Healing Line

Healing Line

One More Reason to Shout "Alleluiah!"

by Francis MacNutt
Spring 1999

As we celebrate Easter and everything Jesus won for us when He offered up His life upon the cross, all Christians — no matter what denomination — recognize that Jesus died to forgive and take away our sins.

But how many of you know with equal certainty that Jesus died to take your sickness away? How many Good Friday sermons have you heard upon the subject of your healing as compared to the forgiveness of your sins? And not just your spiritual sickness — sin — but your physical sickness. When you read the Gospels, it is very clear that Jesus came to earth and died to free us from all evil, including sickness. Yet, how few Christians know this joyful news!

Take the eighth chapter of Matthew, for example. First, Jesus heals three sick people: a leper, the centurion's servant, and Peter's mother–in–law — all physical sicknesses. Then, Matthew follows with a summary of many healings:

'That evening they brought to Him many who were possessed with demons; and He cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took our infirmities and bore our diseases' (Isaiah 53:4)." (Matthew 8: 16–17)

Note how the casting out of the evil spirits and the healings go together: sickness is not a blessing sent by God, but an evil parallel to demonic oppression. The most famous Old Testament text we use for Good Friday sermons is Isaiah 53, the powerful, moving picture of Jesus as the Suffering Servant. The following verse in this chapter, verse 5, says, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed."

Handel's majestic "Messiah" sings out this text, and we respond with the glorious "Alleluiah" chorus. And here is Matthew saying directly that Jesus, the suffering Messiah, took our sickness to the cross, as well as our sins. Truly, "by His wounds we are healed!"

How did we ever lose t,his truth? The early Church knew it and taught it for the first 300 years of Christianity. And they acted upon it. In those years be fore Constantine — years we tend to believe were a golden time, closer to Jesus and the Apostles — Christians were persecuted, even as they gradually converted the Roman Empire.

They could hold no mass meetings or evangelistic crusades in their coliseums, as we do. Sharing the Gospel was one–on–one, neighbor to neighbor. What convinced these people was healing the sick and casting out evil spirits. They understood that. When a neighbor was sick, a Christian might say, "Our God is all powerful, and your idols, your gods, are simply demons. Our God loves you, and we will show you. We'll pray for your mother and God will heal her." Then came baptism. Then instruction. It was all so simple: a head–to–head confrontation between paganism and, the power of Christianity — a kind of divine shootout between the forces of good and evil.

Dr. Ramsey MacMullen, professor of classics at Yale University, writes that the main motives for conversion in those early post–apostolic years were healing and exorcism ( Christianizing the Roman Empire, A.D. 100–400, Yale Univ. Press, 1984). According to MacMullen, the most highly rated activity of the early church was probably exorcism, the casting out of evil spirits.

In the Christian church today, there is often profound skepticism about exorcism, or even the existence of satan (although the Catholics recently revised the rite of exorcism and repeated the traditional Christian teaching affirming the existence of evil spirits, and many renewal and fundamental churches acknowledge their existence). The famous writer Tertullian (c. 200 A.D.) issued the challenge: "Let a man be produced right here before your court who, it is clear, is possessed by a demon, and that spirit commanded by any Christian at all will be cast out" (MacMullen, p. 27).

We need not totally blame the Emperor Constantine for the spiritual weakening of the church after he politicized it. A large part of our lack of spiritual power today simply comes about because we.ourselves have become skeptical about the reality of the spiritual power that Jesus came to share with us through the Holy Spirit. We find it easy to believe in the forgiveness of sins — which we cannot see and requires little risk, — but find it hard to believe that God will heal real physical infirmities which torment the sick, that which we can see. Whenever we pray for healing, we take a real risk of faith. As John Wimber once said, "faith is spelled R–I–S–K!"

What we celebrate at Easter and Pentecost is a renewal of our belief in what Jesus accomplished upon the cross: He won a great victory over evil in all its dimensions — sin, sickness, ignorance, demonic oppression and hate. He brought us new life, even as He Himself rose to new life: holiness, health, wisdom and love.

We don't see it all, of course, in this earthly life, but already we experience the holiness, the health, the love of Jesus, and we will see it all in the life to come when we are resurrected with Jesus!

Happy Easter!

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Spring 1999 Issue