When Jesus was here to demonstrate the truth about His Father and the plan of salvation, He spent most of His time healing rather than preaching. While there is influence and value in preaching, healing eloquently illustrates the truth about God and His government and what it would mean to set right everything that has gone wrong. Jesus certainly didn’t practice the healing arts to attract crowds of people to His meetings. Whenever He found that people were coming for the wrong reason, He said something that caused most of them to go home (see John 6 as a whole, for example).
When Jesus healed the paralytic at the pool (John 5:1-15), He was preaching in action rather than in words. The healing was a demonstration of the truth about God. Forbid the thought, but imagine that you had terminal lung cancer as the result of a lifetime of smoking. You’re sitting anxiously in the office of your physician. What is the best news you could possibly hear at that moment? Would it be for the physician to say, “I forgive you for smoking?” Forgiveness wouldn’t heal the damage done by smoking, you would still die. The only difference is that you would die forgiven. And forgiveness would only help, in this instance, if your physician were accustomed to killing all the patients who contracted lung cancer because of a lifetime of smoking. It would be a relief to hear such a physician say, “I forgive you.“ Now you won’t be killed after all. But physicians do not kill their patients. Neither does God.
What if the physician should say instead, “I have very good news for you. I can make you completely well, if you’ll cooperate”?
“Do you mean that although I have spent a lifetime smoking, and this is really my own fault, you can make me perfectly healthy again?”
“Yes, I can.”
“Well actually, doctor, all I really want is to be forgiven.”
Would you say anything so absurd? Yet so often we seem to say that to God. Wouldn’t you rather say, “Doctor, if that is true, how can I cooperate? What do you want me to do?”
The doctor might respond, “Well this will require some changes. But if you trust me enough to follow my instructions, I can absolutely guarantee that you will be perfectly restored.”
Would you say, “One moment, Doctor. I don’t want to have to do anything, I was counting on you to do it all. I am expecting you to put your hand on my chest and heal me by a miracle. If I have to work to get well, then I am going to look for another physician.“ Would you do that? Or would you say, “Doctor, do you mean that if I trust you enough to cooperate with you and follow the instructions you give me, you can guarantee to make me well? Then, please tell me what I have to do.” Wouldn’t you eagerly ask, like the jailor during the earthquake at Philippi, “What must I do to be saved (Greek: sôzô)? What must I do to be well“ (based on Acts 16:30)?
As Christians we need more than mere physical healing. We have been damaged in many other ways. The most serious damage has been done to our ability to live in love, peace and freedom, to be able to trust and be trustworthy. In other words, we are no longer the kind of people God could really trust with all the privileges of eternal life.