And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”Mark 7:35-37 ESV
In the New Testament, we see some instances where Jesus would heal an individual or a group of people. People reacted differently after the healing, and then they would leave Jesus and go back to their own lives. Sometimes, they would not even thank Jesus [see Luke 17:12-19]. Jesus, at times, would command those whom He healed to keep quiet, but some kept on talking about the healing. What is going on? Why did Jesus heal them in the first place?
Jesus lived a quiet life until He went into public ministry when He was about 30 years old. He started proclaiming that God’s Kingdom was at hand. One way he showed that God is near is by healing the sick, driving out evil spirits, performing many miracles, and even raising the dead back to life. But why did the people around Jesus respond the way they did?
Many people who encountered Jesus were not ready for the Kingdom of God. The religious leaders were not – they were more concerned about their pride, image and wealth. They made and followed their own rules and prioritised their practices above God’s law. They used their religious positions to promote their selfish ambitions for the sake of fame, money, and pride. No wonder Jesus clashed with them – Jesus could see their hearts and motives.
The ordinary people whom Jesus healed and performed miracles were also apparently not ready for God’s Kingdom either – they were only after their own healing or satisfaction of their hunger – then they forgot Jesus. In the Gospels, we would see some people who are seeking Jesus because they are hungry again – in the hope that he would perform another miracle to satisfy their needs. Even the disciples did not understand Jesus, and it took them the death and resurrection of Jesus to fully understand what He was about.
The people of Jesus’s time are not a lot different from people nowadays. Many do not look for God and live a very self-centred life. They do not look beyond the concerns of the day and this life. Some today seek Jesus because they have a need or a problem. Once the need or the concern goes away, they live a carefree life apart from God. They only go to God when they need Him, and they drop and forget Him quickly once they are fine.
What was Jesus offering to everyone when He started His ministry? He is offering primarily a relationship with Him. What Jesus is after is a people who will follow Him – not just be healed of a particular ailment or disease. Healing is just a means for us to draw to God and is never meant to be an end in itself. The Kingdom of God can be reached through a relationship with Jesus Christ. If people want a short-term solution to their problem, they are free to do that. But God has something much, much greater in mind. When we freely accept His invitation to come and follow Him, we join Him in His very life – the full life with God. God created us in the first place to be in eternal bliss with Him, but He would never force anyone to join that eternal life – a life without death, pain, and sorrow. The healing that God provides for us is just a foretaste of the blessing that we will receive fully once we are with God.
Are our hearts and minds set on God’s Kingdom, or are we still living a me-centred life? Are we willing to leave all things behind to follow Jesus? Do we only look for God as our helper and provider in times of need? May we seek the Healer always, not just the healing. May we not be satisfied by God being there when we need Him, but that we may find our full life in Him – in joy and sorrow, in need or abundance – in everything. May we seek God for God’s sake alone, not just some bits and pieces of the life that He promises for those who choose Him to be Lord and God.
Top image of Jesus sending out 70 disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God and set people free, watercolor illustration by James Tissot, image in the public domain. See The Life of Christ Illustrated by James Tissot: An Artist with a Burning Compulsion to Paint the Narrative Story of the Bible.
Tom Caballes is a National Coordinator of the Lamb of God, a community of the Sword of the Spirit with seven branches located throughout New Zealand. Tom and his wife Mhel and their two daughters [with his son-in-law and grand-daughter] live in Wellington, New Zealand.