Jesus used the opportunity to heal someone as a practical way of teaching us something else.
Jesus is widely considered to have performed at least 37* miracles during his three-year ministry, from turning water into wine at the beginning to the second miraculous catch of fish towards the end.
He also healed people, lots of people, with approximately two-thirds of his recorded miracles involving healing, and that doesn’t include casting out evil spirits or raising from the dead.
So, healing people was important to Jesus, important enough for him to give two-thirds of his supernatural, miraculous, transforming energy to it. But time and time again he used the opportunity to heal someone as a practical way of teaching us something else.
Something that is as equally relevant for us today as it was 2,000 years ago. Let’s dig deeper then, let’s go on a journey together with Jesus through the wonderful teaching that he shares with us through these astonishing healing miracles, in chronological order…
Miracle: Jesus heals an official’s son
Reference: John 4:43-54 Key teaching verse: v48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe”.
This was Jesus’ second miracle and the first healing one. He was starting his ministry and realised that he had to demonstrate his authority in order for people to follow him. It is significant too that the person healed was the son of a royal official. Word would have got back about the ‘King of Kings’!
Miracle: Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law
Reference: Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1: 29-31, Luke 4:38-39. Key teaching verse: v29-30a (Mark’s Gospel) ‘As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon (Peter) and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever…’
Jesus had just been starting to call the disciples. He knew how significant Simon (Peter) would be, as well as his brother, Andrew.
I wonder if Jesus considered that their sick relative might cause them to change their mind about following him? Imagine how different the next three years would have been if they had stayed at home!
Miracle: Jesus heals many who are sick
Reference: Matthew 8:16-17, Mark 1: 32-34, Luke 4:40-41.Key teaching verse: v41a (Luke’s Gospel) ‘Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!”’
In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 4 starts with Jesus being tested and tempted by Satan in the desert, and ends with him healing people and being publicly recognised as the Son of God by the forces of evil. His mission, the battle for all of our souls, was well and truly on!
Miracle: Jesus heals a man from leprosy
Reference: Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1: 40-45, Luke 5:12-14. Key teaching verse: v40 (Mark’s Gospel) ‘Jesus was indignant (or filled with compassion). He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”’
Two things here, both linked. Firstly, while some translations use the word ‘indignant’ to describe Jesus’ attitude towards what the man with leprosy said to him, others use the words ‘filled with compassion’. A very different meaning!
It seems to fit better with what happens next, as Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the man with leprosy. Totally counter-cultural for the time, but very much the style of compassionate, servant-hearted, loving care for others that Jesus modelled throughout his ministry. A lesson for us all!
Miracle: Jesus heals a Centurion’s paralysed servant
Reference: Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10. Key teaching verse: v8b-9a (Matthew’s Gospel) “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me”.
Jesus recognises the astonishing faith of the Centurion, a faith the like of which he had not encountered up to that point. In responding to what the Centurion says, Jesus heals his servant, but also for the first time declares that his mission is for all peoples, not just the Jews!
Miracle: Jesus heals a paralysed man lowered through the roof
Reference: Matthew 9:1-18, Mark 2: 1-12, Luke 5:17-26. Key teaching verse: v2b (Matthew’s Gospel) ‘When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven”’.
To Jesus, the man’s (and his friends) faith was the most important thing, this defined his eternal status. His disability wasn’t as important to Jesus and he only restored the use of the man’s legs to prove to the doubters that he had the authority to forgive sins too.
Miracle: Jesus heals a man’s withered hand
Reference: Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3: 1-6, Luke 6:6-11. Key teaching verse: v9 (Luke’s Gospel) ‘Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”’
Jesus was challenging the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who felt that it was wrong to do anything on the Sabbath, even to heal. In healing the man’s hand, Jesus was confronting this cold-hearted teaching head on and showing us that we should always do good, always save life, whatever day it is.
Miracle: Jesus heals a woman who is bleeding
Reference: Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5: 25-34, Luke 8:42-48. Key teaching verse: v48 ‘Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”’
Did this healing take Jesus by surprise? Maybe… he knew that power had gone out of him and wanted to know who had touched him. At first reading it seems cruel of Jesus to make her come forward, but Jesus knew what he was doing.
If she had just crept away would anyone have believed her if she said that she was well now? By calling her out and making her publicly tell her story Jesus didn’t just heal her physically, he restored her socially too.
As we have seen, and will see again when we explore more of Jesus’ healing miracles in future blog posts, there is so much more going on in each case than just the healing itself.
The healing might have been really important for the individual concerned, but what Jesus was teaching those witnesses that saw and heard him first hand, and all the billions of us that have encountered these stories since, is of far greater significance.
Some of us (but not all) who have additional needs or disabilities, or who have friends and family members that do, may long for healing or a cure; we may wonder sometimes why God can seem to ignore our prayers and pleas.
But it might just be that now, just as then, God is teaching us something of greater eternal significance about ourselves, our loved ones, about him.
May our hearts and minds be teachable, be willing to learn what God is sharing with us. May we be prepared to dig deeper, to explore what God is up to in our story or our loved one’s story, and to understand that healing might not be what God has in mind, it might be something even more exciting!
*As the Apostle, John, wrote… “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25.
Mark Arnold, Director of Additional Needs Ministry at Urban Saints. Arnold blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather. This article was re-published with permission.