Does God Always Heal?
Dr. Jim Denison
Thesis: Jesus always heals—physically, spiritually, or eternally
A friend in our congregation recently sent me an interesting e-mail. It seems that he was watching a particular news commentator on television one night, and heard the reporter try to make his point by saying, “There’s the passage that says, ‘God helps those who help themselves.'” Right after, the station went to a commercial break.
My friend and his wife were just starting to comment on how often that non-biblical reference is attributed to God’s word when one of our church’s televisions spots came on the screen. In this particular TV spot I begin by saying, “My favorite verse in the Bible used to be, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ Until I discovered it’s not in the Bible.” Then I proceed to explain that God helps those who cannot help themselves, by his grace. It’s been said that coincidence is when God prefers to remain anonymous.
Sometimes God manifests his presence and power in small, unseen ways. But sometimes we need him to help us with dramatic, life-transforming power. In this study, a pagan Roman official will help us answer a vital question: Does God always heal? When you need him most, will he be there? Will he heal you? Will he answer your prayer for someone you love? Does God always heal?
Remember what Jesus has done
Our story begins: “Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death” (John 2:46-47).
This “certain royal official” was a most unlikely candidate for a miracle from a Jewish rabbi. The Jews hated Gentiles, considering them pagan idolaters. They commonly said that God made Gentiles so there would be firewood in hell. They would not allow their nurses to help Gentile women in childbirth, for this would only bring another Gentile into the world. Every Jewish male began every morning with the same prayer: “God, I thank you that I am not a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.”
And this man was not just any Gentile. He was a “certain royal official,” part of the cursed, despised Roman occupation. He was most probably a court officer for King Herod (his Greek title, basilikos, was used by the Jewish historian Josephus to refer to Herodian troops. Though it can have other functions, an army official is its most likely definition here; cf. Brown 190). It was his job to protect Herod from the masses who despised his rule, and to enforce that rule among the Jews. Israel was oppressed by Rome, and he was one of the chief oppressors.
By now the Jewish nation has suffered under the boot of Rome for generations. They are an occupied territory. They must pay Rome exorbitant taxes, and bow to Caesar’s rule. They have lost the right to govern themselves, and have no hope of independence in the future. John’s readers knew that 40 or so years after the events recorded in his Gospel, Rome would destroy the Jewish temple forever and scatter the people across the world. Thanks to Rome, Israel would cease to exist as a nation. And this man’s army would ensure their destruction.
I spent a summer doing mission work in East Malaysia, a Muslim nation. One cannot work for the government unless he is Muslim. The government severely restricts the Christian church there. If a believer shares his faith with a Muslim, he can be arrested and sent to prison. Christians find it hard to advance in work or education. Many lose their homes for their faith, and some, their lives. If a government official were to come to such an oppressed believer for help, he would be in somewhat the position of this Roman who stood before the rabbi, surrounded by an incredulous crowd of hostile Jews.
Why would this man believe that Jesus would even hear his request, much less honor it?
The clues begin early in our story. Because not a single word in holy Scripture is wasted, we must ask why John states that it was in Cana that Jesus “had turned the water into wine.” We will remember our Lord’s first miracle, recorded only two chapters earlier. I think it is likely that the writer includes this episode not to remind us but to connect this miracle to the official who needs such a miracle in his own life. Perhaps he had heard of Jesus’ power in that tiny town, his assistance given to simple peasants. If Jesus would help them, perhaps he would help him as well.
The official “heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea” (v. 47). What had Jesus been doing down south? Cleansing the temple in Jerusalem (John 2:12ff), evangelizing a member of the Sanhedrin (3:1ff), receiving the testimony of John the Baptist as to his divinity (3:22ff), and ministering to a Samaritan woman and her entire town (4:1ff). John 4:45 adds further, “When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.” These two chapters of John’s Gospel occupied eighteen months of our Lord’s life (Hobbs, Study Guide 24).
So our Roman official has heard much to encourage him about Jesus. He would help peasants—perhaps he will help a nobleman. He would “heal” the temple—maybe he will heal his son. He would speak with a Sanhedrin member—perhaps he will speak with a Roman official. He would minister to a Samaritan—maybe he will minister to a Gentile in need. And he was right.
Do you need God to heal you or someone you love? To heal physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually? Are you wondering if he will? First, remember what Jesus has already done for you. Think about the ways he has already proven his love for you. His Son left heaven’s glory to be born in a peasant’s feedtrough, just for you. He endured crucifixion, a form of execution so horrific it is outlawed all over the world today, just for you. He has forgiven every failure you have ever confessed to him, and will continue to do so. He knows every sin you’ve ever committed, and what’s more, he sees every sin you will ever commit in the future. But he loves you anyway. He likes you. He finds joy in you even as you read these words.