Two groups of healing are to be distinguished in Jesus’ ministry:
1) deliverance from devils, and 2) cures from disease and sickness. “. . . and a great multitude of people. . . came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.” (Luke 6:17-19).
Question. How can Luke so briefly summarize the ‘never seen before’ profound ministry of Jesus like this? I mean, it has so few words, so much going on, and so loaded with wonder and mystery? And this initial assessment is not only my take on it; how about every individual of the multitude? It’s easy to gloss over this account and feel a glaze come over my eyes, like, what do I do with this? But wait: could Luke actually have given us more than we first thought? Is there actually a lot of precision to this? And how does the back story fit into this?
The context: these are Jesus’ early days, right after he dealt with Satan in the wilderness while fasting and being tempted. We’ve seen him get royally rejected by his own home town, teach the Word with astonishing authority, deliver a demoniac and heal Peter’s mother-in-law and then a whole group of sickos and devilized folks. He’s healed a leper, become famous, then pressed into healing multitudes, healed a man with palsy let down through the roof while the Scribes and Pharisees argue with him about his terribly bad taste in healing a withered hand on the Sabbath. Meanwhile, Jesus has taught on the Sabbath, chosen his Twelve (which surprised everyone), and is just getting going, which brings us to chapter Six. Short story: throwing out devils and healing the incurable is so very new.
Let’s get back to 6:17-19. It’s a period of consideration about Jesus: the commoners love him; the leaders hate him, almost instantly. So, it’s time to examine two cool words that describe Jesus’ healing ministry to the multitudes. The first is ἰάομαι or in English iaomai and is translated ‘I heal’. (We are shifting to the original language of the New Testament known as First Century common Greek and it just might help us get past English in case it’s a little in the way. You see, there are two different words for ‘healing’ in these verses, but we don’t know that from our English Bible. However, we really don’t have to be so smart to understand this because, remember, Jesus didn’t set us up to fail).
ἰάομαι is used twice: once in v. 17 – ‘they came to . . . be healed of their diseases’. And then once in v. 19 – ‘he healed them all.’ What healed them was his δύναμις or ‘virtue’ (cf. dunamis often translated as ‘power’ in other places). The power of Jesus is greater than disease in every match up in the NT! The thing to remember is, though Luke’s description of how the process worked is brief in this example (but not always, see Luke 5:17-26), the demonstration of Jesus’ power makes it clear that the Kingdom of God is with him and has broken through with healing in this sick world. Awesome.
The second word for healing in this passage is θεραπεύω or in English letters therapeuo. It’s found in verse 18 – “. . . and they (came) that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.” The healing came by way of exorcism with which we are already acquainted from Luke 4:33-36 and 4:41. It should be noted that the first mighty work Jesus did after returning from defeating Satan in the desert was to cast out a devil in the synagogue (4:36). But it wasn’t enough to simply drive out the devil in all these cases. Luke says he ‘healed’ them. What? Was there wreckage damage done too?
Luke describes the situation for demoniacs as ἐνοχλούμενοι (enocloumenoi), literally in + crowd, ‘a mob on the inside’ or “vexed with unclean spirits” (cf. Luke 8:26-39 the healing of the wild man of Gadara who had a ‘legion’ of devils inhabiting him). The combined chaos of that mob yacking at the poor souls brought wretchedness and torment, not peace. We get the word ‘therapy’ from this. Jesus gave not just physical therapy but also psycho-therapy, but not with counseling or drugs, but with his word.
Very similar language is used in Matt. 8:16 – “When even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick” (‘sick’ is the word κακῶσ and is translated ‘evil, evilly-affected, miserably, grievously, sorely,
psycho-poisoning’ – all of which describe the mental and physical anguish and torture Satan lays on people). Again, Luke writes in 8:2 of “certain women, which had been healed (θεραπεὐω) of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils”.
As Jesus healed people under demonic powers he was demonstrating a superior kingdom. The amazing miracle is his superiority, his power over the dark forces which struggle against us. That victory was already decided in his fasting and temptation with Satan, and settled forever at the Cross. Every time he cast out a devil and healed someone it was a foretaste of that which is to come, at the end of the age, when Satan will be imprisoned forever. The essential feature is that already Jesus’ Kingdom has broken into the sufferings of this world and the powers arrayed against it. And he has the victory in the conflict for mastery over this realm. This is how deep the New Testament goes in fixing man’s overwhelming and unsolvable situation. It’s not something you’ll hear on the nightly news. But it directly concerns you.
In closing, it’s on my heart to ask you that if the Holy Spirit is showing you that you’re struggling under the power of an unclean spirit, let’s take care of that right now. Remember, Jesus simply issued a command to cure sickness and drive out devils. So let’s do that. Lay your hand right on the screen. Let’s
pray together and say out loud: ‘It is written, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils….they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18) Satan, we command you in the name of Jesus Christ to release me right now and leave immediately! Be gone! (Pause, sigh for a moment if you need to). And now, my friend, one more thing, lay your hand on the place that is sick, and say aloud: “Jesus Christ makes me whole” (Acts 9:34). In Jesus’ name, be healed. Amen. Peace.