Without doubt, Jesus and all the Apostles could, and did heal; the Bible clearly records that they did.
Beyond that, we need to delve into the Bible Scripture with an open mind to learn more, as questions arise: for example, did Jesus heal in His own power as the son of God? Was Jesus, and were the Apostles, in control of whom and when they healed?
Let us look first at Luke 5:17 which reads:
“One day as Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of the Law happened to be sitting nearby. The people had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. The power of the Lord was present to heal them.“
The inference is quite clear here, that Jesus a) did not heal by His own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit and b) that Jesus did not heal until the power of the Lord was on Him. If Jesus had been healing in his own power, or was able to heal at any time, then there would have been no reason for Luke to record this salient detail.
Many times in the ministry of Jesus, He healed and He healed all of the assembled crowd, as the following verses attest:
Matthew 8:16 “… And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick …”
Matthew 12:15 “… He withdrew Himself from there. And great crowds followed Him, and He healed them all.”
Luke 6:19 “And all the crowd sought to touch Him, for power went out of Him and healed them all.”
But this did not happen all the time, as we read in John 5 when Jesus went to the Pool of Bethesda, where (v2-4) there were “five porches. In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, of blind, lame, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and troubled the water. Then whoever first stepped in after the troubling of the water was made whole of whatever disease he had.”
Here Jesus went to a certain man who had been infirm for a period of 38 years and healed him, while leaving all the others in that great multitude untouched. The “healing of them all” obviously was not automatic. Even as full God, Jesus was acting as a vessel for the Father and it was the Father’s which Jesus was carrying out – be it a single healing, as in this case, or a mass healing as in the three instances above.
What is important in the story of the healing at Bethesda is not so much what Jesus did, as what He said, as in John 5:6 “When Jesus saw him lying, and knowing that he had spent much time, He said to him, Do you desire to be made whole?“ Before healing this man, Jesus asked whether or not he wanted healing. Now this may sound strange, but it is good practice to ask the patient first if they really want to be healed, whether it be physical or spiritual, of when doing deliverance. Believe it or not, many people do not want to be healed, for their suffering or manifestation, justifies who they are – it provides their identity. Losing their disability also means losing their identity and the sympathy and attention of others; they fear they will no longer be ‘special.’
In John 5:19, Jesus explains to those around why all the rest of the multitude at the pool were not healed, saying “Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He sees the Father do. For whatever things He does, these also the Son does likewise.”
From this we can see that neither God the Father, or Jesus the Son will heal anyone who does not want to be healed. They will not impose their will on those who are not interested, nor should we.
Secondly, we can see that Jesus did not heal of His own accord, but as directed and in the will of the Father. Though Jesus was all man and all God, He chose to defer His power to the will of the Father during His ministry on earth.
As it was for Jesus, so it is for us today. We can only heal in the will of the Father. There is no such thing in the Christian Church as a healer who can either heal all who come for healing, or can heal at will. Jesus did not, the Apostles did not, and nor can anyone today.
How do we know that the apostles could not heal everyone, or even all the time? Again, the Bible records this for us in the following three examples:
Paul could not heal Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-27) “Yet I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger and he who ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all and was full of heaviness, because you had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick, coming near death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”
Paul could not heal Trophimus (Second Timothy 4:20) “Erastus stayed at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.”
Paul could not heal Timothy (First Timothy 5:23) “Drink water no longer, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake, and for your frequent infirmities.”
Many in the Church today look at these three examples and say that Paul was unable to heal these three Christians because healing was to be used only as a sign to convince unbelievers to convince them of the truth and the power of the Gospel. But this is not supported by Bible Scripture, where in Acts 20:7-12 we find Paul healing Euthychus and raising him for the dead, while the gift of Healings in First Corinthians 12:9 is recorded in First Corinthians 12:7 as being given “to each person has been given the ability to manifest the Spirit for the common good.”
We find that the Apostles too we unable to heal at their own choosing, even after, as Mark 10:1 and Luke 9:1 say, Jesus had given them “power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.” One example is found in Matthew 17:16 when the father of an demonised boy who suffered from epilepsy and suicidal tendencies went to Jesus saying: “I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him….”
Jesus explains the reason for the disciples lack of healing saying in Matthew 17:20 “… Because of your lack of faith…. “ The disciples were unable to heal because of their lack of faith. When we have problems in Christian healing today, we need look no further than that for our first clue.
But failures in healing today may not be because of our lack of faith. A lack of faith on the part of the sufferer can also result in the failure. This happened to Jesus when He went to His home region to minister, and we can suffer the same. As Mark 6:5-6 says “And He could do no work of power there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick ones, He healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief. And He went around the villages, in a circuit, teaching.” Because of unbelief in the people, Jesus was unable to heal.
Again, we see that God is unwilling to trample our free will and to force upon us that which is correct and good for us.
When we look at the Healings of Jesus and the results of the Apostles as they operated in the Gift of Healings, we need to correctly evaluate their successes, their failures and their limitations. If we fail to do so, we are comparing the healings of today, with an incorrect and unbalanced view of those of the first century Church. For example, we tend to assert that all healings in the first century Church were complete, total and permanent healings and there were no remissions. Such a view of Bible healings places a burden of infallibility on present day healers which is unwarranted and is not supported by experience, for the experience of today’s healers appears to align exactly with those rescored in the Bible. i.e. some are healed and some not; healing is determined by the Holy Spirit; some healing is miraculous and instant and some is not.
But you say, “Well have about Jesus when He healed ‘all who were sick‘?” There is an explanation for this in the Bible and it comes down to definitions. As Jack Deere, author of “Surprised by the Power of the Spirit” says (pg.66) “Although I am sure that the Apostles received ‘charismata’, just as others in the body of Christ, the New Testament never describes their healing ministries with the term ‘charisma.’ The miraculous ministries of the Apostles [and Jesus]* is designated by the phrase ‘signs and wonders’.” *my parenthesis
Deere goes on to say “The phrase ‘signs and wonders’ is used to describe the unusual outpourings of the holy spirit for miracles. The phrase is not used in contexts where one or two miracles or healings take place. It is used in contexts where an abundance of miracles are taking place. (e.g. Acts 5:12 and Acts 8:7) and those who behold the signs and wonders are astonished.” He Concludes: “First, there is a distinction between signs and wonders and the gift of healing. Signs and wonders are an outpouring of miracles specifically connected with revival and the proclamation of gospel. The gist of healings is given to the church for its edification (First Corinthians 12:7) and is not necessarily connected with revival or an abundance of miracles.”
In Joel 2:28 we read the principle: “And it shall be afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions.” The principle Joel speaks of here is the outpouring on the Holy Spirit in these end times. Does the same hold true for Healing? Well, Jesus said in John 14:12 on the matter of the application of the principle: “Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me, the works that I do he shall do also, and greater works than these he shall do, because I go to My Father” and in Matthew 17:20 (above) Jesus linked the Apostles’ failure in healing to a lack faith, adding “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Move from here to there. And it shall move. And nothing shall be impossible to you.” If we have faith, I believe any Christian can heal. By this I mean that the Christian is the catalyst, or the vessel for a healing to be carried out by God; for such healing is supernatural, and not in the province of man to perform. does this mean all Christians have a gift of healing? No, I don’t believe so. I have no gift of prophecy, yet I have prophesied, (though not necessarily knowingly or intentionally); I have no of gift of healing, yet I have healed, (though very occasionally). When we believe and step out in Faith, I truly believe God answers that Faith and will often act. All the time? No, certainly not, but sufficient times to allow me to step out in faith the next time, with confidence in Him!
To close this article, I personally I like the words of Jesus in John 9:3 when He replied to His disciples on the matter of a blind man’s condition was the result of personal or parental sin, Jesus replied “Neither has this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be revealed in him.”
My thought on this in relation to stepping out in faith to heal at every opportunity, is that perhaps this person is suffering, or this situation occurs, just so that I may reveal God to others and in that process, understand Him better myself.
Amen and Amen.