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He often used the opportunity to heal someone as a practical way of teaching us something else.
Jesus is widely considered to have performed at least 37* miracles during his three-year ministry, from turning water into wine at the beginning to the second miraculous catch of fish towards the end.
He also healed people, lots of people, with approximately two-thirds of his recorded miracles involving healing, and that doesn’t include casting out evil spirits or raising from the dead.
So, healing people was important to Jesus, important enough for him to give two-thirds of his supernatural, miraculous, transforming energy to it. But time and time again he used the opportunity to heal someone as a practical way of teaching us something else. Something that is as equally relevant for us today as it was 2,000 years ago. Let’s dig deeper then, let’s go on a journey together with Jesus through the wonderful teaching that he shares with us through these astonishing healing miracles, in chronological order…
This is part two (read part one here) of this three-part series… healing miracles 9 to 15
(*As the Apostle, John, wrote… “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25)
Miracle: Jesus heals two blind men
Reference: Matthew 9:27-31
Key teaching verse: v28 ‘When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”’
Teaching message: Two important teaching points here. The first is that Jesus often healed people in private, away from the crowds (see more examples below); he does so here, indoors, out of the way, maintaining the dignity of those he is healing. The complete opposite of some of the TV ‘evangelists’ that seek the biggest audiences possible for their extravagant ‘show’.
The second teaching point is that Jesus asks them if they believe that he is able to heal. Note, an important distinction, being able to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is going to do it. We know that God heals, he is able to heal, but we also know that sometimes he chooses not to and that is at no point due to a failing or lack of faith of anyone (again, see below), but is his perfect will.
Miracle: Jesus heals a man who couldn’t walk, at Bethesda
Reference: John 5:1-15
Key teaching verses: v5 “One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.” And v9 “At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”
Teaching message: The man in this story had been unable to walk for 38 years prior to meeting Jesus, but when Jesus said to him to get up and walk he did, “at once.” It says much about Jesus’ ability to not just heal the body but to heal the mind, as after 38 years the man could easily have doubted that Jesus could help him.
In fact, as we read the story, he is still talking about needing to get into the pool in order to be healed. But when he encounters Jesus, not only is his disability removed, but also any doubt in his mind that he is truly healed has gone.
Miracle: Jesus heals many in Gennesaret as they touch his cloak
Reference: Matthew 14:34-36, Mark 6:53-56
Key teaching verse: v51a-52 (Mark’s Gospel) ‘“Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”’
Teaching message: For this story, our teaching message is what comes just before. Jesus has just fed the 5,000 (probably more like 15-20,000 when the women and children are added!) and has then walked on the water to reach the disciples.
It is a critical time for them as they are just returned from being sent out on their own for the first time, but they have been shaken by the beheading of John the Baptist. So, Jesus demonstrates to them the power that is available to them if they choose and have faith to use it, including the power to heal.
Miracle: Jesus heals a Syrophoenician woman’s demon-possessed daughter
Reference: Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30
Key teaching verse: v28 (Mark’s Gospel) ‘“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”’
Teaching message: The woman in this story is Greek, from Syrian Phoenicia (part of modern day Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel). Here again we see Jesus reaching people outside of the traditional Jewish faith, hinting at the salvation that is to come to all people who believe in him. This woman was a trailblazer for millions that followed!
Miracle: Jesus heals a deaf and mute man
Reference: Mark 7: 31-37
Key teaching verse: v ‘He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”).’
Teaching message: Once again Jesus takes this person away from the crowd before healing him, but the manner of the healing is different to many; it is more intimate. He touched the man’s ears and spat and touched the man’s tongue.
Why? I believe Jesus used sensory methods of communication to show the man that he was healing him, to help him understand what was happening. And the first word the man ever heard was spoken by Jesus himself… “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!” Wow!
Miracle: Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida
Reference: Mark 8: 22-26
Key teaching verse: v22 “They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.” And v25 “Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
Teaching message: Again, Jesus takes the person he is going to heal to a place of privacy. He then tries to heal the man the first time but it only partially worked “I see people, they look like trees walking around.” It takes a second try for the healing to be fully successful.
Why was this? There is no doubt that Jesus could have restored the man’s sight the first time, so why did he need to do it twice? Look at the first of the key teaching verses; the man was brought to Jesus, there is no indication that the man himself had any hope or faith that he would be healed. Contrast this man with the man Jesus healed by the pool in Bethesda. In healing him slowly and in stages, Jesus was building the man’s hope and faith that he could, truly, be fully restored to full sight.
Miracle: Jesus heals a man born blind
Reference: John 9:1-12
Key teaching verse: v2-3 ‘His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Teaching message: Disability is neither due to a person’s sin nor the sin of their parents. This thinking is part of a widespread, longstanding and entirely incorrect narrative that associates disability and all disabled people with sin, suffering and being in need of charity.
Jesus debunks that theory clearly and completely here (although it remains all too prevalent today).
As we have seen and will see again when we explore more of Jesus’ healing miracles in future blog posts, there is so much more going on in each case than just the healing itself. The healing might have been really important for the individual concerned, but what Jesus was teaching those witnesses that saw and heard him first hand, and all the billions of us that have encountered these stories since, is of far greater significance.
Many of us (but not all) who have additional needs or disabilities, or who have friends and family members that do, may long for healing or a cure; we may wonder sometimes why God can seem to ignore our prayers and pleas. But it might just be that now, just as then, God is teaching us something of greater eternal significance about ourselves, our loved ones, about him. May our hearts and minds be teachable, be willing to learn what God is sharing with us. May we be prepared to dig deeper, to explore what God is up to in our story or our loved one’s story, and to understand that healing might not be what God has in mind, it might be something even more exciting!
p.s. Look out for part 3 of this series, coming soon!
Mark Arnold, Director of Additional Needs Ministry at Urban Saints. Arnold blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather. This article was re-published with permission.