Intro – Read Luke 4:38-44. Notice the title of the sermon – Extreme Healing. It’s there for a purpose that will become apparent toward the end, so please stay tuned. If you need to nap, do it early! Years ago I had a friend who was gradually deteriorating with MS. By his early 40’s he was often confined to a wheelchair. He decided to try a healing service. Before the service was ended, he was out of his chair, convinced that he was healed. When his normal symptoms were back the next day, he was devastated. It took months to get him grounded in biblical truth – convinced that his lack of faith wasn’t the issue, back depending on Bible truth rather than personal experience. Countless others have had faith similarly destroyed. So our goal is to see healing from God’s perspective as much as possible in our few minutes.
So far Luke has shown us Jesus’ preparation for ministry. Now His supreme authority begins to play out in all areas. Last week we saw His power over demons. Today His authority over illness and disease in the case of Peter’s mother-in-law. Three critical questions are answered here.
I. Can Jesus Heal Physical Infirmities?
This is a busy Sabbath. Imagine going to church and seeing a demon-possessed man try to take over only to be stopped instantaneously at Jesus’ command. Then, Jesus is invited to Peter’s for lunch – about 100 feet down the road from the synagogue toward the Sea of Galilee. Peter hasn’t left fishing permanently. He’s been called by Jesus twice, but each time has gone back to his day job. But he was there that morning, and invites Jesus for lunch where “they” appeal to Jesus for Peter’s sick mother-in-law.
We are not told who “they” is. Probably Peter and his wife. Peter is clearly married which Paul confirms in I Cor 9:5, “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas (Aramaic for Peter)?” Tradition says Peter’s wife was involved in ministry to women and that they had children. Tradition also says that Peter’s wife was martyred with him under the reign of Nero in 64 AD. Here they fear for her mother. And Jesus responds. Can Jesus heal infirmities? Without a doubt, but note how this healing is a stark contrast to so-called “faith healers.”
A. Certain -- V. 39, “And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.” Note the immediacy and the certainty of this healing. “Immediately she rose.” There was no extended prayer – no strain in the process. It was the immediate result of Jesus rebuking the fever. It was unambiguous. “Rebuke” is normally used for people or demons – living beings. You and I might rebuke each other, but mad as I might be at my computer it’s useless to rebuke it. I know – I’ve tried – and I’ll be you have too. But Jesus is not ordinary. Twice He rebukes inanimate objects – a fever here; a storm in Luke 8:24. In both cases, the response is immediate and effective. Things conscious and unconscious are subject to His power. His authority is absolute and certain and limitless.
B. Casual – V. 39 again, “And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.” Note how commonplace this is. No theatrics – no preliminaries; no extended dramatic prayers; nobody being slain in the Spirit; no accompanying music; no building to some kind of climax. Just a casual rebuke of the fever and it is over. There is no playing to the crowd here; no attempt to impress, no drama. It is as unpretentious as it can be. If you got it, you don’t have to flaunt it! It reminds me what Vince Lombardi used to tell his players when they made a touchdown. He hated end-zone celebrations. Lombardi outlawed it for his guys. He told them, “Act like you’ve been there before.” I love that Jesus acts like He’s been there.
C. Complete – Note the last phrase: “and immediately she rose and began to serve them.” There was no maybe she is, maybe she’s not – better pray some more with Jesus. Nothing of the kind. There is no return of symptoms before you leave the building -- no return of symptoms tomorrow. When Jesus healed there was no doubt. The healing was complete. Dr. Luke uses medical terms in v. 38. “Was ill with” is literally “was in the grip of” – a medical description of someone who was disabled with illness. He notes she had a high fever. Fevers were graded small and great. Often a great fever was accompanied by other symptoms such as dysentery. And any fever, certainly a high one, was cause for concern in those primitive days. This woman is seriously ill. Yet, the moment Jesus heals her, note the end of v. 39, “and immediately she rose and began to serve them.” When Jesus heals there are no after affects, no recovery or rehab time, no time required to regain strength. With a word it is done and it is complete. And I love her response. She didn’t go on any “I got healed” campaign. She just got on with her work. No drama.
V. 40, “Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.” Imagine the scene. Word has spread that Jesus healed a demon-possessed man and a bed-ridden, fevered woman. Soon every diseased person in Capernaum is headed to Peter’s. Note this is happening “when the sun was setting.” Why then? Because the Sabbath ended at 6:00. Before that they were forbidden to work or travel on the Sabbath which was engrained in them. So they come with “various diseases” -- “manifold” or “all kinds”. Demon-possessed, paralyzed, fevered, blind, deaf – whatever. The word is all-inclusive. And Jesus healed them all.
Ever notice how selective faith healers are? In my young and curious days I used to go to services in SoCal. They specialized in weird things. Leg lengthening was big for awhile – as though anyone has two legs that are exactly the same length! Internal diseases that could not be verified, like cancer were big. Minor crippled people got healed but often needed their crutches or wheelchairs after all the excitement. I became a confirmed skeptic – not in Jesus’ ability to heal, but in manipulative tactics. People whose deformity was obvious, like withered arms and legs never made it to the front if they even got in. I can tell you it was nothing like what Jesus did. Without fanfare and with no limitations, he healed everyone who came.
Note that Jesus “laid his hands on every one of them.” No doubt His touch contained power. But I do not think that was the point. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law by rebuking the fever, not touching her. Or how about the Roman centurion who sought healing for his servant in Matt 8:6-8, “’Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.’ 7 And he [Jesus] said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Jesus said He had never seen such faith and the servant was immediately healed. The power is in the word, not the touch. So, why the touch? It shows compassion. It shows His tenderness toward those who afflicted by the results of the Fall. It reflects His heart, and it invites the more intimate, personal relationship that comes with repentance. So – can Jesus heal physical infirmities? Absolutely and completely.
II. Does Jesus Heal Everyone?
No, He does not. He did not in His own time and He does not today. Jesus worked late into the night heal everyone who came. V. 42, “And when it was day (Mark tells us it was while it was still dark), he departed and went into a desolate place (Mark tells us He went to pray). And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them.” Why were they seeking Him? They wanted another healing service. What was Jesus’ reaction? He left town before it could happen. Contrary to the image many have of Jesus, He was not a one-man healing clinic – going from place to place to on a mission to see how many He could heal! He was no healing extravaganza. We will never understand Jesus until we get that healing was secondary – providing temporary physical relief, pointing to His greater ability to provide eternal spiritual relief. Healing was never primary; it was a means of illustration.
A quick theology of miracles. Historically, there have been 3 great periods of miracles. They were prominent in the time of Moses; Elijah and Elisha (700 years later); and the time of Christ and the early apostles (another 700 years later). That’s it. Three. Even John the Baptist, whom Jesus designated as the great OT prophet, did no miracles. There were random miracles, and God’s providence is always at work, but as a pattern – only three times.
Further, the miraculous power of the apostles slowly diminished even in their own time. Early in Acts there are healings, release from prison, Paul’s miraculous conversion, Peter raising Dorcas from the dead. Luke reports in Acts 4:43, “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” That did not last! When Paul writes Galatians 20 years later, he mentions is own bodily ailment which received no cure (Gal 4:13-15). He speaks also of a thorn in the flesh II Cor 12:7. Ten years later Paul wrote the Philippians of Epahproditus “for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death” (Phil 2:26-27). This despite being in the company of Paul of whom Luke wrote earlier in Acts 19:11-12, “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” Things have changed. Paul tells Timothy in I Tim 5:23, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” No miracle is forthcoming at this late date. Paul further mentions in II Tim 4:20, “I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus.” The tremendous miracles of the apostolic age were coming to an end.
Why? Because miracles were never the end game. They were intended to authenticate the message, not to be the message. When Jesus said the kingdom of God was at hand, the miracles proved it. The kingdom restores pre-fall conditions. Miracles followed Christ automatically because He is the King. But they were a preview, they were not the main event. The apostles were also authenticated by miracles. Miracles authenticated their bizarre message of death and resurrection. II Cor 12:12, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.” Miracles affirmed them – but just as the apostles and prophets were foundational and thus temporary (Eph 2:20), so the need for authenticating the message was temporary. It was the message that was primary. As the written NT evolved, the need for authentication ended.
Does that mean that no one ever gets healed? No. I do believe the specific gift has ceased just as the gift of apostleship and prophecy have ceased. They were foundational. The foundation is laid and the church has been being built on that foundation for 2,000 years now. But God still does miracles. We can never put God in a box. I have seen them. But it is not the norm; was never intended to be the norm. What Jesus promised was suffering, not healing. Phil 1:29, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” Jesus never healed everyone in His own time, nor does He do so today. It is always right to pray for healing; never right to demand it. Our job is to be faithful.
III. Is Healing Jesus’s Primary Purpose?
No. Jesus had another purpose. V. 42,And when it was day he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them. Mark tells us that Peter was the ringleader on this chase to find Jesus. Imagine the scene. The day before Peter was riding high, though not an official disciple yet. Jesus is a hit! The whole countryside is coming to see Him. Peter thinks, “Hey, we’re onto something here. This healing gig is a good. We’re going to get some action from this.” Next morning the place is swarming with people. But there’s a problem. Jesus is nowhere to be found. They all start to look for Him. Peter finds Him praying. Imagine! “Jesus, where have you been, man? Everyone is looking for you! Listen, you can pray later, but you’ve found the keys to the kingdom. You may not be concerned with numbers, but we are. That’s our job. Come on!” But what does Jesus say? Right after praying? V. 42, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” To heal? No, to preach. “Sorry, Peter, but the Father says we’re moving on. The healing service will have to wait. The priority is preaching.” Note “I must” – literally “it is necessary.” Why? It’s God’s will! This is the burden of Jesus’ ministry. Matt 11:1: “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.” Luke 8:1 tells us, “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.” Healing is secondary. Jesus is compelled to preach!
Now, why is preaching the clear priority? First, because healing was temporary. It was a foretaste, but it was temporary in this life, and the priority of God becoming flesh wasn’t to provide temporary relief! That’s what Aleve does. Second, Jesus purpose is stated in Luke 19:10 – “to seek and to save that which was lost.” He’s into permanent solutions – redemption from sin leading to eternal life. And, Beloved, that has always come through the preaching of the Word. Rom 10:14 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (skip to v. 17) 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Jesus knew what He was about and why. He would not be distracted by popularity.
Temporary physical healing is tragic if it does not lead to redemption. On the surface Capernaum looks more responsive than Nazareth, doesn’t it? And on the surface – it is! But Jesus devastatingly observes in Matt 11:23: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” You know what that means? It means most of those people who were healed at the compassionate touch of Jesus Christ rejected His saving faith. He was only the means to a temporary end. Forgiveness? They didn’t want it, wouldn’t accept it, believed they didn’t need it. What a tragedy. The great expositor, Alexander MacLaren captured the tragedy: “Offer men the smaller gifts, and they will run over one another in their scramble for them; but offer them the highest, and they will scarcely hold out a languid hand to take them.” It’s true, Beloved. We miss what really counts in our frenzy to have what will not last.
The irony is that we get Christ healing is part of the package. Maybe not now, but it’s coming! -- Ultimate healing, permanent healing – the perfection of every physical disability and flaw – extreme healing – it’s coming! You can get healing without Christ, but you can’t get Christ with healing – extreme healing. Extreme healing can’t happen in this life because it’s permanent. But anyone can have it by faith. Do you have that? Is extreme healing in your future? This is what Jesus wants for you. This is why He was far more driven to preach than He was to heal. This is what you get when you get Him.
Conc – In 2007 Patty and I started a genealogy project. At the time, I knew nothing about my family beyond my immediate grandparents. Through exacting research we found out a lot about a long list of ancestors going back hundreds of years. One of them was a great, great, great grandfather named James Monroe Pinnick who lived in French Lick, Indiana between 1795 and 1861. He was nicknamed “Stuttering Jimmy.” But we found no further information and pretty much filed it away and forgot about it.
Eventually we made a trip to French Lick looking for a long abandoned Old Baptist Cemetery. We’d almost given up when we noticed a sign one night at dusk not more than two miles from Larry Bird’s home. Within moments I found the gravesites of a 4 great grandfather and two 3 great grandparents. So unexpected, it was like striking genealogical gold! – but no James Pinnick, and it was getting dark. Next day we went back to investigate further and shoot pictures. Amazingly, the last gravesite in the cemetery was James Monroe Pinnick. But by the time we found it, rain was falling. We quickly put shaving cream on the front of the grave, scaped it off all but the crevices, shot some pictures, cleaned it all off and ran for the car.
We were dumbfounded later to find a hymn on James’ grave. It was a verse from "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” written by William Cowper in 1772. But what was really stunning was the verse that my great, great, great grandfather had chosen to have on his tombstone. It read like this:
Then in a nobler sweeter song
I’ll sing thy power to save
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave
Until I read those words I had forgotten James Pinnick’s nickname. But as I read them, I realized “Stuttering” Jimmy Pinnick had left behind a wonderful legacy. Never healed of an infirmity that had obviously plagued him all his life; he found a permanent solution. He had claimed that wonderful promise that when Jesus comes, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (I John 3:2). Rev 21:4 assures us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” What a hope we have in Christ. Extreme healing – that’s what I want. I look forward to meeting Stuttering Jimmy one day in heaven and finding out more about what he endured because of his impairment. And most of all, I look forward to seeing Jesus. Let’s pray.