Christ did impossible things, when He was down here. That is, they were impossible to others. He did them. They were things that needed to be done. Men were helped by them. The tug of living was eased, and more. It took power to do them. It took a power more than the natural power men were familiar with. Others didn't do them. They couldn't. They didn't have the power. Christ had the power needed. He did them. He did impossible things. Christ taught. He is commonly accepted as the race's greatest teacher. Then there was more. He lived what He taught. He lived it first before He taught it. He lived it far more than even He could teach it. There was always a reserve of teaching actually lived back of the teaching taught. But there was more than teaching. Christ did things. He had ideals. His ideals have clean out-idealed the ideals of all others. But there was more than ideals. He brought things to pass in actual life. Men saw and felt and experienced things through His touch, things they needed and needed sorely, but didn't have till He did them. The distinctive thing about Christ, of course, is that He died. He died as none other did, nor could, nor can. The most outstanding thing about His life is the end of it. The knot on the end of the thread of His life, that gathered it all up in one, is His death. But apart from that, the outstanding thing is that Christ did impossible things. Men admire and worship the man who can do outstanding things, actually bring them to pass. Christ did outstanding things. He fed the hungry thousands with a few scanty loaves. How they'd like to have Him in some parts of Europe just now, if His activities could be restricted within desired limits. He stilled that sudden Galilean storm that blanched the bronzed cheeks of those hardened sailors, stilled it with a word; and stilled it into a great calm. He helped Peter pay his taxes, in a very unusual way. That has a very practical sound to-day. He robbed the ever-yawning grave of its hopeless victims. Of all things Christ did one stands out biggest. He healed men's bodies of sickness and disease. The world was sick when Christ was here. There was no science of bodily healing. There was a natural healing. The Jews have been famous through the centuries for their rare skill in healing through simple remedies. But, characteristically, dominantly, the race was sick. Christ healed men's bodies. This was the thing that first drew the crowds in notable numbers. That fact itself tells how acute things were in this regard. The need was so sore, and so general, that once the word went out, it spread like a blessed wild-fire. And the crowds came from everywhere, and they came a-crowding so thick as to affect seriously His movements.
There are thirty-three instances given of miracles done by Christ. And twenty-eight of them have to do with the body. Twenty-four of them were miracles of healing (including now the three cases of death). Four others have to do with supplying bodily needs. There are sixteen summaries given of His various activities, including bodily healing. If one runs over these summaries the first-flush, rough impression comes that the total of those healed probably ran into some several thousands. People came in throngs. They came from all the surrounding countries, as far away as Tyre and the Upper Mediterranean. There are twenty-four individual instances of healing, given in the four Gospels. These become of intense interest for what they tell of Christ's healing ministry. Of the twenty-four two would be classed as acute cases. The other twenty-two are all chronic cases, incurables, extreme hopeless incorrigibles. Six (possibly eight) were demon-possessed, reckoned quite incurable. Three were actually dead. The thirteen others were distinctly hopeless incurables. The healing power went to the last degree of human need. The humanly impossible yielded to Christ's touch every time. There were no exceptions so far as the soreness of the need was concerned. The story told is quite explicit on this point. Here is the list of diseases specifically named -- epilepsy, dropsy, deaf and dumb, palsy or paralysis, chronic haemorrhage, demon-possession, leprosy, withered hand (i.e., paralysis), blind, infirmities (possibly paralysis), restoration of ear cut off, and even the dead, three times named in three distinct stages. There is one outstanding passage that touches the extreme of need which Christ's healing covered. Matthew says "There came unto Him great multitudes, having with them the lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at His feet; and He healed them" (Matthew 15:30) It is a significant passage. It was clearly an unusual crowd of helpless incurables, brought by their kinsfolk and friends and neighbours. What a sight ! That word "maimed" catches one's eye. It occurs twice. The word underneath has two meanings, crooked is one, and mutilated the other. Its use in Mark 9:43 clearly means a limb quite gone. The word under "lame" here is also used in the Mark passage for a limb cut off. The meaning intended here is quite clear. The healing went to the extent of restoring a lost portion of the body, a limb or an arm or some other part. The extent of healing as regards the need is made quite clear, and is as sweeping as clear. There were no exceptions so far as need went.
Bubbling-over Power at Work
The extent of Christ's power to heal is put in as sweeping language. His power always covered fully the man's need, whatever that chanced to be. There was simply no limit. His healing met every need, and met it fully. It could not have been greater. Three words can be used: Christ healed instantly, perfectly, and permanently. There is one exception frankly spoken of. Once, the healing went through two stages. First the man saw men "as trees walking," then "all things clearly." The interval of time involved was plainly so brief that, I think likely, the man himself would have gladly used the word "instantly." Again that outstanding passage comes in. Its language could not be more graphic and adequate, and yet simple and brief. Matthew says "The multitudes wondered when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing." The extent of the power at work is as striking as the sweep of disease covered. There's a bubbling-over exuberance, an overflowing abundance. The crowds came to know that if they would "only touch the border of His garment" they would know the healing power in their body. It says "power came forth from Him," as though it breathed out of His very presence. The ease of action, the abundance of power, and the frequency and extent of Christ's healing power stand in striking contrast to the Old Testament miracles. And the effect on the crowds itself revealed the touch of God. "They glorified" God. There was an exuberant singing of praise to such a God. Even the curious crowds that came seeking sensation found a sort that sent them away with a hush in their hearts, and praises to God on their lips. And, it is striking to note, that Christ gave this power to His disciples, unschooled and undisciplined as they were, yet devoted to Him. Repeatedly they were sent out into the villages and country districts. And they returned with ringing voices and shining faces, telling of the power that had attended their activity. And usually special emphasis is laid on healing, and on the casting out of evil spirits.
Why Did Christ Heal?
It becomes of intense interest to note why Christ healed, so far as the Gospel record goes. It is never intimated that He did it to let people know that He could. He never used power simply to let men see He had it. It is never suggested that He did mighty works to prove His distinctive personality, who He was. This simply is not referred to. Incidentally it is made clear that He did have the exceptional power, and that He was the Son of God in the distinctive sense that was true of no other. Even when John, in the dark of the prison cell, puzzled to know why Christ didn't fill out the official side of the Messiah's task, as well as the personal side, even to him Christ simply points out what was being done as evidence that the old prophetic picture was being lived out. He comforts the lone prison vigil with word that John had been true. And that there was a waiting time ahead for both of them. No, Christ healed men because He couldn't help it. Their sore need, so sore, tugged desperately at His heart. He healed men because they needed healing. This stands out first and foremost. There is more, a big more, but in the Gospel narratives it is always incidental. It is true, broadly, as a principle, that miracles, the supernatural, came into action, throughout Scripture, to meet some emergency. But, when it comes to the immediate reason why Christ healed, as the narrative runs, it was to meet the personal need of suffering men and women. There is a strong, tender word constantly on His lips, and spoken of Himself, "compassion." It means to have the heart tenderly drawn out by need. It really means to suffer in heart because of the suffering of others. This gives the "why" of Christ's healing. One key passage may be given as an index to the others, "He had compassion on them, and healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14; see also 15:22; 20:34; 9:36 with 10:1; Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; Luke 7:13-15). He healed because He couldn't help it. He could heal, and He couldn't help healing, with such suffering before His eyes. His heart must answer to such needs. The healing is a window into Christ's heart. And Christ Himself is the open window into the Father's heart... Christ has not changed. His power is at our fingertips now. No need need go unsupplied, if He may have His way.