Last Sunday at our church we held a healing service. This is the short talk I gave thinking about the subject of healing from Jesus’ healing in Mark 2:1–12.
Before we come to God for healing, it is good for us to stop and consider the subject of healing and what God has to say about it. We could have picked any number of passages that describe healings, or talk about the gift of healing. But we are going to spend a little time reflecting on this healing from Mark’s gospel. As we reflect on these actions of Jesus, there are a few points that I would like to draw out.
Healing involves faith, but does not depend on it
This story is well known because of the actions of this man’s four friends. They bring him to Jesus, but finding no way to get into the house, they hop up the stairs to the roof. There they pick apart the roofing material, making a large hole. Then they lower their friend down into the room before Jesus.
This is an act of faith on the part of these four friends. They don’t know what will happen or how anyone will react, let alone Jesus. But they act in faith that Jesus will show compassion and heal their friend. And Jesus does. In fact, Mark tells us “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”
Faith is certainly involved in this healing, but it does not depend on it. The faith of the four friends brings the opportunity for the healing to take place, but there is no indication that it is their faith that somehow persuades Jesus. In fact, the faith of the sick man is never mentioned at all!
We may have been prayed with for healing in the past and it hasn’t happened. Perhaps we have worried that our faith wasn’t strong enough, or someone has told us such. It takes an act of faith to come forward and ask for prayer, to ask for healing. God does withhold healing for his own reasons, but our lack of faith does not seem to be one of them.
We can ask for healing, but we cannot demand it
Jesus is the one who heals. He is the one who heals here in this passage, and he’s the one who heals us today. He delights when his people comes to him in prayer; he delights when we ask; I believe he delights when people ask for healing.
I often wonder what the expression on Jesus’ face was when the ceiling was beginning to come apart. I imagine a smirk as he knew what was coming, to a broad smile as the man is lowered before him. He sees and commends the faith of the man’s friends. He doesn’t mind that his teaching is interrupted by their creation of an impromptu skylight. Here are people who are coming to ask for his help. Jesus loves that.
But Jesus is the one who heals. We never demand, cajole or twist his arm. He will act as he sees fit. He will act for our good, but perhaps in ways we cannot yet understand. We cannot demand healing of Jesus. We can but ask.
There might be deeper healing that God wants to do
This story is a great example of the fact that what we need is sometimes different from what we ask for. In fact, there isn’t any verbal asking going on here at all. But we have to assume that by bringing their friend to Jesus, these men hoped that Jesus would heal him. That he would be able to walk again.
And he does. But it’s not where Jesus goes first. Instead, as he sees this paralysed man lying before him, his response is to say “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Only later does he also heal the man physically so he can walk.
This is a very helpful reminder for us as we come to ask for healing. First, the greatest healing we need is for our sins to be forgiven. And that is something we can pray for with absolute confidence that Jesus will hear and answer. If you don’t yet know that forgiveness that Jesus brings, then I would urge you to come forward for prayer for that deepest healing tonight.
It also shows that God may answer our prayers for healing in ways we don’t expect. We may approach him for physical healing, and there is some deeper spiritual or emotional healing that he wants to do. He knows best. If he chooses to expose and work on a deep hurt in our lives, it is for our growth and godliness. Don’t ignore that work, but allow God to do what he wants in our lives.
Healing is a sign of God’s kingdom
God does not always heal supernaturally. He chooses when and how he will do so. There is a day to come when every tear will be wiped away and every hurt will be healed. That is the day when Jesus returns and God’s kingdom is fulfilled.
Until then, every healing, big or small, is a sign of that coming kingdom. It is God’s kingdom breaking in. Or, as Jesus says here “that you make know that the Son of Man has authority on earth…”
Healing shows Jesus’ power and authority. It shows the reality of his promise to forgive sins. It gives a taste of what he will bring in all its fulness when he returns. It reminds us of his kingdom and it makes us long for that day of his return.
Healing brings glory to Jesus
After this healing, the people were amazed and praised God. That is the aim of miraculous and supernatural healing, to bring praise and glory to Jesus Christ. It is not to increase the reputation of our church. It is not to glorify those who pray for healing. It is to bring our focus and attention back again to Jesus and to praise his name. Whether you come for healing or not, that is our aim. Whether you are healed immediately or in days to come, through miraculous means or through the care of medical professionals, this is our aim. That Jesus’ name is lifted up and he is given the glory he deserves.