I got a great “Sermon Question” sheet in the box on the back table after the message about miraculous healings. Because we are not having our regular monthly “Question and Answer” night in December, I thought I would get the answer to you all this way.
First question: “You said that Jesus’ healings were ‘instantaneous.’ What about the blind man who needed a second dose of spit and mud?”
The question is a reference to the blind man in Mark 8:22-26. This is a great question, and one I considered addressing during the sermon (but didn’t to avoid going too long). In the context of Mark 8, Jesus has just warned the disciples about the “leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (8:15). Then he questions the disciples about their lack of faith in doubting that Jesus could feed them all with the single loaf they had in their boat (8:14, 16-21). Essentially, He was pointing out that they were slow to understand in an effort to lovingly admonish them to try to grasp the significance of His power and miracles.
Then they get to Bethsaida and this blind man is brought to them. Jesus applies spit to His eyes (8:23; no mention of the mud here though, that is another account), and asks if he can see. He can only see blurry figures, which he describes as “I see men…like trees, walking around” (8:24). Jesus lays His hands on his eyes again, and the man immediately see everything clearly.
I believe the two-step healing here, in its context (which is a unique situation), was intended to be a living illustration for the disciples of how they needed to keep allowing Jesus’ “teaching” to be applied to their “spiritual eyes” so that the clarity of their thinking and faith would become increasingly clear. Figuring out the reason for the two-step healing is certainly the most important question to solve in order to understand that passage. Even so, we should be careful to note that the whole process of healing, even with two spit process, was no longer than a minute. I would still consider that instantaneous compared to what many modern “healers” claim.
Second question: “You said ‘all sickness is a result of sin.’ What about the man born blind who got healed, and Jesus said his blindness was not a result his own sin, or the sin of his parents, but for glorifying God?”
Whoever asked this question must think a lot like me, because I thought about mentioning this ‘exception’ in my sermon too. The passage he mentions is in John, chapter 9. Here is how I would answer this question.
When I said ‘all sickness is a result of sin’ I was careful to clarify that not every particular sickness was a direct result of a specific sin. It is still true, however, that all sickness is an indirect result of sin’s presence in the world. In other words, if the human race hadn’t plunged itself into sin, there would be so sorrow, sickness or death. When Jesus said, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so the works of God might be displayed in Him” (John 9:3), He was actually correcting the misconception about sin and sickness that I clarified above. His words are saying the exact same thing that my clarification did–that not every particular sickness was a direct result of a specific sin. But His statement does not mean that sorrow, sickness and death is NOT caused in a general way by the reality of sin in the world.
Third question: “I hear lots of stories from Asia and Africa about God’s healings. Do you see any special provision for God to allow or cause healings in those countries?”
Unfortunately, there is no way that we can truly confirm or deny what is happening, how it is happening, or why. I have never denied that God can heal anyone, anywhere, at any time. He does so, and when He does, He alone deserves all the praise. I am convinced the Bible teaches that the spiritual gift of healing was in operation in the early church primarily to confirm the message of the gospel through the first Apostles. Obviously not everyone agrees with my understanding of that gift, its purpose, or its operations.
Sadly, many who claim to have a gift of healing today are engaged in either a “showboating” kind of ministry, or are profiting financially from their so-called gift. We only have to watch them on religious television to see it, although many of their antics, deceptions, and greedy practices have been often documented. I receive a handful of letters every year at the church from unknown, obscure people in impoverished parts of the world. In these letters there are great claims of miraculous healings and demon exorcisms. They are always accompanied by a plea for a financial gift. Needless to say, the pleas seem insincere and the stories usually appear fanciful. The fact that stories are perpetuated, passed on (and likely often exaggerated) does not necessarily make them real.
No one could possibly have the resources or time to investigate every possible report of healings around the world. There are people out there who have tried, and by far the most common conclusion is that modern claims to miraculous healings of the character and nature of those in the New Testament are unfounded. Just for curiosity, I googled “what about miraculous healings in asia,” and clicked on the first article. A youth claims to have been healed of paralysis. But reading the article, it appears to have been no more significant than a bad arm taking a turn for the better. The article says:
Mi, a young man of 17, was the first to step forward to seek God’s healing touch for his paralyzed left side…On Friday, June 5, Mi went to a follow-up doctor’s appointment that had been set to discuss expensive surgery necessary for his paralyzed left arm. When the doctor examined his arm, however, he was amazed to find soft, pliable tissue instead of the rigid, spastic tissue he had examined previously. Mi immediately gave testimony to God’s healing touch following a time of prayer the week before. Mi continues to rely on prayer for full healing as he begins to follow physical therapy exercises he can do at home to strengthen his arm.
We don’t really know what the “rigid, spastic tissue” was before. A tight muscle? A severe cramp? A torn muscle? Unless it was a congenital defect, it may not be accurate to describe it as “paralyzed.” But notice, he was not totally healed. He is waiting, by his own report, for “full healing” and is following through with a physical therapy program to strengthen it further. This is very different from a man crippled since birth suddenly leaping, and dancing, and praising God. And yet, the headline reads “Miraculous Healing!” I believe almost all of the stories we hear are of a similar character. True healings, of the character and nature of the ones we see at the hands of Christ and the Apostles, would be the exception and not the common experience.
Those are really good questions. I appreciate them all, so keep them coming. The question and answer time is one of my favorite times of the month.