Are miraculous healings a thing of the past?

By Contributor Dr. Prabu David

Jesus heals an official’s son (John 4: 46-54) 

Dr. Prabu David

Jesus chose Cana in Galilee as the site of his first healing. Incidentally, Cana is the site where Jesus turned water into wine, which is his first miracle even before the launch of his ministry. But this time, before he arrived in Cana, some Galileans who had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover had witnessed his miracles and were spreading the word about Jesus in Cana. Details of the miracles in Jerusalem are not reported and we have to settle for his healing in Cana as the first detailed account.

Before the miracle is presented the gospel writer offers an interesting insight into Jesus’ frame of mind. Though miracles and healings were an integral part of Jesus’s ministry, before granting the royal official his wish, Jesus says, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe” (John 4: 48). This is not a resounding endorsement of miracles. Rather, his statement frames miracles as means to an end, which is the nurturance of faith.

The qualified endorsement of miracles has led cessationists to the conclusion that the miracles that were necessary to establish Jesus’ deity in the early Christian movement do not serve a purpose today in the mature Christian faith. Practitioners of faith, however, believe that miraculous healings are every bit as real and relevant today as they were in the early church.

In this miracle, a royal official made the trip from Capernaum to Cana and asked Jesus to “come and heal” his dying son. Of course, Jesus offered the cure, but with an interesting wrinkle. The royal official believed Jesus would have to accompany him to Capernaum for a cure. Jesus, on the other hand, offered a long-distance miracle. “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The official hurried home and was met by a band of servants who conveyed the good news that his son was alive and that the fever had gone. When the servants reported the time the fever had broken, the royal official observed that it matched the very hour of Jesus’ pronouncement of healing.

This healing miracle offers some interesting insights. It appears that despite the important role of healing in Jesus’s ministry, he used it mainly as part of a toolkit to improve the faith of his followers. We also see the efficacy of Jesus’ healing power was not limited to colocation. He was able to offer healings over a distance. The faith of the royal official is noteworthy and in some ways reminiscent of Naaman’s faith. Much like Naaman, a powerful warrior who sought a cure for leprosy from the prophet Elisha in the Old Testament, the royal traveled some distance to seek a cure and received a miracle without touch or fanfare, but through the sheer efficacy of faith.

The willingness of the royal official to humble himself brings into sharp focus a parent’s love for a sick or broken child. Sickness or death of a child can be a devastating blow to faith or it could be the catalyst that brings parents closer to God. The more I think about this miracle, I am also struck by the importance of the father-child relationship and individual and societal failings in nurturing this bond. If you have other thoughts or lessons that can be drawn from this first healing miracle of Jesus, please share them on this forum. Do you believe in miraculous healing? Have you experienced a miracle? We would love to hear from you.

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