What Motivated Jesus to Heal People? Compassion? Demonstration? What?

Salvation for the Body (4 of 6): Sickness, Healing, Compassion

Posted by danieljkoren on February 28, 2011 in Viewpoints |

Is Sickness Good?

Some site the redemptive effects of sickness, saying with Elihu that God allows these debilitating conditions to get a person’s attention and “bring back his soul from the pit”. [1] However, Brown points out,

In any case, the Lord is to be praised, not as the giver of sickness, but rather as the Healer of sickness. In the Scriptures, when sickness had accomplished its task, the Lord was petitioned to remove it.

While there are potentially positive by-products that can result from the experience of sickness and disease, the biblical writers never forgot that, fundamentally speaking, sickness is a tragic state ultimately caused by a tragic act: human sin (either corporate or individual). In itself, it remains a curse, even if its final results are salutary or even salvific.[2]


Kelsey joins this sentiment, saying, “I very much suspect that those who glory in the benefits of illness have either known little of it in themselves or those dear to them, or else have serious masochistic tendencies.”[3] Remember, Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in Spirit,” but not, “Blessed are the poor in health.”  He didn’t grimace at the sufferer and tell him or her, “Just deal with it, it’s your lot in life.”  As Harnack says, “Jesus says very little about sickness; he cures it.”[4] By such power, Christ opens the victims “eyes to the creative love of God” allowing one to “know the reality of the loving God and seek the divine fellowship.[5] Kelsey hits home when he says, “most human beings hate incomplete knowledge, and so they transform it into final, unquestioned conclusions.[6]

The New Testament doesn’t hide stories about Christians with illnesses.  In its candor, we find no hint that these people were sick because of their sin.  Neither do the passages call these maladies a blessing.  In the practical sense, the Scripture texts do not hint that the believers are expected to remain that way but instead carry an expectancy of immanent recovery.[7]


Why did Jesus Heal?

Some could argue that Jesus healed for the sake of gaining followers.  To test this theory, we follow Him to the pool of Bethesda.  Here Jesus approaches a 38 year old disabled man and asks “Wilt thou be made whole?”[8] Bailey comments on Christ’s actions in preparation for this miracle: “Apparently the years of waiting had brought deadness, unbelief, and withdrawal into the existence of this man—so deep that Christ dealt with this before attempting to touch his physical condition.”[9] First, this man didn’t seem aware of who Jesus was[10], neither was he seeking alternatives to his unsuccessful means of recovery[11], nor does he show witness to following Jesus in the end but seems to side with His opponents.[12]

A different response comes with the blind man Jesus met on the street.  Here, Jesus almost uses the man as an object lesson while talking with His disciples.  This man’s healing opens not only his physical eyes “but the eyes of his heart were opened as well. Healing for him was a personal encounter with Christ, a realization of who Christ was. His healing led to adoration and worship.”[13] This fulfilled Jesus explanation that this healing was for the glory of God.

Although Jesus didn’t do miracles to prove His identity[14], these supernatural manifestations did authenticate Him as God in the flesh.[15] Remember, Jesus declined publicity, tell the freed individuals to keep the miracle under wraps.[16] However, John once sent his followers to investigate if Jesus was really the Messiah.  When these messengers arrived, they saw Jesus curing many diseases.[17] In a tongue-in-cheek expression, Jesus answered by telling them to report to John what they had seen,[18] expecting this to be sufficient evidence of His office.  He even challenged His opponents to examine His credentials even to the point of letting their faith follow His miraculous works long enough to lead them to a full confidence in His person.[19] Further, He expected his followers to be confirmed by similar supernatural occurrences.[20] Even the apostles were not ashamed to demonstrate their authenticity by Spirit power.[21] The motive behind the miraculous has always been for God to receive glory.[22]


The Compassion Motive

When asking why Jesus healed, consider the burden this put on Him ministry and His own physical strength:

If we were in His situation and realized that we had only three years to accomplish our mission, do you think we might have tried to come up with a better, more efficient plan than His? I mean, why spend so much time laying hands on crowds of sick people? Why not spend that time preparing talks and writing training manuals? A secretary could help organize the pertinent ideas for key subjects, such as war and peace and how to reconcile conflicted families. Aren’t all these crowds of sick people a huge distraction from the really important work of teaching?[23]


Obviously, some great motive drove Him to persist with His healing ministry to the point of having to get away for a break from time to time.[24] One especially marvels at this Man’s selfless acts of mercy when His “miracles set him up for conflict and ultimately the cross.”[25]

One must ask then, what is the currency of the miraculous?  Since Christ didn’t buy popular opinion with show-stopping demonstrations, we must find what motivated Him to heal.  The Old Testament links healing with God’s mercy.[26] When the Lord came walking in first century Israel, we don’t see Him come with a mind to manipulate people’s affections by irrefutable proofs.  We don’t see Him attempt to show off His abilities.  Instead, an unpretentious, gut reaction caused Him to change unnatural problems by supernatural power: He was moved with compassion.[27] He saw a covenant people living under the curses of sin.  And He corrected the discrepancy.

Further, since scripture credits sin and demons with causing sickness, “the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil”[28] including but not limited to disabilities and infections.  Jesus went about “healing all that were oppressed of the devil”[29] and driving out demons.  He makes a clear case with a woman He healed on the Sabbath[30], telling her “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.”  When challenged by a hypocrite, Jesus responded, “ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?”[31] His healing ministry consisted of loosing captives from the bondage of disease and deformity.  He even referenced the work of casting out demons and healing in the same breath.[32]

Healing as Part of the mission

Modern Views of Jesus’ Mission

Where Does Illness Come From?

Is Sickness Good?

Why did Jesus Heal?

The Compassion Motive

Healing after Christ

Applying the Promise

[1] Job 33:29-30

[2] Brown, 148-49.

[3] Kelsey, 71.

[4] Kydd, 4.

[5] Kelsey, 73.

[6] Ibid., 75.

[7] Philippians 2:25-28; I Timothy 5:23; II Timothy 4:20; Kelsey, 90-91.

[8] John 5:6

[9] Keith M. Bailey. Divine Healing: The Children’s Bread. (Harrisburg: Christian, 1977), 106.

[10] John 5:13

[11] John 5:7

[12] John 5:15-16; Kerry H. Wynn.  “Johannine healings and the otherness of disability.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 34.1 (Spr 2007): 65.

[13] Bailey, 108.

[14] Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-12

[15] Acts 2:22; Hebrews 2:3-4

[16] Matthew 8:4; Mark 7:36; Luke 5:14; 8:56

[17] Luke 7:18-21

[18] Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 7:22-23

[19] John 10:37-38

[20] Mark 16:17-20

[21] Acts 4:9-10; I Corinthians 2:1-5

[22] C. Samuel. Storms.  Healing and Holiness: A Biblical Response to the Faith-Healing Phenomenon. (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1990), 64.

[23] MacNutt, 46.

[24] Matthew 15:21; Mark 6:31-32

[25] Anitra B. Kolenkow.  “Healing controversy as a tie between miracle and passion material for a proto-gospel.” Journal of Biblical Literature 95.4 (Dec. 1976): 626-27.

[26] Psalm 6:2; 103:2-10, 17-18

[27] Matthew 14:14; Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22, 36-10:1; Luke 7:13

[28] I John 3:8

[29] Acts 10:38

[30] Luke 13:10-14

[31] Luke 13:15-16

[32] Luke 13:32

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