Preaching through the Gospel of Luke is proving to be of much personal benefit to me and to our church. I chose the account of Luke, the physician and historian, because he presents Jesus in the fullness of His humanity—as the compassionate Son of Man who knows our weaknesses and carries our sorrows.
In preparation for preaching tomorrow, I’ve been studying Luke 4:38-44 this week—the account of Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and many whom the crowds brought to Him, as well as casting out many more demons. Though Jesus was relentless to maintain the priority of preaching; the compassionate, personal care of our Savior toward those in suffering remains very obvious. The following words, from Phillip Graham Ryken’s commentary, were a wonderful reminder of this personal care of our Great Physician. This lengthy quotation is Ryken’s answer to the common question, “Does Jesus still have healing power today?”
Since Jesus has healing authority, we should pray in his name whenever we are sick. But we need to recognize that God often chooses not to heal us. Some day “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4 NIV). But we are still living in a fallen world, where disability and disease are part of God’s curse against sin. Eventually all our prayers for healing will be answered, but this will not happen until Jesus comes again. Furthermore, God often uses our physical difficulties to do his gracious work in our lives. The life of the Christian follows the pattern of the life of Christ, in which suffering is the road to glory.
Among other things, this means that we can never make our health the test of God’s love. Often Jesus has a work of healing to do in us that goes much deeper than our bodies. In his commentary on these verses, Michael Wilcock imagines what Jesus might say to us when he chooses not to answer our prayers for healing. Perhaps he would say something like this: “I could of course give you immediate relief; but I would rather take the opportunity to do something more far-reaching, which will be to your greater benefit in the long run. You will find it more protracted and perhaps more painful, and you may not understand what I am doing, because I may be treating disorders of which you yourself are unaware.” And what would Jesus do then? Wilcock says he would “set to work to deal with the needs of the whole person, rather than with the obvious need only. He may aim at a calming of spirit, or a strengthening of courage, or a clarifying of vision, as more important objectives than what we would call healing. Indeed the latter may not be experienced at all in this life, but only at the final ‘saving and raising’ of the sick, when their mortal nature puts on immortality.”
In his healing work as our Great Physician, Jesus is concerned for the whole person—body and soul. Often he uses the hurts of the body to bring healing to the soul, much the way a doctor uses deadly chemotherapy to kill a cancer. Sometimes we wish that God would just hurry up and heal us. If he doesn’t, it is not because he doesn’t love us, but because he is working a better plan. In the meantime, we need to trust him to do his total work in our lives.
As you prepare your heart for the Lord’s Day worship in your local church tomorrow, consider Jesus, the compassionate and gracious Savior who knows your deepest needs—both body and soul.