In the Gospels, Jesus heals two blind men. He gives sight to the blind. Then, he drives the demon out of a demoniac. He gives voice to the mute. Then, he goes around to all the cities and villages curing every disease and healing every infirmity and preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matt 9:27-35).
Don’t we wish he would visit our town? Come to us in our homes? Heal our sicknesses and those of our loved ones? Many of us are suffering and in need of the healing presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Healer – the Healer, I say, and not merely a healer.
God is the one who heals. We have to understand this. All healing comes from God. And he wants to heal us. This is clear if we read the gospel. Practically every page of the gospels, especially Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus is healing his people.
And he carries right on with his healing here and now. Do not be deceived into thinking his healing work is merely historical. Be attentive: he is in our town, in our homes, and in our hearts. He is here right now, and he wants to heal us. And, if we are healed, it is because he has healed us.
A true and wise healer will always acknowledge this. One way to know whether a healer is authentic – and this holds true whether we’re talking about a doctor or a priest or a preacher – is to look at whether they use healing to glorify themselves or to glorify God. Do they acknowledge that all healing comes from God? Or do they just crave attention or fame or money? Does your doctor acknowledge God? You might want to seek one out who does.
I’m not saying that God can’t use a self-glorifying atheist to work his healing. He can and he does. He can also use heretics and charlatans. God can do anything. I’m only saying, it’s often better to work with those who have some idea of what’s actually going on.
And if your surgeons think they’re the ones healing you and that they aren’t instruments in God’s hands every bit as much as those scalpels are instruments in theirs, then they don’t understand what’s actually going on. For all their education, if they fail to acknowledge God, they understand nothing.
Every good thing comes from God. He is the giver of all talents and all knowledge.
If Jesus appears to you and heals you, it is clear that Lord is healing you. Also, if a holy man or woman prays over you and you are healed, it is the Lord who heals you. If you come before the presbyters of the Church when you are sick and they pray over you and anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord and you are healed, it is the Lord who heals you (cf. James 5:14-15). But also, if a showy faith healer in it for the money knocks you over and you are healed, it is the Lord who heals you. If a pious Christian surgeon cuts out your tumor and your cancer is cured, it is the Lord who heals you. If an atheist nutritionist gives you good advice about how to eat right and heal your gut, it is the Lord who heals you.
If we are healed, it is because the Lord has healed us.
No one understood this better than St. Panteleimon, whose feast we celebrated just yesterday (July 27th). He was a highly learned physician – so talented that he impressed the ruler Maximian, who gave instruction that Panteleimon was to be prepared as the Royal Physician. (Of course, that was when Panteleimon was still following the paganism of his father, who had paid for all his fancy education).
But Panteleimon wanted to be a great physician, and his desire to bring healing led him to the only true Healer, because healing only comes from God. He came to understand this and so embraced the Christian faith of his mother.
Panteleimon raised up a child bitten by a deadly viper, gave sight to the blind, healed the paralyzed, healed wounds, and cured all who came to him. He was a trained physician, but he insisted that it is Jesus Christ and not Panteleimon who is our true healer.
In fact, though he is counted among the unmercenary healers because he did not charge his patients any money, he did ask for another form of payment: that those who were healed acknowledge Jesus Christ as their true healer.
And so they gladly did, even though doing so at that time and place often earned them a martyr’s death. Think on that – to be healed only to be killed for it. But this, in fact, was their true healing: to come to Christ, to live in Christ, and to die in Christ is to rise in Christ and live forever in him. This is our true and lasting and total healing of both body and spirit.
Saint Panteleimon himself went on to die a martyr at the age of 30. He died even younger than Jesus, who was crucified at the age of 33.
Take note of this as well: they extended the lives of others, but died young themselves. Long life is not the point. Eternal life is the point.
Another fact to bear in mind: all the people that Saint Panteleimon healed, and all the people that Jesus healed before his own death on the cross, have died since then. Even the people that he raised from the dead have died again since then. Despite having been raised from the dead, Lazarus now awaits the resurrection with his sisters Martha and Mary (cf. John 11:23-44).
Some die young and some die old; some die sick and some die healthy, but we all die. So, what is the point of all this healing? Why heal us if we’re only going to die?
Well, did you hear what else Jesus was doing while he was going from town to town and healing everybody? He was preaching the coming Kingdom (Matt 9:35)! The healings we receive now are a foretaste of the lasting healing we receive in the Kingdom. They are a sign, as the Gospel of John likes to call them.
Furthermore, they are calling and an opportunity. We who have been healed will have to answer for the fact. What do we do with the gift of life God has given us? Each day we draw breath, it is by God’s mercy and grace.
For one thing, he gives us life so we can be a witness to others of the healing and saving power of Jesus Christ! We must testify to the world that he has healed us and saved us.
For another thing, it so that we have more time to repent and be forgiven. Are we using our time for repentance? For worshipping God? Or for more self-indulgence?
Healing and the forgiveness of sins go hand in hand. We are bodies and souls at the same time. Note that the Lord will often begin his healing by forgiving sins. He says, “your sins are forgiven” even before he says, “stand up and walk” (cf. Matt 9:2-6)
Note also, that many times when our English translations of the scripture say “heal,” the Greek word (ἰάομαι) connotes salvation (eg Matt 13:15). He saves us. From what? From sin and death.
The connection between healing and the forgiveness of sins is preserved in the holy mystery of anointing as we celebrate it in our Byzantine Churches. Our prayers are for healing and also for the forgiveness of sins.
If we repent, we will be forgiven and healed. And if we are healed, it is a calling to repent.
Both as a sign of the coming kingdom and as an opportunity to repent, our healing by the Lord points to the everlasting healing from death we receive in Jesus Christ and in his kingdom.