Seedbed is pleased to announce the release of Follow the Healer: Biblical and Theological Foundations for Healing Ministry by Stephen Seamands. Order the book and teaching videos from our store here. Explore the church kit here. Get a copy of the journal here.
Preaching, teaching, and healing were the primary activities of Jesus during his earthly ministry in Galilee (Matt. 4:23–24; 9:35). We also stressed that his ministry didn’t come to a tragic end when he was crucified. In fact, it had only just begun. Following his resurrection and ascension, Jesus’s ministry continues and expands throughout the world through his body, the church. Our involvement in the ministry of healing prayer is therefore a participation in his ongoing ministry, and particularly his healing ministry.
But what was it that moved Jesus to heal the sick and bind up the brokenhearted? What was the motivation behind his works of healing? Why did Jesus heal? That’s the question we want to focus on in this chapter. In answering it, we begin by considering one of the greatest of all the healing miracles of Jesus—the raising of Lazarus as it’s recounted in John 11.
At the very beginning of this story, Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters, send an urgent message to Jesus, letting him know that their brother desperately needs him: “Lord, the one you love is sick” (John 11:3). In a nutshell, that brief message answers a key question: Jesus’s healing ministry flows out of his love. Because Mary and Martha understood this, they appealed to his love. THE MESSAGE captures it well: “Master, the one you love so very much is sick” (v. 3). Since Jesus loved their brother, they knew he would be concerned and would, no doubt, want to do something about Lazarus’s illness.
Why then does Jesus heal? Because he loves. And as the Son of God, the love that moves him to heal is also a reflection of the love of the Father, because “he can do only what he sees his Father doing” (John 5:19). Ultimately, then, Jesus’s healing ministry is rooted in the fellowship of the Trinity. Out of the overflow of the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the triune God works to restore the brokenness of creation. Healing flows out of divine love and compassion. Certainly healing is an expression of God’s power, but it’s more about God’s love than about God’s power.
So, Jesus healed Lazarus because Jesus loved Lazarus. Three times in this story, his love for Lazarus is explicitly mentioned (John 11:3, 5, 36). We’ve already noted the first instance in the message the sisters sent to Jesus. Later in this chapter, we will discuss the second (v. 5). For now we will consider the last instance (v. 36) when, four days after Lazarus died, Jesus finally arrived on the scene.
At this point, Jesus was trying to comfort the two distraught, grieving sisters who couldn’t understand why he didn’t show up sooner. In the midst of all their tears and agony, the mourners who had come to grieve with Mary and Martha marveled at Jesus’s intense emotional response and exclaimed, “See how he [Jesus] loved him!” (John 11:36).
The immediately preceding verse describes what they observed, which caused John to say, “Jesus wept.” John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible, as every Sunday school kid knows. Yet these two words say so much! “Jesus burst into tears,” as the International Standard Version has it. He wept so openly, so intensely, and so vulnerably that those who saw him marveled and concluded, “Tears like that—he sure must have loved Lazarus.”
My favorite series of books for children is the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. I say they are for children, but they are written for anyone who is truly young at heart. In one of them, The Magician’s Nephew, there is a scene where Digory, a young boy, approaches Aslan the lion, who is the king of the land of Narnia where these stories take place. In case you didn’t already know (although we’re never explicitly told this), whenever you encounter Aslan, you are encountering another lion—Jesus, the great Lion of Judah.
Digory comes to Aslan because he has found out that in Narnia, when someone gets sick, they are given a piece of magic fruit to eat that causes them to get better. He wants to take a piece of the fruit back home with him because his mother is very ill and he wants her to get well. But Digory must get permission to do that, so he comes to make his request to the lion king.
Yet at first, when he asks, he gets no response at all. Aslan is silent. He seems indifferent. Digory is stunned—doesn’t the lion care about his mother? Tears fill his eyes, and in desperation he comes closer and asks Aslan again. Here’s how C. S. Lewis describes what Digory saw:
Up till then he had been looking at the lion’s great front feet and the huge claws on them; now in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the lion’s eyes. They were such big bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the lion must really be sorrier about his mother than he was himself. (C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew [New York: Collier, 1955], 142.)
From that moment on, Digory never again doubted the love of Aslan. “Whenever he remembered the shining tears in Aslan’s eyes his heart became sure.” (p. 164)
Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus. When he saw the anguish of Mary and Martha and the others gathered at the tomb, big shining tears welled up in his eyes. Jesus wept. And his healing of his friend Lazarus flowed out of his broken, weeping heart of love. Before Jesus heals our human hurts, he feels them!
This is an excerpt from Follow the Healer by Stephen Seamands. Therein he draws upon four decades of teaching theology and active involvement in healing ministry to help us understand the essential theological foundations for healing ministry in a way that is accessible to all Christians.
This resource is perfect for:
- Prayer ministry teams
- Healing ministry teams
- Small-group leaders
- Missionaries and evangelists
- Pastors and Students
- Individual study
Learn more in our store here. We have also developed a church kit to help entire communities explore the invitation to participate in Jesus’s healing ministry. Explore the church kit here. Order a journal here.