That’s the title of a great song by Chris Tomlin. It’s also an accurate theological statement.
God is many things – Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Faithful, Holy, Righteous, Just. That’s a mini-list that just skims the surface.
He’s also good.
And for some reason, when we talk about that quality of His character, it tends to anger some people.
Some people are much happier with an angry, righteous judge than they are with a compassionate, forgiving Father.
That’s one of the reasons the Pharisees hated Jesus so much – He violated their understanding of God.
He hung out with sinners.
He forgave people.
And He often healed indiscriminately.
The purpose of this post is not to go into a long theological dissertation on God’s character, but to focus in on that one specific quality of Goodness as it relates to healing. But let me just note this before we dive in to that – God is absolutely righteous, just, and holy, and He will one day judge sin completely and finally. But in the meantime, we live in the time of God’s favor – God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus at the cross. So we can unashamedly proclaim the message that God is good, that He loves, and that He gives good gifts.
Let’s look at our readings from yesterday and today (Matthew 8:5-17):
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
So what do these incidents show us about God’s goodness and His heart of compassion?
A lot, actually.
To begin with, you have Jesus healing the servant of a Roman centurion – a slave.
Jesus had been sent to “the lost sheep of Israel” – His own words – and yet, He takes the time and effort to speak with a centurion and then, amazed at the man’s faith and understanding of authority, He heals the man’s servant. He does the miraculous for a Gentile – and one who is part of the armed occupation of Israel. Politically, an enemy.
One other thought on this healing – Jesus healed a slave. Granted, the man was “paralyzed and suffering terribly.” But still, a slave. Maybe Jesus should have lectured the centurion on the evils of slavery and told him to set the man free? I don’t know. But I know this – Jesus responded to a Gentile’s faith, an occupier’s request, and healed the man’s slave. In doing so, He relieved the slave’s suffering.
Then you have the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. She had a fever. There’s no mention that anyone asked Jesus to heal her. Perhaps everyone simply expected that He would, since He had healed others, and this woman was related to Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers. We don’t know for sure. But what we do know is this – really, Jesus had no obligation to heal her – or anyone else, for that matter – except His own compassion.
His expression of His Father’s heart.
Finally, we’re told that when evening came, Jesus set free many who were demonized. And then this:
He healed all the sick.
We read that about Jesus and don’t give it much thought. But pause for a moment and think about it now.
What would it look like if Jesus walked into downtown Ridgway and healed ALL the sick – every single person who had anything – from colds, to allergies, to cancer, to degenerative diseases, to emphysema, to high blood pressure, to hypertension, to…well, everything.
Here’s the thing about healing “all the sick” – when we talk about “all” we talk about EVERYONE.
Including people whose sicknesses are their own faults.
I’m not saying all sickness is caused by personal sin.
But here’s a truth – sometimes, we contribute to our own sickness.
We eat poorly.
We don’t exercise.
We don’t get enough rest.
We don’t take care of our bodies.
And stuff starts to break down over time.
But Jesus healed “all the sick.”
That includes everyone who suffered from preventable things.
It also includes people who had done – or might in the future, do – illegal things.
Don’t you think that, in that town, there were people sick who were thieves? Zealots? Cheats?
Perhaps there was a murderer who had covered up their crime.
Perhaps someone who was extorting a neighbor.
I don’t know. And I’m not excusing any of those things, nor encouraging them.
All I’m saying is this – Jesus had enough compassion that He healed all of them.
He didn’t have to.
But He did.
And why did He do that?
Because His Father told Him to.
Oh, we’re not told that specifically. But we know from John 5:19, for example, that Jesus only did what His Father told Him to do – what He “saw” in His Spirit that His Father wanted Him to do.
The point is this – when we pray for the sick, we know God is willing. We saw that in our readings on Monday through Wednesday. We also know that God is gracious and compassionate – we see that in yesterday’s and today’s readings.
So don’t be afraid to pray for the sick. Don’t struggle with thoughts like “is this God’s will?”
The Father is perfectly capable of revealing how we should pray, if we are listening.
But we don’t need to wonder if God is good, or if He is compassionate, or if He will heal people who maybe don’t deserve it.
None of us deserve it.
None of the people in that village deserved it. But Jesus healed them all.
Because He did what His Father told Him to do.
And because His Father – our Father – is good.