Healing the sick

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. (Mar 1:29–31)

Rebuking a fever

Luke's Gospel gives us more detail: it tells us that Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever (Luk 4:38). The Greek word used means great or intense, so her condition was serious. It then says that Jesus rebuked the fever, and it left her (Luk 4:39).

The Greek word translated 'rebuked' is the same word used to describe the way Jesus spoke to an impure spirit in Mar 1:25, where it's translated as 'said sternly'. That would suggest that some form of demonic power was causing the fever and, when Jesus rebuked it, it departed from her.

Luke tells us that as soon as the fever left her she got up at once and began to wait on them, which was God's will for her. The devil was trying to stop her from doing what God wanted her to do, as he will try to stop any Christian from doing what God wants them to do (1Th 2:18). But Jesus healed her so she could do God's will.

Sickness should be resisted

I've heard Christians say that God allowed them to be sick because he wanted to speak to them. Their lives were so busy they were unable to hear what he was saying. It was only when they were ill, and forced to rest, that they heard the voice of his Spirit.

If that is true, then it's very sad. We should all be spending quality time with the Lord on a regular basis. When that is done, as a habit of life, he will have plenty of time to speak to us, and we'll be able to hear clearly what he is saying.

Others say they are sick because God is testing their patience. It's true that even when prayer is offered in faith healing is not always immediate, and this does test our patience and our perseverance in prayer. But God does heal, and his delays are not his denials. We should continue to pray in faith until we receive our healing.

Others, having prayed for a while, conclude that their sickness must be a thorn, the like of which Paul wrote about in 2Co 12:7–9.

That may sound spiritual, but to such I ask: What surpassingly great revelations have you received that God should find it necessary to give you a thorn to keep you humble? Have you been up to the third heaven as Paul had? Have you been to paradise and heard inexpressible things that mortals are not permitted to talk about (2Co 12:1–4)?

That was why Paul was given a thorn, and we're not sure it was physical. He described it as a thorn in his flesh. The Greek word translated 'flesh' is sarx. It's used in the New Testament to describe the physical body, but also the sinful nature. It could have been a satanically caused sickness or infirmity, but he didn't ask to be healed of it, he asked the Lord to take it away.

He said it was a messenger of Satan. The Greek word is angelos, which means angel or messenger. It usually refers to spirit beings (Mar 1:13; Mat 25:41), but can refer to humans (Mar 1:2–4).

It was a messenger of Satan to torment him. The Greek word translated 'torment' means to strike with the fists, beat, treat brutally, which suggests physical torment; but it could have been mental torment, which I believe it was.

Messengers bring messages. There is nothing more humbling than to be reminded of the mistakes one has made in life or the bad things one has done. I believe Paul's thorn was a demon that kept reminding him of the acts of his sinful nature—that before he was saved he'd persecuted Christians to their death, something he was deeply ashamed of (Act 22:4; 1Co 15:9).

God can give Christians thorns to keep them humble, but we should ask ourselves: Do I need to be permanently ill to protect me from pride, or am I using this as an excuse to stop praying? I think in the majority of cases we'll find it's the latter.

A study of the Gospels will show that Jesus healed everyone who came to him in faith; there was no one he turned away. Sickness should be resisted and healing eagerly sought until we press through in faith and receive the blessing. We'll be looking at two examples of people who did that later in this study.

Jesus' popularity

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. (Mar 1:32–4)

John's Gospel deals mainly with Jesus' ministry at Jerusalem and the opposition he experienced from the Jewish leaders, but Mark's Gospel emphasizes his popularity with the people: we'll see that many times in this series. In this passage Mark tells us that the whole town gathered at the door: that is popularity!

Radiating his glory

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: 'Everyone is looking for you!'

Jesus replied, 'Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.' So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (Mar 1:35–9)

Very early in the morning Jesus got up, went to a solitary place, and prayed. We are not told what he prayed, but he had a private time of communion with his Father in heaven away from the bustle of the world. Communion with God can take various forms, including:

Such private prayer and communion with God strengthens us and builds us up spiritually. When Moses came down from the mountain he didn't realize that his face was radiant (Exo 34:29). The Hebrew word used means to shine (emit light).

Because Moses had spent time in God's presence, some of his glory had been imparted to him and he was radiating his glory to the people. And because God is light (1Jo 1:5), his glory is manifested as light and was visible on Moses' face.

Matthew tells us that when Jesus went up a mountain he was transfigured before his disciples and his face 'shone like the sun (Mat 17:1–2)'. Light was coming from our Lord's face also, and Luke adds that the disciples 'saw his glory (Luk 9:32)'. Jesus' face, shining like the sun was, as in the case of Moses, a manifestation of God's glory.

We looked at 2Co 3:18 in our first study and saw that God wants us to be transformed into the likeness of his Son with ever-increasing glory.

The Greek word translated 'transformed' is the same word used to describe our Lord's experience on the mountain, where it's translated as 'transfigured'. That means that God wants to transfigure us also so we can radiate his glory.

But how can mere mortals receive God's glory to radiate to the world? We receive it in the same way Moses did—by spending time in his presence. Jesus never let his busy ministry, or his fellowship with his disciples (as important as that was), rob him of his time alone with his Father—and neither should we.

Perhaps the only opportunity he had to spend time with his Father, on that particular day, was very early in the morning. Not just early in the morning, but very early in the morning—probably while it was still dark and everyone else was asleep.

What lessons can we learn from this? There are several:

Jesus is willing

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, 'If you are willing, you can make me clean.'

Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. (Mar 1:40–2)

A leper came and, falling on his knees, begged Jesus to heal him. Our bodies often express our innermost feelings and this man, falling on his knees and crying out to the Lord, was showing how desperate he was to be healed.

When Jesus saw him he was indignant (many Greek manuscripts say filled with compassion) and, reaching out to touch the man, he said, 'I am willing, be clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 13:8). He is always willing to heal the sick, but how desperate are we to be healed?

When healing doesn't come quickly, many Christians lose faith and conclude that it's not God's will to heal them. They lose the desperation to be healed this man clearly showed.

When Jesus saw the man on his knees he was filled with compassion and healed him. If you are not healed immediately, don't think it's not God's will to heal you. Job's sickness in the Old Testament was terrible and prolonged, but what was the final outcome? He was healed.

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (Jam 5:11)

Jesus healed the leper who knelt before him. He may have suffered from leprosy for many years, but God's time to heal him had arrived. When the Lord saw Job's suffering he was also filled with compassion and, again, in God's time, after he had persevered, he too was healed. And the Lord blessed the latter part of his life more than the former (Job 42:12)!

Our Lord is always full of compassion and mercy. He is always willing to heal. Never give up praying for your healing.

Importance of the Word

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 'See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.' Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. (Mar 1:43–5)

Jesus sent the man away and told him not to tell anyone about his healing. Why was that? Our Lord knew that if he told others about it he would soon be surrounded by people wanting to be healed. That is exactly what happened, and it was not what he wanted.

In v38 he said: 'Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.' He didn't say: 'Let us go to nearby villages so I can heal there also.' Jesus had been sent to preach the Word of God, and preaching the Word is far more important than healing the sick.

The preaching of the Word gives people the opportunity to respond to Christ and be saved. The salvation of the soul is infinitely more important than the healing of the body. Jesus did both because it's God's will to save and heal. However, preaching the Word should always take priority.

Faith in action

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. (Mar 2:1–2)

Jesus preached the Word to them, but that didn't stop people from pressing through to be healed.

Some men came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. (Mar 2:3–4)

The house was packed and there was such a large crowd outside that they couldn't get the man to the door. But, as in most houses in Palestine at that time, there would have been a stone staircase at the side leading to a flat roof. Somehow they managed to get the man up the stairs, with his mat, and remove enough tiles so they could lower him to Jesus.

Can you imagine a large hole appearing in the roof above our Lord's head while he was preaching, and then a man being lowered on a mat into the room in front of him?

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralysed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.' (Mar 2:5)

The Bible doesn't say: 'When Jesus saw their impatience…' or 'When Jesus saw they had interrupted his meeting…'. It says: 'When Jesus saw their faith…'. Jesus regarded what they did as faith in action. James wrote:

'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. (Jam 2:18)

These men demonstrated their faith to Jesus by what they did. They stopped at nothing to get their friend healed and, as a result, he walked away not only healed, but saved as well!

Saved and healed

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 'Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Get up, take your mat and walk"? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.' So he said to the man, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.' He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!' (Mar 2:6–12)

The Bible teaches that it is God's will to save and heal.

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases… (Psa 103:2–3)

This biblical truth, first revealed through the prophet David in the Old Testament, was perfectly illustrated by Jesus in the healing of this man. Jesus asked the teachers of the Law what it was easier to do: to heal a paralysed man or to forgive sins. The answer, of course, is that both are easy for God to do, but impossible for man to do.

Perhaps you haven't thought about it, but how do you know your sins have been forgiven? Have you received proof from God or have you simply believed what the Bible says? And yet God does provide proof that he forgives sins—he proves it when he heals the sick.

When the paralysed man was lowered to the feet of Jesus, Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven. And then to prove that what he had said was true, he told him to get up, take up his mat and go home. When God heals sickness and disease he is giving visible proof that he forgives sins.

The healing of our bodies is very desirable; it's a great blessing, but will benefit us only for our earthly lives. Having our sins forgiven, however, will benefit us for eternity. So, in telling the paralysed man that his sins were forgiven, Jesus dealt with his greatest need first. The Bible says:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1Jo 1:8–9)

We have seen in this study how willing Jesus was (and still is) to heal the sick. He is also willing to forgive the sins of those who confess them to him; and that is the greatest blessing of all.

Michael Graham
December 2001
Revised September 2019

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved.

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