even after seeing the works (Luke 10:13). The ultimate sign that Jesus was who He said He was is the miracle of Him rising from the dead. The Jews kept asking for a sign and this was the biggest one! Yet many of them missed it (Luke 11:29-30). Jesus also heals on the Sabbath, showing that He is Lord even on the Sabbath. He is outside of the rules, the fence, that the Pharisees put around the law. He points people back to the fact that God is merciful and desires for His children to be free, just as the owner of a donkey would have mercy and lead it to water on the Sabbath (Luke 12:17, Luke 14).

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  8. About what Kate said, I also do not think that Jesus performed miracles to draw crowds and be showy. In fact, when he did perform certain miracles, did he not tell the people in question to not speak of what He did? That seems to support that idea. It seems He mainly want to make the subjects of His miracles, and the key witnesses aware of what the power of God could do, and to show that He had that power.
    “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Luke 7:22; Matt. 11:4-). “Jesus is here alluding to the passages from Isaiah which predict God’s final salvation” (Strauss, 462). I am honestly not sure if there are any stories when Jesus does not reveal anything about His nature or the kingdom of God. To me, it seems that with every miracle he performs brings something into light. Whether it is about Jesus Himself, or if it is the reaction or enlightenment of those that witnessed those miracles.

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