Jesus Our Healer
This week, we continue looking at the Four-fold Gospel. Again, this is the term that A.B. Simpson used to describe the foundational teachings of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Over the last several weeks, we looked at how Jesus is our Savior and our Sanctifier. We now come to the third part, which is Jesus our Healer. This part of the Four-fold Gospel can be controversial because of the abuse of “faith healers.” The Alliance does not teach or believe that our faith is what heals us. We believe that Jesus is our healer. Jesus cares about what we are going through physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Jesus calls us to come to Him, to cry out to Him, to cast our cares and our burdens down at His feet. The Alliance believes that Jesus still heals people like He did when He walked upon this earth, but it has nothing to do with our faith; it has everything to do with Jesus.
Another important idea to keep in mind is that the pain and suffering we experience, both physically and emotionally, was never part of God’s original design. At creation, when God made the heavens and the earth, God created the entire physical world in six days. At the end of those six days, God looked over everything that He made and saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:31). At this point in time, there was no death, there were no diseases, and there was no emotional brokenness. The world was perfect, meaning everything was functioning just the way God intended the world to function. It is not until Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, that death along with pain and suffering were introduced into the world. God told Eve that she would give birth to children in pain (Genesis 3:16), relationships between people were going to be broken (Genesis 3:16), and Adam would have to work harder and experience difficulties in life (Genesis 3:18). God also told Adam and Eve that because of their disobedience to Him, that they would experience death and their bodies would return to dust (Genesis 3:19). This is when diseases and pain (both physical and emotional) all began, when sin entered the world.
God’s desire for all of humanity is for them to experience wholeness in their lives. This wholeness refers to their physical lives, as well as their spiritual lives and their emotional lives; to be a complete person. The Old Testament has a word that describes this type of wholeness that God desires for everyone to experience, and that word is “Shalom.” According to The Brown, Driver, Biggs Hebrew and English Lexicon this Hebrew word is used in a figurative sense to mean, “to have satisfaction, have enough, be satisfied.” Shalom is used for both external and internal sufficiency and has both aspects in mind. A person who has sufficient things for life’s needs also experiences sufficiency internally, which leads to joy and satisfaction. To this day, the Jewish people will greet one another with the word “Shalom.” When they do this, they are inquiring about the other person’s external and internal state of satisfaction. In the New Testament, the word that is often translated as “peace” really means “a state of well being.” Paul uses this word in the greetings of his letters. In 1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul says “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s desire is for the believers to experience that same type of wholeness, that deep satisfaction in their lives that only Jesus Christ can give to believers. We live in a sinful, fallen world, where we will experience pain and suffering. However, God desires for us to be whole and to experience a deep satisfaction that only can come as we put our faith and trust in Him.
In Isaiah 52:13-53:12 tells us about a suffering servant who was to come and to suffer. Isaiah tells us that this servant is not going to come with riches or be attractive; nothing will cause us to be drawn to him from a worldly perspective. This servant is going to suffer and be rejected by men. Verse 4 tells us that this servant will bear our grief and our sorrows and yet this servant will be rejected by man. Then Isaiah 53:5 tells us that this servant will suffer because of our transgressions and iniquities. In the last part of verse 5 Isaiah says, “The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah tells us that this suffering servant will be punished for the purpose of our peace. The Hebrew word translated “peace” in this verse is the word “Shalom.” This suffering servant is going to come and provide us with this wholeness of life, both internally and physically. How is this servant going to do this? Through His stripes we will be healed. The New Testament writers pick this theme up and as Jesus begins His public ministry He not only cares about people’s spiritual condition, but also begins to heal people physically. In this, they see the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4-5.
In Matthew 8:16-17 we see Jesus healing many people. The crowds bring many who are demon possessed to Jesus and He heals many who are sick. Matthew then says that this fulfilled what Isaiah the prophet had spoken about in Isaiah 53. Matthew uses Isaiah 53 to talk about how Jesus will heal us from physical sicknesses and diseases in our bodies.
Peter also uses Isaiah 53 in a slightly different way. In 1 Peter 2:18-25, Peter is talking about how slaves are to be submissive to their masters. This was extremely hard, especially when a slave had a master who was harsh and did not treat them with dignity and respect. Peter than uses Jesus’ example of how He suffered unjustly but did not open His mouth. In verse 23, Peter tells us that Jesus committed Himself to God who judges righteously. Then Peter tells us in verse 24 the results of Jesus’ suffering. Yes, Jesus had to suffer and yes, Jesus had to die on the cross, but because of this we now can live righteous lives before a Holy God. Then Peter quotes from Isaiah 53:5. Peter uses this verse to talk about the spiritual healing that takes place when we follow Jesus.
Who is correct in their understanding of Isaiah 53:4-5? Matthew when he uses it to describe Jesus healing physical diseases and sicknesses or Peter when he talks about the spiritual healing that takes place in the believer’s life. The answer is that they both are correct because of the Jewish understanding of the word “Shalom.” Jesus came to bring wholeness to our lives both physically and spiritually. In this sinful fallen world, we will experience this wholeness in part, especially with our physical bodies, but when Jesus comes again, we will experience this wholeness fully with our new resurrected bodies that will not decay.
When we consider the teaching of the Atonement throughout Scripture, we also see the idea of “Shalom” throughout. When Jesus died upon the cross, He provided a way for us to have peace with God. Before putting our faith in Jesus and becoming a follower of Him, Paul says that we were sinners or enemies of God (Romans 5:8). After coming to know Jesus, we are now friends, and we have peace with God (Romans 5:1). This peace with God means that we are made whole spiritually and we get to experience wholeness physically and emotionally as well. But we still live in a sinful fallen world and will not experience complete wholeness physically until Jesus comes again when we will be like Him (1 John 3:2) and spend eternity in the New Heavens and the New Earth where there will be no more curse (Revelation 22:3).
One of the key passages of scripture that teaches Jesus being our healer is found in James 5:13-18. James is writing this letter to Jewish believers that have been scattered around the entire Roman Empire (James 1:1). The purpose of this letter is to help the Jewish believers understand that being a follower of Jesus changes how they live their lives. This letter is very practical in nature, which is why this letter throughout church history has been placed in the wisdom literature category. In 5:13, James begins this section with a series of statements according to the Greek New Testament; our English translations usually have these statements as questions. Then James provides the answer to what a person should do if they find themselves in that situation. Verses 13 and 14 literally read like this: “Someone suffers among you, pray; someone is cheerful, sing; someone is sick among you, summon the elders of the church and pray for him anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord.” Each answer that James gives to the believers is a command. James says if you find yourself suffering from a misfortune, then he commands them to pray. James tells the believers to cry out to their Heavenly Father about the suffering they are facing. If a person is cheerful, then James commands the believers to sing songs of praise. Then James says that if a person is sick, or if a person is suffering from a debilitating illness, the person is to do two things. First, that person is to summon the elders of the church. Second, the elders of the church are to pray for the sick individual. The “elders of the church” refers to the spiritual leaders of the church and as these leaders gather around the sick individual, they are to anoint the individual with olive oil in the name of the Lord.
“Anointing” meant that they were to apply a liquid onto the person’s body. Usually, the process of application is done by pouring, which is why there is a pitcher in the Alliance logo. This pitcher represents Jesus our Healer.
There are many examples of a person anointing another person in the Bible. In Luke 7:36-38 Jesus was at one of the Pharisees’ house. While in the house, a woman came into the house with an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. Then she anointed His feet with the oil. She poured the oil over His feet and wiped them with her hair. In the Old Testament, we also have this image of anointing. In Exodus 40, we read about how the Tabernacle had been completed and God tells Moses to anoint the tabernacle and everything in it. God also tells Moses to take Aaron and anoint him as priest. Samuel anointed Saul (1 Samuel 10:1) and David (1 Samuel 16:13) as they became kings of Israel. Anointing with oil throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, indicated a person was separated unto God. The oil that ran down the person’s face and clothes while he was being anointed was symbolic to what was happening inwardly; God’s Spirit coming upon them and preparing them for the task God had called them to do. This symbolic meaning is what James is talking about in James 5:14. As the elders of the church gather and anoint the sick person’s body with oil, inwardly we are asking God’s Spirit to come upon the person’s body and to heal the person’s body. This is why James continues in verse 15 when he says, “And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” As the elders pray and have faith in Jesus, who can step in and heal a person’s body, the sick will be saved and will be raised up.
When James says “the sick will be saved” he means that they will be freed from their diseases. What is interesting about the word that James uses here is that it is the same word used when the biblical writers talk about salvation. Jesus saves or frees us from eternal death. James uses this word that we normally associate with salvation to give us a picture of what God will do for those who are sick. God saves them from their sicknesses, just as Jesus saves us from the penalty of our sins. James says, as God saves the sick person from his or her sickness, God will also raise him up or restore his or her health. The word that James uses here to mean “restore” gives us the image of someone doing a restoration project on a building or a car. If a person wanted to restore a building, they begin by taking all the garbage out of the building and everything that is broken and replacing these things with new items. The goal of the restoration project is to make the building like it was when it was first built. This is the image that James has in 5:15. As we pray to God for the sick person, God will free them from his or her sickness and God will restore that person’s health back to a good condition.
James continues in verse 16 to help his readers realize the importance of being righteous before God. The last part of verse 16 literally tells us that “prayers of a righteous one have much power being effective.” James gives his readers a warning along with an example of what could happen when a righteous person prays. A righteous person is a person that does what is right. In other words they follow God’s ways and do God’s will in their lives. This is why at the beginning of verse 16 James tells us that we need to confess our sins - to make sure that we are walking in a manner that is pleasing to God. James then gives us an example of what a prayer of a righteous person has done in the past. James recalls the example of Elijah and how he prayed to God to stop the rain for three and a half years. Then Elijah prayed again, and rain fell upon the earth. James tells his readers that Elijah was not an extraordinary person. Rather, he was an ordinary person like anyone else. The only difference was the fact that he lived a righteous life; he did what was honoring and pleasing to God. James wants us to see what can happen when a person follows God’s ways and prays in faith. God can do and desires to do some incredible things in our lives. However, we often do not see God work in our lives because of the sin in our lives.
God still heals people today. God heals people for the same reasons today as when Jesus was walking on the earth and during the early church in the book of Acts. Jesus healed people as a way to authenticate His identity. Jesus healed people’s sicknesses and cast out demons to show the crowds that He is Lord over everything- including sicknesses, diseases, demons, weather, etc. Jesus has the power and the ability to heal people’s lives physically and spiritually. The healings continued in the book of Acts to authenticate the Gospel of Jesus. When the disciples did a miracle, they did the miracle in the name of Jesus. They used these opportunities to point people to Jesus and what He had done for them on the cross. Healings today happen in people’s lives for this same reason, to authenticate the Gospel of Jesus; to announce to the entire local church and community that we serve a living Savior that is all-mighty and all powerful. All believers are to pray and seek God for healing in their bodies and souls. All believers are to intercede for their fellow believers to be healed. All believers are to pray for unbelievers so that God would heal them both physically and spiritually.
I believe God desires for all people to experience this wholeness in their lives, not only spiritually but also physically and emotionally. We need to be intentional both privately and publicly in praying for people who are suffering physically and emotionally; trusting in God to heal those individuals and to make them whole. Jesus calls out His disciples many times because of their “small faith.” The term “small” has nothing to do with the size of their faith, but that their faith is inadequate (Matthew 17:14-21). Many times, we have small or inadequate faith because our view of God and what we think He can do is “small” or inadequate. We need to have a correct understanding, that God is the “Almighty King of the Universe” and He is able to do some incredible things if we come and ask Him. James tells us that we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2-3). We do not go to God and pray because of our pride. Prayer is humbling ourselves and admitting that we need God’s help. We need to go to God in prayer, trusting that God is able and that He desires to bring wholeness or Shalom to our lives.