Jesus performed innumerable healing miracles during his brief public ministry. Jesus’ healings demonstrated the power and tender love of God at work within him. They also demonstrated Jesus’ human love and heart-felt compassion for his sisters and brothers in distress. On a deeper level, Jesus’ works of bodily healing manifested the even greater healing work of the divine physician who is not content to heal bodily illness only, but has come to heal the spiritual sickness of sin, to sanctify souls, and to give his “patients” new and everlasting life.
We explored the healing ministry of Jesus in the first two reflections of this series. In this third reflection, we will consider the ways in which Jesus’ healing ministry was extended in the healing works of his first disciples.
In his public ministry, Jesus first extended his healing work into the works of his disciples. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples, instructing them that, when they enter a town and are welcomed, they are to “cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you’” (Luke 10:9). When the seventy-two had fulfilled this mission, they “returned rejoicing, and said, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name’” (Luke 10:17). Their enthusiastic report shows that they were successful in carrying out Jesus’ commission. It also shows that they understood the reason for their success. It was “because of [Jesus’] name.” The disciples understood that it was Jesus’ healing power, and not their own, which was so powerfully at work within them.
The gospels show us that Jesus commissioned his disciples to perform bodily healings. He also commissioned them to exercise his ministry of spiritual healing. Appearing to his disciples after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus breathed on them said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:21-22). During another post-resurrection appearance, Jesus commissioned his eleven remaining apostles, saying, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I will be with you always, until the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20). We can also recognize a commission to heal in Jesus words to his apostles at the Last Supper: “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19). These gospel passages, among others, show us how Jesus commissioned his disciples to extend his work of spiritual healing by baptizing, forgiving sins, and partaking of his body and blood at the table of the Eucharist.
We also see an extension of Jesus’ bodily and spiritual healing in the life of the infant Church. The Acts of the Apostles relates how Peter and John encounter a cripple whom Peter healed, saying, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk” (Acts 3:6). When the high priests questioned them about this healing, Peter declared, “All the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” that the cripple was saved (Acts 4:10). Peter continued, saying, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12). Peter and the apostles heal in the name of Jesus. In Jesus name, Peter healed the crippled man’s body. As with Jesus’ healing works during his earthly life, however, Peter’s bodily healing points toward the power of Jesus to heal the soul. Peter heals the crippled man’s body because it’s a good thing to do. He also heals the man’s body in order to proclaim the power of Jesus ho heal the spirit and bring salvation to the entire human race.
The church continues to extend the healing ministry of Jesus. As members of his body, Jesus’ disciples have continued to extend the healing work of their master throughout the world and throughout the centuries. The present-day disciples of Jesus, no less than seventy-two whom he first commissioned, are to exercise the healing power of Jesus, working to bring about health and salvation in his name.