It struck me this week reading Luke 9 that everywhere Jesus went, as he taught people about God and his kingdom, that he also met physical needs.
Sometimes it was giving food. Sometimes healing. Sometimes exorcism. Sometimes physical touch. Sometimes simple friendship around the table.
I’ve always known this of course, but perhaps because of the social and cultural moment we’re in, it hit me differently.
It was Luke 9:11 this time. “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”
He healed those who needed healing.
We never see Jesus saying, “Oh, you need physical help? Well my real ministry is preaching the gospel.” He never once retorts, “Oh, you need a tender touch? Well, I only came to tell you about God, not show him to you.”
No, Jesus came to tell and show who God was and what he was up to.
To Jesus, healing body and soul went hand-in-hand.
He’d forgive your sin. Then he’d tell you to stand up and walk for the first time.
Jesus brought God’s kingdom. And to Jesus, the kingdom of God meant freedom (see Isaiah 61 and Luke 4). Freedom was God’s gift to humanity. And physical healing was a demonstration of spiritual healing that could not be seen. Physical healing was a precursor of the great and final healing and restoration that would come on the last Day.
It was a signpost of that day when there would be no more need for physical healing.
Of course, Jesus didn’t heal every single person in Israel. He still doesn’t. The kingdom has come and also is yet to come.
It’s hard for us to comprehend this and deal with the tension, but we must.
Especially in our churches and ministries. And as we deal with the tension, the way Jesus ministered should also inform our priorities. As we preach the gospel and teach and train, are we also actively seeking to bring real, tangible, physical healing to the hurting, sick, oppressed, broken, and forgotten? This can mean anything from providing food and backpacks to helping groups and communities overcome and breakdown injustices.
This isn’t a social gospel. It’s not a liberal agenda.
It’s the exact thing Jesus did.
I can hear an objection and it sounds like this, “But Paul!”
Most Christian (particularly evangelical) ministries love Paul because of his (seemingly) propositional and theological approach to ministry.
As in, if we follow Paul, we just get to bypass the kind of ministry Jesus did. We’ll just focus on the spiritual and leave the physical to the hospitals and private schools and soup kitchens.
But remember it was Paul who said, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (Gal. 2:10).
It’s clear Paul’s ministry was to expand the gospel’s reach around the Roman Empire where it had no presence. His letters don’t expound a full theology or practice of serving the poor, but they weren’t designed to do that. Instead, it’s sprinkled in, like in Galatians 2. And it’s clear Paul’s ministry, at least in some sense, imitated Jesus’.
Jesus didn’t have a “preaching ministry” and a “healing ministry.” He didn’t emphasize one over the other. He sought to bring God’s healing and freedom to men and women, from the inside-out.
If he is truly our Master and our model, then shouldn’t we seek to follow him in his methods?