The value of testimonies upon this subject cannot be questioned. They are entirely Scriptural; and they often bring the Gospel down to the personal level and contact of the sufferer, as mere abstract teaching cannot do. But they should always be simple, modest, as impersonal as possible, and illustrate principles. This is the character of all the Scripture testimonies. We shall glance at a few of these.
THE CASE OF JOB
This is the earliest case fully detailed in the Scriptures.
His sickness came from Satan's touch. His agency in sickness is most distinctly taught by our Lord also, and his power is yet undiminished.
Job's sickness was divinely permitted. It was designed to lead him to search his heart, and see his utter need of sanctification.
His sickness did not sanctify him, but only led to deeper exhibitions of his sin, and self-righteousness. Sickness does not purify anyone, although it may lead us to see our need of holiness and to receive it from God.
His sickness was removed when he saw his sin and acknowledged it before God. This came to him when God revealed Himself. Then he cried: "Now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Then came his complete justification, and with it a spirit of forgiveness and love for his enemies. And then, as he prayed for them, the Lord turned his own captivity. When we get right with God, we do not need to pray a great deal for ourselves. As we pray for others, our own blessing will often come. Job's healing made all things new, and all his blessings were doubled. And no doubt the spiritual blessing was the deepest of all.
How instructive to watch this case lying in the hands of God until the soul is ready to learn his spiritual lesson, and then receive from God's own hand life and restoration!
THE WOUNDED ISRAELITES AND THE BRAZEN SERPENT. (Num_21:1-35.)
This sickness came from sin. They murmured, and God gave them something to murmur for. It is a serious matter to complain, for it is sure to bring the thing we fear, or a worse "I feared a fear, and it came upon me."
This sickness came from Satan; from the serpent. So, still, he stings our life, and poisons our blood. It was a fiery serpent. The Hebrew words are "The serpents, the seraphim." All our spiritual adversaries are not groveling worms. Many of them are lofty and transcendently wise.
The remedy was in the likeness of the disease; in short, a figure of the serpent with the poison extracted, and a striking intimation to the suffering camp and a sin-stricken world that Satan is robbed of his sting, and sickness and sin are but mere shadows of their former selves.
There was also in that brazen serpent the thought of Jesus made for us, Jesus assuming the vile and dishonored name of sinful man, and counted by God, and treated by men, as if He were indeed a serpent and a criminal. Thus for us has He taken the sting from Satan, sin, and death, and hung upon the uplifted cross the trophy of victory.
The healing came by looking at the Brazen Serpent. There is unspeakable power in a look. A look of evil chills the soul. A look of purity and love transfigures it. The eye brings into the soul the object of vision. Looking to the sun, it is present in the eye. Looking unto Jesus brings His life into our whole being.
This was physical life. The same life still comes from the cross for both soul and body, WHILE WE LOOK unto Jesus.
NAAMAN. (2. Kings 5.)
This was a typical case of disease. Leprosy was the peculiar type of sin, destroying both soul and body. It was the especial stigma of the physical effects of sin.
The instrument of this cure was, in the first instance, a Hebrew maid; and in her great usefulness we learn how God can use a very humble messenger and an incidental word. Indeed, Naaman's own servants, a little later, saved his blessing for him by their wise counsel.
The lesson of humble and Obedient Faith must next be learned. The proud self and will of Naaman must die before his body can be healed by the Divine touch. And so Elisha meets his splendid state with quiet independence, and sends him a simple and humbling message to wash seven times in the Jordan and be clean. The sick are often deeply wounded by our seeming neglect, but God sometimes teaches them thus the lowliness of faith, and takes their thoughts of themselves and others, Naaman, like all other proud sinners, at first refuses the cross, and is about to lose his blessing when a word of honest frankness from his servants brings him to his senses, and sends him to Jordan.
The Faith of Naaman consisted in his doing just what the prophet told him. He took God's way without qualification, and he persevered in it till his blessing came. Perhaps the first or second or sixth time there was no sign of healing; but he pressed on, and at length the wondrous blessing came, the flesh of a little child, and the acknowledgment and sole worship of the great Jehovah he had found.
His request for a gift of earth from the place of his healing was a beautiful foreshadowing of that Earnest of the greater future whom we also receive, the Holy Ghost. The word earnest means a handful of soil. Naaman took home with him a handful of Canaan's soil; and we, in our healing, receive the earnest of the Spirit, a part of Heaven begun on earth.
It is beautiful to see how Elisha sends him away leaning only on God. To his question about bowing in the house of Rimmon, Elisha will give no direct answer, but throws him on God alone, and bids him go in peace. How little man appears in all this! and how simple and glorious is God!
But Satan, too, must have a hand. And he usually shows his hand in some mercenary scheme like Gehazi's. So still, spiritualism and kindred arts of Satan seek to make merchandise of the things of God. But if you look closely, you will see the leper hand and face as white as snow.
HEZEKIAH. (2. Kings 28.)
It was a hopeless case. All men's reasonings about the part that the remedy had in curing him ought to be set at rest by the fact that he was beyond the reach of every remedy, for even God had said that he should die, and not live. Man and means could, therefore, have nothing to do with his cure; it was wholly Divine.
He turned to God in humility. He made no attempt to find help from man. He threw himself helplessly on the mercy of the Lord. His prayer was not a very trustful one; but God heard his helpless cry, and sent deliverance.
The answer to his prayer was definite and clear. Fifteen years more of life from God Himself. It was sent to Isaiah, and communicated to him; and he at once believed it, and began to praise.
It was accompanied by a double sign. First a reversal of the dial 15 degrees, and then a poultice of figs. Both are called signs. The figs were not medicinal, for medicine was of no avail, but symbolical, and therefore administered by a prophet, not a physician.
The sequel of his healing was unworthy of it. Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit, but his heart was lifted up, and long years afterwards the bitter fruits of his sin and folly continued to prove how solemn a thing it is to receive God's great mercies, and how sacredly our redeemed lives must be used for Him. People are always asking, " Did not Hezekiah's case prove the rightness of using remedies?" No. It proved the rightness of doing exactly what God tells us in regard to our healing. God told Naaman to wash in the Jordan. Anything else would have been disobedience. God told Hezekiah to use figs. Anything else would have been disobedience. If God had told us to use figs, anything else would be disobedience. But God has told us to use the anointing oil and the prayer of faith, and is anything else genuine obedience?
THE NOBLEMAN'S SON. (Joh_4:1-54.)
This was Christ's first miracle of healing. It seems to speak peculiarly to our own times.
It teaches us that we do not need the physical and visible presence of Jesus to heal us. He was far from this sick child and simply spake a word of power, which crossed these intervening spaces with Almighty energy, even as it still can reach from Heaven to earth. "Oh, if He were only here!" you say. Nay, His first great miracle was performed from a distance perhaps as great as between earth and Heaven.
It was by simple, naked faith, without sight or signs. The Lord Jesus had to press this farther away from all but His own simple word, "Except ye see signs and wonders," He exclaimed, "ye will not believe." And then He tested his faith by a simple word, "Go thy way; thy son liveth;" and the man accepted the hard lesson, believed the naked word, and the child was made whole. He showed his faith by quietly going back and ceasing any more to clamor for the Lord's going.
This case began at a fixed moment, and developed quietly and gradually, as so many are now healed. "He inquired at what hour he began to amend." And the answer was that at a certain moment the fever broke. He was now convalescent. So still the dear Master works for all who trust Him. Faith has both its instants and its hours. We must learn to accept both; to count the death-blow struck at the moment of our believing, and then to follow on as it works out all its stages of blessing.
THE HEALING OF PETER'S MOTHER-IN-LAW. (Mar_1:1-45.)
This was Christ's second recorded miracle of healing. He had just come from the Synagogue where, amid the astonishment of the people, He had cast out a demon. Peter's wife's mother was lying sick of fever. It was, then, a case of ordinary disease. And yet our Lord distinctly recognizes another agency at the back of the fever. For "He REBUKED the fever," and this implies some personal and evil agent that must have caused it. He would not rebuke a mere natural law. There is no blame where there is no personal will. Nay, the fever was but the blistering touch of a demon hand; and this was what He rebuked.
Next, she must actively take hold of the healing power which He stands over her to administer. He took her by the hand, and lifted her up, and she arose. There was of course, His mighty touch and Almighty help. But there was also her cooperation, her grasping His extended hand, her shaking off the torpor and weariness of disease, her effort to arise, and her rising. Thus we must meet His help and power.
And then there was the use of her new strength in ministering to Him and them. This was the best proof of healing, the best use of it too. So must we ever give our new life to God, and in ministering to others and forgetting ourselves, we shall find our own strength continually renewed. As we give our life we shall save it; and as we serve others He will administer to all our needs. It is a blessed exchange of responsibility and care to find that we have nothing to do but live for Him, and He but one business, to live for us, and supply all our need.
THE HEALING OF THE MULTITUDE. (Mat_8:1-34.)
The next cases of healing we read of in the life of Christ were a large number of promiscuous cases on the evening of the Sabbath on which He healed Peter's mother-in-law. They had been gathering all day long, and waiting until the Sabbath was past. And as soon the hour of six o'clock had come, they pressed upon Him from every side, in great numbers and variety, and He healed them all. Now the first lesson we learn from these cases is connected with this very fact, that they waited until the Sabbath was past. It shows how exactly their prevalent ideas of healing resembled the godless ideas of our own secular age. They considered the body, and all that pertained to it, to be purely secular. Healing, therefore, was a mere secular calling, and, as such, unfit work for the holy Sabbath day. Is not this just what modern unbelief has taught the churches of Christendom? The cure of the body is a matter for natural laws and remedies, and secular physicians, a profession to be studied and used for secular profit like any other business, but in no sense as sacred and holy as the salvation and culture of the soul. For the present our Lord met them on their own ground; but the day soon came when He deliberately and purposely healed on the Sabbath day, that He might repudiate and trample down this absurd and godless idea, and show to men that the body was as sacred as the soul; that its restoration was as much part of God's redemption; that it in no sense was left to be the subject of mere professional treatment; that it was His own holy prerogative and business to heal it; and that it was as holy and sacred work for the Sabbath day as the worship of the Temple or the salvation of the souls of men. The next lesson taught by these cases is the universality of His healing. He healed all that had need. He wished to show that it was not for favorite cases like the mother-in-law of an Apostle, but for all poor, sinful, suffering lives that could trust Him.
And the highest and most helpful of all the lessons is the way in which these cases are linked with the prophecy in Isaiah, announcing the true character of the Messiah as the Bearer of Sickness and Infirmity. It was no mere incidental fact, therefore, that He was healing these sufferers; it was no special and exceptional display of His power as the Son of God. But it was the real purpose and design of His Messiahship; and so all the ages can come to Him and lay upon Him their burdens and pains.
How deep and full these words, "Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses!" Himself, not Himself and physicians, but Himself alone; Himself, not Himself and us, but He takes the whole burden Himself, and leaves us utterly free; Himself, then the healing cannot be had apart from having Him. It is all wrapped up in Himself. His life in us, His indwelling, His body, His flesh; and His bones. Himself took and bare, not merely once, but for ever, not only lifting, but keeping, and carrying for ever. Blessed Healing! Blessed Healer!
THE LEPER. (Mar_1:1-45.)
This occurred soon after, in one of Christ's tours through Galilee.
The request of this man is a good specimen of the state of mind in which we find the average Christian. He has full confidence in the power of Christ to heal, but is very uncertain about His willingness. Now if a friend is going to doubt me at all, I should much rather he would come to me and say, "I am sure you would help me if you could," than "I know you have it in your power to aid me, but I have little confidence in your disposition to do it." When will men see that this easy good-natured talk about God's will involves the MOST SUBTLE AND OFFENSIVE DISTRUST?
Christ's answer to him is explicit and emphatic and ought to settle the question of His will to heal the sincere and trusting sufferer,"I will; be thou clean." There is no evasion or ambiguity, no hesitation or conditioning. It is a great, prompt, kingly answer, and in it all ages may hear His word to us all.
The touch of Christ meant a great deal to a leper. It was a long time since a hand of love had touched him. It was not a cold or mechanical touch. He was moved with compassion. His whole heart of love and his very life were in it. Yes, He helps us, not because His promise compels Him, but with overflowing love and unbounded condescension. He touches our immortal life with His own, and makes our leper hearts quiver with the fresh warm blood of His being.
He must then go to the priest at Jerusalem, and make a proper acknowledgment and testimony, and hold back all other testimony until he has borne witness before the religious authorities of the nation. And so we must bear witness, too, of His mighty works in us, and we must do it where He wants it, perhaps in the very hardest place for us, and IN THE VERY FACE OF RELIGIOUS PRIDE AND OPPOSITION. It was a long journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, but if our testimony requires as great a sacrifice for Him, is not His love worth it all?
THE PARALYTIC. (Mar_2:1-28.)
This is one of the most remarkable of Christ's healing miracles, because He now, for the first time, brought out the doctrine of sin in connection with sickness, and assumed the right on earth to forgive sins. And from this moment He was regarded as a blasphemer. This poor man came for healing, but the Lord saw a deeper need that must first be met. His spiritual life must precede the physical. And so He speaks the word of pardon first. "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." So we must ever begin. And how many have been led to the very thought of salvation by their need of healing!
Then follows his physical healing. But this, too must be taken by himself in the exercise of bold obedient faith. He was not healed prostrate on that mat. He must rise up, put away his bed, and walk. Christ will not heal you in your bed. You must arise and step out upon His strength.
He was not, as is commonly supposed, healed through the faith of the men who brought him to Jesus, but through his own. Their faith laid him at the feet of Jesus, and brought him the word of forgiving mercy. But his own faith must claim the healing. And it must have been a real faith which could rise up before that throng and carry his bed. The faith of others can do much for us, ADDED to our own, but an unbelieving heart can have nothing from the Lord.
The place of healing, as a token of forgiveness and a sign of Christ's saving power, is very solemn. He did heal this man, that they might know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sin. And Christ is ever wanting to convince the world of the reality of His Gospel by His physical miracles. How can we expect men to believe that His spiritual gifts are real when He does not manifest sufficient power to overcome the physical evils of our life? What right has any man to be sure that any part of his religion is real when his faith has never had enough of vigor to accomplish any really difficult thing in his practical life?
THE LAME MAN AT BETHESDA. (Joh_5:1-47.)
This miracle occurred in Jerusalem about the middle of His ministry. It was His first open and deliberate case of healing on the Sabbath day, and was purposely designed to defy their absurd ideas about the secular nature of disease and healing, and show them that it was sacred enough to be done on the Sabbath day, and to be a part His spiritual ministry. Many people are still afraid of unduly exalting the importance of the body, forgetting that whenever Christ touches it He makes it the channel and the vessel of all holy life and blessing.
The next great lesson of this case has reference to the folly of the things that men depend upon for healing. This man was looking to the fountain of Bethesda to heal him, and had some superstitious idea about its being troubled at times with healing virtues. Now it happens that the verse about the angel stepping in at certain seasons is an interpolation, and that was all a silly lie. So foolish and so false are the hopes of those who look to earthly sources of healing. They disappoint or disappear like Bethesda and its false legend. When the Lord undertook to heal him, He paid no attention to Bethesda or any other means, but spake a single word of power, and bade him go forth in the strength of God.
There is a lesson, too, for the waiting ones who are just hoping for some day of help to come, and go on hoping down to the grave. When Jesus healed him He dispelled all his dreamy future, and started him on the practical and solid ground of a present act of decision. So still hope is often mistaken for faith. The test of faith is that it is always present, and takes the blessing now.
Another most important lesson also is the folly and helplessness of leaning on others. "Sir, I have no man to put me in," expresses the languid dependence of hundreds still who are expecting healing through the help of others, and paralyzing all their own strength and power of believing by looking to some one else's faith and prayers. Others cannot help us until we firmly believe for ourselves. If we cling to them our hands bind and impede them, like the clinging of a drowning man to his rescuer, and both may sink together. But when we have a distinct hold of Christ for ourselves, then He can give our friends a similar grasp for and with us.
Again, "Wilt thou be made whole?" expresses the real element of effectual faith. It acts through a firm and decided will. Faith is not mere will power, but its seat and region is the will. This is the mightiest thing God has given to a man, and no man can receive much from God without a firm and decided choice. We must first see that it is His will to make us whole, and then we must claim it for ourselves with a strength and tenacity which will carry along with it all the power of our being.