Saturday, August 03, 2013

Healing a few

6 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief (Mk 6:1-5). 
53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief (Mt 13:53-58).
What's the relation between unbelief and Jesus not performing miracles (Matthew) or not being able to perform miracles (Mark) in Nazareth? Is Jesus impotent to perform miracles against their will? Is lack of faith a check on his power? Must people cooperate? 
I don't think that's the point of the passage. The problem is not that they were lacking in faith, or that they didn't have enough faith. Rather, they greeted his ministry with belligerent disbelief. That's not the same as doubt, weak faith, or wavering faith. Rather, that's the opposite of faith. A implacable attitude to the contrary. 
Jesus not performing miracles in that setting is punitive. He refuses to reward their animosity. They get what they deserve, which is nothing. Those who refuse him, lose him. 
However, the opposition wasn't total, so he did heal a few. A remnant. 


  1. The problem is not that they were lacking in faith, or that they didn't have enough faith. Rather, they greeted his ministry with belligerent disbelief.

    That's been my interpretation for a long while. Jesus could clearly heal people irrespective of their faith as can be seen in the sovereign healing of the man who was an invalid for 38 years (John 5:1-9). He didn't seem to have or express faith. He didn't even know who Jesus was (John 5:13). Also, the man born blind doesn't seem to have expressed any faith or expectation that Jesus would heal him when he received his sight. It was only after he was interviewed by Pharisees and Jesus looked for him and found him that the formerly blind person believed on Christ (John 9:35-38). In Acts 4:24-31 the Church clearly believed that God healed based on His sovereignty and prayed to God for more signs and wonders to be performed according to His sovereignty.

    Also, In every instance of people coming to Jesus for healing (in expectation/faith/hope for a healing) Jesus healed them. The only two exceptions (recorded in Scripture at least) were 1. when Lazarus got sick and 2. the Syrophoenician woman whose daughter was demonically possessed. With Lazarus neither he nor his sisters seemed to ask for or expect Jesus to heal him. It's as if they left it up to Him to decide what to do (John 11:3). They weren't exercising faith. With the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus initially refuses to heal her daughter because He says His mission wasn't to gentiles but to the House of Israel. Nevertheless, because of her persistence the woman got what she asked for. On multiple occasions Jesus healed entire multitudes who actively came to Him for healing (Matt. 4:23-25; 8:16-17; 9:35-38; 12:15; 14:14; 15:30-31; 19:2; 21:14; Mark 1:32-34; 3:10; Luke 4:18-19; 40-41; 6:17-19; 9:10-11; 13:15-16; 14:5; 17:11-19; cf. John 6:2). Often it says that Jesus motive was one of compassion. All Ten Lepers who came to Jesus were healed (Luke 17:12). If Jesus had healed only 2 lepers, we might have gotten the idea that in any crowd God might be willing to heal only 20%. But by healing all 10, that could be interpreted (possibly) as indicating God's willingness to heal all who come to God through Christ for healing. So, if it's true that Jesus healed everyone who actively sought Him for healing, then in all likelihood the people who weren't healed in Mark 6:1-5 and Matt. 13:53-38 didn't actively seek healing from Him. In fact, both passages indicate that they didn't honor Jesus as a prophet and "took offense at Him" (Mark 6:3d; Matt. 13:57a).

    Does this mean then that Jesus never healed based on the degree of faith of 1. the pray-ers or 2. prayees (or their proxy)? That he always healed regardless and irrespective of faith or the degree of faith? I don't think so based on the following passages (1. Faith of Pray-ers = Acts 3:16; Matt. 17:19-20; Mark 9:17-19; Luke 9:40-41; James 5:15; reception of spiritual gifts requires faith including the Gift of Faith 1 Cor. 12:9-10; 14:1; 2. Faith of Prayees (i.e. the sick or his proxy) = Matt. 8:10, 13; 9:2ff, 22; 28-30; 15:28; Mark 5:34, 36; 10:52; Luke 8:50 Acts 14:9-10 [3. compare with the following passages regarding the importance of faith: Matt. 14:31; 21:21-22; Mark 11:22-23; Luke 17:5-6; 1 Cor. 13:2; James 1:5-8; John 14:12-14]).

    1. In Mark 1:40-45 Jesus heals a leper who first says, "If you will, you can make me clean." Then "moved with pity/compassion" Jesus heals him. In many places Jesus heals out of compassion. However, in this instance there's a textual variant in verse 41 that says "becoming angry." Because it's more likely that scribes changed the text from "angry" to "pity" (rather than the other way around), it's most likely that "angry" is the original. I suspect that Jesus got angry because the leper questioned whether Jesus was willing to heal him. As if he should have known beyond a doubt that Jesus was willing to heal him. In addition to the simplified argument I gave Bart Ehrman further argues for "angry" as authentic because (assuming Markan priority) Matthew and Luke leave out "compassion" and "angry" in their parallel passages. As if they themselves weren't sure why Mark would record "angry" and therefore left it out.

      Ehrman goes on to say, "There are in fact other occasions in which Jesus becomes angry in Mark. In each instance, Matthew and Luke have modified the accounts. In Mark 3:5 Jesus looks around "with anger" (met) o)rgh=j) at those in the synagogue who were watching to see if he'd heal the man with the withered hand. Luke has the verse almost the same as Mark, but he removes the reference to Jesus' anger. Matthew completely rewrites this section of the story and says nothing of Jesus' wrath. Similarly, in Mark 10:14 Jesus is aggravated at his disciples (different word: h)gana/kthsen) for not allowing people to bring their children to be blessed. Both Matthew and Luke have the story, often verbally the same, but both delete the reference to Jesus' anger (Matt 19:14; Luke 18:16)."

      In Mark 3:5 Jesus got angry because of the hardness of the hearts of the people in the synagogue who showed no compassion on the man with the withered hand. In Mark 10:14 Jesus was indignant at His disciples because they presumed that He wouldn't want to meet with and bless the the children who were brought to Him in order for Him to touch and bless them. Similar to the story of the man with the withered hand is the story of the woman who was bent over because of a spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:10-17) and the story of the man with dropsy (Luke 14:1-6). In both instances Jesus says something similar (Luke 13:15; 14:5).

      Luke13:15 Then the Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?
      Luke 14:5 And he said to them, "Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?"

      In both instances Jesus was rebuking them for their lack of compassion on the sick. In the case of the bent over woman, He even calls the ruler of the synagogue and those who agreed with him that Jesus should delay the woman's healing "hypocrites" (Luke 13:15). Jesus further said, "And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" (Luke 13:16). As if Jesus were saying sickness should never be tolerated by the people of God. They should be praying for the sick to get well without delay. I mentioned all of the above for a reason. Continued in next comment.

    2. ...I mention all of the above for a reason. If the original variant of Mark 1:41 is "angry" then it would make a lot of sense that Jesus was angry because the leper doubted that He would heal him. As if Jesus was saying by His reaction "OF COURSE I'M WILLING TO HEAL YOU!" This would be in keeping with the belief that either 1. it's always God's will to heal or 2. all things being equal God's usual and normal will is to heal (unless God has some special reason why He wouldn't). My personal view is a synthesis of these two possibilities based on the Calvinistic distinction 1. between God's Revealed Will and 2. God's Will of Decree.

      Here's my blog where I have links to Recommended Resources on Divine Healing. Here's a link to some of Vincent Cheung's books on healing and continuationism, HERE. I'm in substantial agreement with Cheung on healing partly because he too is a Calvinistic continuationist.

    3. I didn't finish reading Ehrman's discussion of Mark 1:41. SHOCKINGLY, Ehrman comes to one possible interpretation that's almost exactly like my interpretation. I came to my conclusion independent of anyone one else.

      Ehrman writes:

      29. In some ways an even closer parallel comes in a story in which Jesus' anger is not explicitly mentioned but is nonetheless evident. In Mark 9, when Jesus comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John, he finds a crowd around his disciples and a desparate man in their midst, whose son is posssessed by a demon, and who explains the situation to Jesus and then appeals to him: "If you are able, have pity on us and help us." Jesus fires back an angry response, "If you are able? Everything is possible to the one who believes." The man grows even more desparate and pleads, "I believe, help my unbelief." Jesus then casts out the demon.

      30. What is striking in these stories is that Jesus' evident anger erupts when someone doubts his willingness, ability, or divine authority to heal. Maybe this in fact is what is involved in the story of the leper. As in the story of Mark 9, someone approaches Jesus gingerly to ask: "If you are willing you are able to heal me." Jesus becomes angry. Of course he's willing, just as he is able and authorized. He heals the man and, still somewhat miffed, rebukes him sharply and throws him out.

    4. Some might say there's an internal contradiction in my position. On the one hand I claim that Jesus healed (or was willing to heal) everyone who came to Him for healing. On the other hand, I claim that Jesus healed people according to their faith. In which case, there's the possibility that some people whom Jesus ministered healing to wouldn't or didn't get healed completely or at all. Partial or failed healing would then be a possibility. Here's my tentative/provisional answer.
      The result and completeness of miracles normally (but not always) were affected by both the faith of the pray-ers and prayees. There's some sort of combinational dynamic that affects the results. Jesus as the incarnate Son of God could (and sometimes did) heal by His own power and authority (and when He did it was instant and complete). However, part of His kenosis ("emptying") and Messianic role involved His often having to do God's work by the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 10:38 says, "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus is the "author/pioneer" of our faith. Some commentators have inferred from that that Jesus Himself, with respect to His humanity, had to also possess and grow in faith like those for whom He would be a model for (i.e. Christians) in the same way He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52) and was progressively made perfect (Heb. 2:10; 5:8-9).

      Well, we have an instance of Jesus taking a sick person out of the company of (presumably) unbelieving people. In Mark 8 Jesus leads a blind man out of the village of Bethsaida (Mark 8:23). The same village which Jesus rebukes for unbelief and lack of repentance in Matt. 11:21 and Luke 10:13. We also have an instance where Jesus removes unbelieving people from the presence of a dead girl whom He was about to raise from the dead (Matt. 9:25; Mark 5:40; Luke 8:51). Based on the Biblical data and the testimony of people in modern times who were/are in the healing ministry, I speculate that sometimes Jesus isolated the sick or dead person in order to remove the atmosphere of unbelief that might adversely affect the outcome of the healing/exorcism/resurrection etc. And when there were crowds gathered who had great corporate faith for healing (not necessarily for salvation or in recognition of His messiahship) people were healed more readily than when the crowds were unbelieving. I also notice that Jesus' mentioning of people's faith was often in situations that were intimate and with few people. As if, without a crowd that's greatly believing and joining their faith with the sick person's faith, the sick person's condition and level of faith was that much more crucial in the outcome of the healing. Jesus said, where two or three are gathered in His Name, He was there in a special way than when there is just one (Matt. 18:19-20; cf. Lev. 26:8; Deut. 32:30). That is to say, with fewer people believing, the sick person's percentage of successful healing would hinge more on his own faith. This may be why Jesus sometimes asked the person whether he believed He (Jesus) could perform the miracle.

      Continued in next comment.

    5. But some might say that with this explanation I'm undermining my interpretation of Mark 6 and Matt. 13 when Jesus was in His own home town. Originally I said it wasn't because Jesus was unable to heal. Now, with this interpretation, it opens the possibility that Jesus really was unable to heal (due to their unbelief). As if His success depended on their faith. But it may not be a contradiction. It's logically possible that both are true (simultaneously re-enforcing each other). That 1. Jesus didn't heal people because the majority of the people were offended by Him and rejected His message and ministry, AND 2. Jesus healing was hindered by the fact that there was an atmosphere of unbelief that neutralized or negated the "operation" of the sick person's faith and even possibly His own faith. Jesus faith and/or knowledge seems to have been limited when He healed the blind man "who saw men as trees walking". Jesus had to minister healing to the man twice. Probably because Jesus healed the man's eyes the first time, and then the man's brain the second time. See THIS VERY INTERESTING article that possibly explains what was happening MEDICALLY while Jesus was in the process of healing that blind man, HERE. Jesus also told the woman with the issue of blood "be healed of your disease" even after the the flow of blood had already dried up (Luke 5:34). Almost as if to confirm, seal and complete her healing. Jesus didn't heal the Ten Lepers immediately. He instructed them to show themselves to the priests. It was only as they were on their way that they got healed. As if their act of faith and obedience perfected their faith to receive healing (though not necessarily since the blind man of John 9 didn't seem to have faith when he was sent to wash at the pool). Apparently it took some time for Jesus to cast out the Legion of demons because Mark 5:7-8 and Luke 8:28-29 state that the demons pleaded with Jesus not to torment them AFTER Jesus had already commanded them to come out. It wasn't instantaneous. It may have taken 2-10 minutes for all we know because a conversation ensued. Matthew records the exorcism of the deaf and mute demoniac as having happened "instantly", while Luke states that it took some time because Jesus had a conversation with the father. Matthew recorded it as an "instant" healing probably because he was comparing it to the speed at which other Jewish exorcists of the day (and former days) took to complete their exorcisms (maybe in hours). But the speed at which it took Jesus to heal the person might also be a reflection of Jesus' human faith since it didn't happen in a split second (even if it was "instant" by comparison).

      Having said all that, I affirm that each person of the Trinity can and does heal sovereignly without regard and irrespective of faith. However, God has set things up so that faith is usually involved.

    6. As I said Elsewhere about the paradoxical nature of faith:

      God has set things up so that in one sense faith is non-meritorous and is a means to magnify men's weakness and insufficiency to save themselves and conversely magnify God's sufficiency, grace and power to save.

      Yet, in another sense when Christians persevere in faith despite (and in opposition to) the presence of trials and obstacles, it affords a way for Christians to "graciously merit" greater rewards. See Hebrews chapter 11 where God commends and rewarded faith (e.g. Heb. 11:4,5, 6, 11, 38, 39).

    7. I'm expecting this to be my last post.
      Okay, I think I've answered how it can both be true that 1. Jesus healed according to the faith of the people who came to Him for healing (if not also in combination with His own faith), and 2. Jesus healed everyone who came to Him or at least was willing to do so. But but DID Jesus actually heal everyone who came to Him for healing as I speculate? And how was that possible if some people may not have had strong enough faith to receive healing? Well, first off, we do know from Scripture that there were occasions when Jesus healed all in a multitude (here are some possible verses explicitly saying it or suggesting it Matt. 4:23-25; 8:16-17; 9:35-38; 12:15; 14:14; 15:30-31; 19:2; 21:14; Mark 1:32-34; 3:10; Luke 4:18-19; 40-41; 6:17-19; 9:10-11; 13:15-16; 14:5; 17:11-19). Just because Jesus healed everyone in some multitudes doesn't mean He heal all people in every multitude. In fact, if my speculation about the atmosphere of faith is correct, then failed healings (if they occurred) would have more likely occurred in settings where there are a few people rather than many. However, and secondly, there are no cases recorded when Jesus failed to heal anyone. Some might say that the Gospel writers would be disinclined to record them because it would go contrary to their purposes. That's probably true, but if the other things the Gospel writers and the other writers of the New Testament say about Jesus is true, then Jesus was God and the Messiah. And therefore God would probably ensure that Jesus would never fail to heal anyone who came to Him for healing. Also He could have always joined His own faith with the sick person's to make up for what their faith lacked (cf. Mark 9:24). Any person of the Trinity could at any time manifest or complete a healing if ever the sick person lacked sufficient faith to receive full healing. But then, another dilemma arises. If Jesus' attitude and activity is essentially the same during the Church Age after He ascended to heaven as it was while He was here on earth, then that would mean that either Jesus heals everyone who comes to Him in faith for healing today (if necessary by filling up what's lacking in their faith), OR (to be consistent) Jesus didn't heal everyone while He was on earth just as He doesn't do so now after His ascension. And as a matter of fact, we don't see people invariably healed in a relatively short period of time like when Jesus healed multitudes on earth in a matter of hours or days (Matt. 15:32 and previous verses which show they were in the wilderness because of a "healing campaign").

      Continued in next comment.

    8. Here's my tentative/provision answer, I think Jesus is as willing and disposed to healing the sick now as He was while on earth. However, because the proof of His identity of being the messiah isn't on the line as it was while He was on earth, God (i.e. any of the persons of the Trinity) don't go out of their way to heal those who come to God through Christ for healing in the same way as when Jesus was on earth. I suspect partly in order to make room for a greater exercise of faith on the part of the sick. Faith to trust God for healing. Or faith to trust God and persevere in faith if the healing is delayed. Or faith to trust God's wisdom and goodness if it turns out that God has a purpose in refusing to heal (which can only be known via revelation). For example, it took (and simultaneously developed) great faith for Abraham and Sarah to believe that God would heal them of their barrenness even though they were already aged and waited for the fulfillment of the promise of God for many years. This can also explain why modern signs, wonders, miracles and healings seem to occur more readily in evangelistic settings where the truth of Christianity is on the line and signs follow to attest to the truth of Christianity (even if they don't authenticate it). Conversely, this might also partly explain why Christians tend to have a greater difficulty in receiving healing in this age than non-Christians who trust in God for healing or are prayed for by Christians for healing. BTW, another possible reason why mature Christians tend to have greater difficulty receiving healing as compared to less mature Christians and non-Christians is because mature Christians are more aware of the Law of God and of their own sinfulness. And therefore have less confidence in expecting healing then people who are less aware of God's requirements and how far they fall short of them. So, their godliness in this instance can be a disadvantage in a sense.

    9. You have an immensely complicated interpretation, if one can even call it an interpretation. Mine hews far closer to the actual text, and is much more straightforward.

      Problem is, you're trying to harmonize the text with all your other precommitments, instead of addressing the text on its own terms.

    10. It's true that I'm trying to harmonize the text with some pre-commitments. But most of the pre-commitments I think derive from the text itself. I'm also trying to harmonize and understand what went on in the 1st century. Either Jesus did or didn't heal everyone who came to Him for healing. Either Jesus did heal or didn't heal in proportion to someone's faith.

      My answers seems to affirm both the true/full Divinity and true/full humanity of Christ. The incarnation can account for why on the one hand Jesus (being God) sometimes seemed to heal people completely and instantly with full knowledge of the situation.

      Yet, on the other hand account for why:
      - Jesus needed to be anointed by the Holy Spirit in order to perform miracles (Acts 10:38);
      - He healed without Him being aware of it when virtue flowed from Him (Mark 5:30; Luke 8:46);
      - He needed to minister healing to a blind man twice (Mark 8:25);
      - for some reason connected the greatness or smallness of people's faith to their healing or their ability to minister healing to others (Matt. 17:19-20);
      - He asked people whether they believed He could heal them (Matt. 9:28) and then when on and tied their eventual healing to their (degree of?) faith (Matt. 9:29);
      - He expected His disciples to get as good (or nearly as good) results as He did as if He were the model to strive after (Matt. 17:19-20; Mark 9:17-19; Luke 9:40-41);
      - Jesus linked success in healing and deliverance ministry to prayer (Mark 9:29) on the heals of Him also having had a special time of prayer and communion with God, viz. the Transfiguration (something which was not uncommon; Luke 5:16; 6:12; Matt. 14:23);
      - the response to Jesus' ministry affected the amount of miracles performed (Mark 6:5);
      - it took time for Jesus to cast out demons because it didn't happen instantaneously (but at least a few minutes);
      - Jesus (apparently) instructed the disciples to occasionally use oil to minister healing (Mark 6:13; cf. James 5:14-15);
      - there were times when (it seems) God's presence to heal was greater than at other times (Luke 5:17)
      - commanded that the girl He raised from the dead be given something to eat almost as if her continued well being depended on her immediately eating something (Mark 5:43)
      - continued to minister healing by the laying on of His hands even though He previously was able to command healing by His mere verbal command. Which interestingly were both in cases where the proxy had great faith (i.e. the case of the Centurion and of the Syrophoenician woman). As if the greatness of their faith was the reason for why on those occasions He didn't need to physically be present to heal but just needed to "say the word."

  2. Annoyed, you've got nine comments here. If you keep this up, you may have to ask Steve to put your name in the list of T-bloggers!

    1. John, I wouldn't want to lower the credibility of Triablogue. I'm content with just adding my two cents at the end of all your (Triabloggers) amazing posts. I just wish more Christians were aware of the wealth of apologetical and theological material on Triablogue.

  3. Good point here. Jesus doesn't perform signs and miracles when they are detrimental. But detrimental to what? People's faith? Not in this case. Detrimental, I would say, to the glory of God among haters of God. God was most glorified in the absence of miracles in this case.