MIRACLES AND THE MIND
By Pastor Glenn Pease
Variety is not only the spice of life it is the very essence of life. Consider the bacteria that is all about us and within us. There are about 1500 different basic forms or species of these tiny one celled creatures. If you took 400 trillion of these creatures they would weigh only about 1 pound. Most of these bacteria have gotten bad press, and we think of them in negative terms. We are not even aware that many of them are essential to our lives. Only a small percentage cause disease. According to Issac Asimov they are far fewer than the percentage of human beings who commit crimes.
Bacteria carry out chemical reactions that are essential to digestion, and bacteria in our intestines form some of the vitamins that we cannot make for ourselves. Molecular biologists are working hard to figure out how to use these tiny creatures as more efficient servants in fighting disease. So they are primarily friends of man and not foes. Man has already designed a bacteria that manufactures human insulin so diabetics can live normal lives. The hope is that bacteria will help man produce vaccines for his most potent disease agent-the viruses. When you get into the world of scientific healing the one characteristic that stands out is the infinite variety.
There is no end to the means and methods by which man fights off his foes to maintain his health, or to regain it when it has been taken captive. What is fascinating in studying the healing miracles of Christ is that Jesus also used a variety of means and methods to bring about healing. You would think that if all Jesus had to do was to say, "Be healed," that He would have a standardized method, and one healing would be just like another. It would be monotonous and boring, but it would be so simple and easy. But Jesus deals with people as individuals. He recognizes that each person is unique, and is in need of treatment that is unique to their problem and personality. No where do we see this more clearly than in Healing of the deaf-mute in our text.
This is a healing that strays from the norm. Jesus is giving this man a specialized treatment. First of all, He takes him aside to deal with him privately. Usually Jesus just heals people in the midst of the crowd. But here He departs from the crowd to a place of privacy. Jesus did often touch the patient, but here He puts His fingers into the man's ears. Jesus does something that seems rather gross. He spit on His finger and touched the man's tongue with the spittle. There are a lot of strange things that happen in the world of healing, but fortunately this one never caught on. You will have a fruitless search trying to find any healer who follows Jesus on this one, and practices spit healing.
What Jesus is teaching us here is not a particular technique, but rather, the importance of variety in the methods and means of healing. Not all miracles are alike anymore than all medicine is alike. Miracles do not come in a can, and massed produced so that one is identical to the other. Each miracle is adapted to fit the individual who needs it. Miracles come in custom made packages with a lot of variety. Understanding this is a key factor in trying to figure out the puzzling mysteries of miracles and healing. Healing is not mass produced like bottles of aspirin. Each one is custom made to fit the nature of the person, the disease, and the circumstances.
Jesus may heal in the crowd, or in private. Sometimes He heals by the spoken word alone. At other times He adds touch, and as here, He adds special personal touches of His finger and spittle. On another occasion He used clay. He may heal at a distance, or right where He is present. Usually He heals instantly, but He also healed by process and stages. Some patients were required to do nothing, and others were asked to cooperate in their healing. One was asked to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, for example.
Richard Trench in his classic The Miracles Of Our Lord wrote, "There must lie a deep meaning in all the variations which mark the different healing of different sick and afflicted. A wisdom of God ordering all the circumstances of each particular case." When he wrote that book in the 1800's, he did not have a clue as to what that deep meaning might be. But today with the rapid advance of medical knowledge, we do know why His variety of treatment was of great value. Modern medicine has discovered what the Great Physician always knew, and now it has become a principle of health and healing. The principle is this:
I. THE MIND OF THE PATIENT IS THE DOOR BY WHICH HEALING POWER ENTERS THE BODY.
You might think this should have nothing to do with miracles. What difference does it make if the mind is open or not? We are talking about God's power, and He certainly does not get stopped at the door just because the mind of man is closed, does He? It all depends on whether you are going by the popular idea of miracles, or the Biblical record. The popular idea is that God can do anything, and generally does. It is all a matter of His choices, and man has little or nothing to do with it. His puny mind is as irrelevant as bacteria is to the movement of a tank. But what does the Bible say? If you go back to Mark 6:5-6, you will read the shocking words that make the popular idea as false as a four dollar bill. It says, "He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them, and He was amazed at their lack of faith."
Miracles may not be man produced, but they can be man prevented. Yes, man can stop a miracle by a closed mind of unbelief. If the mind of a man is not open to the possibility of a miracle, then a miracle will not happen. Miracles are like electric power; they do not flow in where there is no outflow. There has to be a complete circuit, and if the mind of a man is shut, the switch is off, and the energy will not flow. Man can resist the Holy Spirit, and quench the power of healing by a closed mind.
So what are the implications for healing? It simply means that almost all healing is psycho-somatic, and that to get to the body you have to go through the mind. To do this you have to appeal to each person in a way that opens their mind to be healed. The mind is the door to the body, and if you can't get through the mind, you will not be able to heal the body. Doctors need the patients cooperation to be successful.
This particular man that Jesus is dealing with in our text is obviously a reluctant patient. Some people have brought him to Jesus to be healed. He was not like the paralytic who was brought by his friends, for this man could walk. Yet, he had to be brought, and that means he did not choose to come, but is there under some social pressure. He is likely somewhat skeptical and not convinced Jesus can heal him. Jesus recognized this reluctance, and so He gives the man special treatment that will have the psycho-somatic effect of opening his mind. Jesus is practicing psycho-somatic medicine. He is using what is very popular today because it works like a charm-the placebo effect.
The spit of Jesus had no power to cure a deaf-mute, but it had the power to open his mind to receive the healing power of Christ. It kindled in him a sense that he was loved as an individual, and this gave him faith and hope. Once that blockage was away from the door of his mind, the door could be opened, and the flow of healing power could enter his body. The healing power was not in Christ's finger or His spittle. This was the means by which to get the man's mind open so it could receive the healing power of Christ. Whatever opens the mind to receive healing energy is a powerful medicine for that particular person. That is why there are so many different methods and means of healing.
What appeals to one mind leaves another unimpressed. The minds of men are so varied that there is no end to the means by which they can be impressed and opened. Pills can be the open sesame to many minds, and that is why placebos can be effective. The minds of many are ready to accept that any pill will work. So when they are given a mere sugar pill they have a powerful effect on the body because the mind has been opened to receive healing power. The spit of Jesus did this for this man. It had the placebo effect that modern man has learned has power to heal. C. S. Lovett in his book Jesus Wants You Well gives some amazing illustrations of the power of the placebo effect, or suggestive therapy.
A young woman had a paralyzed tongue and could not speak. She had all kinds of medical treatment, but to no benefit. Her doctor had to get her mind on his side. The mind was his biggest obstacle, and he knew if he could just get past the closed door of her mind, he may be able to cure her. So he told her he was going to try a new device that would loosen her tongue and enable her to speak again. He wanted her to relax and close her eyes, and he would then give her tongue special therapy with this new instrument. He took an ordinary thermometer and began to touch various spots on her tongue. Then he told her she could now begin to speak.
She immediately began to say a few words, and in two weeks she was back to normal speaking fluently.
There was no more healing power in that thermometer than there was in the spit of Jesus, but both served the purpose of unlocking the closed mind so healing could get through to the body. The mind can make us sick and keep us sick, and the mind, when it is won over to the side of the healer, becomes the key to being restored to health. It's all in your mind is a cliche, but it is a powerful truth. Faith healing and love healing, and forgiveness healing, and dozens of other methods of healing all depend upon the mind for their effectiveness. "Behold I stand at the door and knock," says the Great Physician, and so does every healer and every method of healing, and only when the door is open from the inside can any method work.
Why else would Jesus bother to take this man aside privately and go through all this business with the finger in the ear and the spit on the tongue, unless it was to break through the barrier of a skeptical mind, and persuade it to open up by the power of suggestion? If the man's mind was already open and ready to receive a miracle, he could have just said be healed, and he would have been healed. What this means then is there is a type of healing miracle that can only happen when the patient's mind is cooperating with the healer. They are not purely divine events, but are a product of the divine and human working in cooperation. Not all miracles fall into this category. There are what are called command miracles. These are miracles which Jesus did by sheer divine power, and which, by their very nature, could not depend on human cooperation. When Jesus cried out, "Lazarus come forth," Lazarus was dead and could not cooperate with mental agreement and belief. Any resurrection of the dead calls for a command miracle.
In the miracles Jesus performed He most often called for cooperation, and He used the power of suggestion by the use of means. It is not that Jesus could not heal by command, but that would not be of much value for the rest of Christian history. But by using means Jesus made it clear that all Christians can enter into the healing of others by the use of means which wins the cooperation of the mind. Only a few can use command healing because they have the gift of healing or miracles, but all of us can get into healing on the psycho-somatic level.
George Washington had a mind so cooperative with the will of God he handled pressure that would have killed other men. He lost battles, lost men, lost his crops, and lost loved ones, but listen to his mental attitude. He wrote in May of 1794, "At disappointments and losses which are the effects of Providential acts, I never repine, because I am sure the all wise Disposer of events knows better than we do what is best for us, or what we deserve." He suffered plenty, but he did not carry half the burden of it that others did, because he had a mind submissive to Christ, and open to healing at all times.
Dr. Walter B. Cannon, a famous Harvard Medical School physiologist, documented the taboo system of the Maori aborigines of New Zealand. He told of a young aborigine who while traveling stopped in the home of an older friend. For breakfast the friend prepared a meal consisting of wild hen. This was a food strictly forbidden for the immature. The young man demanded to know if there was wild hen in the meal, and his host said no. He ate and departed. Several years later they met and the older friend asked him if he would now eat wild hen. He said he never would, for it was taboo. The older man laughed and told him how he had tricked him into eating this forbidden food long ago. The young man became extremely frightened, and within 24 hours he was dead. No disease, no germs or virus, just his mind which was convinced that he had to die. Such is the power of the psycho-somatic. The second principle that grows out of this unique healing is-
II. MEANS TO WIN OVER THE MIND ARE A LEGITIMATE PART OF CHRISTIAN HEALING.
This ought to be obvious, but many Christians have been deceived into thinking that a use of means or medicine, or therapy is somehow a denial of faith, and, therefore, not legitimate for the Christian. Somehow the idea has become quite popular among some Christians that true faith is in God alone, and that trust in any physical means to bring about healing is not legitimate. The result is that many Christians have felt their use of medicine was a lack of faith, and they have stopped taking it, or thrown it away. This has lead some Christian parents to be tried for murder when they caused the death of their children by rejecting all means such as medicine.
Such faith is presumption, for it is a clear rejection of Christ's own healing ministry where He used means to achieve healing. The whole point of laying on of hands, of anointing with oil, and any other use of means in healing is to move the mind to cooperate in the healing process. This is the power of suggestion. It simply means the body will often do and feel what the mind says it should do and feel. Why do you think Jesus used spittle? It was because this was the in thing in His day. People believed in the curative power of spit. It has been thought by various tribes through history to have medical value, and I remember as a child being taught that dog saliva had curative value, and that is why a dog could lick its wounds and heal so fast. Jesus was not teaching the curative power of spit, but by use of it He was teaching the power of suggestion.
Norman Cousin in his book The Healing Heart tells of the football game where several people became suddenly ill. A public announcement was made that no more soft drinks from the beverage machines were to be consumed until the cause of the sickness was determined. The immediate effect was that people all over the stadium became ill, and 191 people had to be hospitalized. Local ambulances and private cars were hauling people to the 5 local hospitals. No one knows how many people went to their own doctor.
Laboratory analysis showed nothing wrong with the water or syrup, and when this was announced there was a sudden healing of all who became ill. There minds made them sick. This is just one episode of a long series of historical incidents which reveal how the mind can make people sick. Mass hysteria all through history has made people ill. We tend to think that if it is all in the mind it is not serious. This is not so. A sickness that is caused by the mind alone is just as real and just as harmful as one caused by invaders from the outside. Voodoo and magic spells of all kinds really cause people to get sick and die even though they are just psycho-somatic.
Why do you suppose Jesus asked the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda if he wanted to get well? It seems like a strange question, but the fact is, Jesus knew the power of the mind in healing, and He knew that this man could not be healed unless he was willing. Senaca said, "To wish to be well is a part of becoming well." The healing methods of Jesus make it clear that for healing to take place there usually has to be the use of means to win the mind over to a role of cooperation. It may be physical, mental, or spiritual means, but whatever is needed is a legitimate part of the healing ministry for the Christian. It is superficial and being hyper-spiritual, and advocating a faith that goes beyond Biblical faith to reject means as a part of healing.
If spit moves the mind to belief, then spit is a legitimate means for healing. If I tell my grandson to eat his string beans and he will feel better, that is using means. It is the means of suggestion. It is to get him to eat well, and to get his mind on the side of health. It is not only legitimate, but it is basic wisdom. We tell our children that a kiss will make the hurt all better, and the fact is, it works, and crying kids in pain go away with a smile after the therapy of a kiss. The kiss has no power to heal, but the mind does, and the power of suggestion wins the mind over to a position of cooperation.
Dr. Bernie Siegal, a cancer specialist, wrote a book Love, Medicine And Miracles. He would agree that spit cannot only heal a deaf mute, but it can even heal cancer. He is absolutely convinced that all means have the potential of healing cancer. He says that he is sure if he recommended eating three peanut butter sandwiches a day some people would do it and get well from incurable cancer. The reason is not because of peanut butter, spit, diet, chemotherapy, or anything else, but because the mind can by any means be convinced and lead to healing. That is why there are 1001 ideas about how to cure cancer. There is somebody who has been healed by every strange means because they believed it. Their mind and body got together and won the battle.
Pastor Lloyd Ogilvie had a healing ministry for years, and he saw people healed every Sunday morning. In comments on the paralytic Jesus asked, "Wilt thou be made whole?" He wrote, "Intense desire for the Master's help in any area of our lives is a vital, necessary prerequisite for receiving his healing." Those who are really into healing agree that the emotions have to be kindled, and people have to have an active mental and emotional role in their healing.
The passive patient who says, "Go ahead Lord and heal me, I will not refuse it," is not likely to be healed. It is the aggressive seeker that is most likely to be healed. The Christian whose mind is full of hope and expectation so that he or she aggressively believes and acts on that belief, is the Christian who will likely experience healing. The reason this is true is because there is a direct connection between miracles and the mind.