Healing Line

Healing Line

Jesus' Passion to Heal

by Francis MacNutt
May/Jun 2004

I imagine that many of you have, by now, seen Mel Gibson's movie on the Passion of Christ. In that context, the word "passion" means suffering. You may have heard a sermon or two about that during this Lenten season. Usually, such a sermon centers on Jesus' suffering in order to take away our sins. But have you ever heard a sermon on how Jesus suffered to free us from our sicknesses? This is a key theme in the Gospels. Take, for example, the Gospel of Matthew.

When evening came, many who were demon–possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.

This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases" (Mt. 8:16–17).

The purpose of Jesus' dying was more than dying to forgive our sin, in addition, he died to free us from illnesses and our sufferings. Do people realize that Jesus had a passion to heal the sick? Do you hear that preached? Have you ever considered how Jesus risked his life to heal the sick by healing on the Sabbath? When he did not have to do it? Since people no longer are killed for breaking the Sabbath, it's hard for us to imagine what it must have been like when Jesus spoke to a woman who had been bent over for 18 years — and then, in plain view, healed her (Lk. 13:10–17) so that she could straighten up. Jesus' enemies were looking for some reason to trap him, and one of their interpretations of the Law was that you could not heal on the Sabbath. What Jesus easily could have done was to ask her to wait until the next day. That's what the irate synagogue official claimed the people should do: "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath" (Lk. 13:14b). But, instead, Jesus publicly confronted the issue, then healed her in front of the entire congregation — freed her so that she could stand, upright and erect, after 18 bent–over years.

Jesus not only was faced with a heated religious argument with his church leader; he actually was throwing a challenge into his face. He was running a risk of death for breaking the Sabbath. In Matthew's Gospel we read that Jesus healed a man's withered hand on the Sabbath, at which point "the Pharisees went out and began to plot against him, discussing how to destroy him" (Mt. 12:14).

These were not just prejudiced religious officials; they were loyal and dedicated to the Law, as they understood it. Their Scriptures described how their heroes had died rather than break the Law.

Take, for example, the story about the seven brothers in 2 Maccabees 7. All seven underwent horrible tortures and, finally, death rather than eat pork. Their mother encouraged them to face their martyrdom courageously. The first brother, for example, was whipped and scourged. Then he told the Greek king he was prepared to face death rather than break the laws of his ancestors. The king was furious and ordered that the first brother have his tongue torn out, his head scalped and his limbs cut off. When he was completely helpless, he was fried alive in an enormous pan. All the while, his mother and brothers looked on.1 If we think Mel Gibson's movie is violent, consider this gruesome picture that shows how devoted the Jews were to devoutly keeping the law.

I simply quote this to show how fierce a devotion to the Law the Jewish officials had. Their loyalty to the Law was strong and courageous, and they, themselves, were ready to enforce it with the death penalty. Similarly, Jesus was ready to risk his own death in order to change that understanding of the Law and heal the sick on the Sabbath. Truly, Jesus had a passion to heal the sick. Like the charge of the Light Brigade, Jesus was ready to head into the valley of death. Would you heal someone in public when it meant risking your neck?

Why? Because, as he said, "I do what I see the Father doing." Clearly, Jesus saw his Father bringing life and healing to the sick every day. As Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk. 2:27). To Jesus, healing was a life and death issue. He was zealous to let people know what kind of a God his Abba was: "/ desire mercy, not sacrifice" (Mt. 9: 13b ).

For us, the question is do we take healing as seriously as he did? Are we as passionate and compassionate as Jesus was — and is?

The healing ministry is intimately connected with the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. To quote the opening of the Mel Gibson film, "by his stripes we are healed" (Is. 53:5).

12 Maccabees 7:1–6. Two books of Maccabees are in the Catholic list of inspired scriptures and can be found in the Protestant Apocrypha. These books were written less than two centuries before Jesus' birth.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. May/Jun 2004 Issue