What about Faith Healers?
Dr. Jim Denison
This week I read one of the strangest stories I’ve seen in a long time. A woman, 23 years of age, was visiting her in-laws and drove to a nearby supermarket to pick up some groceries. Several people noticed her sitting in her car with the windows rolled up, her hands behind her head, looking very strange. A man asked her if she was all right, and she replied that she’d been shot in the back of the head and had been holding her brains in for over an hour.
The man called paramedics, who broke into the car and discovered that the woman had a wad of bread dough on the back of her head. A biscuit container had exploded from the summer heat, making a loud noise which sounded like a gunshot, and the wad of dough hit her in the back of her head. When she reached back to find out what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brain. She initially passed out, but recovered and held her brain until help arrived.
And you thought you’d had a bad day.
What do we do when the crisis is real? Here are the headlines from a recent Dallas Morning News metro column, covering one day’s events in Dallas: “2 dead in apartment swimming pool accidents;” “Body found in field is identified as Garland man;” “Man dies after being shot in billiards argument;” “Two arrested after woman’s death are identified;” “36-year-old man shot to death;” “Man trying to change tire killed by passing car.”
What would you say to the families of the 118 men who died on the Russian submarine Kursk? How horrible has this week been for them?
Let’s move closer to home. What is your greatest problem today? What issue would you most like to see solved, resolved, healed? How relevant is Jesus to that problem this morning? Let’s find out.
The Great Physician makes house calls
Our text begins: “Jesus went throughout Galilee” (23a).
The Greek syntax is in the “imperfect” tense, best translated “Jesus continued to go about.”
“He went about”—these three words capture the essence of Jesus’ ministry strategy: go to the need. He could have built a megachurch in Capernaum and waited for them to find him, but he didn’t. He went to them. We’re to do the same.
He went throughout “Galilee.”
This is the northern hill country, where the country folk lived. The region is a small area, approximately 70 miles long by 40 miles wide. But Josephus, the Jewish historian who was commanding general in Galilee in A.D. 66, says there were 204 cities and villages there. By some measures, more than 3 million people lived in Galilee.
What a task—if Jesus had preached in each of their towns at the rate of two a day, this ministry tour would have taken more than three months.
So Jesus formulated a ministry strategy with three parts. First, he was “teaching in their synagogues.”
This was the way he reached the Jews who lived in the Galilee. Their synagogue services had three parts—the prayers, readings from the Scriptures, and the address. The synagogue had no “preacher” per se; the president of the synagogue arranged each week for a speaker, or invited a guest rabbi to teach. After the address there was always a time for questions and discussion.
Jesus found the synagogue an ideal place to begin getting his message across. The Jews built synagogues wherever ten men lived. And so Jesus used their houses of worship to take the good news of God’s love to the Jewish people across the Galilee.
Second, he was “preaching the good news of the kingdom.” This was his open-air preaching and personal evangelism, directed to the Gentiles who could not come to synagogue services.
And third, he was “healing every disease and sickness among the people.”
“Disease” means serious, chronic illnesses; “sickness” refers to occasional physical problems. There is no disease too large for Jesus, no sickness too small.
Jesus did this to prove the truth that he was teaching and preaching, the good news of God’s love. We must do the same. Ken Medema, the Christian singer and composer, is right: “Don’t tell me I have a friend in Jesus until you show me I have a friend in you.”
And when the news of his healing power spreads north, “all over Syria” (24a), people brought him everyone they knew who was sick. In verse 23 Jesus goes to the sick; in verse 24 their friends bring the sick to him.
Each illness was beyond the reach of medical science then, and today: “the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed.” But Jesus “healed them.” Each of them.
The result: “Large crowds, from Galilee [to the west], the Decapolis [Gentile cities across the Jordan River to the east], Jerusalem, Judea, and the region across the Jordan followed him” (v. 25). North from Syria, west from Galilee, east from the Decapolis, and south from Judea. Jews and Gentiles. In short, people from every part of the nation followed Jesus.
All because he went to them, teaching God’s word, preaching God’s love, and showing God’s power to heal. No wonder the people loved Jesus.
Does Jesus still heal today?
And what Jesus did here, he did all through his ministry. Leaf through the pages of Matthew’s Gospel with me. In chapter 8 we find him healing a leper, and a centurion’s servant, then two demoniacs. In chapter 9 he heals a paralytic lowered to him through the roof in Capernaum, a dead girl and a sick woman, two blind men and a mute demoniac. In chapter 12 he heals a man with a withered hand; in chapter 14 he feeds 5,000 hungry families; in chapter 15 he heals the daughter of a Canaanite woman; in chapter 17 he heals a demon-possessed boy. In chapter 20, on his way to Jerusalem and the cross, he heals two blind men outside of Jericho. All through his ministry he heals the hurting.