Faith healing (the real kind)

So-called faith healers insist that the faith of the one being healed is essential for the success of the healing.  The Bible does not support that assertion.  In fact, Luke 9:38-42 indicates that it is the healer’s faith, not the faith of the one healed, that is essential.  The disciples did not have sufficient faith to cast out the demon; the faith of the demoniac and/or his father is not discussed.

On the other hand, it should be pointed out that Jesus “could do no miracle” in His home town of Nazareth — other than a few incidents of healing (Mark 6:5).  And this is directly attributable to the faithless attitude of the people there.  Surely no one would suggest that Jesus was incapable of performing miracles at any point; after all, He did do a few there.  The point seems to be that He could find very few appropriate opportunities.  He was determined not to be merely a traveling sideshow; preaching was always the priority (Mark 1:38).

So although one’s faith is not a prerequisite for a miracle in the Bible, there is (at least on some occasions) a connection between faith and healing.  Numerous examples in the text show Jesus healing a person specifically because of his or her faith.  Matthew and Mark particularly focuses on such individuals: the woman with the hemorrhage (Mark 5:34); the Canaanite woman with the demon-possessed daughter who begged for the “scraps” from His table (Matthew 15:28); Bartimaeus, the blind beggar (Mark 10:52).  It is likely significant that these individuals were all from the fringes of decent society.  Jesus used such ones to teach a lesson to those who should have been models of faith themselves.  The most obvious example of this is in Matthew 8:10, where He tells the centurion with the paralyzed servant, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.”

This particular example brings up the main point that should be considered with regard to the examples of healing in the Bible — that the main point was always to emphasize the power of the gospel by showing the power of the messenger.  When the message was ineffective or ignored, the signs tended strongly to be withheld.  Frequently, as with the healing of the paralytic lowered through the roof (Luke 5:17-26), the spiritual lesson is directly attached.  And, as the same incident also shows, the physical healing is seen as a sign of the spiritual healing the gospel brings.  Matthew quotes Isaiah 53:4, how “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases” (Matthew 8:17).  But the greater fulfillment is described when Peter alludes to the same prophecy and applies it in a sin context — “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Therefore it is the spiritual healing that is always emphasized.  The ministry of Jesus, characterized though it was with countless deeds of mercy and kindness, was ultimately about the proclamation of the kingdom of God — a spiritual message for a spiritual people.  That is why His listeners needed to repent before receiving it (Mark 1:14-15), and why we need to repent as well.  And this “healing” is always attached to the faith of the one who is to be healed — without exception.  The one who comes to God must believe — in the general existence and authority of God (Hebrews 11:6), in the identity of Jesus as His Son, given for our sins (John 8:28), and in the message of salvation He gave to us through His inspired apostles, “the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16-17).

It is a strange contrast.  Many willing dupes leave the circus acts posing as gospel sermons thinking they have been “healed” of their affliction.  They have complete and utter faith in the healer, and sometimes their mind can (temporarily) provide a semblance of relief to the body.  But in the end, charlatans cannot cure cancer or heal broken limbs; faith in such ones is misplaced, however firmly it may be felt.  But those who come to Jesus for spiritual healing today are very much like those who trusted in Him for relief from their afflictions (which, by the way, tended to be much more obvious and demonstrable than those being “healed” today).  They to Jesus in faith, and they left whole.  And those who come to Him for relief from a much greater sickness today can be just as certain of relief.  If we believe, we will be healed.

And as a side note: From time to time Jesus asked the one being healed to do something — “pick up your pallet” (Mark 2:11) or “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14), for instance.  In every case, the one who desired healing obeyed the Lord’s command; indeed, why wouldn’t he?  And if He requires us to do something for His healing to be fully realized in us — say, be baptized (Mark 16:16) — the last thing a true believer would ever do is quibble.  True believers walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), both in the Savior and in His commandments.