Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them—Luke 7:21-22
A HIP REPLACEMENT
My wife, Chrissy, just had a hip replacement—a nice porcelain ball joint, titanium hip stem and ceramic liner. It got me to thinking that when Jesus beckoned human civilization to follow him, it’s always been assumed that He meant spiritually. The success of Jesus’ spiritual message was to a large degree a result of the miracles He performed while on earth. These established and defined His special relationship with God as His son. In the last two centuries, it seems, His miracles have somewhat lost their luster because of advances in medical science. Perhaps we only got one-half of His message?
JESUS’S MIRACLES IN SCRIPTURE
Jesus performed thirty-seven recorded miracles, writes Mary Fairchild in 37 Miracles of Jesus. . These comprised: turning water into wine, multiplying fishes and loaves, curing the blind, the lame, the deaf, and bringing the dead back to life. According to the Evangelist John, there were apparently countless other miracles not recorded during Jesus’ ministry. The Apostle Matthew related that as Jesus “went about all the cities and villages” He cured “every disease and every weakness.”
For nearly two millennia Christians have stood in awe of these miracles. But starting in the 1900s medical scientists have seemingly duplicated many of the Jesus healings (at least in the cure achieved) and in so doing may have diminished the impact of His awe-inspiring acts.
CURING LEPERS, THE BLIND AND THE DEAF
In Mathew 8:2-3 we learn that Jesus cured a leper and in Luke 17:11-19 ten lepers. Today few people even know what leprosy is or was, inasmuch as it was essentially eradicated in the 1940s by the development of drugs. These drugs eliminated both the disease, and the colonies which had been established to isolate contagious patients. Even the disease’s name has been changed (to Hansen’s Disease).
Jesus gave sight to the blind many times. The Gospels of the Apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John include nine cumulative specific instances of Jesus curing the blind. Today doctors can cure or repair many types of blindness, cataracts, glaucoma, macular edema; even corneas can be transplanted—feats unequalled since Jesus.
In one instance the Apostle Mark relates that Jesus cured a deaf man—the only reported such cure by Jesus. Modern medicine cures or improves deafness through hearing aids and cochlear implants.
CURING THE LAME AND THE PARALYZED
Jesus cured the crippled, the lame and paralyzed. Six specific cumulative instances of Jesus curing cripples (or lameness) are mentioned in the evangelist’s gospels. Mark also tells of us of Jesus curing a paralyzed man with palsy. Polio, which once crippled millions, has been eradicated by vaccine. Today, on a daily basis, doctors replace hips and knees with artificial ones. Newly developed prosthetics, hands, for example, can even have the sense of touch. Mark at 5:25-34 also writes of Jesus curing a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. He doesn’t give us enough information to ascertain exactly what the malady was—maybe tuberculosis, a hemophiliac, menorrhagia, hemorrhoids or a bleeding ulcer—but all these conditions are now routinely treated and cured or controlled by modern medicine.
RAISING THE DEAD; CASTING OUT DEMONS
On three different recorded occasions Jesus raised dead persons and brought them back to life: the widow’s son Nain; Jairus’ daughter; and Lazarus. Nowadays surgeons, paramedics, EMT’s, flight attendants and scores of others routinely bring people back to life every day by restarting their hearts with electric paddles and/or injections of epinephrine (adrenalin). It’s considered normal today for life-support systems to keep comatose patients alive and thus give their bodies and minds a chance to recover. Moreover, adult stem cell therapy, wherein a person’s own stem cells are used to cure their own physical ailments, promises to yield modern medical miracles. Unlike the case of Lazarus, nobody has brought back to life a “foul-smelling” dead person four days after he died and had been buried, as Jesus did.
On numerous occasions Jesus cast out demons from individuals. It is unlikely that people in Jesus’ time differentiated between mental illness and actual demonic possession. Mental illnesses—schizophrenia, multiple personalities and bipolar disorder—were not understood then. Today modern medicine has identified scores of mental diseases and routinely treat them with surgery and medication. That such cures are possible does not disprove the existence of demons, even thoughh many consider demonic possession “superstitious hogwash.” Indeed, according to Alex Hey of EpicPew ,“ many bishops and those involved in exorcism [report] incidences of occult activity are on the rise worldwide.”
MEDICAL SCIENCE VERSUS JESUS’S HEALING MIRACLES
So perhaps it is true that Jesus’s miracles are not as awe inspiring now as they once were—that their relevance is diminished. The works of Jesus could be better appreciated as miraculous in earlier times: the middle ages (400 AD – 1500 AD) or the age of exploration (1500 AD – 1700 AD) or even the industrial revolution (1760 AD – 1840 AD).
The question then is, “Was Jesus’ message to us only a spiritual one?” Is it possible that in performing His miracles Jesus was daring and inspiring us to emulate Him scientifically? We don’t know if the men and women cured by Jesus suffered any “post-cure” discomfort such as patients today suffer “post-operative pain.” We assume they didn’t because the apostles never refer to such. We simply don’t know for sure but even if they did suffer a little—a cure is a cure is a cure. In one memorable passage the Apostle Mark relates one instance when Jesus was attempting a cure of a blind man and was forced to do a “do over.” At first the blind man conceded he could see but it was murky. Jesus then fixed the botched miracle by performing a “do-over” to complete the miracle. There are a number of theories as to why. Maybe it’s simply that Jesus was human and in performing the “do over” He defined His humanity. Was He possibly encouraging us “to try, try again?”—setting the example for us that even for Him things didn’t come easy.
Over the past two millennia theologians have interpreted and reinterpreted Jesus’ miracles—assessing and suggesting that they symbolized something greater than the miracle itself. Maybe it is much simpler. As Peter could walk on water when he had faith in himself and faltered when he lost that faith, Jesus’ miracles were His beckoning us to not only improve ourselves spiritually but to use our ability to aid our bodies when in need. As written in Thessalonians 5:21: “Test everything and hold on to what is good.” After all our body is our soul’s temple.