Yesterday, I showed how Matthew attributes disease to unclean spirits. I concluded that, for Matthew, Satan causes disease, whereas God is a healer.
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NRSV). That implies that God’s will is not completely in effect on earth. After all, why would we need to pray for something that already exists?
I was thinking about this when I read the story of Jesus raising the daughter of the synagogue ruler (Matthew 9:18-26). This daughter was just a little girl when she died. As far as her parents knew, they’d never be able to enjoy her company again. They wouldn’t have the pleasure of watching her grow up, marry, and have kids of her own. They’d have to put up with feelings of loss for the rest of their lives.
But that was not God’s will. God wants people to enjoy their families, and for a long period of time. Often, when tragedy strikes, Christians want to find some good in it. “It’s all part of God’s plan,” they say. “God has a good reason for this.” Does he? Maybe, for the time being, this world contains things that are outside of God’s desires.
When Jesus was on earth, God’s will was being done, on earth as it is in heaven. In that sense, the kingdom of God was on earth. Satan wants people to be sick and afflicted, but God wants them healthy and free. And, for many of the people Christ touched, God’s good will occurred in their lives. Christ bound the power of Satan (Matthew 12:29), allowing people to experience freedom, wholeness, and health.
Today, I read Matthew 11:1-6, in which John the Baptist wonders if Jesus was the Messiah. John was imprisoned by a wicked ruler, after all, and he had said before that the Messiah would reward the righteous and punish the wicked (see Matthew 3). But John didn’t see that happening, for he was still in jail, so he contemplated the possibility that he may have been wrong about Jesus.
But Jesus said that the Messianic era was breaking into the world through his ministry. “Go and tell John what you hear and see,” he told John’s disciples. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” According to Dennis Duling’s notes in the HarperCollins Study Bible, Jesus was referring to such passages as Isaiah 26:19, 29:18, and 35:5-6, in which God promises to open the eyes of the blind, make the deaf hear, and heal the lame after Israel’s restoration.
God’s will is not that people be blind. It’s hard being blind! I wouldn’t want to stumble around in darkness all of the time. Being deaf isn’t a picnic either. Can we seriously say that God wants cancer eating away at people’s bodies? Bringing the issue closer to home, having Asperger’s isn’t all that fulfilling! God wants people to enjoy fellowship with others, and a social handicap inhibits that.
Here’s another thought that crosses my mind: Theologians look for all sorts of reasons for Jesus’ miracles. Many say that Jesus did them just to prove his Messianic identity. Others suggest that miracles confirmed the divine authority of God’s message, but we no longer need them now that we have the Bible. And, indeed, there are plenty of biblical passages that treat miracles as signs (e.g., John 5, 9; Hebrews 2:4). But maybe Jesus also did them because he felt sorry for those who were sick (see Matthew 14:14). If I had lost a young daughter, I’d be happy to get her back! Why should we treat Jesus as less than human by seeking a colder reason for his miracles? Jesus wept, after all (John 11:35).
One more thought: Being healed can have its disadvantages. If I were lame and had people who could take care of me, I’d be somewhat happy. On some level, that would be better than getting a job and becoming responsible for my own keep, especially if I’m lazy. But that can also be debilitating. It can sap a person’s spirit. A person has to want to be healed, and healing carries with it a certain responsibility. But it also contains a whole lot of joy.
Anyway, this post is one take on disease and healing. It’s how I feel today. I may not think the same way tomorrow, for sometimes I say that God has a purpose even for bad things.