Why did Jesus command his disciples to heal the sick?

Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Matthew 10:1 He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.

Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’

Even though Jesus commanded the twelve and then the seventy-two to heal the sick as they proclaimed the kingdom of God to the lost, the Church today no longer obeys this command. In fact, this command is ignored and almost never taught to believers today. Anyone who tries to heal the sick—not just pray for the sick—is likely viewed with suspicion and thought to be straying from the word of God.

Nevertheless, the Scriptures above still stand. It is clear that not only the twelve apostles were commanded to heal the sick. A similar command was also given to the seventy-two “ordinary” disciples as they were sent out to preach the gospel. Even after Jesus ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost, his disciples continued to heal the sick as we can read recorded in Acts.

Today, however, hardly any believer heals the sick as Jesus taught his disciples. However, many can pray for the sick. In the great majority of the prayers offered up to the Lord for the sick, either God says “no” or he uses a natural process to heal gradually, perhaps through modern medicine. Although this is well and good, it is not what Jesus had in mind when he commanded his disciples to heal the sick when he sent them out. It is interesting that not once in any of the four gospels did Jesus tell his disciples to pray for the sick. Rarely if at all do we see in the New Testament any specific testimonies of infirm people being miraculously healed as a result of prayer to God alone. Instead, the miraculous healings often took place through a human vessel who exercised his authority by giving a command to the infirmity or the infirm person (or the demon) in the name of Jesus Christ.

Why did Jesus command his disciples to heal the sick when he sent them out to proclaim the gospel?

To understand this, let us look at Mark 2 where Jesus is ministering to a house full of people with teachers of the law present. There was a paralytic who came to be healed. In front of everyone Jesus said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The teachers of the law were shocked hearing his words because clearly only God alone can forgive sins. Then Jesus said, “…that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.

By healing the paralytic authoritatively, Jesus proved that he also had authority to forgive sin. That is why Jesus gave authority to heal infirmities to his disciples as he sent them out. The authority to heal the sick in the name of Jesus would prove that Jesus also had authority to forgive sins and thus to save souls from condemnation. Miraculous healings performed with the authority of Jesus Christ confirm the truth of the gospel.

Let’s try to understand this very important principle.

The ultimate origin of all disease is, of course, original sin. If Adam had not sinned, there would be no sickness among us today. We are not saying that whenever we get sick, it must be because we first committed a sin. Rather, since we are born with a sinful nature inherited from Adam, our bodies are subject to diseases and infirmities. Jesus died to forgive our sins and to put to death our old sinful nature.

Infirmities are thus the consequence of the sinful nature which results in the commission of sin. The one who has the authority to do away with the consequence of sin also has authority to do away with sin itself. To make this clear, let us take the example of a debt that we owe to our bank. This debt can be a figure of speech representing our sins against God, which must be paid for by eternal suffering in hell. Before the debt is paid off, however, the bank without fail charges us interest which we must pay each month. Using the same illustration, the interest can represent earthly suffering on earth because of our sins, for example, infirmities.

Let’s say one day we wake up and discover that the bank is no longer demanding interest payments from us. How is this possible? There is only one way that a bonafide bank would no longer require us to pay interest. If our debt has been completely paid off, then we no longer pay interest. The one with the authority to stop the interest payments is ultimately the one who has paid off the debt.

It is the same with infirmities and sin. The one with the authority to heal infirmities is the one who has authority to forgive sins.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

During his ministry on earth, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy by healing many sick people. On what legal basis did he take up infirmities?

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Jesus had authority to heal our infirmities because he died on the cross to bear our sins. He would pay off our debt to God and the interest payments could be stopped.

The sin nature in us is invisible. The outward evidence of our hidden sin nature are our sinful deeds and the existence of physical disease in our bodies. Even if we suffer from infirmities and injuries caused by a drunk driver, the cause is still someone’s sin—that of the drunk driver. Jesus’ authority to heal the visible showed that he had general authority to do away with the underlying cause.

Of course, doctors and medicine can in a manner of speaking heal infirmities. There are also witchdoctors and “healers” who may appear to heal supernaturally. But it is important to realize how they practice their healing. They do not have authority to heal as Jesus did. Instead, they employ sacrifices of appeasement, charms, mantras, spells and the like. All these methods do not involve the exercise of authority.

Jesus by contrast healed the sick by rebuking and giving commands to the infirmities. He exercised his authority. It is clear that only God who is over all has such authority over disease (and everything else, for that matter). Kings get things done by issuing commands; they do not ask or beg. Through his authority over disease and demons, Jesus proved that he was King and the Son of the only true God. If one cannot exercise authority to heal, one’s power to heal is not from the one true God. (An exception to this is the “gift of healing” from the Holy Spirit.)

Now we can understand why Jesus gave authority to his disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons as he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God. With that authority they would rebuke and command diseases and demons to go in the name of Jesus Christ. The ensuing miracles would prove to the lost that sins also could be forgiven in his name. They would prove that the kingdom of God was near, and that Jesus was the King and the only way to the Father. They would confirm the truth of the gospel.

Jesus gave such authority to those whom he sent out two thousand years ago. Today similar authority is given to those who are sent out to proclaim the gospel. Every disciple of Jesus Christ is sent out to the world as his witness. Therefore every disciple of Jesus Christ has a measure of authority over disease and demons. Unfortunately, for centuries this authority to heal has lain dormant and has not been used by the Church. Instead we just stand by helplessly and trust God to heal the sick for us.

No wonder very few are instantly healed when we pray and ask God to do what He has already commanded and given us the authority to do. No wonder the Church has failed to complete the Great Commission two thousand years after Christ commanded us to disciple all nations. Many unbelievers—especially Musl__ms, Hindus, Buddhists, and idol-worshipers—simply will not believe unless they see miracles.

A final word: Let us not make the mistake of concluding that the inverse is also true. The inverse is: if someone is not healed from their infirmity, it means that his sins have not been forgiven. As an example, if a person is a mother, that person must be a woman. But is the inverse of that statement also true? The inverse is: if a person is not a mother, than that person must not be a woman. Clearly the inverse does not also hold. A woman who is not a biological mother is indeed still a woman. A person who is not healed physically can still be forgiven of his sin.

Moreover, a person who is healed of his infirmity is not necessarily forgiven from his sins. And not everyone whose sins are forgiven is also healed of their infirmities. Man is still appointed to die. But Jesus’ authority over disease in a general and overarching way demonstrated his authority to forgive sins and thus to grant eternal life.

 

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