In Mark 3:7-12, the author gives us a brief snapshot of an event in Jesus’ ministry. After a series of 5 encounters which progressively escalated the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, he withdrew from the city to a spot on the sea of Galilee.
We can assume his intention was to get away from the constant pressure of scrutiny and demand.
Rather than relief, Jesus found continued pressure in the form of a massive crowd that gathered around him.
Mark tells us that people from all over Israel and beyond had sought Jesus out due to the stories spreading about what he had been doing. Scholars speculate the crowd may have numbered in the tens of thousands. The physical force of the crowd pressing in on Jesus led him to send the disciples to have a boat ready in case of an emergency.
Verse 10 and 11 imply that Jesus healed a great number of people on that shore and cast out many unclean spirits.
It’s easy for us to skim over a paragraph like this without facing the full force of Mark’s words.
Mark reveals to us a Jesus who has power over the world of physical bodies and authority over the spiritual world. He reveals a Jesus who is available and willing to use that power and authority.
It’s wonderful to know that Jesus has that power and authority. It’s wonderful to know that Jesus is compassionate and available to those in need.
What exactly does that mean for us? It would be valuable for us to take some time and consider that question. Are the healings of Mark 3 merely historical? Or should we expect to experience the power of Jesus in the same way today?
Exodus 15:26 God reveals to the people of Israel, “I am the LORD, your healer.”
God is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. What does that mean for us?
Pastor Andrew Wilson summarized the 4 types of healing God provides for his people.
“Type #1: A virus enters my body, and my white blood cells are launched into action like a rabid dog, hunting down the perpetrator to kill it. I cut my hand, and immediately a combination of clotting blood cells and replacement skin cells begin the patch-up job. Every second, as my heart beats, tiny bits of mineral and organic material are sent to parts of the body that need it, performing ongoing repairs that will never finish, as if painting the Forth bridge. My body is being healed all the time, and it’s a result of the grace of the God who created me, searches me, knows me and loves me that he has designed a body that functions that way. I never want to forget – although I often do – the daily wonder of living in a self-repairing physical body.
Type #2: A young man attending a training event with me, who was born deaf, is immediately healed when someone prays for him in Jesus’ name, and promptly calls his fiancée with his (until now deaf) ear to the phone, and has a (very excitable) conversation with her. A woman who has been wheelchair-bound for years is prayed for in Jesus’ name, is immediately healed and gets out of her wheelchair, and months later phones the benefits office to stop her disability benefits, whereupon she is told that the system does not allow for miracles, so she will have to keep receiving them (which leads the Daily Mail and the BBC to run an outraged story about it). A young woman whose protein allergy immediately disappears, in response to healing prayer, now has the words “miracle cure” in her official NHS file. A Jewish prophet lays his hands on blind eyes and deaf ears, with or without mud and spit, and causes them instantly to see and hear. “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
Type #3: I cycle into the middle of a main road aged eleven, and collide with a VW beetle, with the result that my tibia and fibula are smashed between the car and the bike, and the windscreen wiper makes a four inch deep stab wound in my side, between my liver and my spleen, right before I land on the tarmac headfirst. An ambulance appears within minutes, and a splint is put on my leg. A surgeon removes the glass from inside my torso and then repairs it, leaving only a scar (which looks like a shark-bite and is good for parties). My leg is reset under general anaesthetic, which kicks in within seconds of being injected into my arm, and after sixteen weeks I am running around again like a normal eleven-year old. The materials to build the hospital, the oil that fuels the ambulance and enables me to get there before I die from blood loss, the image of God in the paramedics that makes them give themselves to rescuing people they’ve never met, the wisdom of the surgeon, the intelligence and skill of the thousands of individuals whose discoveries have made operating theatres and anaesthesia possible – all of these are gracious gifts of a loving God, whose mercy enables healings to take place across the world that would, in any other generation, be considered quite miraculous. No wonder they call him Yahweh-who-heals-you (Ex 15:26).
Type #4: A trumpet sounds, and the dead are raised in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, never to perish again. Physical bodies become incorruptible, spiritual, glorious, powerful; no sickness or affliction will ever befall them again. Cholera and cancer are consigned to the cosmic skip for all eternity. Operating theatres, doctors, ambulances and health secretaries become a thing of the past. Nobody cries, except with joy. Nobody grieves. The sterile smell of the Emergency Department corridor is no more. The octogenarians who sit, walnut-faced, under blankets in wheelchairs in hospital reception areas are given a new life and a new youth that will never again be stolen by the long march of time. Every deaf ear is unblocked, every damaged limb is made whole, every blind eye sees. Autism and Down’s syndrome and schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s are swallowed up in victory. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor 15:26).”
We need to remember God’s miraculous, healing provision in the design of our bodies. We need to remember God’s gracious provision in the calling carried out by medical professionals who use what God has given them to practice healing. We need to remember that some day God will bring an ultimate healing which will end all suffering forever.
But what about the direct intervention of God in divine healing?
Phil Moore summarizes 4 Christian perspectives on divine healing.
The classical liberal view: “Although God has the power to heal and this is a sign of His coming Kingdom, He does not heal people miraculously today and has probably never done so because He respects the natural laws of the universe.”
The classic cessationist view: “God can heal today and may occasionally do so, but because we do not live in the ‘apostolic era’ God no longer grants people gifts of healing, and any human claim to possess modern-day gifts of healing are bogus.”
The classic Pentecostal view: “Jesus’ death on the cross was to bring healing and not just forgiveness, and therefore healing has already been bought for everyone through the cross and simply needs to be received through faith that ‘healing is in the blood.’”
An extreme form of this view is the faith alone view, which holds that to rely on any human wisdom or ability for healing is a lack of faith. That to visit a doctor or rely on human technology displeases God and is sin.
The classic Charismatic view: “the Kingdom is now-but-not-yet, and sometimes the fullness of the Kingdom spills out from the future into the present through the mystery of the compassionate and gracious character of God.”
The more I study the Scriptures, the more I find the Charismatic or continuationist view to be the most biblical perspective of healing.
Divine healing was a major component of Jesus’ ministry.
He commissioned his followers to heal and cast out unclean spirits.
The book of Acts records a continuation of divine healings after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
The epistles tell of ongoing miracles and healings.
Church history tells us of ongoing divine healing.
Nowhere in the Scriptures are we taught that the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit will cease until the return of Christ.
The world of the gospels is the same world we live in. The Jesus of the gospels is the same Jesus we know and serve. The Holy Spirit’s power in the gospels is the same power Jesus promised to his church.
What would we do differently if we believed that? What would we try? What miracle might be around the corner in your life?
In my experience the greatest hindrance to expectant faith is painful memories of the moments in our lives when faith did not yield expected results. Memories like the ones my friend Jonathan carried into college of a Mother devotedly sending in offerings to a word of Faith healer and begging for a miracle for her husband who died of cancer.
The now and not yet reality of the kingdom puts us into a world that doesn’t fit into neat formulas. God heals today, but he doesn’t always heal.
In just a few minutes writing this sermon I thought of 9 reasons I have found in the Scriptures that explain why prayers for healing might not be answered until the last day.
- There may be wisdom to receive (Psalm 119:71)
- There may be character to develop (Romans 5:3-5)
- There may be holiness to perfect (Hebrews 2:10)
- There may be faith to strengthen (1 Peter 1:6-7)
- There may be confidence to give. (Philippians 1:14)
- There may be power to be imparted (2 Corinthians 12:9)
- There may be knowledge of God to be gained (Job 42:6)
- There may be a ministry to be born (2 Corinthians 1:4)
- There may be a moment of glory (John 9:3)
Someday God will bring healing.
It might be today. It might be tomorrow. It might be the great tomorrow when Christ returns and we see him face to face.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown