Summary: Jesus’ healing of the sick is an outward sign of a deeper healing we all need.
Growing up through Sunday school or kids clubs many of the staple lessons faithfully taught to us were passages about Jesus’ healings. Healing the blind, the lame, the mute, the possessed, even the dead. And these are important lessons to learn for they remind us of Jesus’ authority and power – authority over sickness, over nature, over the whole world. They show that the God whom we worship is no some impotent weakling but a sovereign God, a worker of miracles, a doer of miraculous signs and wonders.
But often it stops there, and we’re sometimes left with the impression that that’s the end of the story. That’s the be-all and end-all of Jesus’ ministry. He came to help people who were sick and in need – that was his purpose.
Well he did come to help people who were sick and in need, and his healings and exorcisms point to that. A friend of mine is about to graduate as a doctor and as soon as he can he intends to work in a hospital in a Muslim country. Why? I asked him. “They need doctors,” he said to me. Their health systems need support and people need help. But most importantly, being a doctor is one of the best ways to get in there with the gospel.”
He doesn’t think healing of the body is the whole story. And it’s not the whole picture, or even the most important part of the picture, as we will see from this passage.
Well, let’s start with some context. In the first part of chapter 4, Jesus has been preaching in his home town of Nazareth. He spoke in the synagogue there and read from Isaiah these words:
LK 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
And after reading this passage to the shock of all his listeners he declared “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” God has promised to send his anointed one to preach good news, the heal the sick, to release the prisoners” – I am that anointed one, declares Jesus. And, as Jesus predicted, a prophet is never welcome in his home town and the Nazarene’s drove him out, even trying to throw him off a cliff.
So he moved across the lake, across the sea of Galilee to Capernaum. And what is the first thing he does there – he teaches the people on the Sabbath. And the people recognize that his teaching is different – it has authority. Considering that Jesus is God’s anointed one, that should hardly be surprising!
What then follows are two brief healing episodes that occur in Capernaum, a demononised man who comes into the Synangogue, and Simon Peter’s mother in law. And we’re going to spend the next few minutes exploring these incidents and then perhaps more importantly trying to answer the questions “Why did Jesus come”, what is Jesus really aiming to heal?
The first seems simple enough, it’s related to us in vss. 33-37. A man with an evil spirit is in the synagogue – his words seem to suggest the demon has taken him there to confront Jesus, because the demon knows who Jesus is. We’re not told what sort of symptoms this man has been exhibiting, perhaps none at all seeing as he’s been allowed in the synagogue. But the spirit sees Jesus and immediately recognizes him. And this is a very common and significant thing about demons in the gospels. They know Jesus is the holy one of God. They know he is the anointed one. They know he is the Christ. As we read a little later on in vs. 41 “Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.”
Jesus hears the demon speak and he tells it to be quiet. And it obeys. He tells it to come out of the man. And it obeys. It throws the man to the ground with injuring him and leaves. Quite justifiably the people are amazed. This teaching has authority – even demons obey the words of Jesus.
The problem many of us have with these instances of demonic possession is that we find the whole concept a bit bizarre and a bit embarrassing. In fact, we find the find the whole concept of a devil, a Satan, who actually is a threat to our very souls a bit bizarre and a bit embarrassing. Sure we can talk in philosophical and esoteric terms about the nature of evil and temptation, but the devil and his demons – that’s more at place in a fantasy novel or an African voodoo ceremony.