By Pastor Glenn Pease
Everyone of us lives with a doctor, and to make it even better the doctor we live with can write prescriptions and get the medicine delivered immediately. If you think you don't take drugs, it is only because you do not know what your doctor is doing. Your doctor is your brain. I have had a lot of doctors in my life, but my most personal and faithful doctor is a real brain. He is my brain, and yours is your brain.
Richard Bergland of the Harvard University School of Medicine has presented evidence that the brain of man is a literal pharmacy. It is more than the center of consciousness. It is a gland which secretes a prolific number of drugs which keep the body healthy, or help it fight to get health back. The brain has the capacity to write out prescriptions in an almost infinite number of combinations to meet the body's varied needs.
Dr. Carmine Clemente of the UCLA Brain Research Institute has confirmed these studies, and says the number of the secretions the brain can produce are almost beyond calculation. The number of them he says can be activated by mere thought or emotion. If we just imagine a challenge or a danger the brain will produce a chemical that prepares the body for defense. The brain produces a whole family of substances called endorphins. The word means, "The morphine within." In other words, our brain has the power to produce its own narcotics to relieve the body of pain. We are all walking drug stores because of the marvelous medical organ God created for us in the brain.
But like all wonderful things it can be misused and lead to harmful rather than helpful effects. The brain was used by Satan to destroy the people of New Guinea. About 40 years ago a dreaded disease called KURU threatened to wipe out the Foie people there. 43% of the women and a lesser percent of the men all died of this mysterious illness. Dr. Carleton Gajdusek went as a medical missionary to these people. He discovered the disease was spread through the black art of sorcery. The brains of dead people were mixed into the food of unsuspecting victims, and this lead to the disease. It was a dormant virus, however, and may not show up for several years, so nobody could see any connection.
There is no cure for the disease, but it can be easily prevented by avoiding sorcery. Missionaries began to teach the people the cause of the disease, and in those villages where people listened there were no more cases. They used their brain and stopped eating dead brains, and so they eliminated that disease that almost eliminated them. This true story from Wycliff Bible Translators illustrates how essential medical missions are to the task of fulfilling the Great Commission. People cannot hear the Gospel and read the Word of God if their bodies are being destroyed by demon designed diseases which rob them of life.
People have to be saved before they can be saved. That is, they have to be delivered from temporal death in order to be delivered from eternal death. One of Satan's most effective ways of insuring the doom of masses is to kill them by their own ignorance, and keep them in bondage to evil practices. We have no idea what caused the madman in our text to be mad, but one thing is for sure, he was not a likely prospect for the 4 spiritual laws, or the Romans road, or any other presentation of the Gospel. The man was in bondage to demon power, and the only way he could be of any value to himself, others, or the kingdom of God was to be released from that bondage. That is the essence of what medical missions is all about.
Under the heavy oppression of starving to death, or dying of a disease, people are not open to the Gospel. But if you can set them free from these temporal tyrants, they may be open to hear about what else they can receive in the name of Jesus. That is why medical missions have been a key factor in winning people from all cultures to Christ. What we want to focus on in this complex text is a couple of simple facts. The first thing this text reveals is that-
I. JESUS WAS A MEDICAL MISSIONARY.
Jesus did not heal Jews only. He was open to healing any Gentile that came to Him. The Roman Centurian came to Him and He gladly healed his servant. The Syrophonecian woman came to Him and He healed her daughter. The feeding of the 4000 was in a Gentile area, but the feeding of the 5000 was in a Jewish area. Jesus healed any who came to Him, but this is the first text where Jesus went into Gentile territory to heal a person. Jesus is going across the Sea of Galilee to the Gentile territory of the Gerasenes, or Gaderenes, as some manuscripts have it.
Jesus was an oversea missionary. You don't have to go overseas to be a missionary, but the fact is, you do have to cross some boundary for the idea to have any meaning. C. Everett Koop, the Surgeon General of the United States for many years, has been a leader in medical missions for decades, and he has provided us with this definition: "A missionary is a believer who penetrates a new area of life with the Christian Gospel by crossing a boundary which may be geographic, social, cultural, or a boundary in belief."
The key idea is the crossing of a boundary, for that is what makes you a missionary. As long as you stay in the comfort zone where everyone is just like you basically, you are a witness or evangelist, but when you cross over a boundary where people are different, then you become a missionary to them. Jesus was obviously in non-Jewish territory in our text, for there were 2000 pigs being cared for, and this would never be seen on the other side where the Jews live. Jesus was in foreign territory. He crossed the boundary to make it clear He cared about the Gentiles who were in bondage to Satan. Some were so enslaved they were like this mad man. Jesus came to heal this man and set him free, and this has been the motive of medical missions all through history. The motive is to set men free so that can be well and in their right mind give their lives to the kingdom of light.
The modern missionary movement began with medical missions. Dr. John Thomas was born in 1757. He grew up to become a ship's surgeon in the British Navy. At age 27 he became a Christian, and he wanted to become a preacher. A small Baptist church called him to be their pastor, but his friends discouraged it. Instead, he sailed for the second time to India, and near Calcutta he became a missionary. He learned the Bengali language and began to preach. In 1792 he went back to England to raise support.
William Carey, the father of modern missions, was just facing the Baptists Missionary Society. When they met John Thomas they were sold on him as the first missionary they wanted to support. So a doctor became the first Baptist missionary from England. Carey went with him to India and reported on the many lives he saved by his medical knowledge. His most famous patient was Krishna Pal, who became their first convert. This Hindu came to him for healing, and while Dr. Thomas set his dislocated shoulder Krishna Pal repented and asked Jesus to be his Savior. Like people all over the world, when he was healed he wanted to respond to the love that made that healing possible, and that was the love of Christ.
That one healed arm was the beginning of a whole arm of the church being formed in the land of India. A physical healing led to a multitude of spiritual healing. Don't ever discount the powerful effect that healing can have as the forerunner of evangelism. Most of the growth of the church on the mission field that has been radical had its origin in healing. Healing is the number one phenomenon for breaking down walls in all cultures, and making it easy for people to come to Christ.
William Carey had to carry on the medical work when Dr. Thomas died, and even though he was not trained he learned plenty from watching the doctor. He went on practicing medicine for healing was a key factor in opening people up to listen to the Gospel. If you study the origin of missions all over the world, you will discover that most of the fields were opened up by medical missions. There is almost no nation on earth that will say no to somebody who says I want to heal your body. Bodily healing is universal need, and everybody loves those who have answers for healing.
Jesus gave dignity to the body, for not only did He take on a body as the Son of God, but He healed the body and thereby said it is worthy of divine energy. It is worth a great price to restore the body to health. That is why Christian missions has always been promoters of healing. Christian brains have been the key to healing through most of history. Nestorius was the Patriarch of Constantinople, but he could not go along with the church doctrine of Theotokos which means declaring Mary to be the mother of God. In 431 A.D. the Council of Ephesus denounced the Nestorians as heretics, and they were compelled to flee. They went to Mesopotamia and took up the study of medicine in the town of Edessa. They established a school of medicine and two hospitals, and became the center of medical knowledge in the world.
Keep in mind it was the dark ages, and all the medical wisdom of man from the ancient world had been rejected by the church. Superstition had replaced the science of Hippocrites and Gallen. Intolerance of this revival of Greek learning and medicine forced the Nestorians to get out of Christian territory altogether, and seek refuge in Persia where the Shaw was opened to medical learning. He became fanatical and ordered Plato and Aristotle and all the Greek works to be translated into Arabic.
The paradox is that the Moslem world became the center of International medicine because of the Christian Nestorians. They not only established hospitals, they gave the Moslem world all of the wisdom of the Greeks. There were no scientific books in Arabic. The Moslem world became so hungry for this knowledge that the world was ransacked for ancient manuscripts, and they were taken by caravan to the Nestorians who translated all of the Greek wisdom into Arabic. The brains of Christians led to a revival of learning in the Moslem world. That led to hospitals being built all over the Islamic world so that Moslem capitals like Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, and Cordova all became medical centers. The Khalifs began a new tradition by building a school and hospital attached to every mosque.
This Arab revival of learning did finally touch Europe and became a foundation for their revival called the Renaissance. The point of this amazing history is that it was Christian brains that kept medical knowledge alive, and preserved it for the modern world. This pattern has continued so that medical knowledge all over the pagan world, which has healed millions, has come largely through Christian minds and their medical missions.
Medical historians recognize that if someone had not preserved the Greek wisdom, modern medicine would not have existed. It was Christian minds which established that the scientific method of the ancient Greeks was of God. Thomas Sydenham, the prince of practical physics, who laid the foundation of modern clinical medicine by reinstating the Hippocratic method, was a dedicated Christian. In his first book in the 17th century he wrote, "Whatever skill or knowledge he (the physician) may, by divine favour, become possessed of, should be devoted above all things to the glory of God and the welfare of the human race. Moreover, let him remember that it is not any base or despicable creature of which he has undertaken the care. For the only begotten Son of God, by becoming man, recognized the value of the human race, and ennobled by His own dignity the nature He assumed."
The second simple fact that we want to see from this amazing and complex healing miracle is that it reveals-
II. THE MOTIVE OF MEDICAL MISSIONS.
You will notice that when the healed demoniac begged to go with Jesus and be with Him, Jesus refused. It seems cruel in a way, but Jesus did not go the Gentile land to get another disciple to follow Him. He said to Him that he should go home and tell his family how much the Lord has done for him. The motive of Jesus in healing him and restoring him to his right mind is that he might have a witness in that land to share the good news of God's mercy. The man obeyed and became one of, if not the very first, Gentile missionary to his own people. People were amazed at his story, and that is what Jesus wanted. He wanted people to be aware that the kingdom of God had come into the world, and now there is a power on earth greater than the power of evil. That is the motive behind this miracle and the history of the church reveals just why this is so important to the fulfillment of the great commission.
In Acts 3 Peter healed the lame man, and the people in Jerusalem were amazed.
In Acts 8 when Philip healed many and cripples began to walk, the people of Samaria were
overwhelmed with joy.
In Acts 28 Paul had the same response when he healed the father of Publius on Malta, and all
the sick on the island flocked to him.
It is all very simple: when people see that the power which accompanies the Gospel is more powerful than the evil which oppresses them, they gladly respond to the Gospel. This is called power evangelism, and is the most effective type of evangelism. The motive for all healing, be it medical or faith healing, is to bring people to Christ, and lead them to trust Him as Savior. Healing is a means to evangelism, and a very effective one because it appeals to all people of all classes in all cultures.
In 1954 two missionaries came to Round Lake, Ontario, Canada. The natives there had the Bible, and they asked them how do we know you are not the wolves who are to come in the last days to deceive us? The missionaries said, "By our fruits you will know us." The natives responded, "Our Bible says you will be able to put oil on people and they will be healed." The missionaries had never done this and they had no oil, but it was either try or be rejected as false prophets. They had some shell aviation oil, and since the Bible was not specific as to what was kosher, they used it and anointed two children who had been sick for a long time. They then went to bed and the next morning woke up to a village full of excitement. The two children were well and eating breakfast. The people were convinced and turned to Christ. The church there became the largest in that whole area. Healing was the key to open their skeptical minds to see that the Gospel was authentic.
John Wimber in his course on Signs And Wonders at Fuller Theological Seminary has compiled a record of how the healing ministry has been the key to church growth all around the world. William Harris was a liberian who received the gift of healing and went to the Ivory Coast in the 1920's. He learned that the wife of the chief was sick and dying. He went to her and said, "Touch this cross and get up and walk." She did just that, and the entire village was converted to Christ. This story has been repeated over and over.
Donald McGaveran, a leading authority on church growth in the world, tells of an Indian community in South Africa that was opposed to Christian missions. The only way that tribe was penetrated was by a series of healing campaigns. This led to tens of thousands of people coming to Christ. In Chile, the largest Protestant denomination grew from 0% to 35% of the 12 million population in 80 years by the power of signs and wonders.
Medical or miraculous healing have one primary purpose, and that is to convince people that the power of Christ is greater than the power they now serve. When people see the love that heals their bodies they develop a rapid faith and hope, and are ready to revolt against the kingdom that has enslaved them and blinded them, and surrender to a new Master-the Lord Jesus.
That is why Mission Aviation Fellowship is flying doctors and medicine all over the world to reach people in remote places. The only way these people will respond to the Gospel is to see the power of Christian love demonstrated in their bodies. Healing is the great persuader, for it crosses all boundaries. People of every tribe, tongue, and language, with all the cultural differences, know when they have been healed. It may take years to get the Bible into their language, and years more to help them grasp Christian theology, but healing can happen in a moment, and when it does they are open to listen and respond.
One of the paradoxes of history is that the reason there are so many non-Christians in the world is due in great measure to Christian medical missions. Epidemics wiped out pagans by the millions until Christian missionaries came to them with medicine to save them. The pagan religions of the world were basically indifferent to the care of the body. It was Christian missionaries who brought modern Western medicine to the rest of the world. In most parts of the world the first hospital, the first school, the first asylum for the blind and mentally ill, the first medical book, and the first organization concerned for healing of any kind, was brought by the missionaries.
Dr. William Wanless opened the first hospital in Bombay, India in the 19th century. It was nothing but a glorified chicken coop, but today is the beautiful modern Miraj Hospital covering 12 areas. In the late 1800's a medical missionary James Fanstone accepted the challenge to leave England to go to Brazil. Today the son of this pioneer heads a hospital which has its own airport because people come from all over Brazil to receive its healing ministry. They started the first school of nursing in Brazil, and today there are graduates are snapped up as fast as they can produce them. The three largest hospitals in Brazil have their graduates as their head nurse.
The point is, you can go around the world and discover that the healing ministry of the church has been one of the key means of fulfilling the great commission.