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…
This is part three of this three-part series… healing miracles 17 to 23, and look out for the link to a downloadable resource at the end of this blog post!
*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
Miracle: Jesus heals a boy with an ‘unclean spirit’
Reference: Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43
Key teaching verse: v17-18 (Mark’s Gospel) ‘A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”’
Teaching message: There is much that we can learn from this passage, but one thing that Jesus shows us is that what is affecting this boy is different to what was believed. At the time it is viewed as an evil spirit, although looking at the description of the boy’s seizures it is likely to have been Epilepsy, a condition not understood in that era. Jesus uses the language of the day to heal the boy.
See separate blog post:
Miracle: Jesus heals a blind, mute man
Reference: Matthew 12:22-23, Luke 11:14-23
Key teaching verse: v23 (Luke’s Gospel) “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Teaching message: In this passage Jesus heals a man who is blind (according to Matthew), and mute (according to Matthew and Luke). He is also described as demon possessed, and the people wonder by what authority Jesus drove out this demon. Some suggest that Jesus got his authority to drive out demons from the ‘prince of demons’ Beelzebub (another name for the Devil). Jesus strongly challenges these claims and tells them that his authority is of God, and that those who are not with him, that do not believe him, are against him and will be scattered.
Miracle: Jesus heals a woman who has been crippled for 18 years
Reference: Luke 13:10-17
Key teaching verses: v10-11 ‘On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.’
Teaching message: There are several healing stories where Jesus heals on the sabbath and teaches us that to do good on any day is right (see the story below as an example), so for our teaching from this story let’s think about the woman herself. It’s the sabbath and she is in the synagogue listening to Jesus. Not unusual for the time, but today many disabled people find church inaccessible, whether physically, culturally, theologically, or socially. How would this woman get on in your church?
Miracle: Jesus heals a man with a swelling
Reference: Luke 14:1-6
Key teaching verse: v3 ‘Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?”’
Teaching message: Another example of Jesus demonstrating that doing good isn’t a six-day-a-week activity, it is something we should do whatever day it is. Jesus was being watched by the Pharisees and teachers of the law to see if he would do something that counted as ‘work’ on the Sabbath. They considered healing to be work, but as usual Jesus had an answer for them.
Miracle: Jesus heals 10 men with leprosy
Reference: Luke 17:11-19
Key teaching verse: v18 “Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Teaching message: 10 men were healed of leprosy, but only one returned to thank Jesus. Jesus wonders where the others are, but the reference to the one who returned as a foreigner (the man is earlier identified as a Samaritan) is yet another example of Jesus reaching out to the people of Samaria (think also of the Samaritan woman at the well, and the parable of the good Samaritan). These are extra-ordinary encounters for their time, but Jesus teaches us that his love for everyone, even those considered outcasts, is extra-ordinary, and so should ours be.
Miracle: Jesus restores sight to Bartimaeus
Reference: Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10: 46-52, Luke 18:35-43
Key teaching verse: v51 (Mark’s Gospel) ‘“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.’
Teaching message: Jesus had walked the road to and from Jericho many times, he must have passed by where Bartimaeus begged at the side of the road before, but on this occasion as Bartimaeus called out to him, Jesus asked for him to be brought to him. Now as a man, Jesus knew that Bartimaeus was blind. As God made flesh he knew what Bartimaeus wanted from him, but did he act on the assumption and just heal him? No, he did something really important first, Jesus asked Bartimaeus a question… ‘“What do you want me to do for you?”
The gathered crowd must have been incredulous, but by asking the question Jesus gave Bartimaeus dignity and respect and allowed him to express what was on his heart… “Rabbi, I want to see.” We could do a lot worse that to follow Jesus’ lead when we meet someone with a disability, asking what we could do for them rather than assuming that we know.
See separate blog post:
Miracle: Jesus heals a servant’s severed ear in Gethsemane
Reference: Luke 22:50-51
Key teaching verse: v51 ‘But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.’
Teaching message: A tiny story tucked away in the midst of great and significant events, but even here at the point of his arrest, with all that is to come, Jesus teaches us that his is a message of peace, not violence. He shows us that love, not hate, is what the Gospel is all about.
As we have seen throughout this series, 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.
Many 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!
p.s. There is a downloadable copy of this series of blog posts, here: Jesus Healed People But What Was He Really Teaching Us?
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