Summary: In looking at the healing ministry of Jesus, it’s important to remember two things. First, Jesus’ healings were a tangible witness to the kingdom of God he was proclaiming. Second, the healings of Jesus show us the heart of God
Jesus, The Healer
Today, we’re continuing our series about Jesus, turning to the oldest existing book about Jesus written between 56 and 60 AD. Mark is writing to the Roman Christians just after the persecution of Christians had started. He wants his readers to understand who Jesus is really and what his life means for their lives. After Jesus was baptized he set out to begin preaching the good news, healing the sick and casting out demons. In looking at the healing ministry of Jesus, it’s important to remember two things. First, Jesus’ healings were a tangible witness to the kingdom of God he was proclaiming. So he opens the eyes of the blind, heals the ears of the deaf, enables the lame to walk, casts out evil spirits and even raises the dead all as a sign of what the kingdom of God when it is fully realized will be like. In this kingdom, there will be no more suffering or sorrow or sickness or pain. And so Jesus shows us tangible signs of the kingdom.
Second, the healings of Jesus show us the heart of God. Jesus can’t help himself when he sees the sick, the broken and the hurting who wanted healing. He is drawn to them and has to heal them. This became a problem for Jesus because when he healed someone they went and told everybody who would listen. As a result, there were large crowds gathered around Jesus, waiting for healing. This is why Jesus is constantly telling people after he heals them, “Don’t tell anybody.” Scholars call this the messianic secret and have theorized that if Jesus didn’t tell people that then he would never have been able to do anything else, especially proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God. In Mark 1, Jesus has spent the day ministering to people. The sun is setting and the time is approaching for dinner and time with the disciples but he can’t do it. “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” Because the crowds had so dominated his time and ministry, verse 35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Jesus could not go in public without the crowds pressing on him because he simply could not say no. This shows us the heart of God.
Then in verse 40 Jesus encounters a man with leprosy. Lepers could not live in town, or get within 6 feet of people and had to call out “unclean!” when someone was approaching them They had to wear a cloth over the bottom of their face and they forbidden to ever wash your face. If you’re caught in town, you are subject to 39 lashes. But this leper comes to Jesus and says, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” And then it says, Jesus, filled with compassion, reached out his hand and touched the man and said, “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” This is the heart of Jesus. It is what we see again and again throughout his ministry.
Among the variety of healings Jesus performs in the Gospels is the exorcism of demons. Our Scripture today is a classic example of that. Yet this also raises questions for us today. What are demons and how did they look at demons in the first century? In Jesus’ day, most cultures believed in demons and that they were all around them. Some believed that demons were demi-gods. In fact the word demon itself means the knowing ones. And in some cultures, they thought that some demons were good and others were evil. In the biblical context, there were only evil demons who had rebelled against God and good beings or angels. Now the demons were led by the chief rebellious one, Satan, and they were seen as his subjects doing his will. And yet, we see that even the demons are under God’s power because ultimately God is in control. Some people believed demons were spirits who had not departed from this world yet and so there was a belief they lingered around cemeteries more than anywhere else. Our Scripture today takes place in a cemetery.
Today, there are parts of the world which still believe that there are demons and that demons are all around us. This worldview is of a cosmic battle between God and Satan, good and evil, light and darkness. You’ve seen a caricature of this with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on another and they are vying to get you do what they want. We call this spiritual warfare and it is Satan who is trying to get you to do his will and God who is calling you to be obedient and do His will. In other words, there is a cosmic battle going on and we are caught in the middle. But because of the gift of free will, we always have a choice. We are never the victim. We always have a choice in what we do and which path we take. Does that mean that every bad thing we may do is demon inspired? No. We are plenty capable of doing evil on our own but it does not negate the battle which is flaring all around us and sometimes within us. This is the worldview of the Scriptures. And one of the issues we need to wrestle with as followers of Jesus is whether we accept the worldview of Jesus and what implications does that worldview have on how we live our life and the temptations we face. If we are under attack, does that change how we live and what we do in our lives? Author CS Lewis says there are two extremes that we can fall into: we can either deny the presence of demons or we can have an unhealthy interest in demons and he says that the Evil One is pleased by both. Some Christians focus entirely on demons and spiritual warfare and that can be unwise and unhealthy. We as Methodists propose more of the middle ground recognizing this reality of good and evil, of demons and angels. But we should always be aware of the battle which is going on around us and the influences we face. Thus we are always to seek holiness and purity in life.