And he journeyed over the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the glad news of the kingdom and healing all disease and debility among the people. So word of him spread throughout Syria. And they brought to him all who were sick, suffering from many kinds of illness and enduring pain; the demon-possessed, epileptics and paralytics. And he healed them. And large crowds followed him, from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea, and from beyond the Jordan.

This looks like a kind of trailer for the ministry of Jesus, a quick taster of his main activities, teaching, preaching and healing, with great emphasis on the last of these. But it is probably exaggerated. Mark gives the reader the impression of a inspired teacher and healer working in small villages, while Matthew insists on a mainstream charismatic gathering huge crowds from towns and cities over a wide area. In this passage the magical word is “all”; no area is untouched, no person unhealed. God’s will is being done in earth.

We have to reckon with the historical fact that Jesus was a healer. The united witness of the gospels cannot be set aside. There are occasional glimpses of him using techniques of contemporary healers, touching, anointing with spittle, for example, but mainly he heals by paying attention to the sick person, seeking his or her trust, and issuing a command. He often re- assures the patient with the phrase “YOUR faith has healed you.” There is no reason to think that such healings are impossible. In many parts of today’s world, people are still healed in this way.

We should however note that the kinds of illness mentioned belong to the class of illnesses most closely related to malfunctions of the nervous system, whereas dysentery, flu’ and broken bones are not mentioned. This may be an indication of the limits of faith- healing, however inspired. All the gospels tell of Jesus’ healings as miracles, but each writer uses these stories to reveal the character of Jesus’ ministry, particularly his outreach to people regarded as beyond the pale. Matthew has his own very profound interpretation of the healings as we will see.

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