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Look it up: Jesus the healer


Catholic News Service

From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was known for curing people of “every disease and illness” (Mt 4:23). News spread widely about him “to all of Syria,” and people were brought to him who suffered from various diseases and were “racked with pain,” along with “lunatics and paralytics, and he cured them” (Mt 4:24).

The Gospel accounts are filled with stories of Jesus’ ability to heal. Depending on how one categorizes these miracles, Matthew includes 16 reports, Mark recounts 12 events and Luke makes 12 such references.

The synoptic Gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke — connect Jesus’ healing power to his message of salvation: As Jesus traveled around Galilee, he taught, proclaimed the good news of God’s kingdom and he healed people.

For the synoptic Gospels, healing was another way to proclaim that God’s kingdom was near.

John’s Gospel has only three stories of Jesus’ healing power (not including the raising of Lazarus from the dead). Scripture scholars have named the first 12 chapters of John’s Gospel account “the Book of Signs” because John refers to Jesus’ miracles as “signs.”

So, for John, Jesus’ healing of the royal official’s son (Jn 4:46-53), the healing of the man at the Bethesda pool (Jn 5:2-9) and healing the man born blind (Jn 9:1-7) are all signs that accompany Jesus’ words announcing that he is the Messiah. Through these signs, people came to believe.

The apostles also possessed the power to heal. Acts 3:1-8 tells of Peter and John healing the man outside the temple gate. When the crippled man asks for money, Peter responds, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, (rise and) walk.”

Peter tells the crowd that the man was healed, not by any power Peter has personally, but “by faith in (Jesus’) name” (Acts 3:16). Peter’s ability to heal was so powerful that people brought the sick into the streets in the hope that the sick might be touched by Peter’s shadow and be cured (Acts 5:15).

Other disciples also had the power to heal. Acts 8:6-7 mentions that “the crowds paid attention” to Philip when they saw him working “signs,” expelling evil spirits and restoring health to “many paralyzed and crippled people.”

Paul healed people as well, as he did with the crippled man in Acts 14:8-10. His ability to heal was such that when “face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12). The Catholic belief in the power of relics can be traced to this passage.

The power to heal in Jesus’ name wasn’t limited to the apostles. The Letter of James 5:14 says that the sick should be brought to the church elders (called presbyters) to pray over and “anoint with oil in the name of the Lord,” from which comes our sacrament of the anointing of the sick.