By Tim Sullivan


Jesus said that one of the signs that “shall follow them that believe” was “they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mk. 16:17-18). Examining this single passage could lead to the assumption that a miracle of healing is guaranteed every time someone has the boldness to lay hands on the sick. Even Jesus could not simply impose his good will on others. Mark 6:5 testifies that while he was in Capernaum, “he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.” What hindered the Lord’s work? Verse six says, “And he marvelled because of their unbelief.”

Through my years of ministry, I have laid hands on hundreds of people in need of physical and spiritual deliverance. Believers have laid hands on me in my own times of need as well. I know the joy of witnessing complete and instantaneous healing for others and for myself. I know by experience that what Jesus said is true. On the other hand I have known the disappointment of seeing people unchanged after I ministered to them. There have been times when I myself did not respond to prayers for my recovery as I hoped I might. These inconsistencies perturbed me. What accounted for these seemingly random successes and failures?

One day I was reading the Bible and a verse seemed to jump off the page.

Luke 5:17:
And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.

If that day “the power of the Lord was present to heal them,” there must have been other occasions when it was not present. What conditions must be met in order for the power of the Lord to be present to heal?


In a number of biblical records of deliverance, nothing is required of the person in need except to be in need. This is very evident in the story of the healing of the man born blind.

John 9:1-2:
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This verse does not condemn the act of conception but rather confirms the truth that all men are born dead in trespasses and sins. The disciples were not suggesting that this man’s physical blindness had been caused by his sinful condition. They were suggesting that he had committed an act of sin before he was born (though one must wonder how such a thing might be possible). To the disciples, the only other possibility was to accuse the parents. Undoubtedly they too wanted to know the cause of this birth defect. Had something gone awry during the pregnancy? Was God angry with them? Had they been cursed? Jesus put an end to their wondering once and for all.

v. 3:
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

This man was born blind for one reason – to be healed by Jesus. Neither Satan, sin, nor circumstance had caused this malady. This man was a chosen vessel for God’s glory. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day,” said Jesus, “the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (vv. 4-5).

v. 6:
When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.)

The blind man “went his way,” says verse seven, “and washed, and came seeing.” Like Naaman in the days of Elisha, he did as he was told. However his obedience can hardly be called faith in God. This man did not know who Jesus was! When the Pharisees later questioned him about Jesus, he said, “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (v. 25). This healing was not about the faith of the blind man. The occurrence of that day transcended the significance of the unnamed man who saw for the first time. Though others aforetime had done many of the same miracles Jesus did, no one had ever opened the eyes of the blind. That work was reserved for the Messiah. Even the once-blind man himself knew that this was a very special miracle. “Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind,” he said (v. 32). The closest anyone came to doing such a thing was when Elisha prayed that God would open (that is to say reopen) the eyes of the Syrian army after he had first “prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha” (2 Kings 6:18).

The healing of the man born blind is an example of an “evangelistic” healing – the kind of healing most frequently recorded in the Gospels and in the book of Acts. Such healings say nothing about the faith of the recipients, for the recipient is yet unsaved. Such a healing is used by God to call people to his kingdom. In modern times these healings are often witnessed in evangelistic campaigns to third-world countries. It is not (as some people surmise) that such people have more faith that we in the West. The fact is, the West has been sufficiently evangelized. Now we need to learn to walk in truth.

I am not saying that there is no healing for the saved. The Bible and personal experience proves otherwise. However when we realize that the primary reason for healing is not the maintenance of the human body but spiritual awakening, a lot of questions are put to rest. Some things in life must be endured. That is why Paul (who clearly understood healing better than any of us) could say, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (1 Cor. 12:10).


The statement that “the power of the Lord was present to heal them” is found in the record of the healing of the man sick with palsy. This account is featured in three of the four gospels: Matthew chapter 9, Mark chapter 2 and Luke chapter 5. All three records suggest that this event occurred fairly early in Jesus’ ministry; for the calling out of Levi, or Matthew, immediately follows.

By consulting all three records, we can discover the circumstances that surrounded this healing. Matthew 9:1 states that Jesus had come into “his own city.” Mark identifies this city as Capernaum, and tells us that “he preached the word unto them.”

Mark 2:1-2:
And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.

From Luke 5:17, we learn that Jesus was not only preaching but “he was teaching” and that “there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by.” But what was his message? What was his message that day and every day? “I must preach the kingdom of God,” he said in Luke 4:43, “for therefore am I sent.” Matthew 4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As Jesus later said on the road to Emmaus, he had come “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lk. 24:47). The road to forgiveness begins with repentance. This was his message that day in Capernaum as well.

Luke 5:18-19:
And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

Verse 20 says, “And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” It was not the faith of the sick man only that impressed Jesus, but of his friends as well. That he “saw their faith” had to be a revelation. But from what we have learned so far, what can we surmise that they believed? Did the sick man have faith to be healed, like the lame man of Lystra?

Acts 14:8-10:
And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked:
9 The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,
10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

If so, Jesus gave him a very strange answer. Jesus had been teaching the people to repent and believe the gospel. The words of truth had found their mark in the hearts of these men. They had repented of their sins. When Jesus realized this he said, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.”

The scribes and the Pharisees were incensed. “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” they said within themselves (Lk. 5:21). Had they realized who was standing before them, they would have realized they had answered their own question! Jesus responded to them as if they had voiced their thoughts for all to hear.

Luke 5:22-24:
But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.

Herein is an amazing truth. Healing is a token of forgiveness from God. Like forgiveness, healing is a gift of mercy. Upon our repentance we are given a new beginning. Our sins are blotted out as though they never occurred. A gift of healing is a tangible token of a fresh beginning.

Acts 3:19:
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

The man sick with palsy had repented. He had believed and received remission of his sins. This miraculous healing was a token of his forgiveness. Jesus began his sentence speaking to the religious dignitaries. “That ye [you scribes and Pharisees] may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins,” he said turning to the bed-ridden man, “I say unto thee [you, sick with palsy], Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.”

Luke 5:25-26:
And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.
26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.

A gift of healing is a token of forgiveness to all that repent and believe. Forgiveness of sin and healing go hand in hand.

Psalm 41:4:
I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.

Psalm 103:2-3:
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

What can we say to these things? Where there is the anointed Word of God presented with power, love, and compassion, and where there are hearts turned to the Lord in repentance, the power of the Lord will be present to heal. The Bible declares this truth and historical accounts of miraculous healings in revival tents and mission fields around the world confirm it. Praise, honor and glory to the one who makes such things possible. Praise the Lord!



From the May 2008 issue of The Vine & Branches