In the New Testament the Greek word for “save” occurs over 100 times. It can be translated “to save”, “to make whole”, or “to heal.”
While a majority of these uses deal with deliverance from sin and death, fully one third of the “salvation” references refer to restoring wholeness to bodies, minds or emotions. Consider the following:
- Every sick person who sought healing from Jesus received it—physically, mentally or emotionally.
- When parents or masters sought healing for their children or slaves, they were healed.
- Even when ministering to the crowds, Jesus usually healed “all” the sick or “as many as touched him.”
- In some cases Jesus spontaneously sought out and healed someone who did not ask for healing.
- Jesus never discouraged seekers of healing, although sometimes he tested their faith.
Why is healing so prominent throughout Jesus’ ministry? Three reasons are often given:
- Some view Jesus’ healing is “to prove Jesus was God.” Jesus’ healings are to confirm the truth of Jesus’ message that he was indeed who he said he was.
- Secondly, some say healing, especially as we see it in the early church through apostles like Peter and Paul, was to help the church get started among primitive people. Primitive people needed their faith propped up by healing miracles; mature people today don’t need to be “wowed” by signs and wonders to believe.
- Third, especially the Catholic church has viewed healing as a sign of holiness—the great saints show by performing miracles or acts of healing that they are closer to God than ordinary Christians.
In all three views, healing has little value in itself but is a sign or proof of something else. But this is hard to support biblically.
- First of all, when you read the gospel healing stories, you discover that Jesus usually does not make a big deal of his healing; often he commands healed people to tell no one else about it.
- Second, if Jesus were healing simply to gain a hearing for his message, why would he often heal on the Sabbath violating the Jewish laws and inflaming the Jewish leaders against him?
- Finally, Jesus makes very clear that healing acts are not in themselves a proof of holiness.
We have it backwards when we assume healing is merely window dressing to Jesus’ teaching. Every time he healed, Jesus acted out salvation. God loves us and wants each of us to be whole human beings. It is God’s heart that everything about us (spiritually, emotionally, physically) is moving away from brokenness and toward wholeness—this is the true, fullest meaning of salvation.
What does this mean for us?
- We can believe in a tender, loving and compassionate God who raises us up whenever we are cast down by evil—whether we have sinned and need forgiveness, or are sick and need physical healing, or are captive to emotionally destructive habits and need release.
- We can return to a biblical understanding that God cares for all of us, not just our souls or spirit.
- We can seek opportunities to receive God’s healing of our bodies and emotions today.