Category: Healing


Suffering and Healing

The Gospel of John chapter 9 records a unique account of Jesus healing a man born blind. It took place on a Sabbath day which stirred controversy and criticisms from the religious authorities. The disciples raised a question of causality. Who was responsible for the man’s condition? Was his blindness caused by his sin or that of his parents? In the minds of both disciples and religious leaders, the perception of blame for one’s sin was inevitable. Disease, sickness or disability were signs of divine judgment or punishment.

To everyone’s surprise, Jesus took the initiative in healing the blind man. However, in the process, Jesus presented significant lessons on the theology of suffering and healing. According to Jesus, neither the man nor his parents were to blame for his congenital blindness. It was not necessary to speculate on the cause of his physical condition. Human curiosity would suggest that somewhere in this man’s past specific transgressions might have led to this fate. We seek a reasonable explanation for our experience of pain, suffering and disease. We attempt to fix the blame on something or someone. By providing causal explanations, we feel justified in either accepting the condition or else protesting the consequence.

For some, if it is not the man’s fault nor his parents’ sin that caused his blindness, then God is somehow unkind and unjust. For others, God must have a reason or purpose for this undeserved condition. Either way, we are troubled by the problem of suffering and mystified by the act of healing. Why does Jesus heal this man? On many occasions, those who were sick or tormented by demons were brought to Jesus for healing. In this episode, Jesus heals the man even though there is no indication that he sought healing. According to Jesus, the glory of God was demonstrated in this case. In other words, this man’s healing was divinely ordained and Jesus glorified God in his healing action.

The story continues in John 9 with further testimony from the man who was healed, causing more controversy for the religious leaders as well as for his parents. Nevertheless, Jesus took the time to reveal his true identity to the man. As a result, the man believed and worshipped Jesus. Those who claim to see but fail to recognize Jesus as the Son of God remain blind in their guilt. But for those who admit to their blindness will see Jesus as the One who heals and sets them free from darkness and sin. The significant lesson in this episode focuses on the mercy and compassion of the divine healer. Jesus performed the impossible by healing someone born blind and giving sight. The miracle in this man’s life was more than the cure for blindness. He gained a whole new perspective on life that was no longer determined by his past, nor his religious tradition or genetic code.

Looking back at the man’s past might stir up sentiments of guilt and condemnation. Is he a victim or a culprit? Who is to blame for his condition? Why does God allow human suffering without just cause? But Jesus looks ahead into the new possibility of sight and wholeness for this man. By touching and healing the man, Jesus demonstrated the glory and power of God that overcomes human sin and suffering.  Given the man’s condition, Jesus anticipates his need and initiates the healing act of making this man whole again, restoring sight and faith while revealing God’s glory and purpose.

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We are aware of the challenges in our health care system. The cost of providing universal medical care is escalating dramatically. Advances in medical science and possible treatments offer great promise for addressing the diverse range of illness and disease. Pharmaceutical research in creating new drugs continue to offer hope to patients. But health is more than the absence of sickness. Life is not inhibited by the reality that one day we will face death. Our environment, social conditions and personal relations also affect our experience of health. We desire emotional, social, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Therefore, healing for the whole person is more than prescription drugs and proper diet.  Healing for each person is ultimately a gift of God for the Lord is the one who heals.

In the Old Testament, we find limited descriptions of divine healing. There are twelve instances of individual healing recorded in the OT: Genesis 20:1-18; Numbers 12:1-15; 1 Samuel 1:9-20; 1 Kings 13:4-6; 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:8-17; 2 Kings 4:18-37; 2 Kings 5:1-14; 2 Kings 13:21; 2 Kings 20:1-7 (2 Chronicles 32:24-26, Isaiah 38:1-8); Job 42:10-17; Daniel 4:34, 36. In addition to these incidences of individual healing there are three occurrences of corporate healing in response to prayer: Numbers 16:46-50; Numbers 21:4-9; 2 Samuel 24:10-25. Please take a moment to look up the above Scripture references and reflect on their significance.

The essential affirmation in the Old Testament concerning healing is premised upon the Lord as healer, the one God who heals and makes whole. Exodus 15:26 declares: “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” The Psalmists turn to God for help and healing in the midst of pain, suffering and sickness (e.g. Psalms 41, 103, 116, 147).

Deuteronomy 32:39 sums up the Old Testament position: ‘See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.’ Throughout the Old Testament health and wealth are presented as rewards of God whereas sickness, misery, misfortune, even death, are seen as his punishments. The sovereign God is the one who blesses and who curses. He is the One who wounds and heals. Yet, we are also assured that in all aspects of life and death, God is completely in control. If there is only one true God, then everything is subject to His sovereign will. However, we must not conclude that God is capricious and unjust. The promise of deliverance, healing and blessing comes from the Lord who cares deeply for His people. His holiness, justice and mercy are evident in His acts of salvation, including healing for the individual as well as for the nations (see Hosea 6:1-2; Ezekiel 47:12; Malachi 4:2)

When we explore the theme of healing in the New Testament, we discover the manifest power and compassion of Jesus Christ in demonstrating the presence of God’s reign on earth. The Gospels and the Book of Acts record significant signs and wonders of healing and deliverance. The preponderance of healing accompanying the witness and teaching of Jesus is intentional. Jesus is the Lord who heals for He is the Lord who saves. Thus, the promise of salvation and forgiveness of sins includes the assurance of victory over sin, death and evil. Healing is the divine act of grace and mercy in response to the damaging effects of sin, evil and disintegration.