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Lesson 5 January 25-31

Discipling the Sick


Read for This Week’s Study: Isa. 53:4, Matt. 8:17, Mark 2:1-12, Phil. 4:4-9, 1 John 3:20-22, John 11:37-44.

Memory Text: Large crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. (Matthew 15:30-31, NIV)

During His ministry, Jesus devoted more time to healing the sick than to preaching. His miracles testified to the truth of His words, that He came not to destroy, but to save. Wherever He went, the tidings of His mercy preceded Him. Where He had passed, the objects of His compassion were rejoicing in health and making trial of their new-found powers. Crowds were collecting around them to hear from their lips the works that the Lord had wrought. His voice was the first sound that many had ever heard, His name the first word they had ever spoken, His face the first they had ever looked upon. Why should they not love Jesus and sound His praise? As He passed through the towns and cities He was like a vital current, diffusing life and joy.”-Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 19, 20.

Sunday January 26

The Healing Messiah

Read Isaiah 53:4, Matthew 8:17, and John 9:1-3. In what way are we to understand these texts? What questions do they raise? What hope do they offer us?

In antiquity, sickness was considered the result of sinful actions. (And even today, who hasn’t at times-even if only for a moment-wondered if illness, either their own or that of a loved one, wasn’t brought on as a punishment for sin?) In the book of Job, his friends suggested that his misfortunes, which included personal illness, resulted from hidden faults; the implication was that somehow his sinfulness caused his predicament. Similarly, Christ’s disciples understood blindness as punishment for someone’s sinfulness. This suggests that sickness required not diagnosis or medication but atonement. Matthew references Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, stating that Christ fulfilled this prediction and that healing can be found in Him.

Various ancient pagan traditions included healing deities; none, however, proposed that gods actually took the infirmities upon themselves. Isaiah foretold a Redeemer who would assume our sicknesses and sinfulness. Other ancient traditions made provision for substitutionary atonement in order to benefit royalty. Substitutes were sacrificed in the king’s place in order to satisfy divine designs against a king, thus transferring evil’s punishment from one individual to another. Nowhere, however, were there traditions of kings dying as substitutes for their subjects.

This, however, is exactly what Isaiah said, and what Matthew confirmed: heaven’s Royalty suffering human sicknesses. Interestingly enough, the word translated as griefs in Isaiah 53:4 comes from a Hebrew word that means, basically, sickness or disease.

Jesus recognized that His mission was both to preach deliverance and to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:17-19). He attracted many through the power that came from His love and character. Others followed Him because they admired His easily understood preaching. Still others became disciples because of how He treated the impoverished. Many, however, followed Christ because He had touched and healed their brokenness.

We all have our broken places. How can we learn to disciple others through sympathy in their own brokenness-a brokenness that we can understand so well because of our own?

Monday January 27

Healing the Body

Study Mark 2:1-12. What can we learn regarding the connection between physical sickness and sinfulness? What lessons should we not take from this story, as well?

Contrary to biblical doctrine, ancient Greek philosophy separated the spiritual (soul) and physical (body) dimensions of human existence. Believing that human souls were immortal, many Greeks devalued the importance of their bodies. Because bodies were temporal, passing away with time, they were considered less valuable than was the enduring soul.

In fact, in one of the most famous texts from antiquity, Plato depicts his teacher Socrates, who is about to face death, as waxing long and eloquently on how corrupt and evil the body is, and that at death his immortal soul will finally be free to do all the things that the body has hindered it from doing.

The Bible, of course, teaches something radically different. Human bodies are the direct creation of God, who fearfully and wonderfully made them (Ps. 139:14). Furthermore, bodies are not separate from souls. Body, mind, and spirit are merely differing aspects of human personality or existence, not independently existent entities. Consequently, whatever affects the body affects mind and spirit, the other interrelated aspects of personhood. Thus, whenever Christ healed, He was not merely eradicating cancer or curing heart disease; He was transforming the physical, mental, and spiritual human experience.

Jesus healed more than just bodies. Christ always healed whole persons. His wholistic approach recognized that physical health was inseparable from spiritual health. Through physical healing He effected spiritual transformation. That was, to a great degree, the whole purpose. After all, why heal people who in the long run will die anyway and face eternal destruction at the end of time?

Though sickness can result directly from sinful practices, so often people, even infants, get sick for no obvious reason other than that we are all victims of a fallen world. Why is it so important to keep this sad truth in mind when seeking to minister to anyone who is sick or who is agonizing over a sick loved one?

Tuesday January 28

Healing the Mind and Body

Through physical healing and mental restoration, Jesus made disciples. Often Christ’s patients suffered both mental and physical diseases. Physical restoration itself was never the final objective. The ultimate goal was always discipleship. Healing could provide twenty, fifty, perhaps seventy-five additional quality years. Discipleship offered eternal life with Christ.

In Luke 8:26-39, the demon-possessed man from the Gerasene region begged to accompany Jesus. Instead, Christ commissioned him to evangelize his family and townspeople. Having been so miraculously delivered, he could be a powerful witness for Jesus.

Study Matthew 6:19-34, 1 Peter 5:7, 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, Philippians 4:4-9, and 1 John 3:20-22. How might the principles taught in these verses relieve the anxiety, guilt, and shame that underlie many mental illnesses?

Physical sickness is sometimes caused by mental stimuli. The relationship between mind and body is well-established by medical science. Anxiety predisposes some to stomach problems. Worry causes sleep disorders. Uncontrollable anger factors into heart disease. Teaching people about mental-health principles should highlight the importance of trusting God, naturally leading them toward personal spiritual commitment and full discipleship.

Each day has its burdens, its cares and perplexities; and when we meet how ready we are to talk of our difficulties and trials. So many borrowed troubles intrude, so many fears are indulged, such a weight of anxiety is expressed, that one might suppose we had no pitying, loving Saviour ready to hear all our requests and to be to us a present help in every time of need.-Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 121.

Though a close walk with the Lord is no guarantee of good health, there’s no question that the peace of mind that comes from knowing the Lord can have a positive impact on us, even physically. What are some practical ways in which we can learn to take the principles taught in today’s lesson and apply them to ourselves, especially if we are prone toward worry?

Wednesday January 29

The Resurrection and the Life

In a world where death always has the final word, at least for now, what great hope is found in these verses? Luke 7:11-17, Mark 5:21-43, John 11:37-44.

Politicians, entertainers, and athletes must necessarily offer something to generate a following. Politicians utilize hypnotic rhetoric and incredible promises. Entertainers use their abilities to generate emotion and audience identification. Athletes amaze throngs with their physical skills. Envious onlookers follow, wishing they possessed such prowess.

What does Jesus offer? Reduced unemployment? Fatter paychecks? Amazing ball-handling skills? Incredible vocal range? Tear-jerking performances? Instead, Jesus offers something no one else in the world can: eternal life in a new world. In contrast to that, what else matters?

While television shopping networks insult our intelligence with their too-good-to-be-true offers, Jesus seemingly exceeds their excesses with His deal-of-a-lifetime: eternal life priced for nothing with absolutely no shipping and handling charges! Skeptics would doubtless scoff about such an unprecedented offer. Competitors would manufacture cheap imitations (such as Satan’s immortal-soul concept). Potential buyers would cautiously investigate the claims. So, Jesus provided three known demonstrations to counter the skeptics, expose imitations, and satisfy genuine seekers. Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son, and, finally, Lazarus proved that this too-good-to-be-true offer was authentic. Disease and accidents might initially prevail, but eternal life would ultimately conquer. Healing would not happen every time requested, but everlasting life was guaranteed to all who made Jesus their Savior.

It’s the same with us today. As we know, many times the healing we want just simply does not come in the way that we want it. People linger, even for years, from debilitating and painful diseases that, far from being healed, sometimes get worse. Others die from disease, despite anointing and prayer. We have no answers as to why, in some cases, healing comes now, and in others it doesn’t.

What we do have, though, is something so much better than even a miraculous healing, and that is the promise of the resurrection to eternal life at the end of the age, when Jesus will come and the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever (Dan. 7:18, NKJV).

Why is this promise-the promise of eternal life-so crucial and so important to us? Where would we be without it? What hope would you have for anything, anything at all, without it?

Thursday January 30

Christ’s Healing Legacy

Review Acts 3:1-19; 5:12-16; 9:36-42; 20:7-10; 1 Corinthians 12:7-9, 28-31; and James 5:13-16. How should modern Christians evaluate the importance of healing ministry to the New Testament church?

First-century disciples witnessed firsthand Christ’s promise of seeing greater things than these fulfilled (John 1:50, compare John 5:20, 14:12). Miraculous healings and resurrections attended the ministries of early Christianity’s most prominent disciples: Peter and Paul. These events figured significantly in the early church’s growth. God’s eternal presence, signified by miraculous healing, influenced thousands of religious leaders to accept Christ. Their flocks often followed.

Sometimes new disciples misunderstood the divine purpose. Simon attempted to purchase miraculous power, revealing self-centered motivations (Acts 8:9-25). Most, however, recognized that the significance of these miraculous wonders rested in the fact that they revealed God’s presence among them. These displays of divine power proved that God existed and that He was worthy of their praise.

Although Christ had ascended to heaven, throngs still followed Him through the ministries of His disciples. They furthered the mission Jesus had started. They were fulfilling the vision Christ had shared.

Clearly health was an ongoing concern and a healing ministry an ongoing function of Christ’s church. Healing was listed among the spiritual gifts. Instructions for ministering God’s healing grace to those afflicted by sickness were recorded in Scripture. These gifts would benefit believers until Christ’s second coming, when His personal presence would render them unnecessary. Church history chronicles the dedication of believers to health ministry during many different time periods. Certainly, relieving human suffering was an important motivation. Others, however, recognized healing as the first step toward coming to know the complete gospel.

Friday January 31

Further Study: Read Luke 18:35-43; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; John 6:1-2; Mark 6:5-7, 6:54-56; 7:31-37; 8:22-26; Matthew 8:1-19; 12:15-23. Ellen G. White, Our Example, pp. 17-21, and Healing of the Soul, pp. 73-85, in The Ministry of Healing; The Divine Plan in the Medical Missionary Work, pp. 25-29, in Medical Ministry.

The paralytic found in Christ healing for both the soul and the body. He needed health of soul before he could appreciate health of body. Before the physical malady could be healed, Christ must bring relief to the mind, and cleanse the soul from sin. This lesson should not be overlooked. There are today thousands suffering from physical disease who, like the paralytic, are longing for the message, Thy sins are forgiven. The burden of sin, with its unrest and unsatisfied desires, is the foundation of their maladies. They can find no relief until they come to the Healer of the soul. The peace which He alone can impart would restore vigor to the mind and health to the body. . . .

In the home of the paralytic there was great rejoicing when he returned to his family, carrying with ease the couch upon which he had been slowly borne from their presence but a short time before. . . . Glad thanksgiving went up from that home, and God was glorified through His Son, who had restored hope to the hopeless and strength to the stricken one. This man and his family were ready to lay down their lives for Jesus.-Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 77, 79.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can healing ministries open hearts and minds otherwise closed to the gospel? How can Christians guard themselves against the error of thinking that healing is an end in itself?
  2. How can churches that are not connected with hospitals participate in healing ministry? How can Christians involved with healing ministry avoid association in the public’s mind with so-called faith healers?
  3. What do we say to those potential disciples who, reading about the healings in the Bible, come to our churches or hospitals in search of a healing that does not happen? What answers do we have for them? What answers do we have for ourselves as we seek to understand these situations? What answers are found in the Bible that can help us at times like these?

Inside Story~  ECD Division: Kenya

Claiming God's Promise

Mama Nerea lay on her thin mattress in her humble home in western Kenya. Her family suspected that her suffering was the result of witchcdraft, a curse that someone had put on her. They visited several witchdoctors, seeking to have the curse removed, but Mama Nerea continued to languish. The illness had left her unable to stand or walk, and had taken her voice as well. Even she was sure she would die. 

Mama Nerea’s life had been filled with trouble. Her husband had gone to seek work in a nearby town, leaving her to care for her children alone. Desperate to make money, she began brewing and selling local beer. Soon she was addicted to her own brew. When her husband returned from town, he drank with her. 

Then she became ill. 

One day as Mama Nerea lay on her bed, she saw three men surround the bed. One man wore a white robe. He spoke her name and comforted her. Then he told her that she would be saved the next day. 

“Koa kanye, koa kuom ng‘a?” Mama Nerea asked. “Saved from what and where?” The man in the white robe told her that the next day she would meet two men who would lead her out of her bondage and pain and into the light of Jesus. “You must never go back into the darkness again,” he said. 

Mama Nerea nodded. 

Mama Nerea’s daughter was startled to hear her mother’s voice. “Who are you talking to?” she asked her mother. 

“Jesus has visited me,” Mama Nerea said. 

The next day two young men came to visit Mama Nerea. They told her that God had told them to come and pray with her. The young men were holding evangelistic meetings. They came regularly to pray with Mama Nerea and her family. 

Soon after this Mama Nerea’s daughter found her mother standing in the door of the hut. Over the next few months Mama Nerea’s health returned, and she began visiting the small Adventist group in their settlement. Her husband, Johana, stopped smoking and drinking and gave his heart to the Lord. 

Mama Nerea and Johana became strong supporters of God’s work and led many to Christ in their village. Recently Johana died, and Mama Nerea is getting old. But their testimony and their example live on in the lives of many who have found Christ in a small town in western Kenya. 

Our mission offerings help support the work of Global Mission pioneers and lay evangelists throughout the world. 

Vicki Nakabayashi met Moses, the son of Mama Nerea, on a mission trip to Kenya.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:   website:
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